africa is not a country

The Economist reports on a project hatched to rebrand sub-Saharan Africa. Nobody can dispute the need to revamp the image of the Continent to make it be more than just about warring Congolese, corrupt Nigerians, or starving Ethiopians. That said, I am not too excited about the idea of packaging the entire continent as one brand for the following reasons:

1. This effort creates incentives for free-riding. Reforming is hard and therefore Chad will not reform if it can get away with attracting marginal investments because a reforming Central African Republic, through the neighborhood effect, has given it a better image.

2. It is the same Africa-is-one-country paradigm that denies the better performing states in Africa foreign investment and good press. Giving the whole continent a single brand does not solve this problem. Each African country should own up to its failures and not be given incentives to hide under an African umbrella.

For instance, ONLY South Africa deserves to bask in the glory of having hosted a successful World Cup tournament. Chad, CAR, Niger, Somalia, the DRC, etc,  had nothing to do with it. In the same vein, only Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi and other reforming African states should tout their respective successes. It is by highlighting these countries’ competencies, without diluting them with the others’ mediocrity, that the image of the Continent will be improved.

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