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Submitted by Hudson Lucky Masheti on
After decades of famine and war, life is finally looking up for many Africans. A new spirit of self-reliance is taking root among many Africans as they seize control of their destiny. Hope is Africa’s rarest commodity. Yet buried though it is amid the despair that haunts the continent, there is more optimism today than in decades. Francisco Mucavele found hope in September 1997 when an armored steel Casspir rolled over the hill and began to blow up the land mines contaminating Mozambique’s rich soil. Olga Haptemariam acquired it in Eritrea’s war-scarred port city of Massawa when she laid down 2,000 birr for a license to open a building-supply store. The villagers of N’Tjinina found it as they prepared for the solemn experience of voting in Mali’s first elections. Sarah Galloway Hage-Ali spread hope in Ghana, when she purchased the country’s sole manufacturer of sanitary napkins in 1994 and launched a famine-hygiene crusade. This story is not about the Africa you think you know. The usual images are painted in the darkest colors. At the end of the 20th century, we are repeatedly reminded, Africa is a nightmarish world where chaos reigns, nothing works, poverty and corruption rule, war, famine and pestilence pay repeated calls. The land, air, water are fouled and polluted. Chronic instability gives way to lifelong dictatorship. Every nation’s hand is out begging aid from donors. Endlessly disappointed 740 million people sink into hopelessness. That portrait is real, all right in places like Nigeria, Burundi, Kenya etc. But it is no longer the whole picture. Academics, diplomats and bankers who do business there talk seriously these days about an African renaissance. A grand word, it turns out, for the slow, fragile, difficult changes that are giving the continent a second chance. But the description fits. Out of sight of out narrow focus on disaster, another Africa is rising, an Africa that works: the Africa of Mozambique and Mali and Eritrea and Ghana, of South Africa and Uganda, Benin and Botswana, Ivory Coast, Tanzania. What is new is how some nations are figuring out ways to harness their natural and human resources into working models of development. What is new is the methodological instruments to which ordinary Africans are searching out their own paths to progress. What is new is how much of the still limited prosperity and security they have managed to acquire is homegrown-political and economic advances rooted in the soil of local culture. What is new is that the enduring example of (former South African President) Nelson Mandela has heartened all Africans with a fresh vision of leadership, how men of their own kind can be admired, respected, even emulated. For so long the victim of historical circumstance, Africa is finally a beneficiary. Let me first stipulate some common truths. By any Western standard, Mozambique, Eritrea, Mali and Ghana are countries in awful straits. Their statistics still show an abysmal record of poverty, illiteracy, early mortality. While all four have achieved a dose of national economic success, with higher growth rates, lower inflation and more stable currencies that flow from obedience to stringent International Monetary Fund reform programs, they have yet to see their growing wealth trickle down very far. For ordinary citizens, daily hardships are intense: few jobs, few schools, few hospitals, poor diets, rising prices, no money. For the majorities of these populations that are ill fed, ill clothed, illiterate and just plain ill, what Mozambicans dubbed the “years of cabbage” are not over. Let me also acknowledge that for every tale I tell, even these countries can tell 10 times as many despairing ones. Nevertheless, each of these countries is moving ahead and what I discovered was the reasons – some unique, some replicable – but they set the key benchmarks of lessons learned from successes that needs to be adopted/replicated by the other African nations for developmental roadmap for MDGs attainment by 2015 or sooner thereafter. Hudson Lucky Masheti Kenya {East Africa}