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50 Africa leaders convene in Washington for a historic meeting with President Obama this week. Pedestrians and motorists caught up in the inevitable traffic jams around the White House may well be asking how far they have got, and where they are heading.
At the end of last week I visited Liberia and Sierra Leone, two of the poorest countries in Sub Saharan Africa, and also the most affected by the Ebola outbreak. Ebola has taken over 1500 lives in West Africa, three-quarters of them in those two countries. And the pace appears to quicken: 40% of the cases have appeared in the last three weeks.
Both countries have declared states of emergency: the placards on the streets of Monrovia and Freetown bear the message that for as long as we still seek a cure for the virus, then prevention is the best cure.
Africa’s economy has grown fourfold since the turn of the millennium, with sub-Saharan Africa outperforming the rest of the world in terms of economic growth and at long last banishing any doubts about the continent’s upward trajectory.
Idah Chilufya is a cross-border trader in the Great Lakes region. She is a fifty-year-old widow with four children. To raise an income selling her two boxes of tomatoes, she has faced daily threats of intimidation, robbery and sexual assault.
When President Obama hosted the historic summit of African leaders in Washington last August, the event was a major contribution to changing the continent’s economic image.
The tired half-truths and clichés about aid dependence, political instability and AIDs were outshone by discussions of investment, genuine collaboration, and shared prosperity. It could not have happened without a firm basis in fact.