The constant feed of ‘Africa in crisis’ stories in the global media distorts the true picture of a continent that is largely peaceful and has dynamic enterprising spirit. We need to bring to light the real successes, says Moky Makura.
If you’re following global news coverage of Africa, you’ve heard about the coup in Niger, the war in Sudan, and the growing number of stories of migrants who die trying to flee the continent – and I feel deep empathy for everyone affected. But based on these stories, one could conclude that Africa is in a state of perpetual crisis. Yet, as is often the case, the reality is far more nuanced than the headlines suggest.
Let’s talk real numbers, which can provide the context that’s often lacking in these stories. There are 32 countries currently in conflict globally – four of them are African countries facing civil war. Similarly, coups seem ubiquitous but in the last two years, there have been coup attempts in 7 African countries.
The reality is that the majority of Africa enjoys relative stability. In fact, Mauritius is ranked 23rd (there are 195 countries in the world) in the Global Peace Index. Botswana and Cape Verde are other African countries experiencing functional democracies with better-than-average scores according to the Democracy Index.
And when you hear those migrant stories, listen to them with this context – African migrants account for only 14% of the global migrant population, while Asia accounts for 41% and Europe contributes 24%. Research by Africa No Filter shows that 80% of Africans have no interest in leaving the continent. The context that is lacking in the stories you hear is that the vast majority of African youth are searching for a better life right at home.
The facts often paint a different picture of the wars, coups and illegal migrants that dominate global coverage of Africa. Facts challenge the single narrative and ensure that conflict and poverty aren’t always the protagonist in Africa’s tale. And facts will prove that much of what we hear and believe to be true is actually happening to a very small percentage of the countries in Africa.
Hans Rosling in his book Factfulness says: “The world cannot be understood without numbers. But the world cannot be understood with numbers alone.”
The dynamic force
And that’s why we need to tell stories that bring life to the numbers and show alternative perspectives that truly reflect what is happening on the continent.
My favourite stories are of the 77% – the young Africans that are aged below 35 – who represent a dynamic force that is too often overlooked and misunderstood.
They are the ones leading the continent’s creative, sometimes informal, largely unregulated, often difficult-to-measure entrepreneurial sector.
Marching to the sound of Afrobeats – which seems to be taking over the world – there are multiple shining examples of African youth taking action and contributing to economic growth, while overcoming challenges that seem insurmountable.
I’ll give just two examples here: in Cameroon, a bio-engineer designed neonatal incubators to reduce infant mortality rates whilst in Uganda, a 20-year-old student has developed mosquito repellent from spoilt milk.
But there are many, many more hiding in plain sight in places like Kenya’s Silicon Savannah, Rwanda’s multi-million-dollar Kigali Innovation City (KIC) and cities like Lagos, Accra, Johannesburg and more. To readers of the sole narrative of coups, wars and migrants, none of this is visible.
Paradoxically perhaps, the lack of any kind of state support – financial and infrastructural or even a safety net – has fostered entrepreneurship and fuelled self-reliance and a determination driven by necessity for the young to forge their own business and employment path. Nollywood, Nigeria’s home- made movie industry, is a case study that illustrates this beautifully.
The global landscape is replete with stories of young people who probably, because they didn’t know they couldn’t, started up businesses and achieved entrepreneurial success at a young age: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were under the age of 20 when they set up their companies.
According to Africa No Filter’s ‘Africa – innovator or imitator?’ survey, 72% of 4,500 respondents believe that Africa could produce the next Gates or Zuckerberg!
Their stories of resilience and innovation underscore the fact that Africa’s youth is at the right age – and given the rapid disruption the world is experiencing – at the right moment to lead change on the continent, with the right support.
It starts with the stories that re-imagine Africa as 54 countries – beyond Sudan and Niger – and a continent that is host to young people searching for opportunities at home.