There is no doubt that the countries of Africa have their issues – let’s just be clear about this from the start. I am in no way denying that there are challenges and crises that every day cost lives and impact on standards of living. However I am not aware of any country in the world that doesn’t. You?
African countries are often associated with negative descriptions involving words like ‘dark’, ‘failed’, ‘undemocratic’, ‘corrupt’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘chaotic.’ The reasons given for the frequent use of these terms (by both local and international media particularly) are the dictatorial governments of our countries who loot indiscriminately and in so doing become slave masters and murderers of their own people (strong words intentionally used). Unfortunately this is true for a small minority of the 54 countries of our continent.
It is however also true of the UK – remember the UK expenses scandal of 2009? A corruption problem of significant proportions which took place in a year when the UK had a 16.1 billion pound tax deficit by August of the same year. While we’re talking about the UK let me also point out this is a country (considered democratic) that does NOT limit the numbers of terms a Prime Minister can sit for, yet this is a characteristic, when applied to an African country such as Senegal, that makes them undemocratic and dictatorial. It is also the country still resolving the phone hacking saga, which has been found to involve all sorts of senior leaders of both governmental and non-governmental organisations. Consider the US who in 2000 were given a new President, George W Bush, an ‘elected’ leader who received less votes than this rival democrat candidate, Al Gore. A country still beset by a recession essentially caused by a minority of rich and seemingly above the law political contributors who took until there was no more to take. These same people were then given bail-outs from the government which they promptly re-loaned to the government at a much higher rate. Worst this was done quite openly while unemployment spiraled to historic highs and standards of living to historic lows.
We haven’t even started yet on the un-elected government currently ruling Italy, another country in dire financial crisis, or the shutting down of major airline routes to and from Australia by one stubborn but powerful man, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. His actions cost the Australian economy $250 million a day, resulting in a total cost just to the tourism industry of $10 billlion!
Despite all this (and I could go on and on) you never hear the same words used to describe these ‘first world’ issues – they’re about ‘recessions’, ‘ill-considered policies’, ’global downturn’, ‘changing economic climates’ and other descriptors that clearly indicate that ‘they’re’ not to blame and all these challenges are just a result of current circumstances – nothing to do with them. And herein lies my issue. If anything all this proves is that politicians are politicians and as such we should all be judged equally. How dare countries with similar or worse issues judge us so hypocritically? How dare they continue to perpetuate an African stereotype that still has a negative impact on us, when the characteristics of that stereotype are increasingly reflected in their own countries? It’s time to change this. It’s time for tourists to flock to our stunning mountains, beaches and parks without their heads being filled with horror stories of what they’ll endure in the process. It’s time for investors to invest their money in the fastest growing region on earth with peace of mind – as they would in a “First World” market that was growing at 6% per annum. The US is not growing at this rate – they’ll be lucky to reach a GDP growth rate of 2%, but Africa is.
I hope that by sharing my experiences working and travelling through Africa will help further this cause…let me know won’t you? Please also feel free to share your own experiences – I’d love to hear about them!