THE BLOG

Seven Things You Didn't Know About Africa

10/26/2012 07:52 EDT | Updated 12/25/2012 05:12 EST
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War, famine, death, devastation -- we've heard it all so many times about Africa that we feel we know it by heart. It's time we acquired a new vocabulary. Just a cursory look at African stories in the media in these past few months use completely different descriptive words and phrases: innovative, booming, hope of the future, transforming.

It's almost as if, right under our nose, while beset by our own economic problems, we missed what is clearly a remarkable economic and social shift in world developments. Here are just some examples of what's been going while we in the West have remained mired in our own economic and political problems.

• The continent is burgeoning with mobile phone usage, in increases that often dwarf other more prosperous regions. The explosive nature of mobile use has caused UNICEF to use mobile technologies to strengthen its programs in numerous African countries. Despite not having the technology for some of the most modern smartphones, Africans' creative use of SMS services has created new opportunities for millions on the continent.

• Facebook and Twitter use is spreading everywhere, even amidst some of the poorest conditions on the planet.

• Ghana recently enjoyed the world's fastest-growing economy, according to the Africa Progress Report. But it doesn't stop there. Others in the world's top 10 include Mozambique, Nigeria, Congo and Zimbabwe. To have so many in the top tier of economic producers last year means that Africa itself is positioning itself for future importance and growth.

• Previously African populations were deemed as detrimental to economic potential; now economists are rethinking that kind of dated rationale. With a population presently standing at one billion about to mushroom to two billion within three decades, Africa touts a human potential that is highly appealing to investors. The new generation of Africans are tired of the stereotypical and aged views of the continent as an economic and social backwater; they are primed to take their proper place in the global mainstream and merely await their opportunity and resource infrastructure.

• Political stability has increased throughout the continent, making for more enhanced health and economic climates. Leaders from stabilized countries are effectively serving as mediators for more troubled regions, reasoning that a pan-African climate conducive to foreign and domestic investment can assist all nations on the continent.

• Fuelled by new economic growth, both supply and demand are undergoing huge increases on the continent. According to the collection of essays by economists titled, The Fastest Billion: The Story Behind Africa's Economic Revolution, Africa is about ready to revolutionize the world's economy, with significant implications for Western investors, not mention the BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China.

• Many economists now sense that the African continent is positioned much where Asia was some three decades ago. The massive expansion of Asian economies during that period might provide some idea of how Africa itself is about to explode in economic might.

All this is welcome news -- not just for Africa but for a world badly in need of economic good news. Yet in the rush for the resource bonanza that lies across almost the entire continent, Africa's greatest potential -- its human capital -- runs the danger of being overlooked.

During the decades of neglect leading up to this moment of opportunity, aid and development has helped to educate, equip, and energize millions of Africans waiting for just this opportunity -- not to mention just keeping them alive. As with Asia, where aid became a precursor for economic expansion, Africa will yet take all that compassionate aid investment and apply lessons learned to the new economic order now running throughout the continent.

It's time we developed a new lexicon when referring to Africa and its people. Western economies might very well be characterized by terms such as lethargic growth, sagging profits, high unemployment, but when speaking of the African continent it's time we starting speaking in terms of aggressive growth, unlimited possibilities, vast resources, and a people waiting specifically for this moment in time to show their potential. The time has now come for us to develop a language about Africa that matches that new reality -- a new possibility that very well might reenergize our own sluggish economies.