With the start of the new decade being a cascade of emotions, the future shines even brighter for Africa. Here are three evolutionary trends that I believe will facilitate growth and advancement within the continent. 2020 looks to be a promising year.
A Borderless Continent
The African Union (AU) has a strategic plan called Agenda 2063, which is designed to transform Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. Among its vision is to achieve a more integrated continent that is politically united, based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism.
A huge step in the right direction is the creation of the AU passport which is scheduled for wide release sometime this year. The passport is set to replace existing national passports and will give citizens of member states the right to travel across the continent without a visa. The first version of the AU passport was unveiled in 2016 at the 27th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Kigali, Rwanda. At that time, the passports were only issued to heads of state. During the 32nd Summit of the African Union in early February 2019, delegates unveiled the logistical details on the issuance of the AU passport.
But it’s not just the passport that sparks travel attention. In addition to the AU passport, African countries are beginning to open up their borders by providing Africans easier access to visas on arrival or removing visa fees entirely. This is equally important, because across the entire continent, only Seychelles and Benin offer visa-free access to all African travelers. According to Quartz Africa, “it is often easier for North American or European passport holders to travel around Africa than Africans from many countries.” A few weeks ago, Rwandan President Paul Kagame announced that Rwanda is considering to waive visa fees for all Africans and citizens of the Commonwealth.
These two initiatives coupled together can exponentially expand the scope of where Africans can travel, live and engage with other cultures and communities within. According to Achille Mbeme, a social theorist, “this is perhaps the greatest chance to generate societal transformation as the quest to survive compels novel engagements with others, which can eventually lead to new modes of being.” I couldn’t agree more, especially during a time where the diaspora is looking to be more involved on the continent, an AU passport sounds promising and moves towards a more collective and unified, United States of Africa.
Technology & Healthcare
With the Fourth Industrial revolution is underway, Africa has finally grasped the importance of this digital revolution. Currently, there are over 400 tech hubs across the continent with Lagos, Accra, Nairobi and Cape Town emerging as internationally recognized technology centers. These cities are home to thousands of startups, co-working spaces, incubators and innovation hubs.
With the increased use of technology in Africa, doors are opening within healthcare with the use of mobile technologies to develop sustainable mobile health (mHealth) solutions and strategies. In recent years, mobile phone penetration is sub-Saharan Africa has increased dramatically. According to the most recent report from GSMA, an association of mobile network operators worldwide, there are 774 million sim connections which represents about 74% of the population in Sub-saharan Africa. With the help of mHealth, the current healthcare system can be improved and has the potential to deliver healthcare to patients even in the most remote areas. The use of mobile big data can be used to improve effectiveness and insights for disease prevention and treatments.
Though there is much work to do in both technology and healthcare on the continent, overcoming these hurdles will position Africa to become a global hotbed for innovation.
The African Renaissance
There is a new generation of people are starting conversations and making noise through symbolism and imagery in their creative work. This creative class knows no boundaries when it comes to imagination and are overcoming challenges within their respective communities. They are bold and crazy enough to create art that is not only compelling, but also holds captivating storytelling, revolutionary weight and their personal truths. Narratives are being exposed to others and starting conversations around the world. Artists are being intentional about starting conversations that move culture forward. Platforms and spaces are being created for Africans to build, collaborate and experience innovation across all the different industries, through music, visual/contemporary art, fashion, business, technology, engineering, sports, events – the list is limitless!
The African Renaissance is already happening. The work that is being created by Africans and her diaspora is changing the way we view and engage with Africa. When it comes to borderlessness, art has been cutting across cultures and paving the way for new modes of thinking, problem-solving and expression.
On the continent, Accra, Addis Ababa, Cape Town, Dakar, Lagos, and Marrakech are emerging as dynamic art capitals. In Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is establishing itself as the country’s top art institution and boasts of having the likes of El Anatsui and Ibrahim Mahama as alumni. The Black Rock Senegal residency developed by artist Kehinde Wiley is bridging the gap with art by bringing together an international group of visual artists, writers, and filmmakers to Dakar, Senegal to create, collaborate and grow in their disciplines. South Africa’s A4 Arts Foundation non-profit continues to dedicate support to South African art and unifying the community through art. On the East coast, the Guramane Art Center is a gallery that hosts emerging Ethiopian artists and is a true vanguard of the country’s art scene. In this next decade, there is only hope for more continent-wide investments in museums, projects, educational support and events.
Africa is on the rise and there is much to look forward to!