Like every other over flogged term, the ‘Africa Rising’ rhetoric is now subject to either derision, aggressive protection or total indifference.
On December 3rd 2011, Africa, as a continent received a wistful nod from the Economist with the article titled ‘Africa Rising – the Hopeful Continent’. Wow, what had Africa done to earn such a great glimmer of positivity from the same magazine that had christened the whole continent, made up of 54 sovereign nations as ‘the Hopeless Continent’ barely 11 years before. What had turned the fortunes of the world’s second largest, second most populous continent around?
The world was intrigued, was Africa the next China? The economic indicators for growth and prosperity were promising, the ‘middle class’ was rising, democracy was becoming more ‘widespread’ across the continent and everything seemed extremely wonderful.
Then suddenly, things began to change, in a series of mostly unpredictable events.
Ebola, Oil price slump, commodities nose-dived, drought, poor economic policies in some of the largest economies on the continent began to have a knock-on effect and destroy the narrative.
The enthusiasm for investment on the continent declined sharply and people began to ask questions about Africa’s future again. The article ‘Africa Rising’? ‘Africa Reeling’ May Be More Fitting Now’ which was published by the New York Times in October 2016, was a deeply depressing article that nearly took the continent back to the days of the Hopeless Continent article in 2000.
The truth is, the Africa Rising narrative was too dependent on charts, growth numbers and analyst views. The major change agent on the continent at the moment is the will and determination of the people (not the politicians) to make their countries work and to plug them into the global economic stage.
Most countries have two separate universes ‘the Public Sector and the Private Sector’. The reason that they run as separate universes is that in most cases, the former doesn’t do much to support the latter, who is also reluctant to take on the battle of holding the public sector accountable. So they coexist but to the detriment of each other.
This doesn’t change the fact that Africans want to see a new Africa – they are finding their voices on global platforms with social media as the main microphone, and they are expressing themselves through the arts, innovation and disruption and a determination to change their continent.
Those who dismiss this aspect of the narrative will be greatly surprised. As they say, ‘Don’t ever underestimate, the power of the mob’.
Watch this African Space.