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Africa leads way on economy, climate and more

Africa, a continent of 54 countries, 3,600 ethnic groups and over 7,700 languages, is “the cradle of humankind,” the place where humans originated. It is the continent with the highest rates of urbanization and population growth, and is a world leader in strategies for dealing with climate change and drought relief.

Sometimes seen as a continent in decline, Africa today is experiencing a significant renaissance. Africa is involved heavily in the application and use of digital technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), mobile banking and the widespread use of cellphones.

African countries and non-government organizations are engaged in innovative methods of poverty alleviation, community-based approaches to development, cultural heritage protection and ecotourism, and gender empowerment. There are far more women in African parliaments than in the United States. Thirty-eight African countries have banned the use of plastic bags to reduce plastic in oceans and landfills. Some African countries, such as Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania, have high percentages of their land devoted to national parks and game reserves. In 2014, Botswana followed Kenya in stopping hunting altogether, including safari hunting. One result of this hunting ban was that the numbers of elephants increased substantially to as many as 230,000. Indigenous people in Africa, who number over 30 million, have been successful in mounting legal cases against governments with respect to land and resource rights.

African countries have been innovators in promoting community-based natural resource management (CBNRM). Namibia has established 84 communal conservancies that allow communities to have rights over wildlife in their areas. Through these conservancies, local people have been able to generate funds to expand physical infrastructure, including borehole drilling to provide water points for people and animals, and pay schoolteachers. The conservancies also pay for tools, seeds and agricultural equipment, and provide technical advice on how to grow crops and raise livestock. Nearly all African countries have climate change policies and programs implemented with substantial government and non-government organization funding. Part of the reason for the growth of African economies is related to the emphasis African states have placed on expanding agriculture, business and social services.

The vast majority of African countries have signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The African Union and the African Court have supported collective peoples’ rights, as well as individual rights. African countries have broad-based social safety nets, and guarantees of rights to food, water and education. Child immunization, maternity and child health, and nutritional supplement programs are having positive effects on reducing infant mortality rates.

African countries such as Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo are employing human rights approaches in dealing with disease – HIV/AIDS, Ebola, malaria. Countries such as Sierra Leone and Rwanda have been engaged in successful conflict management and conflict resolution efforts, and they are world leaders in post-conflict reconstruction and transitional justice initiatives. From a diplomatic standpoint, more new embassies have been opened in Africa than any other part of the world in the past decade.

African infrastructure development projects have established world standards in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and benefit distribution. The more democratic African countries are, the greater their social and economic well-being. The middle class in Africa is growing along with African economies, some of which are expanding at over 5% a year, much higher than the U.S. and China. African governments have launched anti-corruption campaigns and have given awards to African leaders who step down after their terms are over.

African governments do not measure their economies solely through looking at income levels, but have focused as well on social, physical and psychological well-being in their national development plans. The world has much to learn from Africa about the unique ways that are being used to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and to ensure accountability and transparency in poverty-alleviation efforts, environmental management and governance.

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