A New Image of Africa
by Derrick Boykin
Ian Birrell, the former deputy editor of the Guardian newspapers, has written a fascinating essay that challenges common perceptions that many Americans and Europeans have of Africa. “Our Image of Africa is Hopelessly Obsolete” highlights social, political, and economic indicators of an emerging continent. He asserts that Africa is “on the edge of economic takeoff similar to those seen so dramatically in China and India,” having shaken off the malaise of colonial exploitation, cold war politics, famine, conflict, and war
Birrell makes a compelling argument, substantiated by undeniable facts.
My travels last year to three African nations opened my eyes to this burgeoning African Renaissance. Meetings with government officials, clergypersons, and civil society leaders challenged many of my own beliefs. While I saw firsthand some of the colossal challenges still facing the continent—related to hunger, poverty, disease, infrastructure, and governance—that was only part of the story.
There are clear signs of progress. Brilliant, courageous, and determined African leaders are rising to the occasion by taking their continent’s destiny into their own hands. During my travels, I met one such leader—Dr. Mary Shawa. This champion is successfully leading the charge against malnutrition and HIV/AIDS in her home country of Malawi, with her voice being projecting broadly throughout Africa.
Economic development in many of the African nations I visited is apparent. In city centers like Lilongwe, Lusaka, and Dar es Saalam, this fact is undeniable—evident in the numerous development projects under construction. These are but a few empirical examples of the untold story of today’s Africa that I was blessed to experience firsthand.
In light of this progress, as Birrell suggests, it is imperative that our national perspective shifts to embrace the current realities on the continent. More importantly—as people of faith who will not rest until hunger, poverty and disease are eradicated in Africa—we must urge our nation’s decision makers to embrace policies that support the remarkable progress being made.
Maintaining a circle of protection around funding for poverty-focused foreign assistance programs helps nurture that progress. That is why I stand behind the Senate Appropriation Committee's FY13 funding levels and support reauthorizing and strengthening the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).
Yes, a new Africa is emerging. Let’s be part of that success.
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