News about Africa is often dominated by negativity, especially in terms of conflict, corruption, famine, terrorism, and poor governance. This undue focus on Africa’s challenges often obscures the positive transformation taking place on the continent. On March 29th,  2018, Africa Program Director Monde Muyangwa presented on “Emerging Africa: An Overview of Key Trend Lines,” to the Wilson Center’s Global Advisory Council. The presentation offered an analysis on some of the positive trends and trajectories in Africa’s governance, economic, and security realms.

Dr. Muyangwa emphasized that overall progress has been made for governance on the continent. In 1990, only three African countries were considered full democracies, whereas in 2017 there were 10 countries according to Freedom House’s Annual “Freedom in the World” Report.  There are also fewer instances of prolonged presidential terms for African presidents, as three presidents stepped down in 2017, providing a chance for the reinstatement of democratic governance in these African countries. African initiatives taken to strengthen continental institutions such as the reform of the African Union also demonstrates positive adjustments to the tools designed to address African challenges and opportunities.

On the economic front, Dr. Muyangwa highlighted the growing economic opportunities found throughout the continent from 2000-2016. In this period, foreign direct investment (FDI) had grown from $10.9 billion to $59.4 billion, which reveals Africa’s improvement in fostering entrepreneurship and creating business-friendly environments.  Rapid macroeconomic growth on the continent is also evidenced by the statistic that 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world between 2015-2017 were in Africa. Dr. Muyangwa also discussed Africa’s potential to become an economic powerhouse in the future due to many countries’ strategic use of technology, as a fuel for innovation and economic development.

On the security front, Dr. Muyangwa detailed the crucial role of the African Union (AU) in peacekeeping operations within Africa, specifically the AU’s willingness to establish security through regional partnerships, build African security capacities, and move away from the conflict-dominated peace and security architecture.

Dr. Muyangwa’s presentation offered a different narrative of the overall developments, opportunities, and challenges in Africa. As such, Global Advisory Council Members came away with a more nuanced understanding of these key areas.