From France, we often have a distorted, even simplistic image of Africa. A biased vision that obscures the many changes crossing the continent, a long-standing player in globalization.
In his Dakar speech in 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy, then President of the Republic, considered that “the tragedy of Africa is that the African man has not entered history enough. For the historian specializing in sub-Saharan Africa, Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, on the contrary "Africa has the longest history in the world" and it has irrigated that of humanity. Thus the production of gold, the basis of the development of capitalism, was for centuries almost exclusively African. Without it, there is no doubt that the global economy would not look the same today.
Africa continues to supply the world with raw materials. Far from undergoing this globalization, the continent is a full player in it. Leaders are stakeholders in world trade, “but this too often serves their personal enrichment,” laments Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch. This predation, which is still the rule in some countries, hides a much more nuanced reality on the continent. Very good successes are emerging, while Africa is transforming at a speed unequaled since 1990, “sometimes in a few weeks”, notes the historian.
Peoples are more and more actors of this change. “In the depths of the countryside, people are aware of what is happening in the world because they are connected via their mobile phones,” explains the historian. A new intellectual elite, who have studied and often work abroad, then return to their country of origin with new knowledge and know-how. This circulation promotes African production which in turn is exported.
“It only takes one generation to train computer engineers and other qualified profiles,” notes Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, and this generation has arrived. Thanks to a significant demography, the continent should quickly become the most populated in the world. International investors are not mistaken: for them, Africa is the future of the world economy. Without falling into angelism, the historian warns: "Africa is fully part of globalization but it does not yet have the place it should occupy, and that it will certainly occupy".
Original article : Université Paris Cité