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Tuesday, November 4, 1997 Published at 08:41 GMT

Special Report: Africa at 40

Does life begin at 40 for independent Africa?

In 1957 Ghana, led by Kwame Nkrumah, became the first black African country to gain independence.

The event seemed to herald the dawn of a bright post-colonial future, not just for one nation but an entire continent.

Forty years on Africa's leaders have been meeting in London to consider how much that promise has been realised.

The Africa at 40 conference aims to reflect on the continent's past and present development and to look forward to the future.

The former British Prime Minister Lord Callaghan has been hosting the conference. The keynote speech on the meaning of independence was given by the President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe.

[ image: Post-colonial Africa has been dogged by dictators like Idi Amin]
Post-colonial Africa has been dogged by dictators like Idi Amin
There was no shortage of issues for delegates to consider. Modern Africa faces problems of poverty, debt and tribal and civil war. There are also the questions of international trade and inter-African cooperation.

Aids is increasingly taking its toll across Africa. Some predictions estimate that 40% of Nigeria's adult population could be infected with HIV by 2007.

Political reform is an issue for much of the continent.

Dr Nkrumah hoped that the continent would one day be run as a United States of Africa. But today Africa is governed by a mixture of democracies, monarchies, one party states, Islamic republics and military juntas.

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