The recent news out of Africa offers a mix of optimism and gloom, defying simple theories that the continent is either rising or hopeless. What is missing in either of these narratives is the admission that development involves a process of ebb and flow, full of progress and setbacks.
On that gray scale, economic growth can lead to increased levels of inequality, and even co-exist with political instability and conflict. When this reality is taken into account, the question becomes not whether a country is growing, but how to make the transition from economic growth to a situation of shared prosperity and stability.
Lately, headlines have been dominated by the alarming rise of Boko Haram, on-going insecurity in Mali, the Ebola epidemic in west Africa and the conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. If one judged by these trends alone, Africa would appear to be desperately poor, vulnerable and prone to conflict.
There is another side of this story that is often less heralded in the headlines. Africa continues to be the world’s second-fastest growing region behind Asia - growing by more than 5 percent over the last decade - and is likely to stay in those top ranks for years to come. The continent’s booming middle class now includes 350 million people, representing a third of its population, and its vast natural resources will continue to attract foreign investors from around the world. Africa is also young, technology-savvy and home to a new generations of entrepreneurs.