Many things are going right in Africa

Friday August 27 2010

By RANDALL SMITH

Every time I pick up a news magazine, there seems to be a feature about whether China or India is going to be the next great economy in the world. This week’s Economist is no exception.

But with the passage of the Constitution in Kenya, and a large number of local business people being declared as among the best in Africa, I’m wondering if the world media are missing the largest story on the planet.

My point is what’s happening in Africa. Could it be, as a close friend likes to tell me, that it is now Africa’s turn?

Indeed, the International Money Fund is reporting that sub-Saharan Africa will soon become one of the largest economic growth engines in the world.

Overall, according to the IMF, governments in sub-Saharan Africa took prudent moves during the economic downturn. These efforts have greatly enhanced the region’s recovery from the recession.

There are a number of individual stars as well throughout the continent. Kenya’s new Constitution, which was celebrated on Friday, promises to give the country a new era of stability and to create a fertile ground for new business ventures.

South Africa’s recent hosting of the World Cup gave the rest of us, meaning primarily the West and Asia, a glimpse of how one of the continent’s rising super powers can perform in the limelight.

Ghana continues to impress. Another country that’s often overlooked is Botswana, which has had the highest per capita growth rate of any country in the world for almost 35 years, according to a recent economic study.

Botswana has a strong private property system, the study said, did not suffer horribly under colonial rule and has a lot of natural wealth, mostly diamonds. It’s also been blessed with relative stable political climate.

Tunisia, which sits on the Mediterranean Sea, has become a resort for Europeans and Africans. Its beautiful hotels and vibrant economy show what a country can do when it focuses itself on an impressive business model.

In addition, there is a rise of renowned poets, writers, activists and artists: Nadine Gordimer, a South African novelist who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991; Ben Okri, a Nigerian writer and poet;  Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist; and Richard Onyango, Kenyan artist. These are but a few.

And there are the rich natural resources: the new oil discoveries in Uganda and the vast swathes of agricultural land in places like the Rift Valley.

Just as important are the images of the great parks, Mount Kilimanjaro, the hard- working and industrious people, and the numerous “made in Africa” goods that track their way around the world.

Some would rather focus on the negative. They point to the atrocities in Sudan, the Rwandan genocide and the current problems in Congo. And there’s always Robert Mugabe to kick around.

But there are too many things going right in Africa to ignore them. It’s time to celebrate the possibilities.