Despite HIV/AIDS, oppressive governments, genocide and poverty, the winds of hope are blowing across much of Africa, declares one of the most celebrated names in American racial history.
The first black woman to graduate from the University of Georgia, Hunter-Gault (In My Place, 1992) now lives in South Africa and travels around the continent as a correspondent for NPR. She has seen much to cheer her. The three segments of this new work are revisions of three lectures she gave in 2003 at Harvard, where she was a fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research. The author contends that people in the West have been getting only “old” news from Africa about what she calls the Four D’s: death, disease, disaster and despair. No Pollyanna, Hunter-Gault is quick to acknowledge that these conditions remain grave. She discusses the genocide in Darfur, the enormity of the AIDS pandemic, unemployment and poverty, the repression and corruption that still characterize business-as-usual in too many African nations. But she also sees more and more of what she calls “new news”: political and charitable organizations, determined and fearless journalists, hopeful and courageous people, many of whom, despite having little formal training and technological expertise, are devoted to the causes of democracy and human rights on the continent. Much of the author’s optimism is based on opinions formed during her travels and interviews with Africans at every economic and political level. But she is sanguine, as well, because of enlightened political movements and organizations such as the New Partnership for African Development and the Pan-African Parliament. She believes that the West can best help African states by forgiving debts, many of which were incurred when tyrants misappropriated Western loans, and she urges Western media to focus more on African progress and less on the Four D’s.
A refreshing alternative to the dismal views of Africa’s prospects that pervade the press.