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In the late 1990’s, I happened upon a chart in a news magazines listing the world’s fastest growing stock markets for the previous year. Seven of them were in Africa.  I was stunned.  I had no idea Africa had stock markets, much less ones that were among the fastest growing. Africa’s financial markets aren’t on most people’s radars, so perhaps my ignorance should be excused, but I was reporting for a radio show on Africa.

Even worse, a quick poll of my colleagues showed they didn’t know Africa’s stock markets either. 

After seeing the article, I started to ask myself why.  Why, when we knew Africa’s major cities, names of presidents, and initials of major political parties and numerous rebel groups, didn’t we know about this Africa?  It’s not enough to only tell the stories of people tearing Africa apart.  We also needed to tell stories of those who were building it back up. 

Stories on Africa are often told without Africans ever saying a word.  The foreign reporter parachutes in, interviews a non-African spokesperson from an international aid agency, then sends the story off to his or her editor’s desk in a far-away country.  Africans may be interviewed along the way, but their sound bites are quick, and often subtitled, even when they are speaking English.  (The subconscious message is clear – Africans don’t speak the King’s English!)  Their stories are merely examples that illustrate points brought out by the foreign expert.  How would the narrative change if Africans were telling the story? 

When I travel in Africa today, I see a continent that is rapidly changing.  There are numerous statistics to prove this, from the vastly reduced number of conflicts on the continent to the double digit growth rates for many economies.  What I find most significant is the attitude of the people. 

When I moved to Africa the first time in 1998, Africans were fed up with their continent.  They were angry at their governments, disparaging towards their people, and disbelieving that change could happen.  Today, they hold their heads high, their optimism easily apparent.  They believe they can make it, that they have a right to good governance, and that they can – and will – find their own solutions to Africa’s problems. 

Many of these solutions have been business driven.  Job creation is the most dependable road out of poverty.  The astonishingly rapid spread of cell phones and internet cafes in Africa resulted in accelerated sharing of information and knowledge.  Chronic shortages and crumbling infrastructure were the disasters of inept or corrupt governments, but today they are the opportunities of investors.

This is the Africa so rarely seen in the media.  It is the Africa I wanted to show.