For decades we have imbibed, read and watched the stigmatisation of Africa as a continent of PIDIC – poverty, instability, disease, illiteracy and corruption.
For many years, this acronym, coined by an African, the Nigerian journalist and author, Pascal Eze, was the negative characterisation of Africa.
As we celebrate Africa Month culminating on Africa Day on May 25, we are shaking loose that negative characterisation.
The trouble with our continent in the modern age and with the advance of information technology, is that we have sadly relied too much on others to tell us our own stories or parroting what others were saying about us and our own continent.
We were becoming incapable of articulating our own reality and celebrating our own achievements because we were buying into an oft repeated notion that the few setbacks, relative to our many successes, should forever define our existence.
The past 20 years have clearly seen the continent turn the corner. In many respects, the Africa of today is quite different from the one seen in old images of poverty, disease, corruption, civil war and conflict.
In less than a generation, almost all African countries have set in place systems for transparent and accountable government, and economies are thriving.
Indeed, just over two decades ago, the brutal apartheid regime in South Africa still enforced misery for the black majority. The Cold War was still wreaking havoc in sub-Saharan Africa.
Angola has emerged from being a victim of a protracted proxy Cold War conflict, becoming a country that has in some years seen a record 17% economic growth.
Liberia, another country that the Western media for years wrote off as unsalvageable, today boasts Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The country has been on the march to economic and political recovery ever since.
Rwanda which in 1994 saw the worst genocide and which many said would never recover, today has one of the most promising economies in Africa. It also ranks first in the world in terms of the number of women elected to parliament and in cabinet.
Africa’s economies have grown by more than 5% on average. Central Africa’s oil boom spurred 14.4% growth for that region; Ghana’s stock exchange is regularly one of the highest-performing markets in the world; the use of cell phones and the internet is growing faster in Africa than anywhere else.
According to the UN International Telecommunication Union, Africa has the fastest growing communication technology market worldwide.
UN figures also show that African countries have increased primary school enrolment rates to 70% and improved economic growth rates, the quality of governance, macroeconomic stability, and peace and security.
Market liberalisation continues and most countries have established regulatory bodies to ensure a fair, competitive and enabling environment. Peace processes are being reinforced, largely through African efforts.
Indeed, the good stories from Africa are indeed numerous and inspiring.
Of course, African leaders have made mistakes – involving bad policies, mismanagement and corruption. But we have come a long way in our response to our development challenges.
Participation in development decisions is becoming more extensive and certainly more space for dialogue has opened up, in parliaments and civil society.
Community-driven approaches to development have taking hold, with considerable success, bringing with them more accountable and more effective development.
It is recognised that corruption, lack of transparency, and conflict defeats even the most effective development schemes.
These are just a few African success stories. There are many more in the spheres of culture, education and science.
We must now consolidate the positive changes in Africa through stronger policies including in areas of governance and institutional capacity-building.
The major challenge facing our continent is one of implementation, of effectively delivering development that helps to lift the poorest out of poverty. Nowhere is that challenge more crucial than on our continent.
Africa’s 54 countries have people who together speak more than 1000 languages and cultures so different yet so closely interlinked in tribal practices, even across borders.
Indeed, there is evidence of progress, of hope, of change, of tangible development. To those who wish to focus on past failures or present challenges as an excuse for inaction I say: there is nothing intractable about Africa’s problems unless we choose to make them so.
The future of Africa lies firmly in our hands. Let us use our resources to educate and empower ourselves, strengthen our cultures, develop our countries.
Let us celebrate our many successes. Happy Africa Month.
Phumulo Masualle is Premier of the Eastern Cape. Follow him on EC_Premier