Published on IPS, by Sanjay Suri, November 26, 2010.
There is the image of Africa, worse than Africa is, and then there is Africa, so much of it better than its image. It’s the continent whose time has come, African civil society leaders emphasised at a meeting in Madrid Thursday.
The overriding image of an Africa ridden by poverty, disease and deprivation of every kind reveals an undoubted truth, it was acknowledged, but hides the reality of an Africa growing at more than five percent on average, raising resources without aid, and prospering. The hidden one is an image of a truth little known and less acknowledged.
Malawi has become a maize donor now to countries in need, and sells its surplus on world markets, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, president of African Monitor, an NGO based in Cape Town said in his keynote address at the meeting organised jointly by the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID), the Spanish agency for international development, and Inter Press Service (IPS) … //
… Many European countries have few migrants from Africa, and the only image children growing up in these countries have is of a poor conflict and poverty-ridden continent, he said. On the other hand Africa needs to do its bit: to build leadership, build industries rather than exporting raw material, check brain drain, ensure environmental sustainability, and fight corruption.
Inevitably, a meeting on Africa in Spain threw up the question of undocumented African migrants arriving in Europe.
“Through history there has always been migration,” said Cheriff Sy, chairperson of the African Editors Forum. “People have always migrated for a happier life. And there is migration within Africa too.”
And, he added, “Let’s not talk of these people as if they are cattle.”
Rather than rely on the media, it might help to bypass it, suggested Javier Bauluz, photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner. People don’t know about each other, he said, and rather than rely on the media, they should go for exchange programmes. Such moves at the school level between Africa and Europe can lead to more understanding, he said.
Getting such ideas across was the goal of the meeting, IPS Director-General Mario Lubetkin said in his closing remarks. It was “to listen to the new African reality, one that can be heard in a new way, with dignity, without fear, without fear even to be wrong or to make mistakes.”
It is now, he said, “an emerging Africa in an emerging South, that is not just in the future, but present, and in which Africa is joining the dynamism of China, India and Brazil.”
The capacity of Africa, and of South Africa, he said, had been demonstrated in the football World Cup. “Many had said it would be a failure, but life proved to be different. Media, focused on football, failed to bring out the dimensions of what South Africa and Africa accomplished in organising the championship. It was a watershed” … (full text).