As this year draws to a close, we can look back on a momentous period in the history of our continent and reflect on what has transpired. What we have seen has confirmed the veracity of the adage: no condition is permanent.
How things have changed. North Africa, long regarded as an ‘island of stability’ in a sea of chaos, has swapped places with sub-Saharan Africa which, relatively speaking, has been an ocean of tranquillity while the North has been racked by revolutions and upheavals whose ripples will continue to resonate for some considerable time in the future.
The ‘Arab Spring’, which began almost exactly one year ago in Africa’s most ‘stable’ country, Tunisia, then proceeded to crush the sphinx-like regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt before culminating in the brutal, and one has to say it, sickening killing of Muammar Gaddafi on the streets of Libya.
Whatever his faults, he did not deserve to be shot down like a mad dog. It is easy to be carried away by the signs of euphoria that followed his death but it would be hypocrisy to say that Africa rejoices in his passing. He was a good friend of the continent, ready to help out whenever he was asked. He supported Africa’s freedom movements when many who now call themselves friends looked the other way or actively joined the oppressors.
Whatever he is accused of, he cannot be held guilty of not using the country’s oil wealth to improve the lives of his people. Libya was the only African country in the top 50 of the UN Human Development Index. While millions of Africans live in hovels elsewhere on the continent, and millions more make the footpaths of Mumbai and Calcutta their only homes, he provided everyone with housing, social security and education. In his Green Book, he says human dignity begins with a roof over your head.
Since he was killed, I have met many Africans from all walks of life and I have not heard anyone express joy. But, in the end, who are we to judge? Those who wear the shoe know where it pinches. We can only hope and pray that Libya does not become a pawn in the grand international game, that Libyans do not lose the dignity and pride they are known for.
Tunisia, meanwhile, had conducted its first election after the revolution and An-Nahda has emerged victorious. Those who are hysterically screaming ‘Islamist party!’ should pipe down. Islamist parties come in more varieties than Heinz baked beans. An-Nahda is probably on the opposite end of the spectrum from some of the more extreme varieties. Egypt, meanwhile, appears to have exchanged a military government in civilian clothes for a military government in military uniforms. The revolution there has stalled.
‘Experts’ bite tongues
Returning to the adage of no condition being a permanent one, while Europe seems to be floundering from one economic crisis to another, sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been doing very well, thank you. Despite droughts and a sluggish global economy, SSA is on course to register over 5% growth across the board.
Economists and other experts, who had boldly declared that Africa was a lost cause no so long ago, seem to have bitten their tongues. Now various think-tanks have begun to suggest that, indeed, this could well be Africa’s century.
Over this year we have detailed infrastructure projects of a size and scale never before contemplated in Africa’s history. We have shown how quickly the African has seized on technology, adapted it and used it to excellent effect. We have highlighted brilliant business, civic and political leaders who are reshaping the destiny of the continent even as you read these words. We have published outstanding ideas and arguments from the growing body of African intellectuals who speak from practical, down-to-earth reality rather than woolly ivory towers. The continent’s new-found confidence fairly bursts from our pages.
Today Africans have taken it for granted that they and they alone really know the answers to their problems and the routes to their aspirations – but they are most willing to listen and learn from those who have something of value to impart.
But what we have reported is, and can only be, the tip of the iceberg. Africa is on the move. No condition is permanent – Africa is the proof.