This article is brought to you by Africa Good News (in partnership with CP-Africa)
In 2010 Africa was, once again, characterised by a mix of triumphs and tragedies. Seventeen African countries celebrated 50 years of independence from colonial rule, to mixed analysis of the progress that’s been made. Many African countries made significant progress during the year, while the outlook for some remain far from positive.
The year will, however, probably be remembered as the year that Africa successfully hosted the world and showcased the organisational skills, hospitality and enthusiasm of its people, and the vast potential of the continent. Therefore, as we highlight some of the best good news stories of the year, we have to start with the successes of Africa and South Africa in hosting the world’s biggest sporting event.
An African World Cup
South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup was almost universally seen as a success story, not only for the country, but also for the continent. FIFA President Sepp Blatter gave South Africa a score of 9 out of 10 for organising a successful tournament, as compliments poured in from all over the world. While most compliments went to the host country, Blatter called on the people of South Africa to use the success of the World Cup as an example of what the African continent can achieve.
When South Africa was chosen as host for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, they promised the world a truly African tournament. However, some parts of the media questioned just how African the 2010 World Cup was. Analysis of tourist trends during the tournament showed that almost 40% of World Cup visitors were from Africa, suggesting it was an African World Cup after all. In addition to African soccer enthusiasts, the World Cup final was also attended by at least 15 African heads of state. Some commentators commended the World Cup for highlighting Africa’s biggest improvements, such as the vast amount of economic growth and infrastructure development changing the face of the continent.
The Black Stars shine brightly
While the hosts and other African contenders exited the tournament after the group stage, the fairytale story of the World Cup was Ghana’s Black Stars, who became only the third African team in history to reach the final 16. This caused huge excitement in their home country and in South Africa, as Africans united to support the last African team in the run for World Cup glory. When the Black Stars left South Africa after their defeat at the hands of Uruguay, they were given a hero’s send off by a parade of South Africans, as well as former South African President Nelson Mandela, and were welcomed back to Ghanaby thousands of supporters.
Kenyan votes for a new constitution
South Africa and Ghana were, however, not the only countries to reach milestones in 2010. Kenya took an important step forward when Kenyans voted in favour of a new constitution that set out a Bill of Rights, created a National Land Commission, and de-centralised political power: a vote many Kenyans saw as paving the way for greater government accountability and a fairer distribution of resources.
In 2009 Africa was the only continent to see a rise in the number of international tourist arrivals – with travellers increasing by 5% – compared to decrease of 4% worldwide. In 2010 the World Cup in South Africa and increased political stability in Kenya contributed to a growth in tourism on the continent. Other countries to see growth in tourism include Zimbabwe, Angola and Mauritius. Sierra Leone also saw tourists, in small numbers, returning eight years after fighting ended in the western African country.
The African giant awakes
One of the major stories on Africa over the past year has been the fact that African economies fared much better than expected during the global recession because many of their governments maintained prudent macroeconomic principles and kept up public investments. However, most analysts agree that far moreeconomic reform is needed on the continent for growth to continue.
The World Bank now projects African GDP growth of 4.5 percent for 2010 and 5.1 percent in 2011 on the back of good agricultural performance and public investment. Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa, recently said that Africa was poised to embark on two decades of economic growth of the kind that India experienced in the last 20 years.
While Africa still faces many challenges, including youth unemployment, lack of infrastructure and inadequate governance, the story of the African economy is increasingly one of potential.
The African Diaspora also remains an important force in African economies, and a potential catalyst for further growth as skilled members of the Diaspora return to Africa in what is known as a “Brain Gain”. The World Bank expected remittances to sub-Saharan Africa to grow by almost 2 percent in 2010, exceeding $21 billion despite a weak global economy.
The Millennium Development Goals
With economic growth in Africa picking up momentum and increasing business friendly practices in many countries, the past year saw a growing call to replace aid to Africa with trade.
Although experts say it’s still possible for Africa to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that include eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics and developing a global partnership for development, it needs strong support from the international community to do so.
However, many countries have made significant progress towards reducing poverty and improving the living standards of its people, including Botswana and Cape Verde: the only two countries to have graduated from the list of Least Developed Countries to become Medium Developed Countries.
Other success stories with regard to achieving the MDGs come from Ghana and Ethiopia. Ghana is set to become the first country in Africa to halve poverty and hunger before 2015, while primary school enrolment in Ethiopia has increased by more than 500 percent since 1994. A report also said that African countries were making the most overall progress in achieving the MDGs.
HIV/Aids and other pandemics
Africa has also gone a long way to improving its image as continent of death and disease. Contributing to a global decline in the rate of new HIV infections, a report from UNAIDS shows that 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have reduced new HIV infections by more than 25 percent. The development and improved availability of medical treatment for HIV also lead to a slight improvement in life expectancy in southern Africa.
Other health developments include:
- The Carter Center announced it was close to eradicating the dreaded Guinea worm disease;
- In October 15 countries started on a drive to immunize 72 million children against polio in the highest risk areas, while a new, more effective double-strain polio vaccine brought new hope for the eradication of the disease;
- In December Burkina Faso became the first country to begin a nationwide campaign to introduce anew, cheaper vaccine that promises to rid the entire region of the primary cause of epidemic meningitis. The vaccine, called MenAfriVac, will be used to inoculate 450 million people throughout the continent by 2015;
While the vast majority of malaria deaths still happen in Africa, reports have showed that programs to fight malaria, such as distribution of bed nets and drugs and spraying insecticides, have saved nearly 750 000 lives over the past 10 years, and an additional three million children can be saved by 2015 if the world continues to increase investments against malaria. The World Malaria Day African Update by UNICEF and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership, said “progress in Africa is on an upward and accelerated trajectory”.
The African Green Revolution
A recent study showed that African nations can break dependence on food imports and produce enough to feed a growing population within a generation – despite extra strains from climate change.
2010 saw the inaugural African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in September lead by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan with the aim of transforming agriculture in Africa and tackling food security. The Green Revolution in Mexico, India and elsewhere saw large increases in yields through interventions such as investment in irrigation, fertilisers and high yielding crops.
The forum came at a time when, after 20 years of relative neglect, African agriculture was already seeingsubstantial growth in production and a new interest among major donors in funding the sector. African agricultural finance was under the spotlight as the continent turned into a fashionable post-crisis investment destination, and reports called it “a period of optimism about the prospects for Africa and African agriculture.”
Outcomes of the forum included plans for the empowerment of women throughout the agricultural chain by accelerating access to improved technology, finance and markets; investment in science, technology and research; and plans to scale up access to finance by farmers and agri-businesses.
While 190 nations are gathered in Cancun, Mexico until 10 December for the 16th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, there is a growing awareness of the possible benefits green energy and protecting the environment can bring to Africa.
Some exciting developments from the past year include:
- The launch of a green wall, or transcontinental 7,000-km tree planting project, reaching from Senegal to Djibouti in east Africa;
- New onshore wind farms on four islands in the Cape Verde archipelago, planned to be the first large scale wind project on the continent and the first renewable energy public private partnership in sub-Saharan Africa;
- Huge investor interest in Morocco’s $9 billion solar power scheme;
- Research this week showed the number of endangered mountain gorillas in national parks straddling Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has increased by 26 percent in the last seven years, a sign that conservation efforts are paying off;
2011: a brighter future beckons
Another post of the same length could be written about progress and innovation in Africa during the past year, specifically on the difference media and mobile technology is making to the lives of many.
While the World Cup gave the world a glimpse of the potential hidden behind the barrage of negative images from Africa, it is our hope that the year 2011 will offer undeniable evidence of a continent changing, growing and developing for the better. If some of the positive trends continue, we hope to see increased regional integration and trade between African countries, more life-changing innovation, and economic growth channelled by good governance to improve the lives of Africans across the continent.
Written by Linda Krige