Once ‘hopeless’ and now ‘rising’, Western narratives around Africa may tell us as much about what’s going in the West as in Africa itself.
The Euro Crisis, double-dip recessions, ‘Occupy’ protests and LIBOR corruption scandals aside, it seems that capitalism is alive and well – at least in Africa. Africa is ‘Rising’, Westerners are often told these days, after decades of economic ruin, civil war and governmental mismanagement. Impressive economic growth statistics, the “burgeoning African middle class”, mushrooming mobile phone and internet use – these things are all proudly trumpeted, “remind[ing] the world of the capitalist way”. But why all this ‘good news’ now?
The seemingly obvious answer is that things are indeed improving in Africa and the West’s commentariat are now, quite simply, reporting what is happening. But to properly understand the ‘Africa Rising’ narratives, we also need to look at what they are a response to – the much older, and much more negative, ‘Dark Continent’ narratives that have dominated Western discourses on Africa for centuries.