How is a continent that has so much potential, abundant natural resources, and unlimited human capital, sit at the tail end in almost all important global statistical measurements? Africa accounts for just one percent of global trade, one percent of new patents, one percent of stock market activity, to name just but a few of the economic parameters. How can the continent increase its economic output to the world, and in return, become more wealthy and prosperous? And most importantly, who is to blame for the continent’s woes? Is it the bad leadership, the unfair world trade practices that favor the rich and developed countries, or a combination of both internal and external factors?
In the 1960s, the independence wave swept across several African countries. And yet, fifty years later, the same problems that encumbered the continent then are still the same ones that the continent grapples with. War, disease, and poverty are still in the national manifestos and vision statements of several African countries. They are more of ideals that haven’t translated to tangible benefits on the ground. And yet, journalists and public commentators continue to proclaim that six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. So, even in the midst of all the tragedies and despair, there is a palpable sense of renewal that is sweeping across Africa, especially among the continent’s young population. Will these small gradual steps that are being made in many African states result in an exponential growth that will catapult the continent to sit at the center of world affairs rather than at the periphery? Or will these small steps merely be a bubble which will burst as fast as it appears? Still, bad leadership and politics have been blamed for the continent’s woes. The important question though is whether democracy as envisioned in the West really works in Africa. Too often, most conflicts occur during times of elections, and the elections are contests of one tribe versus another, rather than a contest of parties, individual election candidates, and their ideals. Last year, China launched the ‘Chinese dream’ something akin to the American dream, although opinions are divided on what the ‘Chinese dream’ really means. What then can an ‘African dream’ consist of? And how can this ‘African dream’ be transplanted to the hearts and minds of Africans across Africa and the globe? Still, an African dream will have to evolve in every facet of life, to ensure that Africans have a respectable standard of living, and can aspire to the highest ideals, and be proud of their heritage, even as they take the best from the world. This will mean that more and more African children can hope for the best in the continent, without needing to travel out of the continent wholesome. Currently, Africa’s young men and women seem to have lost hope in the continent, as perennial conflicts, strife, poverty, and disease seem to take the better of the day. Sure, unlike the United States or China, Africa is not one country. There are wide disparities within and without countries. There is also the huge gulf between North Africa, which tends to lean to the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa. So, in a nutshell, each of the 54 African countries would have to adapt the ‘African dream’ to its own unique situations and circumstances. However, there are broad themes like political stability, reasonable standard of living, democracy and freedoms for the local populations, high standards of literacy and education for Africans, a hunger free Africa, and a right to a decent and affordable healthcare that should form the hallmarks of an African dream. Indeed, these aspirations are not just for Africans, they are universal.