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The world after 2020 - What next?

Chris Patten

Every once in a while one or other of my family members, loyal fans that they are, will suggest that I take all my past newsletter editorials and turn them into a book on where the world is going, only from an African perspective. In a way they're dead right, because when you scan the bookstore shelves, they are crammed with offerings from economists and academics from the USA and Britain with nary a peep from the rest of the world, let alone the developing world.

That said, I recently read Chris Patten's What Next? Surviving the Twenty First Century and, in my estimation, it stands head and shoulders above the offerings from the rest of the pundits. Mind you, Chris Patten is uniquely qualified to write such a book having been a UK cabinet minister, the last colonial governor of Hong Kong, an EU commissioner and, most recently, President of Oxford University with access to the research riches of that establishment.

He covers all the normal subjects - global warming, peak oil, the environment, globalisation, terrorism, disease and the growing world population - succinctly yet comprehensively. Not surprisingly, his perceptive comments on the rise of China come from first hand knowledge of the country and its leaders. However, what I liked most is that he also devoted chapters to other key topics which are hinted at in our daily press but rarely covered in any depth or with any attempt to integrate them with the other key issues of the day.

Back in the 1960s, for instance, there was huge resistance to the development of nuclear bombs; today, apart from a hypocritical campaign against Iran, no one seems to care too much about the number of nations that have their finger on the nuclear trigger. Each hour, on the hour, our TV news broadcasts carry new pictures of the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, a campaign which is slowly losing the support of Nato citizens; in his chapter on the drug trade, Patten paints a scary picture of the global drug trade, with Afghanistan's heroin and Colombia's cocaine the starting point, which adds to the urgency for a settlement in Afghanistan and more attention on Mexico's slide to becoming a lawless state. From an African perspective, trade in drugs is overshadowed by arms and human smuggling and he pulls together facts and figures that rarely see the light of day to paint a picture of these and the related subjects of corruption, money laundering and the sheer cynicism on the part of political leaders everywhere.

The one missing link in his synopsis is the role of technology, but I'm not surprised at that omission as he describes in his introduction how he wrote the whole book with pen and ink on pages scattered all around his dining room. Though he is very empathetic about the developing world, you can see he writes from the perspective of a first worlder comfortable with the security of his own civilisation. Nonetheless he provides ample food for thought on a range of topics that really should engage our attention - and which I need to mull on from an African perspective before ever putting fingers to keyboard to write my book.

Now, much as I would like to meet Chris Patten to discuss some of his ideas, I must confess that we have no links with him or his publisher and we don't have an online bookshop where you can buy What Next?. So, if you want to take advantage of this stimulating read, you'll need to search the shelves of your local on or offline bookstore.


Chris Patten:

Source: MBendi Newsletter: 19.Mar.2010



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The world after 2020 - What next?

Review, March 24, Ghanadot - Every once in a while one or other of my family members, loyal fans that they are, will suggest that I take all my past newsletter editorials and turn them into a book on where the world is going, only from an African perspective. ..


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