At the World Economic Forum on Africa 2010that is underway in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, several participants – including both Africans and outsiders – have called for a rethinking of perceptions about the continent. Too much focus is placed on what is going wrong – disease, poverty, corruption, poor infrastructure, among other problems – with too little emphasis on positive developments, they said. The world should hear about how many African economies have weathered the global economic crisis and are set to contribute to global growth over the next decade, how countries have managed to resolve longstanding military and political conflicts, and how business, government and civil society are working together to address public health threats.
“We need to change the stories that we tell about Africa,” said human rights activist and social entrepreneur Hafsat Abiola-Costello, 36, the founder of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), an organization that promotes civil society and democracy in her native Nigeria, and the CEO of China-Africa Bridge, a group aimed at boosting mutual cooperation between China and Africa. (She is the daughter of Chief Moshood Abiola, the Nigerian businessman and president-elect who never took office and died in prison in 1998.) “We need to start telling new stories about the opportunities in Africa, the good news from Africa. Enough about the problems. We all know them. If we start telling the stories about the opportunities, who wouldn’t want to take advantage and come to seize an opportunity?”
Hafsat is right. Despite all its progress in recent years, Africa still has an image problem. Perhaps the World Cup in South Africa this summer will help change people’s perceptions of the continent. Watch Hafsat and other so-called Young Global Leaders (YGLs) of the Forum who are attending the meeting discuss the enormous potential of Africain a press conference. And why not post your good news about Africa and tell us about the many opportunities that it has to offer?