Africa – a Continent on the Rise Part II

4: War and violent conflicts

In 2000, there were ten major wars in Africa. In 2011, there were two such – in Somalia and Sudan / South Sudan. In addition, there was some form of armed conflict in Mauritania, Algeria, Chad, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Nigeria. Ten years ago, there were 19 major and minor armed conflicts. The conflicts are serious, but in most of these countries the use of violence is quite local and poses little security risk. This is in stark contrast to the conflict-ridden 1990s, which included the two major wars in the Congo, also known as Africa’s First World War (1996–2003) and the wars in the Mano River Delta (1989–2003). In other words, Africa is far more peaceful than a few years ago.

Africa’s first ‘world war’ started in Congo and eight neighboring countries were involved. It is estimated that up to 5.5 million people died as an indirect or direct result of the acts of war. Much of the conflict picture and patterns are still present in the region.

Today, however, the conflict is more limited to conflicts within Congo’s borders. It is therefore more reminiscent of a civil war than of a major war. Despite the fact that Congo still has significant challenges, there are reports of fewer conflicts, fewer casualty figures and increased international efforts.

Neighboring Rwanda experienced genocide in 1994 and a few years later was among the eight countries involved in Africa’s first “world war”. The country is currently in a long period of stability and strong economic growth. The goal is to become a middle-income country by the year 2020.

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea border each other in the Mano River Delta in West Africa. Ten years ago, they were involved in an overlapping and brutal war, which was considered among the most violent in the world. In the nineties, the delta was dominated by war, conflict, child soldiers and blood diamonds. The first ten years of the 2000s, on the other hand, have been marked by peace agreements, reconstruction and optimism. The positive development in the area has been noticed worldwide. It was also crowned with the Nobel Peace Prize when Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and peace activist Leymah Gbowee were awarded the prize in 2011.

It is also worth noting that in 2011 there were more wars in Asia, which has fewer countries than Africa.

5: Health

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 11 percent of the world’s population lives in Africa. 60 percent of all people infected with HIV / AIDS live in Africa. In many African countries, quite a large part of the population is ill or dead. Although Africa’s population is facing the greatest and most dramatic health challenges in the world, great progress is also being made in the health sector . More and more HIV-positive people are now receiving life-saving treatment – as much as 800 per cent more than in 2003.

Furthermore, far fewer people are infected with HIV / AIDS than before. In the report World AIDS Day from 2011, UNAIDS shows a 26 percent decrease in the number of HIV-infected people in sub-Saharan Africa since 1997. In South Africa – the country with the most HIV / AIDS-infected people in the world – the decrease has been over 30 percent. Between 2001 and 2010, the prevalence of HIV among young people in Burkina Faso, Congo, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo fell by more than 25 percent, according to the same report.

More than 90 percent of the 300-500 million people who get malaria each year live in Africa, and they are mainly children under the age of five. But also for malaria medicine, the supply has improved considerably in recent years. River blindness
has virtually been removed as a public health problem. The same goes for guinea worms – the number of cases has been reduced by 97 percent since 1986.

Most countries are also making solid progress in preventing childhood diseases. Polio is almost completely eradicated. 37 African countries now vaccinate 60 percent or more of their children against measles. The fact that more people are being vaccinated has contributed to fewer people dying from measles – the number has more than halved since 1999.

6: Governance – more democracy

When it comes to governance, a number of challenges remain. But Africa is much better off than large parts of Asia in terms of democratization, openness and freedom – despite some setbacks in recent years. The progress has really been enormous since 1990.

The African bureaucracies are struggling to be effective. Many countries have such a weak state apparatus that it sometimes means little that the authorities adopt good policies and good laws. However, the decisions are not followed up and enforced. Inefficiency means that it takes time to complete projects and changes. Another problem is unpredictability in the state apparatus. It is probably still an obstacle to attracting foreign investment. But action is still being taken in the right direction in almost all countries.

According to, sub-Saharan Africa scores on average better than China in terms of corruption. Among the 25 percent most corrupt countries in the world, 19 are in Africa (with 54 countries) and 23 in Asia (with fewer countries).

7: Broadly speaking – a summary

Despite continuing major challenges in health and governance, the arrows are pointing upwards in most areas of Africa. The continent has made a formidable leap in the last decade, and optimism can be traced in most of the 54 countries on the continent. There has been a sharp decline in wars and other violent conflicts.

The economy is growing faster than in any other continent. Foreign investment is higher than ever, and the middle class is growing at the same rate as in China and India. This contributes to a rapidly growing demand for consumer goods. This is also to the benefit of the poorest – although there is every reason to believe that the poor get too little of the “cake”. Poverty, hunger and disease are still a problem, but to a much lesser extent than in the 1980s and 1990s. In other words, the direction is clearly positive .

However, the average figures must not cover the fact that some countries – especially those affected by war or very poor governance – still have major challenges and needs, and that there are large poor populations in all African countries.

Africa - a Continent on the Rise 2

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