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Good News from Africa

'Africa in hearts' photo (c) 2008, futureatlas.com - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

What could have possibly caused the notoriously high-brow magazine, The Economist, to admit regret? Africa's economic growth.

In a Dec. 3, 2011, article, “Africa’s Hopeful Economies: The Sun Shines Bright,” The Economist noted that a decade ago, they had regrettably labeled Africa “the hopeless continent.” But today, signs of economic growth had The Economist telling a different story.

While reporting from Africa tends to focus on the dire circumstances of famine, poverty, war, and disease, The Economist is bringing attention to the good news about Africa: business in some parts of the continent is expanding, forming a small, increasingly stable middle class.

Of course, the signs of Africa’s economic growth need to be tempered with caveats that the continent still has a long way to go. But national economies are growing faster than any other region of the world. The article points to Ethiopia as an exemplar.

At least a dozen have expanded by more than 6 percent a year for six or more years. Ethiopia will grow by about 7.5 percent this year, without a drop of oil to export. Once a byword for famine, it is now the world’s tenth-largest producer of livestock. Nor is its wealth monopolized by a well-connected clique. Embezzlement is still common but income distribution has improved in the past decade.

Another hopeful sign is the decrease in Africa’s child mortality rate.

As for Africans below the poverty line – the majority of the continent’s billion people – disease and hunger are still a big problem. Out of 1,000 children 118 will die before their fifth birthday. Two decades ago the figure was 165. Such progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, a series of poverty-reduction milestones set by the United Nations, is slow and uneven. But it is not negligible.

Bread for the World is committed to advocating for policies that will help nations achieve the Millennium Development Goals precisely for the kind of progress that The Economist is reporting out of Africa. Famine, war, drought, and disease continue to plague African nations, but there are glimmers of hope. With a healthier generation of 20- to 30-year-olds, a bona fide economic boom that lifts all boats and draws more people out of poverty might not be far off.

Jeannie-choiJeannie Choi is associate editor at Bread for the World.

 


 

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