We are missing the big picture–and the main stories of Africa’s rise, including three clashes, according to David Brooks: pluralism, human development and governance. But since “too many of our images of Africa are derived from nature documentaries, fund-raising appeals, and mission trips” we miss the mark.
But this is more or less the opposite of the truth. Boko Haram is not the main story in Africa or even in Nigeria. It is a small rear-guard reaction to the main story. The main story in Africa is an impressive surge of growth, urbanization and modernization, which has sparked panic in a few people who don’t like these things.
Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are growing at a phenomenal clip. Nigeria’s economy grew by 6.7 percent in 2012. Mozambique’s grew by 7.4 percent, Ghana’s by 7.9 percent. Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole is predicted to reach 5.2 percent this year. Investment funds are starting up by the dozen, finding local entrepreneurs.
Keep in mind that “bad news sells”–in the case of reporting, donors and even international organizations, as Karen Rothmyer writes in CJR. Stereotypes and outdated frames, such as Africa as a country and all the other images of blood diamonds, conflicts, and even groups like Boko Haram, dominate the narrative.