While I was visiting family last week, my sister-in-law reported attending a party in Germany with some international CEOs who said they wanted to bring business to Africa, but they couldn’t, since “Africans don’t like to work.” How much like “Americans are rich” is that one? Standard biases about “darkest Africa” may be robbing many of investment opportunities.
Here’s some welcome news about how mobile technology is transforming the continent, from a March New Yorker magazine. Reporter Auletta says that Sudan-born Mo(hammed) Ibrahim’s “mobile-phone company, Celtel, contributed to the development of civil society across the continent, and he’s now spending the money he earned to try to change the values of the dictators, megalomaniacs, and thieves. Each year, he offers the Ibrahim Prize, which bestows five million dollars on an African leader who is elected to office, promotes democracy, does not steal from the people, and cedes power peacefully. He has also created the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, a numerical ranking of Africa’s fifty-three governments. With citizen revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and elsewhere, Africa is undergoing perhaps its greatest political convulsion since the end of colonialism, and few private citizens have done as much in recent years as Ibrahim to push for the kind of democracy that people are demanding in the streets. Ibrahim’s message is that Africa needs to take responsibility for itself, and it needs to start by jettisoning its awful leaders.”