Gallup: 14 of the 15 most 'optimistic' countries are in Africa. Why?(Read article summary)
Americans and Europeans (especially Greeks) are pessimistic. But people buy the 'Africa rising' narrative on the world's most challenged continent.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Africa in Transition blog. The views expressed are the author's own.Â
Joshua Keating has written a brief, thought-provoking article inÂ SlateÂ titled â€śThe Optimistic Continent.â€ť He notes that the World Economic Forumâ€™sÂ Survey on the Global AgendaÂ identifies Africa as the worldâ€™s most optimistic region regarding the ability of institutions (public and private) to respond to â€śglobal challenges.â€ťÂ
He also cites aÂ Gallup surveyÂ that shows that fourteen of the fifteen most optimistic countries in the world were in Africa with respect to respondentsâ€™ future lives in comparison with their current ones.
The same survey also shows that Africans are more optimistic than Europeans or Americans that their children will be better off than themselves.
For Mr. Keating, African optimism is credible because of the improved living standards â€“ in some countries. But he also observes that not only is inequality growing within countries, it is increasing between countries.
Keatingâ€™s short article raises two big questions: Why are Europeans and Americans increasingly pessimistic about the future? And why are the peoples of the worldâ€™s poorest and most challenged continent so optimistic?
The first question may be easier to answer. Europe and North American are still recovering from the â€śGreat Recessionâ€ť of 2008. In those countries, unemployment is high, job opportunities seem to be shrinking, and middle and working-class incomes are stagnating or declining. Add to those realities the political paralysis in Washington and the seemingly lackluster political leadership elsewhere in the developed world.
And then there is the challenge of China, sometimes seen in the West as an evolving rival, a challenge I think that is over-stated.
Most big African cities show almost grotesque inequalities of wealth, and not only are some countries much more successful than others (e.g., Ghana, Botswana, South Africa), but even within countries certain regions are more successful than others (e.g., the Lagos-Ibadan corridor in Nigeria or Katanga in the Congo).
But the â€śAfrica Risingâ€ť narrative has been embraced by African opinion leaders, by African governments, and by many investment houses based in the developed world. For much of the media, that narrative is not to be questioned.Â
That surely has some impact on popular perceptions, which is what the World Economic Forum and Gallup are measuring.