Africa rising?

Is Africa really rising? The African Student Community - Groningen pondered this question during a two day symposium that took place over the weekend. Academics from the fields of health, education, politics & governance, business & economics and human rights spoke about it, but the answer to that question varied significantly among the experts and the attendees.

Dorothy Ngarina, former lecturer from Tanzania and symposium speaker on the subject ‘Gender and Education: Female Access to Education in African Countries’:

‘The issues that Africa faces are not about statistics, but about real people, like the story of my god daughter who only started school at the age of seven because before that she had to help in the household. I wanted to share my story to help people plant their feet in reality. When you really want to get a story across, I think it is important to share first hand information, to go in depth and to leave room to discuss the stories’ implications with the audience.

The answer to the question whether Africa is really rising is two fold. Things are moving on and things are happening. The enrolments in schools, for instance, have increased drastically in the continent. Lives have been improved. When compared to other developing regions, Africa might be rising. But when you compare Africa to already developed parts of the world, like Europe, there is still a long way to go. Healthcare in Tanzania and in the Netherlands are for instance still incomparable.’

Josphat Kamanya (32), exchange student in Sport Sciences from Kenya:

‘’Hmmm..’ is my response to the central question of this symposium. I think we have our starting mark at an inappropriate point. When striving for change and development, we always start from the top, at the governmental level. Then we work our way down to the bottom. It should be the other way around. Change should start from the bottom, from the roots of a society. When it comes to policymaking, we shouldn’t just copy-paste foreign policies ‘onto’ African countries. Western policies will not work for a different continent with a different culture.

Whether I will return to Africa after my time here is not up for debate! I am definitely going back, because the change I desire to see in my country will not happen automatically. I will have to be a part of it.

Jonas Njau (26), International law student and chairman of the African Students Community Groningen; from Tanzania and Norway:

20160517 - africa rising - bordjes‘Africa rising has become a popular slogan within the continent. When it comes to arts, economics and business in Africa, it is something you often hear. Within the continent, there is a sense of optimism about all the developments going on. This optimistic atmosphere is good, yet let us also ask ourselves whether it reflects the true situation in Africa, rather than just jumping on the positive bandwagon that is used to rebrand Africa to attract foreign investment. It is important to critically assess the image that is being created of the continent.

Whether Africa is rising is a complicated question; many complex issues are involved. There has been big advancement within health care – malaria and HIV are on the decrease. In most African countries, primary education is now available for all. Yet only the amount of enrolments is looked at, whereas the quality of the education is also very important. Moreover, when it comes to the developments in Africa, they often do not affect those marginalized. This group will only grow in the future because Africa’s population is set to double by 2050.’

Joseph Muchengeti (20), Artificial Intelligence student from Zimbabwe:

‘I wanted to know what other people think about the continent. The symposium covered most of the aspects that play a role in the development of Africa. It was complete and I think it was probably also interesting for those who are not from the continent to learn more about Africa.

20160517 - africa rising - poppemaI think Africa is rising on some levels. There are different aspects to the continent’s development and not all aspects are at an equally advanced state. Most African countries are trying to implement new educational policies and the technological development within the continent is going well. Africa has really changed when you compare it to how it was ten years ago, yet the continent faces big economic challenges. There is still a lot of poverty. Corruption is also a big problem: it draws back a large part of the development. All in all, I would say Africa is rising generally, but at a slow pace.’


Photos: instagram, asc_groningen