Ordinary Africans only stand to lose from a growth model premised on exploitation and economic devastation. Africa cannot rise without Africans rising.
Africa Rising, a now ubiquitous narrative borne out of optimism in the continent's ability to generate healthy returns on investment, quickly gained traction after The Economist magazine heralded Africa as "The Hopeful Continent" in December 2011. It was a nod to the publication's more ignominious cover story 11 years earlier, which had branded Africa "The Hopeless Continent".
What changed for The Economist and the world at large in a span of a decade? Well, in a nutshell, Africa became open for business. In the same year, the publication coined the term 'Africa Rising', an idea that multilateral institutions and international think-tanks latched onto, hammering home the following line in perfect unison: seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa. African leaders, in turn, revelled in the praise, broke the rear-view mirror and never looked back.
This line, which has functioned like an elevator pitch for getting investors to place their bets on Africa, continues to stick. Notwithstanding concerns raised about the methodology underpinning the data, the increasing security threat on the continent and recent falling commodity prices, Africa Rising remains an enduring, albeit now hackneyed, narrative.
As I see it, the problem with Africa Rising is the parochial emphasis on economic growth at the expense of social justice and human rights. Despite the euphoria surrounding Africa's growth projections over the past several years, inequalities, particularly on the basis of gender, unemployment and poverty, continue to undermine the socioeconomic wellbeing of communities throughout the continent.
This begs the question: how is it possible for Africa to rise against the backdrop of a development narrative that undermines rights to education, health, shelter, employment and social security? Well, it is possible because Africa Rising, as a narrative, is tethered to extractive growth models that view the continent as a geopolitical entity operating in isolation from the peoples that give Africa life.
This is precisely why there is such a profound disjuncture between Africa Rising and socioeconomic realities on the ground. Within this bifurcated framework, the world can talk about Africa without having to talk about Africans, and Africa can rise without Africans themselves being...