Tue, Jul 21, 2015
Dark continent? Not anymore, that reality is fading in our distant memory.
Africa is too many things. One day it is all glimmering hope and lavish praise of unprecedented economic growth and the potential on our fingertip. The next day, a democratic government is toppled in North Africa, a genocide brews in Central Africa and a civil war erupts somewhere in between. Add the chronic dysfunctions in Congo and Somalia and Zimbabwe, and all of a sudden, Africa becomes a media sensation of the condition it has come to represent in the imagination of the rest of the world: intractable conflicts, hunger, poverty and tribal politics.
But thankfully, within Africa is a yearning, a dream and an understanding that Africa is a giant, waiting to wake up and shake up the world. Over a billion people and growing stronger by day, and unparalleled resources. Since Africa has not managed to wake up yet, it can nevertheless "fiction" itself there. That is what Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairwoman of the African Union (AU) commission, did during a recent speech at an AU summit in Addis-Ababa when she unveiled the new Agenda 2063. She used fiction -- through an email from the future -- to explain her vision of what Africa could become in 50 years. Welcome to Africa, 50 years from now.
The year is 2063. Africa is a country of 2 billion people. CAS, the Confederation of African States, is 12 years old. It launched in 2051 and is now a "major force for global stability, peace, human rights, progress, tolerance and justice." A confederation, though not explained in the email, entails a political unit with a common set of laws, defense, currency and a central government that supports all its members. The email is from the future Dlamini-Zuma, still in her capacity as chairwoman of AU (how odd!), addressed to a fictional friend named Kwame, informing the latter of what Africa has become that he never saw materialized when he fought for independence in the 1960s.
The economic vision of Dlamini-Zuma is rosy, maybe too rosy, with African commercial giants conquering global markets: "Pan African companies, from mining to finance, food and beverages, hospitality and tourism, pharmaceuticals, fashion, fisheries and ICT are driving integration, and are amongst the global leaders in their sectors."
We are reminded that Africa is now the third largest economy in the world. No ranking in fiction, so we don't know which countries are number one or two. "Economic integration, coupled with infrastructure development, saw intra-Africa trade mushrooming, from less than 12% in 2013 to approaching 50% by 2045."
That Africa is thriving with manufacturing hubs, adding value to minerals and natural resources in eastern Congo, northeastern Angola and Zambia's copper belt. Kinshasa is the "fashion capital" of the world (forget about Paris!). Accra is the center of chocolate-making (forget about Switzerland!). Major "Silicon Valleys" are in Kigali, Alexandria, Brazzaville, Maseru, Lagos and Mombasa. And of course, Africa has weaned itself from the languages of colonial powers and Swahili is now the language of the cradle of humankind: "Our grandchildren still find it very funny how we used to struggle at AU meetings with English, French and Portuguese interpretations, how we used to fight the English version not in line with the French or Arabic," she writes.
Never mind that she uses Silicon Valleys, not Bonde ya Teknolojia. Africa, not Afrika.
My friend, she writes:
"Africa has indeed transformed herself from an exporter of raw materials with a declining manufacturing sector in 2013, to become a major food exporter, a global manufacturing hub, a knowledge centre, beneficiating our natural resources and agricultural products as drivers to industrialization."
Hunger? The agricultural revolution has finally taken place too and so "African mothers today have access to tractors and irrigation systems that can be easily assembled." Fathers, sorry! In African tradition, "women are the tillers of the soil."
Dark continent? Not anymore -- that reality is fading in our distant memory. The continent is lit up with "hydro, solar, wind, geo-thermal energy, in addition to fossil fuels."
Travel? Easy. There are high-speed railways connecting former countries: "The continental rail and road network that now crisscross Africa, along with our vibrant airlines, our spectacular landscapes and seductive sunsets, the cultural vibes of our cities, make tourism one of our largest economic sectors."
Conflicts? That is all history. All guns "were silenced by 2020."
That is a great vision for the African Union to dream about. But, alas, Dlamini-Zuma could not stand delivering a rosy nonfictional speech amidst a summit largely dedicated to conflicts in South Sudan and Central African Republic. Fiction helped. In such a long-term vision, fiction is a good refuge. Will Kwame be finally untroubled in his grave in 2063? We do not know. But still, it is a good thing to know that the dream hasn't died yet, however unlikely it coming true.
(Image Credit: unaids.org)
Obadias Ndaba writes on development, African affairs and economy. His articles and views have appeared in The Standard, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and The Africa Review, among other publications. He has worked in micro-finance and commercial banking in Rwanda, and in nonprofit in Kenya and the United States.This article was first published in French in Libre Afrique.
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