My African Year

So it’s that time of year when one of my clients puts together its review of the year. As usual I’m tasked with writing 800wd on the African year. As usual it’s something of a gloomfest. Here’s how it looks so far

  • Zimbabwe – the old crocodile is still clinging firmly to power, while his country dies. Cholera sweeping the country despite earlier, apparently meaningless, power-share deal
  • Kenya – while the rest of the African headlines were sadly predictable, no-one expected East Africa’s haven of stability and an engine of growth, to erupt into violence following rigged election
  • Darfur – President Bashir looking at International Criminal Court indictment
  • Democratic Republic of Congo – a four-year rebellion by a renegade army general flares up once more. A quarter of a million people forced to flee their homes as UN peacekeepers look on helpless to intervene
  • Somalia – lawless land sinks even further into anarchy, as Ethiopian and government troops accused of war crimes, and pirates rule the waves

At the moment my plan is to end on the one bright spot I can find: The pirates have proved that Somalis can sometimes work together to achieve their objectives. Is this a model for a new type of government?
However, I realise that this might be misinterpreted as satire. So I throw it open to my readers…any other ideas of positive, optimistic stories that I can weave into my review of the African year? (I will take Barack Obama’s election if there are no alternatives – but I can’t help feeling that in a way that is not really an African story.)


  1. I think all the developments in African tech, especially here in Kenya, are a real bright spot. The laying of the fiber optic cable, the investments and the increasing govt support for youth innovation here in Kenya, at least, is something to be happy about.

    If anyone could list more negatives, it would probably be me. But I’ll refrain.

  2. That’s certainly a positive interpretation of the pirate affair. I reckon you should run with it. If your client knocks it back, then how about progress on female genital cutting over west? Or Malawi’s resurgent agricultural sector? The latter, which Kenya and others are seeking to emulate, could be presented as a signifier of things to come right across the continent in terms of food security issues. Good luck!

  3. Incidentally, I didn’t mention the general food crisis, which I think will permeate the whole story.

    Tech developments? Yes, I like that. But it just reminds me that the last story I did about the fibre optic cable, and how it would turn Kenya into a tech hub, and how it was time to be optimistic etc, was published on Dec 27 last year. A day before the election. And we all know what happened then…

  4. Rob, you could mention something about Malawi’s President Bingu Wa Mutharika remarkable display of leadership in securing Malawi’s food security.

  5. Yep, Malawi is in the mix. Can’t say it will definitely get in but it is one the options now. Thanks

  6. Not exactly a new phenomenon but how about Ethiopian long/middle distance dominance in Beijing? Tirunesh Dibaba became the first woman ever to win double gold in the 5000m and 10,000m in the Olympics. Kenenisa Bekele also won the men’s 5000m and 10,000m.

  7. These are all good ideas. But are any of them symptomatic of any sort of trend? In previous years I’ve been able to talk about Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf or Wangari Maathai. That’s my problem. I need something big that defines a move in the right direction.

  8. If the only good news story we can find about Africa is the presidential election on a different continent of a man whose only tie to Africa is a father he barely knew and relatives he’s hardly ever seen, that doesn’t say very good things about Africa.
    Maybe Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s book, though not brand new, can inspire you.

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