As a Brit-born Ghanian, who’s lived in Ghana to speak enough enough twi ‘to sit in the shade and joke with groups of elderly men’, I share your (Catherine Duggan) sentiments in your post: ‘Is this the African Century? I’m betting my career on it’, but with trepidation.
Arguably, with narratives talking up economies saturated or depreciating elsewhere, any positive sentiment (which is good for business confidence) to suggest it’s Africa’s turn is welcome. I recall US Commerce Secretary Ron Brown’s visit to South Africa (was it 93?), which I reported on then for the BBC World Service. It was Africa’s time then too.
Chinese/EU interests and renewed focus from multinational money e.g. Barclay’s Bob Diamond’s African Banking Venture demonstrates something’s afoot. Take also Nigeria’s Eko Atlantic — a Dubaish water city and Ramani Huria in which communities are geo-mapping areas to foresee flooding.
Keen to attract investment onto the continent, a niggling question is whether a neoliberal market-driven model is the obvious choice for this resource-aplenty land? And are the systems for measuring the metrics of success, favoured by major economies, the obvious ones in this century? We’re witnessing broad swathes of scrutiny in Western and European economies. That third way has yet to materialise en masse.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, you mention is right. My PhD in cinema journalism parallels her view for the need to be privy to, and welcoming of, other (indigenous) narratives to affect knowledge. Working with the head of CNN Africa in the 90s, our notion was precisely this. We took Ghanaian state broadcasters to South Africa for their first ever co-production in which we/they sought stories that aided collaboration, understanding and joint growth. It worked. South Africa’s first black ad agency we featured The Herd Buoys were invited to Ghana to share their ideas, yet a generality in news construct is still, ‘if it bleeds it leads’.
I’m a wee sceptical too when we speak of ‘Africa’, with its varied languages and cultures as a homogenous mass. I’m not suggesting you are, but it’s an easy system to adopt that can obscure country, regional or urban vs village issues and nuanced approaches to different societies. And quite right, as you say, ‘the success of the coming decades depends…’ on several agents getting it right. Those/we that can, taking note of what’s happened across the rest of the world, we all wish will do so. There are great things (tech, agric, entrepreneurial openings) happening across the continent when you speak to the Africa Progress Panel et al. I veer towards Prince Ea poetry, to make good on that dream. No not Kings in this case, but the likes of Nkrumah in sharing towards a bigger idea. It didn’t happen then (the causes are myriad and some quite deliberate). Let’s hope it happens now.