Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The African Century

Does foreign aid to Africa only make matters worse? Will AIDS wipe out a generation? Can Zimbabwe be saved from Robert Mugabe’s misrule? What can stop the genocide in Darfur? How will Africans feed and educate themselves? Does debt relief promote or ultimately hinder economic growth?

Africa’s challenges seem too numerous to count, and too overwhelming to overcome. The AIDS pandemic victimizes the sub-Sahara, even as high birth rates burden societies already unable to educate and employ their youth. Poverty remains a scourge, and ethnic wars seem emblematic of the continent’s incapacity for tolerance. Besieged by problems, Africa is often dismissed as a basket case and consigned to a future as a ward of the international community.

But Africa is also a source of hope and possibility. Rather than a monolith to be pitied, Africa is a study in contradictions: most sub-Saharan countries record little ethnic violence, despite a Babel of local languages and traditions. Multinational firms generally look elsewhere when doling out investment and jobs, yet Africa remains the world’s largest untapped market – and its greatest source of cheap labor.

Africa’s people struggle to hold together diverse communities more frequently than they tear them apart. To understand where the continent is headed, one must listen to African voices.

Project Syndicate’s monthly series Into Africa offers an unrivaled array of African thinkers, including Nobel laureates Wangari Maathai, Sole Woyinka, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Nadine Gordimer, Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade, Ghana’s President John Kufuor, Okwir Raboni, a Ugandan MP and a former child soldier, and Sanou Mbaye, a former economist with the Banque Africaine de Développement.

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