I recently read an article in the Washington Post by Ann Telnaes and Karen Attiah that left me asking “How can we paint the picture of Africa Rising on/against the background of so many signs from the 80s?”
That painting must be three dimensional:
- Africa Rising – new bridges, 6 lane roads, glistening apartment blocks, young middle-class in smart cars and range rovers, a small group living in as-if first world conditions, serviced by chains of chic consumer stores- Mcdonald’s, Wendy’s, even online retailing, Sheratons, Raddison blue, and of course the new malls. Africa, the new destination for investments and the good life is so pleasing to the eye.
- Signs from the 80s – increasing state intolerance, muzzling of freedoms to express, recurring scandals and accusations shrouded in party politics and thus effectively preventing objective analyses, increasingly violent and contested elections,
- Increasing inequality – the masses only temporarily appeased by an entitlement mentality that expects anyone in a higher station in life to share with them – since what is to be shared was ill-gotten anyway – and a social media used and abused to expose and humiliate, and a population with a huge youth bulge, high expectations and a predictable pattern of behaviour.
Of these three dimensions of the Africa Rising picture the last seems to be the least understood. Money/cash grants would keep those not at the table as in the first dimension, quiet but only for so long. Without solid and deep rooted progress in development and transformation, it requires only one incident to start a chain reaction whose form, intensity, and end cannot be predicted.