WQ Dispatch December 2023

– Stephanie Bowen

In this WQ Dispatch we look at recent developments since publishing our special double issue, "Africa Matters."

When planning our special summer-fall 2023 issue “Africa Matters” it was impossible to include all the stories or angles we wanted to. We hoped that our issue would help to spark conversation, inspire other reporting, and contribute to a growing body of journalism that highlighted the potential of Africa and Africans to lift their countries, and contribute to global progress.

A recurring theme in “Africa Matters” and an issue that we’ve been following for quite a while is the continent’s increasingly young population—a phenomenon that will have effects far beyond Africa. Shortly after our issue came out, the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program published a report titled Africa’s Youth Can  Save the World by Jack A. Gladstone and John F. May, which takes a deep dive into the topic.

“By 2060, Africa’s 2.9 billion people will be as many as China and India combined. If its development depends on fossil-fueled energy, its increased carbon emissions will more than offset any CO2 reductions by Europe, the United States, and China,” they write. “Fortunately, the continent boasts enormous potential for clean wind, solar, and geothermal energy, as well as its already plentiful hydropower. While the entire world will benefit from a green and growing Africa, its exceptional vulnerability to droughts and food insecurity means its citizens may reap the greatest benefits.”

This interactive feature from Declan Walsh and The New York Times titled “Old World, Young Africa” presents much of the same statistical information, employing striking imagery and portraits of young Africans to paint a vivid picture of how Africa’s youth are leveraging technology and creativity to tell a new narrative. This was another key theme in our issue, as seen in Chiamaka Okike’s piece about Afrobeats, and Akunna Cook’s essay on Africa’s next narrative.

Louise Donovan’s story for The Fuller Project—a global newsroom that focuses on stories about women—reported on the fashion industry’s boom and its potential to grow good jobs for women, echoing some of our own reporting in Amarachi Nwosu’s stunning photo essay Culture in Motion.

The growth of technology across the continent was also a central topic in “Africa Matters,” as highlighted in this lively conversation between Google’s Pren-Tsilya Boa-Guehe and Wilson Center CEO Ambassador Mark A. Green. This tech story from CNN’s Stephanie Busari highlights this year’s Afrolabs gathering in Kigali, Rwanda, and hits on another topic of our issue: the promise of the continent’s people.

Of course, it’s not all positive news. Democracy and governance—an important topic that ran through “Africa Matters”—remains a challenge. As seen just this week in Voice of America, rights groups are sounding the alarm in the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of next month’s important elections.

From its entrepreneurial young people to increasing trade opportunities to climate solutions and so much more, Africa—and its 54 dynamic countries and populations—is a vital US partner. The possibilities, much like the stories stemming from the continent, are endless.

Stephanie Bowen is editor of the Wilson Quarterly.

Cover image Shutterstock/Jirus Malawong.