E were chewed up, spit out and left for dead. We were regarded as a very backward continent. Those in more advanced parts of the world made predictions of our making meaningful progress in centuries to come.
Everybody thought that this was not a continent where meaningful business could be done. Very few would have thought it possible that we would raise our own billionaires and millionaires. No one would have anticipated that fancy cars such as Mercedes, BMW, Bentley, among others would be lined up in rush hour traffic on our roads, with our very own indigenous Africans owning and riding in these plush cars.
There was a time that we were regarded as a continent ravaged by disease, famine and poverty. Every time you saw an advert on Africa on international television stations, it involved malnourished children with flies buzzing around their poverty stricken surroundings; a traditional picture in most television shoots of the state of affairs on our continent. The reporter would then go on to speak in a condescending and humiliating manner, as if to ridicule.
However, times have changed; the light is finally shining on the ‘dark continent.’ The concept of democracy appears to be finally taking hold with almost all countries regularly conducting periodical elections, striving to uphold constitutionalism. In Zambia in particular, we have changed governments twice and had six Presidents, in incident free fashion. The same can be said about a number of other African countries on the continent. Of course we have the odd African leader who still seeks to overstay at the helm of his country, but this has become the exception and not the norm. Economies are growing at good rates with capital markets flourishing. In Zambia we have had major listings on the local bourse that have resulted in oversubscription – a good sign of investor confidence. Times have changed indeed.
On 1st June, 2007, renowned global business news channel CNBC launched Africa’s first and only real-time pan-African financial and business news network – CNBC Africa. In an advertorial by CNBC Africa in Forbes Africa magazine for June, 2015, it was stated that CNBC Africa covers business and market news from across the continent; telling the story of Africa on the move. It further stated that the combined reach of CNBC Africa and its affiliated networks is 390 million viewers around the world. The Advertorial also said CNBC Africa has grown beyond expectation in its eight years of operations.
I found this to be a big plus for our continent. When one of the biggest financial and business news networks in the world can launch a channel wholly dedicated to the business and success on our continent, it means not only are Western media houses shifting from the old style of reporting on Africa as a backward continent ravaged by disease and poverty, but they are now getting with the programme – Africa is on the rise. For me, the launch of this channel eight years ago is an indicator that there is sufficient business activity on this continent to report on, and that there is also much potential for more business activity on this continent.
With various reports showing strong economic growth across our continent, and our continent being endowed with a wide array of natural resources, our time has come to propel ourselves into a force to reckon with; just like the Asian tigers did in the past few decades. Over the past decade and a half, the African continent has experienced economic growth surpassing that of global GDP by 2 – 3 percentage points. By 2020, Africa will have seven of the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world (Forbes Africa July 2015).
It’s not just CNBC that has given Africa a vote of confidence, if you look around the continent, you will find all manner of global giants making their presence felt. Renowned business publication Forbes now runs a bureau wholly dedicated to the African continent, it’s called Forbes Africa. The Forbes Africa magazine covers the stories of African entrepreneurs and their various business achievements and footprints.
Renowned Musical television network MTV, in 2008 launched the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs) to celebrate the most popular contemporary music in Africa. These awards have brought us together as a continent, and these days it’s very common to hear other African music playing on Zambian radio as opposed to the past when virtually all music played on Zambian radio was Western. This is a good thing as well because it’s in the spirit of Africa to Africa business and promotion of intra-Africa trade on the continent.
What do we Africans have to do now to ensure that our continent gets to become the next global force? How do we position ourselves to reap maximum benefits from the economic progress? What do we have to do as a people to thrust forward with full force while at the same time preserve our uniquely African features, norms and cultural traits? What do we have to do to be at the top of the progress our continent is making, and not wind up as poor people with little power on a highly developed and successful continent that will be in foreign hands?
What character traits should the next generation African leader possess to drive this continent to superpower status given the useful springboard we are currently in? What do we need to do to ensure that this new scramble for Africa does not result in more economic slavery for most of our people? Well dear reader, I do not have the answers to all these questions but if you do, feel free to share with me.
What I do know however, is that I am proud of how far we’ve come. Sometimes, we tend to disparage our African leaders, denouncing them in all sorts of ways, but remember the words of the most famous man that ever lived, ‘A prophet will never be respected in his hometown,’ this he said when he was rejected in his hometown of Nazareth. Of course I speak of Jesus Christ. Take time to analyse critically where we are now and where we were during the wave of independence in the 50s, 60s, 70s. Our continent has made tremendous progress.
If we have CNBC, MTV and other renowned international networks seeing something on this continent that they clearly did not see a couple of decades ago, why should we the Africans always insult and disparage those that have put in their efforts to get us this far. Are we not disrespecting a prophet in his hometown, while the rest of the world appreciates him? Even President Obama appreciates that Africa is on the move.
He was quoted as saying: ‘Africa is on the move…. People are being lifted out of poverty, incomes are up and the middle class is growing,’ this he told a business summit on his visit to Kenya (Sunday Nation of 26th July, 2015). He also lauded Kenya for making ‘incredible progress’ since his last visit to the country 10 years earlier saying it looked different.
This is the new Africa, no longer a war-torn, poverty-stricken, disease infested land with no money in it. Granted we still have quite some distance to cover, but we are well on our way, and each and every individual on this continent must think of how he or she can contribute to driving our progress in an even more accelerated manner.
Just look at countries like Angola, Rwanda and Mozambique. What were these countries known for just barely 2 to 3 decades ago – people were killing each other in bloody civil wars and ethnic strife for no good reason; all this at the expense of progress.
Look at them now, who would have thought that Angola would come to be the place where people are making a real killing in business? Who would have thought Mozambique would come to average phenomenal economic growth of 7.4% p.a. over two decades World Bank? Who would have thought Rwanda would successfully implement a 1 child 1 laptop policy in order to ensure that all children in that country grow up with the necessary computer-operations comfort and skill in this information age? What about Africa’s largest economy Nigeria; who would have thought they would be touted to be the world’s 19th biggest economy by the year 2030? (R.S Johnson – Forbes Africa July, 2015)
Things are happening on our continent, and we need more of the same if not better. For the few African countries whose leaders still want to keep them in the dark ages, let the more progressive members of the continent through the African Union and other channels find a way to get them on track. There must be a few countries with soft power that they can utilise.
Let’s face reality, certain leaders are taking their countries backwards and hiding behind the Geneva Convention to avoid international scrutiny. It’s painful for some of us to watch our brothers and sisters lag behind on account of the selfishness of their leaders. Let us rise. Our time is now.
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