The Africa day, May 25th by Elisabeth Moreno
The Africa Day has been annually celebrated on the continent and by african communities in other parts of the world since 1963. It is a commemoration of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity – now known as the African Union- and a tribute to the achievements made by african leaders over 50 years ago to decolonize the continent and pave the way for a greater Africa .
The main objective of the 30 nations who met on that day of may 25th in Ethiopia, Under the leadership of the Panafrican President Kwame Nkrumah, was to unite Africa and identify post-independence socio-economic development concerns which were plaguing the continent.
Since then, a lot has been made politically, socially and economically to grow Africa. And there is still a lot to be done because, despite being blessed with a rich bounty of natural resources (the continent holds around 30% of the world’s known mineral reserves, including cobalt, uranium, diamonds and gold, as well as significant oil and gas reserves), it has fertile soils that produces cacoa, coffee and tea, Africa is still one of the poorest land on earth with almost 50% of the population living on less than $1.25 per day.
So, why is it that a continent with such vast potential wealth can remain so poor? Why do we see so many africans looking for survival means outside of their home country? why do we still see thousand of people so desperate to quit Africa that they are ready to draw in the waters? Why, 59 years after the Africa Union was formed, the situation of the continent is still looking so terrible?
“The black continent”
My whole life, I’ve heard people -including africans- talking about Africa as “the black continent”. Not because of the skin of the people living there but because of the multiple challenges we face there.
Poverty, over-dependance on international aid, weak governance and lack of true leadership, endless wars and conflicts, lack of international intelligence, huge dependance to western countries, etc…all these factors are painted in such a negative way by the medias and other analysts that even african themselves tend to forget where the Truth is and develop, together with the international readers and visionners an africaphobia or a sense of mercy that doesn’t play in favor of the attractivity of the continent. I am not saying everything is false, I am just thinking everything is not that hopeless.
With Africa always being held in bad light, very few of its positive aspects are ever allowed to come to the forefront. I remember when I shared my enthusiasm of returning to the continent, many people not understanding my willingness to leave my comfort zone in France to go back to this terrible place in the world. I’m not even sure they realized how weird their comments were so these biases become unconscious.
These stereotypes sometimes give a wrong perception of what Africa really is and what africans really are.
No, Africa is not a country. It’s the second largest continent in the world made of 54 countries with many different cultures, traditions, and ethnic groups. No, Africa is not all jungle ; the Sahara Desert makes up one-third of the continent. No, not all african embrace Voodoo or black magic, not all africans are polygamous, all african men are not inattentive to their child, all business leaders are corrupt … and yes, Africa has bookstores!
I know every country, every culture has its own stereotype and biasis but I thought interesting to demystify at least few of them, although King Hassan II said one shouldn’t “waste time putting forward arguments in good faith in the face of people of bad faith”.
Some of these stereotypes are sometimes true. Yes, Africa is still facing several challenges as it struggles to free itself from poverty, including weak healthcare and education systems. Yes, Africa has the youngest population in the globe and a chronic unemployment that makes the task our continent faces even more challenging. Yes, Africa is struggling against internal conflicts… But as the McKinsey & Company studies published in Nov 2018 says, ” Africa is ready for an economic boom similar to that of Asia” .
If Africa handles its proper new opportunities wisely, this time, finally, may be the time of african themselves.
The Africa dream is real!
With its population expected to double by 2050 (by 2025, the UN predicts that there will be more africans than chinese people) and its $5.6 trillion dollars in projected consumer and business spending by 2025, with its 400 companies @ annual revenues of $1B or more, with its 89 cities of over 1 million inhabitants by 2030 and the potential growth in manufacturaing output by 2025, with 122M active users of Financial mobile services, 11M square miles of land-three times that of Europe, the continent is becoming more and more important for investors. And hopefully the african population itself.
These flourishing numbers certainly explain the reason why there has been much talk of an African renaissance in recent years. Europe, Americas and Asia, governments and businesses from all around the world are all fighting to increase their influence in the continent and take advantage of its massive opportunities.
…but unless the business in Africa is beneficial to all parties, it can’t be sustainable and it will not erradicate poverty.
Africa is hungry not because there is no food. Nor because it’s poor. It is just that those who need the food and money are not getting it because, one way or the other, those who have the power and the means have not cared enough to do something about it.
Acemoglu and Robinson assert in their book Why Nations Fai’ that the major difference between developed countries and developing countries is in their political evolution. Developed countries have political and economic systems that are inclusive and offer opportunities for most people to create wealth.
Still, statistics says 80% of the global wealth is controled by 10% of the worldwide population. If those involved in driving the economic engine are not more inclusive, independently of their community, nation, religion or race (and even gender), if they are not ready to drive the economic engine in a fair way that will lead to including every human being, it is the whole humanity which will finally suffer from it.
As an example, providing good health care and qualitative education for the disadvantaged populations is not charity. It is an investment that creates quality human resources and expands markets, furthering the reach and scope of the economic engine. Leaving over 50% of the population out of an active involvement in the economic process does not make good business sense.
Often, the engagement of Africa with the rest of the world has been positive. New infrastructures are built, new factories, new companies flying in and out… but the results over decades shows it’s still not enough, what is needed now is true economic empowerment. and it goes with solid leadership.
African Union’s 2063 Agenda, “is an approach to how the continent should effectively learn from the lessons of the past, build on the progress now underway and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available in the short, medium and long term, so as to ensure positive socio-economic transformation within the next 50 years.”
Education, entrepreneurship and women empowerment can help Africa thrive in the next 50 years. They have been ignored for too long now. And today, more than ever, we have the necessary resources, capabilities and technology to fix almost all the problems in the continent, provided we finally unite our 54 strenghts. Whether we want to do it or not simply depends on how inclusive our economy becomes, and how courageous, visionary and focused on inclusive long term goals, our leaders are .
It’s my african dream : that time for Africa and Africans has finally come.