Emerging Hope from Africa

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has put Africa squarely on the agenda of next week’s G8 Summit. We in Liberia and across Africa welcome her leadership, and are grateful for the G8’s support for Africa, particularly its commitments in recent years to reduce debt burdens, double aid by 2010, expand trade access, and fight HIV/AIDS. Strong efforts by Africans, coupled with the investments of the G8 and other partners, are paying off in important ways that are often unnoticed by the outside world.

Consider three major historical trends. First, in 1989, there were just four democracies in Africa. Today, there are at least 18, including South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Benin, Mali, Ghana, Senegal, with Liberia the most recent to join the group. Second, economic policies have greatly improved. With few exceptions, gone are the days of dual exchange rates, hyperinflation, and extensive trade barriers. Third, for many countries, the 25-year-old debt crisis is finally over, allowing much higher investment in health, education, and infrastructure.

These three trends overlap in a group of about 15 African countries that are strongly committed to accountable governance and sensible economic policies. These countries are putting more kids in school, vigorously fighting diseases, and creating new economic opportunities for the poor. Average incomes have increased by 25% over the last decade – a far cry from the zero growth of the past. Their recovery is still fragile, but it is real and tangible, and it is providing new hope across the continent.

Most of the credit for these changes goes to Africans who demanded an end to the misrule of the past. But the commitments by the G8 and other key partners – such as the Nordic states and the Netherlands – also have played a critical role.