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The growth of African optimism

PICTURED: Ghana Presient Nana Akufo Addo (Photo credit: AFP Photo/Pius Utomi Ekpei)

NANA AKUFO Addo's speech on the future of Ghana and Africa caused a stir worldwide - it seemed the first time many had heard a confident optimistic vision for Africa.

He may have frozen French President Emmanuel Macron’s expression, but his words caught the ears of many round the world and opposed Trumps sh*thole analysis of the continent - but is the renewed feeling of optimism justified?

Improving economies and images from social media opposing the usual televised narratives, means many countries on the continent are looking far more inviting to prospects nowadays
Besides the known opulence of Nigeria shifting perceptions, countries like Tanzania, Rwanda, the Gambia and Kenya have also become tourist hot spots, further shifting the western narrative and perceptions of the continent.

Perhaps the best personification of Africa’s recent growth is Rwanda. Led by Paul Kagame, they have experienced an 8% yearly rise in GDP and tourism. The country once torn apart by bloody genocide is now starting to flourish, with new roads and infrastructure, an impressive capital city and improved agriculture exporting to neighbouring countries. It boasts the most female politicians in the world and the divisive referring to of either Tutsi or Hutus has been banned.

Wary of western interference, Kagame’s 15 year reign has been called authoritarian ‘like’ by some and drawn comparisons to Singapore. But like Singapore, the results have spoken for themselves with quite remarkable gains in development and economics. Poverty has dropped dramatically and children enrolling in primary schools has risen with equal propensity.

Financial transparency - a another key factor of Kagames reign - reflects a growing trend across African politics right now. Former ‘Bush advisor on Africa’ Bobby Pittman noted after attending the African Development Bank elections, what stood out was “the staff and governors of the bank really embraced the transparency of the process.”

Kagame last year asked his government to set a deadline on cutting aid dependence. Ghana’s Nana Akufo Addo also spoke passionately about taking Ghana and other African nations off financial aid. “We can no longer continue to make policy for ourselves, in our countries, our regions, on our continent, on the basis of whatever support the western world or France or the European Union can give us,” he said.

A view explained further by Dambisa Moyo in her book ‘Dead aid’. She explained “In the past fifty years, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse”.” poverty levels continue to escalate and growth rates have steadily declined—and millions continue to suffer. Provocatively drawing a sharp contrast between African countries that have rejected the aid route and prospered”

Other African leaders agree. Eritrea turned down aid after gaining independence in 2003, with President Isaac Afwerki saying “Fifty years and billions of dollars in post-colonial international aid have done little to lift Africa from chronic poverty”.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta urged African nations to get off foreign aid saying that foreign aid "often carries terms and conditions that preclude progress"

Although Moyo offended some with her assertions who pointed out the lives that humanitarian aid has saved, her point was more about the economic model African countries adopted.
She felt financial aid, created an aid based economy, rather than capitalist. She felt it better to take capitalistic steps like selling bonds and learning to attract investment from alternative markets like China. She was speaking in essence about escaping a system who cynically colluded to keep Africa in a position of need.

Her wishes came true and of course Chinese investment did come. It too came with its own issues regarding the claiming of resources, and attempts to assert influence in governments. Infrastructure such as roads and schools built have been a positive point of their legacy.
South African president Jacob Zuma said in regards to china “how Africa benefits will depend on how they negotiate their terms”, but unlike the west “the Chinese came to do business.”

In 2017 the African Development Bank reached 100% investment in green energy projects with Bank President Akinwumi Adesina stating ‘’we are clearly leading on renewable energy. We will help Africa unlock its full energy potential, while developing a balanced energy mix to support industrialisation”.

Meanwhile The A.U’s passport plans will mean borderless travel for all African citizens
There are obviously still major problems in Africa including concern about new outside influencers and the prominence the private sector industry, is taking in African development. But Inspired by countries like China and Singapore, the world is seeing there is life outside of western behemoths.

If Africa continues to regrow its confidence and solves the base problems halting its progress, it can become the world’s most dominant continent again, full of resources and self-sufficient potential.

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