Africa is changing. But the face of Africa is not changing. Ten years ago if you turned on your TV set or read your newspaper, you will see images of starving African children, death, deprivation, blood, wars, famine and diseases. Today you turn on your TV or read your newspaper, you still see the same images of starving African children, death, deprivation, blood, war, famine, and diseases depicting the following messages: “Please give us money. Please feed our children. Please cure our diseases. Please sort out our budget deficit, and please Madonna/Angelina Jolie, one of you just adopt me.”
Many among us prefer to maintain this status-quo of the continent and are keenly committed to projecting these negative images of Africa portrayed by the media. I recently read an article titled: “New Africa or New Hype?” where the author Ionnis Gatsiounis, asserts that most of the emphasis and positive reports given during conferences or events on Africa's progress are simply a “hype” because people are tired of sad stories. According to Ionnis, in reality these ‘positive’ reports are false for they ignore the continent's backward slide.
My question is this, why is there such dissatisfaction, such cynicism, or uneasiness regarding Africa’s progress, that no such a thing as significant development is possible in this continent? There is this deep-seated complacency attitude and misunderstanding towards Africa and its people, that “the Africans will always be what we know them to be,” that “the African does not get it and will never get it.” This is absolutely absurd because reality shows and proves to us over and over again that Africa is indeed changing and rising significantly, registering noteworthy progress in education, in modern technology, and in political maturity, just to name a few.
While Ionnis Gatsiounis and the media focus on the negative reports, they fail to recognize the fundamental changes that are happening in the continent. For instance, new wars are not breaking out in Africa anymore. The current wars we have which are not many, are the wars that have been longstanding and are slowly but surely reducing.
Africa has made significant gain on the path to democracy and although some of our elections are still flawed, the continent has finally accepted the principle of having elections. By May 2011 for instance, all fifteen presidents in the countries belonging to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the president of Mauritania, had gained office through elections.
It is also worthy to note that currently Africa is making a fair contribution to the world economy which is something that should be continuously highlighted in the media. Even more importantly, the fundamentals of the engine of the global economy are now being driven by resources that are coming out of Africa. This fact has in turn led other countries, from Brazil and India, Turkey to Malaysia to take notice and invest in the continent. China’s very considerable involvement in Africa starting some seven or eight years ago has phenomenally increased the recent growth in the continent.
Far more nuanced than cozying up to political leaders or just taking resources as many would like to think, China is moving in Africa, settling in, and building schools, roads, and hospitals in return for the continent’s natural resources. Its investments over the last few years have given more loans to African countries than the IMF or the World Bank has. Furthermore, for the last 10-15 years, more Chinese have gone to Africa to build businesses than the Europeans did in the last 400 years. Currently 35% of China’s oil comes from Africa. Even the United States estimated that over the next 10-15 years a quarter of its total energy needs will be made by just one region of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea which is on the West Coast of Africa.
Another interesting fact is this, Sonangol, an African oil and gas company located in Angola, currently owns the largest private bank in Portugal— something to think about. Moreover, not too long ago, while westerners concerned themselves with logistical competence and security violations; the world was stunned and silenced into a daze when South Africa successfully hosted the FIFA 2010 World Cup. It turned out that South Africa World Cup was among the best organized in recent history. But alas, who talks about such?
Africans themselves living in Africa as well as in the Diaspora are becoming more assertive and are using their own resources to solve the problems within the continent. Joining as a team, they are strengthening themselves to compete at the global level with the regional economic commodities and at the continental level, in order to make a huge contribution back home. Newer Africans living in the Diaspora are becoming even more prominent in the Western world and are changing this single story told repeatedly by the media, which we are personally thankful for because their messages are not only engaging, funny, and informative, but more importantly, for many like me, aspiring students of Africa, and for many of our young people, their messages are eye-opening.
The road to a bright global future always calls for new thinking, and as Africa is changing, so does the global view of Africa calls for change. The change has to align with the changes that are happening within the continent. We need to view Africa with the reality of what Africa is now, and of course, we cannot ignore the setbacks Africa has and all the enormous challenges, which trouble its societies.
Yet In the midst of all this brouhaha, the media must also provide the positive developments that are happening in the continent. Africa deserves each and every bit of this positive coverage, for as it is rising, it is defining how the world is moving forward. This is to say, for the next 50 years, Africa will be the one defining who are the winners and the losers and who controls the global game of politics, and the economy; and once the winners or losers are chosen, if one does not understand what is happening in Africa, or has this constricted, false image of Africa they will be the ones left behind.
This is to say, if you like chocolate, if you drink coffee, or if you use a cell phone or a laptop, or even if you fill up your tank to drive your car down the road; you should STOP! Take a second look at Africa! And be concerned. Because all of these things are fundamentally linked to Africa and eventually, your awareness and understanding of the continent will matter. As for me, an African myself, I am already proudly basking in this glory, for we have walked through the furnace to get to where we are today, and to where we will be in the future!
photo by: Rebecca Blckwell/AP