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There has been a lot of talk about Africa lately. Yesterday we shared a few of the ignorant things we’ve heard others say about Africa. And while many are afraid of “the dark continent,” others see it as ground zero for the next boom in technology, telecommunications, and business.

Recently, the New York Times ran an editorial discussing whether or not Africa is really “the next big thing” or if the current conversations about “the New Africa” is just hype.

In the piece Ioannis Gatsiounis spoke of Africa’s recent successes, but also highlighted its challenges.

He writes:

 Africa on the whole is emerging impressively from its “lost decades” of the 1980s and ’90s. Whereas just three countries had multiparty systems in 1990, today most do. Africa’s strongmen are fewer. There are armed conflicts in only a handful of African nations. Gender equality is growing. 

The long-term trend in foreign direct investment is upward, hitting $32 billion in 2010. Ernst & Young estimates that Africa as a whole will grow 5 percent over the next decade — more than any other continent. 

“New Africa” is an attractive sell. As editors have told me over the years, readers are tired of hearing the same sad story coming out of Africa. New Africa is about a miraculous triumph over a tragic past on the world’s last economic frontier, and that makes for vital reading. New Africa is also politically correct and safe: It comes across as sensitive and uncondescending. 

But just as the global media tended to hype China’s and India’s prospects a few years ago only to discover that neither is about to take over the world, so the media are overselling Africa.

Gatsiounis lists Africa’s growing poverty rate (from 292 million people in 1981 to 555 million in 2005. I’d wager population growth may play a part), youth unemployment, trade deficits, and the lack of political stability.  Despite the dismal numbers he trotted out, Gatsiounis still asserts that Africa is indeed making strides and growing faster than any other time since many of the countries gained their independence from colonial rule, which for me, lies at the heart of Africa’s problems.

While many may see Africa as a continent of dysfunction, others recognize the source of Africa’s problems. Colonial rule, that was more concerned with stripping Africa of its vast resources than governing effectively, led to much of the corruption, conflict, and difficult financial times we see today.

But despite its past, Africa and its people continue to persevere and innovate, and others are taking notice. Six of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa, and China is one of the biggest investors in African countries, helping to provide much-needed capital for infrastructure.

In spite of its challenges, Africa continues to prevail, as it always has. Whether or not Africa’s growth will be rapid or slow-moving, doesn’t much matter. Africa is indeed on the rise, and if its people are an integral part of its renaissance then there’s no telling what the continent will accomplish.

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  • Phoenix Rising

    It’s funny I had this conversation earlier this week as I was getting my hair braided in a black owned establishment in my neighborhood.It was an open discussion about the misconceptions the western world has about Africa as a nation and culture. This woman spoke of how people would inquire if she had running water or a house where she came from, how she had been ridiculed for her struggle with mastering the English language. She seemed to have a grudge against Americans and particularly African Americans who she found insulted her often. Being of African American and Caribbean descent I pleaded with her not to let the actions of a few be the basis for her perspective of an entire group of people- it would be hypocritical and counterproductive to do so. The business owner spoke of the “real” Africa and the contrast to what was being portrayed in the media- how it was far more developed and how it is our duty to do research because there is limited accurate information out there. I believe Africa has the potential to live up to these positive forecasts, and hope one day to visit and see for myself-instead having to base my opinion on information fed to me. Negative news is always more salacious and obviously attracts more attention… this is great news and truly inspiring.

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