Africa is in the news these days, and not in a positive way. Events in Cote’ d Ivoire, where the incumbent president refuses to step down after losing a presidential election, once again add to the stereotype of Africa as a continent of failed states, dictatorships and coups, and economic backwardness.
Yet despite the news in Cote’ d Ivoire, Africa hasn’t been doing too shabby in the 21st century. The past decade constituted a comparatively good one for Africa.
Things were best economically. Africa grew faster than the West – for the first time in many decades – especially in light of the Great Recession. Much of this was due to the influence of China. It’s vast appetite for commodities boosted economies throughout the continent, as did its foreign investment in infrastructure. Many complain that China built roads for dictators without regard to human rights, but from an economic perspective a road in Sudan is the same as a road in Ghana.
Politically Africa did not do as well. Even today there are precious few true multiparty competitive democracies in the region. Ghana is one, as are Botswana and Senegal. Many countries in Africa nowadays hold elections, but very few are free or fair. The Cote’ d Ivoire election is more the norm than the exception.
Yet things are still better than before. Compare the 2000s with the 1990s. In the 90s there was the Rwandan genocide, war in Congo, Islamist-fueled civil war in Algeria and Somalia, blood diamond civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and other civil wars in Angola and Sudan. These events led to millions of deaths.
Most of these conflicts were ended – or damped down – by the early 2000s. Since then, few events have approached the bloodshed of the 90s. Even the Darfur genocide is far less violent than the civil war that preceded it.
All in all, the recent decade constituted one of the better decades in Africa’s recent history. One wonders what this new decade will bring.