For what seems like decades now, scholars, editorial writers, celebrities and anti-poverty campaigners have been talking about the New Africa. It’s here, they’ve said. Or it’s on the horizon. It needs midwifing. It’s delayed. It’s breached. It’s a long birth. The possibility has past. But what’s almost always missing in such public discourses are African voices. They’re simply left out, as if Africans themselves have nothing to say on the matter, or perhaps, nothing that matters to say. Of course this isn’t the case, and was never the reality in the whole history of Africa (written and not). Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai has a vision of the new Africa and an idea of what it needs to start, laid out in an opinion piece in the London Times, based on her new book, The Challenge for Africa. It’s definitely worth reading. Worth viewing and listening to is Senegalese singer, Youssou N’Dour. A new documentary about him, “Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love,” opens this week. I saw a screening recently at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and it was enrapturing: the musician, the music, the mission, the message – oh, and the cinematography. The director/producer, Elizabeth Chai Vasarheyli, did an excellent job. And the film was – wait for it – followed by a live N’dour concert (with a special guest for one song, Angelique Kidjo). Wonderful.
I was struck listening to N’dour at how closely his vision of the New Africa matches Wangari Maathai’s. He even has a song, “A New Africa” that’s worth listening to or downloading. It’s of a resilient Africa, a determined Africa, where Africans are – and believe they are – in charge of shaping their own futures. Finally, Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo’s recent book, Dead Aid, calling for phasing out of development aid to Africa is polemical and in places, thin on details (it’s a short book, seemingly by design). But it’s pungent and important, precisely because it’s written by an African – a woman no less, and a young one at that, part of the post- post-independence generation that will likely bring the New Africa into being (or not).