We all have self-centred views of the world: for some it ends with their own Main Street, and for some others at the national border of wherever they happen to live. The global people, of course, think they know it all, because they have seen every Sheraton hotel in the world.
Nonetheless, it seems to me that many Latin Americans have a particularly blank, not to say a distorted view of Africa. They seem to think that it still is the > as the colonialists called it. It is even less well known here than in my native Europe. I am a stranger to Latin America, and I more often visit Africa where I also used to live for three years. In my view Africa is no longer > (if ever it was)--only in our minds.
Taking darkness literally and by counting the light bulbs, Africa is and for some time to come will remainrelatively dark. The Economist reported in 2007 that with nearly 1 billion people, Africa accounts for over a sixth of the world's population, but generates only 4% of global electricity.
This op-ed is not meant to sum up Africa in yet another series of cliches. I do not pretend to know it any better than I know the Americas. But by sharing some highlights and anecdotes I can perhaps convince a few readers to look further.
For instance, in the realm of communications we can see that the > is quickly fading. A revolution is taking place which it is worth watching. To name just telephones as a means of ever-growing interaction, Africa sees a phenomenal expansion of cell phones (from 1% in 2000 to 55% in 2012)--three times the world average. Similarly, broad band penetration is growing faster than anywhere else.
Those interested in music and other cultural achievements already know Africa for its achievements. The good news is that with better intellectual property protection African musicians can and do now produce in Africa. Also, with global art markets not only the famous Tinga Tinga paintings from Tanzania make their way to the artgalleries in Miami. Art collectors beware!
Development indicators are impressive: 20 countries enjoy an average growth rate of 5%, rarely matched by Latin American countries. In the last four years, even though violent conflicts have affected 10 of the 49 African countries, overall poverty is receding just about everywhere else. In 9 major countries where average incomes had gone down 12% between 1998 and 2002, gross domestic product per person increased by a phenomenal 23% between 2008 and 2012. And that is only a...