WoW! News Podcast : Alastair & Clarisse discuss how Africa’s booming young generation see a positive future
Transcript, Podcast Nov. 15, 2019
Hello, and welcome back to the WoW! studio. As you know, we’re always looking for ways to show how the real news from around the world is often much better than what you might see on TV or on the online newspaper sites. And this week, we’ve got a real story of contrasts – where the picture we have in our head is very different from reality.
Alastair, you’ve been writing about Africa, right?
That’s right, Clarisse. Hi. Yes. This week’s newsletter looks at young people in Africa and how their lives are changing very fast and how they hope that Africa, which is still the poorest part of the world, is starting to catch up, partly through new technologies.
And if you look at just some of the stories of the young people themselves, you get a sense of huge change – look at Stanley. He had to try and kill birds in city parks with stones from his catapult just in order to eat but now, even though he’s still just 19, he’s a DJ and he has his own radio show – a bit like us, Clarisse!
So do you think we don’t know enough about Africa? Or what we think we know about Africa isn’t right?
Well, there’s always a lot of WoW! about Africa, particularly for people who’ve never been there. I think many of us have immediate images that come to mind when you hear the word ‘Africa’.
For me, I might picture in my mind’s eye lions roaming across the savannah, hunting gazelles or zebras. Or I might think of people living simple lives in lost villages in the forests along the banks of the mighty river Congo. And, of course, these places do exist in reality – just as some people in England still live in quaint country villages and there are cowboys working on horseback on great cattle ranches in Texas.
But while we know that in Europe or North America, most people actually live in big modern towns, we perhaps don’t always realise that most Africans too are becoming city dwellers and live increasingly modern lives – lives that may not be too different from what we’re familiar with.
Yes, that’s a very important point. Of course, Africa is also a huge continent. You could fit all of China, India, the United States and half of Europe into the same space – and its 54 countries are very varied. For example, I know Morocco very well and I know that it’s one of the richer African nations.
Parts of Morocco feel just as modern as many places in Europe – and of course you can actually see Europe from northern Moroccan towns like Tangier. Spain is only 14 kilometres from the Moroccan coast. But if you walked south from Tangier across all of Africa, crossing the Sahara desert and the Equator, you could walk for nearly 12,000 kilometres. If you walked the same distance across Europe, it would take you all the way to Pacific Ocean in the far east of Russia. So, yes, Africa is huuuuuge!
Hyuuuuge! You sound like Donald Trump! Wow, that’s quite a thought.
Yes, to help show how we often don’t realise how big and important Africa is, we’ve put a neat map into this edition of the WoW! newsletter. It shows how we often get the wrong view of Africa. Basically, when you look at a map of the world, that’s actually a flat picture of the Earth. But of course our planet is actually totally round, like a football. The effect of our flat maps is to make the countries near the middle of the globe – Africa – look smaller than they really are, and to make places further away, like Europe, look more important. So in fact, as you can see in the map, you could actually fit all of China and the United States and India and about half of Europe into the space covered by Africa – though you wouldn’t realise that if you look at a normal map of the world.
Yes, Clarisse, I think that it’s really important for us to have a more accurate idea of the world around us. Just like, for all sorts of reasons, we often tend to think that the world is getting more dangerous or life is getting more difficult. That’s really a result of how people – and the news media – tend to focus on what’s big and dramatic and worrying and don’t tend to think so much about slow, less dramatic ways in which life is getting better.
And you think that we don’t have an accurate picture of Africa in other ways as well? Not just the map? Because surely it’s true that there are still big differences between Africa and rich parts of the world?
Yes, sure, there are big differences. Although Africa has enormous natural wealth, things like oil and gold or fertile farms and massive forests, it hasn’t mostly had many factories of the kind that have helped make other countries rich. Most of Africa is still much poorer than most other parts of the world and life has been tough for people. People of my age can remember lots of horrible wars and diseases and hunger affecting parts of Africa.
But that’s not the case, any more?
Well, Africa is still very poor. But it is getting richer, in different ways, at different speeds, in different countries. We looked in WoW! at an article in the Financial Times about young people in Uganda. Since those teenagers were born, in the year 2000, the number of people living in Uganda has doubled. One in every two people in Uganda is a kid aged under 16. In Europe, it’s more like one person in six is a child.
And even though you would think that that makes it quite hard to find teachers and pay for new schools, Uganda has managed to massively expand education so that, like most of Africa, it’s very much normal for children to go to school. And Ugandans are getting a bit richer every year – more quickly than most Europeans are getting richer.
In the year 2000, on average, a Ugandan lived on less than a dollar a day. But today they have more than doubled that – to over 2 dollars.
In Europe, the average amount of spending in the economy is nearly 100 dollars a day. But Africans are catching up. It’s actually quite hard to compare how well off people are just in terms of money – there’s plenty of evidence that many people in Africa are happier with their lives than people elsewhere who are much richer.
And because there is so much change in how we make things and buy and sell stuff because of how the Internet and mobile phones are spreading, a lot of people think that Africa could close the wealth gap, just as say, a lot of countries in Asia have done over the past 30 years.
That’s what the journalist said who interviewed the young people in Uganda that we write about in this week’s WoW! He was writing for the Financial Times, which is a British newspaper for people who do international business. The fact that the FT, as people call it, is paying attention to young people in Africa is a sign in itself of how Africa is getting more positive attention.
That’s really interesting, thanks Alastair. I really liked how the young women in the FT article spoke about how they were able to learn a lot about the world from their phones and on the Internet and that that was giving them confidence to make their own lives better.
For example, Daphiné, who is 19 and looks after children in a kindergarten, said that being able to learn so easily about people’s lives elsewhere made her want to go on working even if she gets married – instead of feeling that she would have to stay at home, like her mother did. And then there was Janapher, who’s also 19 and a university student, who says she’s inspired to watch videos and read about women in America and Europe who run their own businesses and thinks she would like to do that, too. It’s been really exciting to learn more about Africa, this huge continent which is changing so fast. We look forward to hearing more about it soon in WoW!
For now, though, that’s all we have time for. So thank for listening to the podcast. I’m Clarisse and I’ve been talking to Alastair from WoW! about Africa. Please let us know what you think. Come back and join us next time. Take care and stay positive!