Friday, April 25, 2008

The vacuum we call pain and suffering in Africa

In a post yesterday, I tried to broaden our humble debate by illustrating a social issue taking place in a country going through somewhat the same situation as some African states. In this case, we tracked a story that investigated what changes arise in China in families that can now purchase their first cars?

Let’s be certain: I am not implying that African countries completely resemble the changes in China – how could anyplace? But, I’ll argue some similarities exist. For instance, a majority of countries in sub-Saharan Africa now enjoy their greatest spurt of economic growth in decades. While debate certainly exists on the viability of growth as an indicator on how economic performance affects all levels of society, some people are certainly making more money than before. (Just look at the new fancy boutiques opening up in Ouagadougou – of all places! – for that one.)

So, let them eat cars? I think not. (More anecdotal proof: There are certainly more cars in Ouagadougou now than when I first arrived here in 2003; it can’t be all those kids traipsing in from villages buying them.) The point is African issues don’t happen in a vacuum. Broadly speaking, what happens on the continent may appear worse and more dreadful than issues afflicting the rest of the world. I’d argue the opposite. Problems facing African governments are very similar to issues that worry every other government. Job creation, for one. Environmental management, for another. Immigration, for a third. And so on.

For those who’ll pipe up and say, "What about Darfur or former-Zaire or Zimbabwe?" or "Why does genocide and funny-mustached dictators and resource rape always take place in Africa?" To that I say, put down your newspaper and/or quit opening junk mail from Mia Farrow or Jeffrey Sachs or whomever. (Yes, their calendars and magnets are very pretty, but throw that tripe away.)

Anyway, I’d like to start investigating some issues reported in other places and see how they could apply to sub-Saharan Africa or West Africa or Benin or wherever.

Our next post is about resource management in Brazil. Hold on to your hats.

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