From 2011 to 2015 seven of the ten fastest growing economies will be African countries. “I get upset when I see the way Africa is portrayed in the West, I can tell you that Africa is full of global citizens, there’s an intellectual elite, like the ones attending this conference. However the press keeps focusing on the negative side of the continent”, says Kah Walla, political leader and entrepreneur from Cameroon.
And Kalla is right; we tend to look at African people – especially women – as victims. “I recommend you guys to talk to the women working in the markets of Douala; you will realise you are talking to real entrepreneurs”, says Walla.
But Africa is in fact a continent of contradictions. In the case of Cameroon, 50% of the people don’t have access to electricity and clean water. “Cameroon is a very rich country in resources. There are nevertheless too many inequalities as plenty of people has never touched a computer and Internet penetration is only at a 10% rate”.
“But the international image of Africa is changing, before it was just about famine and disease”, claims Geraldine de Bastion, moderator of the panel and expert on information and communication technology, “in fact we can now see that a lot of technological innovation is coming form Africa”.
“Of course, technology is leading change in Africa”, answers Walla. “As a politician I engage with people via Facebook and Twitter, which in an country like Cameroon is a very big thing. Bear in mind that our president only gives three speeches a year and the rest of time he is completely inaccessible”.
In Africa, where there are still a number of totalitarian governments, the Internet is becoming an alternative source of information for people. “Technology is really affecting politics and people are demanding more transparency and accountability”, points out de Bastion.
We’ve been talking about the rise of Africa for many years. Economic growth is a reality but there’re still many challenges to face. “Africa accounts for 13% of the oil and 9% of the energy production in the world, besides it has 25% of the world’s herbal land. Perhaps, if the African elite I was talking to you about earlier replaces our current politicians we may have a chance to really see this change happening.”, concludes Walla.