crowded African street
Oct. 30, 2023 (GIN) – “By 2050, one in four people on the planet will be African… Early tremors of this seismic change are already registering around the world…. The world is becoming more African.”
So opens an in-depth look at our changing world by Irish author and journalist Declan Walsh. His research fills a special section of 40 pages that appeared in a recent edition of the New York Times.
The text is framed by the stunning work of Hannah Reyes Morales, a freelance photographer who spent five weeks this year traveling in Africa for the project.
From its opening double-page shot of the Center for Girls Education in Zaria, Nigeria, a program for married adolescents and mothers to the closing shot of fishers in Praia Nova, Mozambique, showing the impacts of climate change battering African countries, the pictures tell a thousand words.
Africa the Cultural Powerhouse
Here, the author profiles Nigerian star Burna Boy, who became the first African artist to sell out an American stadium after filling an 80,000 capacity venue in London where he sang his new single, “Sittin’ on Top of the World.”
“It’s a great time to be alive,” Laolu Senbanjo, a Nigerian artist living in Brooklyn was quoted to say. “Whether I’m in Target or an Uber, I hear the Afrobeats. It’s like a bridge. The world has come together.”
This year Gamma, a music company owned in part by Apple, set up an office in Lagos. “We’re going straight to the source,” Sipho Dlamini, a Gamma executive was heard to say.
Once the target of bullies, “African” today is a badge of pride, Sebanjo says. Images of kids starving and swollen bellies are giving way to new images driving tourists who are dying to come to Cape Town, to Mombasa, to Zanzibar, he notes, adding “It’s cool to be African!”
Foreign companies are mentioned here as “eager allies, including Russia, China, the United States, Turkey and Gulf petrostates” as African leaders spurn the image of victim and demand a bigger say.
Once the big idea for enabling Africa to leapfrog its way out of poverty, technology is now sharing the stage with start-ups sprouting in Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco. Akinwumi Adesina, head of the African Development Bank, observes: “On top of the $96 billion in remittances from African migrants, three times more than the sum of all foreign aid, the African diaspora has become the largest financer of Africa!”
“It feels like the opportunities are unlimited for us right now,” says Jean-Patrick Niambe, a 24 year old hip-hop artist from Ivory Coast.
The author does not overlook Africa’s weaknesses. “It’s a young continent run by old men,” he says. “Under their grip, democracy has fallen to its lowest point in decades. Half of all Africans live in countries considered ‘not free’ by Freedom House.”
While polls say young Africans admire and desire democracy, disillusionment with rubber stamp elections that camouflage authoritarianism is turning many toward more radical options.
“Old World, Young Africa” is balanced, insightful reporting,” writes Unicef Africa, “that presents huge choices for African decision makers in coming years… But will this ‘youthquake be a blessing or a burden?”