africa: the other story

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“The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world,” Tony Blair, then prime minister of England, famously said in 2001. “But if the world, as a community, focused on it, we could heal it. And if we don’t, that scar will become deeper and angrier still.” Today, the world is as focused on Africa as it has been in a long time, with heads of state, rock stars, movie stars, and philanthropic billionaires all publicly pledging themselves to the cause. And yet the scar appears deeper and angrier than ever.

This fall the United Nations announced that Sub-Saharan Africa is the region of the world least likely to meet any of the UN’s so-called Millennium Challenge Goals for reducing poverty, disease, hunger, and illiteracy. The rebellion in Sudan’s Darfur region keeps threatening to flare back up and inflame neighboring Chad. Somalia’s government is barely holding on against Islamic rebels. Zimbabwe collapses further and further into economic ruin and political thuggery. According to the World Health Organization, over the past year, 960,000 people, mostly children, died of malaria on the continent, and 1.6 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa died of AIDS.

It’s a disconsolately familiar story.

But it’s not the whole story.

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