Andrew Mitchell: Africa is open for business

Africa is changing. Find here Andrew Mitchell’s speech to the London School of Business, as he looks at why trade, investment and business is on the up in Africa!

Heres what he talks about:  First, that a new chapter in Africa’s history is opening up.

Secondly, that this is a moment of opportunity for Africa and of choice for those who invest there.

And thirdly, that this Coalition Government is determined to help businesses – both international and local - play a leading part in Africa’s success.

Charities (finally) embracing the ‘good’ in Africa - Guardian Blog

The good news story needs to be told: Poverty is reducing all over the world, not just in China and India, but in much of Africa as well. This is the general trend of the last century, with some blips, and progress since the turn of the millennium has been especially encouraging, spurred on by the international commitment galvanised behind the millennium development goals (MDGs).

Yet there are three reasons it is harder to get good news stories about Africa. First, it is only relatively recently that the development sector has been emphasising good news from Africa. And for good reason. Until recently the news was generally bad, as the disastrous 1980s turned to the only slightly better 1990s. Tony Blair memorably described Africa as a “scar on the conscience of the world” as recently as 2005. That kind of language was fairly typical until only a few years ago – now it would be considered old-fashioned, although it is still common. It takes much longer than a few years for people’s entrenched perceptions to change.

Second, charities concerned about Africa continue to undermine the good news narrative by basing their fundraising campaigns on desperate pictures of tragedy. While this can be justified by the fact that there is much tragedy (25 million children still die every year from preventable causes), and by the fact that market research shows that this is what motivates people to give money, it does little to contribute the positive story that ONE is rightly trying to tell. And to a certain extent you have to communicate the problem (which is a bad news story) to persuade people to care about doing something about it. It is a conundrum all charities and campaigns manage daily, and the answer is not simple.

Third, the news out of Africa is by no means always good. The picture is mixed, with some countries doing well and others poorly, and progress in most countries is uneven. As a result, income and general welfare are not improving, and are possibly degenerating, for many of the poorest Africans. So good news stories are tempered with bad news, muddying the simple narrative necessary to change long-held conceptions. In short, the good news will have to get even better, and last for a few more years, before the common wisdom that Africa is a development disaster is overturned.

But things are changing. Find out more at The Guardian's Poverty Matters blog. You can find the full article by clicking here.

Kitintale Skate Park in Uganda

Photographer Yann Gross delivers an insight into East Africa’s first skate park. A community led initiative, free from NGO or government funding, Gross describes it as both a source of pride and empowerment, a space that not only keeps kids out of trouble, but fosters the development of a real sense of community.

More photos can be found here.

Esther Phiri

"I made a mistake when I was young and had a child. I was looking for something to do in my life and I found it in boxing. I’m keeping my family happy. I’m building a life through boxing."

I’ve wanted to post this for a while. Esther is currently Women’s International Boxing Association Light Welterweight World Champ, and something of a local hero in her hometown of Lusaka, Zambia. That’s not to say her life hasn’t been without complications - her trainer Anthony Mwamba stated that “the media published how much she made in [a] fight, 40 million kwacha [about $11,500]. I was scared guys would go and kill her for the money” - but she is fast becoming an icon, and a model of women’s empowerment in Southern Africa.

Her story can be found here. She is currently gearing up for her defense fight against Columbia’s Lily Luz Florez billed for Jan 29th 2011 in Lusaka, Zambia.

The western media can depict the people of post-colonial African nations as victims – whether of poverty, natural disaster, corruption or all three. This casts the people of those countries as perennially, even innately, passive – those to whom life happens. It accentuates the negative in a way that, for all the press's attraction to bad news, does not happen when the west discusses itself.

In relaying short stories of character this blog aims to dispel such notions of passivity, in a bid to challenge some of our mis-laid preconceptions.

To quote from Kapuscinski, however, these stories are not "about Africa, but rather about some people from there.. The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say “Africa.”

Stories will not always be good. That too would be condescending. The challenge will be to provide a whole picture – good, bad and ugly.