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Opinion

Africa's compelling progress toward peace and prosperity

New statistics confirm that Africans have the capacity to lift themselves out of poverty and stop seemingly endless conflict.

By Steve Killelea / July 19, 2010



Sydney

A sign seen at one World Cup game in South Africa bellowed “Viva Africa United!!” The sentiment transcends a single fan’s fevered moment of brotherhood. It speaks of a very real and powerful force for collective effort in Africa today that promises to change the continent for the better.

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Indeed, this sign, glimpsed for just a moment on the world’s TV screens, sends out a message that we should all begin to see Africa differently and to offer more support for the journeys toward peace and prosperity many Africans are undertaking.

Other than Ghana, African teams did not do well in the first African World Cup. Despite this, African interest in the World Cup was among the most passionate – and least parochial.

It is indeed a united Africa.

This apparent willingness to support one’s neighbors correlates to compelling data coming out of Africa that suggests vast improvements in many areas of life for ordinary Africans.

In the past four years of the Global Peace Index, run by the Institute of Economics and Peace, Africa emerges as the most progressive region in terms of peacefulness. This is not the say it is the most peaceful; it isn’t. But, from a low base, the region is moving toward peace at a much faster pace than any other region as the number and intensity of conflicts decrease, military expenditure is reduced, and access to small arms is lessened.

Africa’s progress underscores the profound link between peace and prosperity. Indeed, a the continent’s peacefulness increases, its GDP growth is now the highest since the 1960s, when many African nations achieved independence. In another hopeful sign, child mortality has been dropping by 2 percent per year for the past decade.

The cross-border support noted among Africans for African teams in the World Cup indicates the presence of significant parallel factors we have identified in relation to peacefulness in societies, such as good relations with neighbors and acceptance of the rights of others.

Consulting firm McKinsey recently produced a report that showed that Africa returned a compound annual economic growth rate of 4.9 percent between 2000 and 2008. Sub-Saharan Africa, often seen as stuck in a dark age of poverty and misery, saw average GDP growth of 4.8 percent between 2004 and 2008.

During the global meltdown in 2008, Africa grew by 2 percent and is on the rise still.

And, as noted in a recent Businessweek column, the per capita GDP of Africa’s strongest economies (such as Morocco, South Africa, and Tunisia) is actually higher than the BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

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