Three students are hunched over an iPad at a beach café at Mombasa in Kenya, the easternmost tip of the African continent. They are reading online news stories about Moldova, a European country. One headline reads, “Four drunken soldiers rape a woman” another says Moldovan men have a 19 per cent chance of dying from excessive drinking and 58 per cent will die from smoking related diseases.
Others deal with sex trafficking. Such stories have become part of Africa’s thriving media which is by fact gagged by their respective governments, as in Africa, freedom of press is a past tense and in my life time it cannot occur even once. Along with austerity tales from Greece, Italy and Spain. They inspire pity and disbelief, just as tales of disease and disorder in Africa have long done in the so called rich world.
Sitting on the outskirts of Mombasa, the coastal city of Kenya, the three students sip tea and see a local artist hawking framed pictures of semi-clad peasant girls under a string of coloured lights. This is where slave ships used to depart to America and Europe. “Wakiwa huko bali wanajua ni vitu ngapi vimebadilika huku?” asks one of the students, pointing beyond the oil tankers on the distant horizon from Changamwe.
Broadly speaking Africa as a continent is on the rise, though statistics are unreliable, but numbers suggest that human development in sub Saharan Africa has made huge leaps. Secondary school employment has grown after many states expanded their Education and scrapped school fees, e.g., Kenya. Africa as a continent has the fastest growing economy due to foreign direct investment increase and with a booming economy real income per person will also increase.
Many goods and services that used to be scarce, including telephones are now widely available. Africa has three mobile phones for every four people, the same as India. Nigeria produces more movies than America does. Film-makers, novelists, designers, musicians and artists thrive in a new climate of hope.
At the end of cold war, democracy started to take Centre stage in various states and only four out of 55 countries; Eritrea, Swaziland, Libya and Somalia lack a multi-party constitution. Dictators are becoming rarer, though some authoritarian states survive. Democracy has led to better
governance; politicians who want to be re-elected need to show results.
For Africa to continue well in its rise, many African countries have to stop fighting. War and civil strife have declined dramatically. Perennial hotspots such as Angola, Chad, Eritrea, Liberia and region of Darfur in Sudan and Sierra Leone are quite, leaving millions better off.
Africa’s retreat from socialist economic models has generally made everyone better off. Some countries such as Rwanda and Ethiopia still put the state in the lead. Kenya and Nigeria have empowered private entrepreneurship by removing red tape.
Inevitably, Africa’s rise is being hyped. Boosters talk of an “African century” and talk of “the China of tomorrow” or a “New India.” Sceptics retort that Africa has seen false dawns before and fear that Foreign investors will exploit locals and that the continent will “not be lifted but looted.” Corruption is also another cancer.
Everyone expects the rise of Africa but to be a winner you are allowed to become, you must plan to win;you must prepare to win; and then you will have every right to expect to win. The biggest reason to be hopeful is that it takes time for results from past investment to come through, and many such benefits have yet to materialise.
But as Africans we must remember that our destiny is in our hands. People willing to do something worthwhile, even in the face of the darkest prospects, manage to see a ray of hope. We should cultivate a strong will power and a hopeful attitude towards life. Africa has problems but with little help we should see an emerging, intense and intrigued Africa doing so much. With all our physical energy and firmness of purpose, we should set to attain that objective.