Africans Optimistic on Development in Africa
There is optimism in African development despite often-gloomy headlines. That was the central message delivered recently by a panel of African experts, donors and policymakers at “Beyond Kony 2012: Championing African Leaders.” They discussed the important role Africans play in building stronger institutions in their own diverse countries.
• Optimism abounds for African economic development: Africa is quickly becoming a popular target for private investment. Conflicts are ending. Mobile phones are everywhere, and the prevalence of disease is on a rapid decline, according to Brookings Research Fellow Anne Kamau.
• Women will be key in driving African growth: Kamau also said there are cultural and traditional barriers that still make it difficult for women to participate in the economy. For example, women have no access to land, yet 60 to 80 percent of what is produced comes from women. With land, they could produce more, reduce hunger and increase growth. Women also lack reasonable access to credit and collateral, which inhibits their ability to start or grow productive businesses.
• Leaders are working on access to information and press freedom: Over the last few months, the KONY 2012 video received a lot of attention. "But believe me," said Ricky Anywar, a Ugandan activist and former child soldier, "when you go to Pader and ask about this video nobody knows about it. And yet it's talking about them." Anywar is working to bring a radio station to northern Uganda to help keep the rural community informed.
• USAID is stepping into a role that is less hands-on, more supportive: The Western aid community is moving into more of a support role, and should shine a light on those Africans who are achieving success, according to Chloe Schwenke, Senior Advisor (Africa) on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance for USAID. "To strengthen their leadership is far bigger than anything we could do through all the programming money and effort we could possibly supply," she said. "This is their future, and they have to lead it."
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