Holding the Dark Continent at Arm’s Length
Two weeks we explained the origins of the term “Dark Continent” as a nickname for Africa. In the 20th century the term “Dark Continent” took on a new meaning. The term’s connotation now reflected the lack of interest and involvement in Africa shown by the U.S. and Europe. What involvement there has been from the Western world has been made up primarily of aid, and, as some would say, holding Africa at arm’s length.
In the meantime, China seized the opportunity the rest of the world didn’t as we explored last week. China made key contributions to Africa’s infrastructure development, but its role has largely been a frightening reflection of the self-serving imperialist influences of Africa’s past.
U.S Changes its Approach to African Development
All is not lost. The U.S. and Europe have been watching China’s success in Africa and have been working to revive relations, both out of concern for China’s increasing political influence throughout the continent and ambition to take advantage of the growing economic opportunity of investing in Africa.
Hence, the U.S. has ramped up its efforts to rebuild positive government relations and a presence in Africa over the last few years. Following the voices of economist Jeffrey D. Sachs and rock star Bono’, the U.S. is revising its approach to Africa from aid-based work to a greater emphasis on economic development.
President Obama traveled to Kenya just this past month to address the Sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit in support of the US’s revived efforts to contribute to sustainable development in Africa. He offered inspiring optimistic remarks, saying Africa is “on the move” economically. He then traveled on to Ethiopia, the first serving U.S. president in history to visit Ethiopia.
USAID, the US government’s agency primarily responsible for administering civil foreign aid, has adopted an increasing focus on economic development and high impact/sustainable scalable projects (such as the DIV grant). See some of the development impact USAID and its partners are having throughout Africa here.
These examples highlight the shift in the U.S.’s thinking and approach. There is still much work to be done, but we are moving in the right direction.
African Development is Essential to Lasting Transformation
As we have said before, no country has ever achieved first world status through aid alone. Economic development, entrepreneurship, investment, government stabilization, and infrastructure improvement are essential to true and lasting societal transformation.
We cannot settle for imperialistic, self-serving efforts nor hands-off, dependency driven ones. No, we must strive to set Africa free. To expose the beauty of its resources. To bring to light the potential of its people. To arm it with power and opportunity. To make it flourish.
Not because it benefits us to do it. But because every human has the right to make a living, to rise above poverty and have hope of a better future. Because it’s right.
Agora’s Role in African Development
As we are watching the global players compete for political influence, seek opportunity, and shift strategies for working in Africa, Agora stands poised with a clear and powerful purpose for creating lasting and transformative value in Africa communities. We are already working with several entrepreneurs in multiple African communities, coaching and supporting them to run profitable businesses that create jobs and impact their communities. We are preparing to launch a Venture Village to train, fund, and empower African entrepreneurs (we’ll be announcing the location and launch date soon). We are gathering investors and raising awareness of the needs and the opportunities to invest in Africa’s sustainable development through enterprise.
What can you do? Join the movement. Spread the word by sharing this article. Give to Agora to help our vision can become reality. Follow us on social media for opportunities to support African entrepreneurs. Get equipped to start a socially conscious business in Africa.
The problem of African development is not insurmountable. Together we can play a vital role in solving it, one business, one step at a time.
Will you join the movement? #GoAfricanDevelopment