The essay discusses the trajectory of the African renaissance as an idea and a project, a task that in essence entails examining Africa's postcolonial development paradigms, performances, and prospects. It is argued that this idea represents a recurrent yearning for a usable future aching deep in the consciousness of a people with painful memories of suffering, struggle, and survival against the historical ravages of slavery, colonialism, and neocolonialism, a longing for sustainable development, for viable African modernities. Recently, the dreams and discourses of the African renaissance have been driven as much by Afro-optimism as by Afro-pessimism, by both the positive and the negative political and economic changes that have taken place in postcolonial Africa. The essay is divided into four parts. It begins with a brief survey of the resurgence of the idea of the African renaissance in the 1990s in postapartheid South Africa. Then it examines Africa's complex and contradictory inheritances of colonialism and nationalism out of which postcolonial Africa was molded. This is followed by an analysis of Africa's development ideologies and experiences since independence characterized by authoritarian developmentalism and authoritarian neoliberalism. The essay concludes by trying to capture the current internal and external challenges facing Africa's efforts to embark on democratic developmentalism.

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