| | Report

To change the narrative on Africa, I have written eleven episodes on solutions from the continent

Design: Didier Kassaï for Heidi.news

Over the last five years, failure and death have been the rhythm of most of my stories. In Burkina Faso, I have recounted the first attacks and civilian casualties, the failure of the state in the face of jihadist advances, the multiplication of militias and the beginning of inter-community conflicts. And then I crossed the border to settle in Mali and tell the same story. War, terrorism, political divisions, endemic corruption... What pessimistic observations!

Read the first episode of the Exploration: Preserving the forests while emptying the rubbish bins? Story of a Burkinabe green charcoal

When I returned to France a few months ago, I took stock: failures and deaths in a hundred articles, successes and survivors in only fifteen. Was the reality of the places I told about so bleak? Probably not. But the Sahel, like the rest of the world, most often interests the Western press when it bleeds, rather than when it is being treated. "If it bleeds, it leads,” as the jargon says, it's the blood that makes the headlines.

What if it was time to change the narrative? The pessimism generated by the pandemic that we are struggling to overcome has finally convinced me of this. So for once I wanted to write an optimistic series about Africa. Eleven episodes to tell you about a continent that acts rather than suffers. My exploration "Eleven African solutions for the next world" will introduce you to health, environmental, agricultural and social initiatives that could change the future. A cardiologist on bluetooth in Cameroon, a green charcoal produced from waste in Burkina Faso, a grain that saves agriculture in Senegal, a canister that rolls to make it easier to fetch water in South Africa...

The driving forces of the continent

These ideas and projects, certainly full of optimism, will not make us fall into their own trap, into this "Afro-optimism" which, it must also be said, has found a certain echo in the media in recent years. The solutions in this series will be the window through which I will also tell you about the problems that these initiatives seek to solve: medical deserts, deforestation, the impoverishment of agricultural land, or the crying lack of access to water.

The only thing that will change is the way you look at it: you will see the glass half full rather than half empty. My gaze and that of the famous cartoonist Didier Kassaï in Bangui, in Central Africa, who was asked by Heidi.news to illustrate this Exploration. The approach will be all the more constructive: because it is not only by observing the faults of yesterday that they will disappear tomorrow. To reduce them, proposals are also needed. So, let's go and meet those who make them! These eleven episodes will introduce you to eleven of the continent's driving forces. These men and women are Africans, they have grown up and most of them have lived with the problems they are trying to solve today.

Absurd western solutions

All too often, the spotlight is on solutions brought from the North to save the South – projects that are sometimes disconnected from the realities of the field and local culture. As on a certain day in 2016, when, in the north of Burkina Faso, a Western NGO has installed outdoor playgrounds, supposed to bring smiles back to children broken by war. No toddlers played there. The swing and the slide were made of metal: anyone rubbing against them would have been seriously burned. In the Sahel, the thermometer sometimes reaches almost 50 degrees.

Disconnected from reality again, one day in 2018 in a deserted village in northern Mali. Hundreds of water purification tablets bearing the acronym of an international organisation were strewn across the floor of the town hall. Clearly, not very useful in the eyes of these villagers. And with good reason! The only water pump in the locality was broken, the inhabitants simply had no source of water nearby, and therefore nothing to purify.

One out of four human beings will be African

The future of Africa must be thought of by its peers to be radiant: great African intellectuals were already defending this precept in the last century. In 1992, the Burkinabe thinker and politician Joseph Ki-Zerbo published a militant book, "for an endogenous development in Africa". Its title, "La natte des autres" (The mat of others), referred to an ambiguous Bambara proverb that said, "Sleeping on the mat of others is like sleeping on the floor." So today, let's talk about this Africa of tomorrow, sketched out by and for Africans, through eleven solutions, for the world afterwards. Because this world will be resolutely turned towards Africa. Demographic forecasts underline this: in 2050, one human being in four will be African.

11 African solutions for the future world