Smart investors always investigate before they invest. This is because their sole objective is to secure a sensible return on their investment. They ultimately want to pull out more than they put in and so will do their due diligence to ensure that the project or company has a future and is set to grow. This principle holds true when it comes to investing in a country. No smart investor will buy property, stock or shares in a country whose future is uncertain and unstable or whose leaderships untrustworthy. Even if the promised returns are high, the investment is simply too risky.
This has certainly been the case for Africa that is arguably the richest continent in the world in terms of natural and mineral resources, not to mention it’s human resources with over a billion people, many of whom are educated, skilled and ready to work. Yet this extremely rich continent, which has enriched the developed world with minerals and oil, is still underdeveloped, under-resourced and home to some of the poorest people in the world. Lots of reasons for this phenomenon have been offered by lots of intelligent people and there is no doubt validity to most of their theories.
Not least of the reasons why Africa is yet to realise its full economic potential is the popular narrative that is streamed through mainstream and social media that Africa is unstable, unsafe and untrustworthy. Pictures of poverty, conflict and disease have become the norm. Mud huts, swollen abdomens, brutal regimes and corrupt dictators are some of the images that spring to mind when many hear the word Africa. Civil and religious wars, armed robbers and corrupt officials do not attract investors or tourists to a nation.
However, that narrative is only half the story and it is an error at best or a conspiracy at worse to overemphasise this narrative. The truth is that the African States are all young democracies and like every democracy in the history of the world it must grow through the pains of its own evolution. There is no modern democracy that didn’t start out with the exact same challenges facing the new-born nation-states of Africa. Including poor governance, corrupt officials, substandard infrastructures and civil wars. Indeed America went through a bloody civil war at the infancy of its democracy, as did Britain. These features are characteristic of new democracies and represent a phase that will pass.
The truth is that in spite of Africa’s challenges, it is growing and systematically overcoming the problems that have plagued its potential. The green shoots of springtime are signalling the end of Africa’s winter. In spite of the national debts, ethnic and religious tensions and leadership vacuums, many African economies are growing, the rule of law is prevailing, business is booming and standards of living are rising. New airports, roads, bridges and ports are being built. Capital cities have impressive skylines. High-end hotels, resorts and restaurants are operating. Banking and finance industries are creating innovative solutions for including hundreds of millions of Africans. The internet and smartphones are ubiquitous. Entertainment in terms of music and film industries have emerged to compete on the world stage as has sports and athletics. African art has hit the world stage as has its fashion and beauty. Likewise, many industry sectors are booming including tech industries, energy, construction, farming, oil and gas, minerals and the financial sectors. I could go on and on…
However, this Africa is largely unknown by many in the diaspora and by many in the West. The challenge before us now is to take command and control of our own narrative. We are not blind or indifferent to Africa’s challenges but in spite of them, we need to promote the best of Africa. Africa’s growth, progress, culture and excellence must be celebrated first by those who are of African descent and then by the mass media so that the world sees Africa in a new light. In this respect, we each have an opportunity to become a part of the solution and every one of us has a role to play. By celebrating Africa’s progress and by recognising the achievements of African nations and individuals, we send a new message out to the world – Africa is open for business.