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Africa – from hope to realism

Two girls from Liberia in West Africa.
Photo: Getty Images
It caused an international stir in 2011 when the respected British magazine, The Economist, on its front page proclaimed Africa as ‘the continent of hope’, particularly because the same magazine just over a decade earlier had referred to Africa as ‘the hopeless continent.’ Nevertheless, around 2011, positive news reports about economic growth, discoveries of large deposits of natural resources and progress on several different fronts began to appear and alter the perception of Africa.

2014 became the year when the new and more positive image of the emerging Africa took a bit of a beating: Ebola and man-made conflicts with no end in sight left their mark on large parts of the continent, illustrating that decades of hard work to create prosperity can be jeopardised within a short space of time, and that even countries which internally are relatively peaceful and stable can be dragged down and affected by crises and conflicts in neighbouring countries. It also shows that the short-term prospects of realising the hopes of enormous revenues raised by increasing discoveries of oil, gas and natural resources in a number of African countries are bleak. These prospects could even be postponed further into the future with the falling oil prices.

The picture of Africa today appears to land somewhere in between. Progress is indeed being made, with many African countries experiencing economic growth and a burgeoning middle class. More and more countries are discovering large deposits of natural resources capable of generating new revenues in the future. Many countries are beginning to make a serious attempt to collect taxes – partly with Danish support. In the waters off Africa, there is peace – also with Danish support. The piracy that caused havoc off the Horn of Africa a few years ago has virtually stopped.

However, it is also clear that the enormous social and structural problems, e.g. the massive unemployment that many African countries are struggling with, cannot simply be solved from one year to the next, and that the problems, particularly the hopelessness felt by many young people, is used by rebel groups – both religious and non-religious in nature.

In 2014, Africa demonstrates once again that it is too diverse and complex to be described under a single heading.