As an anonymous voyager recorded right after arriving on the Eastern coast of Africa at the turn of the 16th century, this place was home to rich merchants and people wearing fine cotton and silk clothes and living in houses resembling those built in Spain. This is what the first explorers coming from Europe witnessed in their journeys to Africa: a florid, rich and active continent.
In the subsequent five-hundred years, Europeans contributed to integrate Africa into the global economy even though often against the continent own interests. The long colonial occupation, which caused people and resources to be exploited at impressive rates took the continent on the brink of collapse, leaving it in a really difficult situation when in the 1960s the Imperial Age came to an end. But it is from this very stage that Africa has slowly started to rise again on the world panorama.
This rebirth is also better known as African Renaissance, term coined by the Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop in his essays dating back to the 1950s, who first articulated the elements that should have composed the new Africa: social cohesion, democracy and economic growth with the aim to establish Africa as a significant player in geo-political affairs.
In fact, in the last ten years Mozambique, Rwanda, Angola, Nigeria, Chad and Ethiopia appeared for the first time on the list of the ten fastest growing economics in the world.
An important help is given by the revolution of the digital industry, which is boosting the economy and at the same time providing people with new technologies: today three people out of four in Africa have got a mobile phone and internet access.
Furthermore, the fight to brain draining has also turned successful with the set up of trans-national schemes, which allow Africans living abroad to contribute to the continent’s development.
Wars, famines and dictatorships have become rarer. Most importantly, African youth activism is playing a key role in the wave of democratisation that is running through Africa.
Also emigration, education and salaries have reached the same values of developing countries such as China or India. On this point of view, statistics suggest that the continent is living an important transition period in a long time: the income per person is 30% higher than ten years ago, investments in education and teaching have started to pay off rising school enrolment by 50%. Last but not least, malaria and HIV prevention has increased life expectancy of about 10% and the child mortality rates has fallen.
Africa is today the world’s fastest growing continent with a booming economy and most importantly, Africans are optimistic when asked how they see their future and that of their nations.
Democracy is now respected and trusted by everyone making the raise of new authoritarianism difficult. The engaging of private citizens with politics and the abandon of the old socialist economic models have led to a better governance and improvements in the everyday life. In the last twenty years, the number of countries where regular elections have been held has risen from three to twenty-five and in those nations still lacking of democracy, conflicts have become less violent and sometimes declining dramatically and eventually flaring up.
As Vivienne Walt (Fortune.com) says, “In the popular imagination, there have long been two dominant visions of Africa: as a land of dire poverty and conflict, and as a place of sublime wilderness. Now there is a third cliché: “Africa rising”.
Following decolonization and the outbreak of democracy during the early 1990s, this is the third great moment for Africa.