Think of Ethiopia and what do you see. Perhaps a starving child, flies in her eyes and belly distended. Painfully thin adults in raggedy clothes, staring balefully at the camera in a fetid refugee camp. Or possibly a famous self-declared saviour from the west, striding purposefully past the decaying corpse of an animal beside a dusty road.
Think again. See, instead, a booming capital city, its cafes filled with graduates and cranes lining the horizon. A nation that is one of the world’s largest livestock producers and recently became the second country to take delivery of Boeing’s new 787 passenger jet. An economy that doubled in size this century and is growing at 7.5%.
Few countries symbolise the disconnect between outdated western perceptions of Africa and fast-changing realities on the ground better than Ethiopia, the continent’s second most-populous nation, whose long-serving leader, Meles Zenawi, died last week. Although the example of one country can never fully explain a diverse continent, this ancient nation illustrates in many ways Africa’s progress, potential and problems. Mostly, it is a picture of amazing progress, far removed from the usual stereotypes presented by much of the media and their allies in the aid lobby. They offer simplistic images of death and destruction, ignoring complex realities of a continent encompassing 54 countries and 11.6 million square miles in which life is becoming more peaceful and prosperous. (The Observer has sought to counter these simplistic accounts in today’s New Review special on Africa.)
Last week, Africa was in the news over the shooting of striking miners in South Africa, a disturbing echo of the dark
Category: Africa News