Afro-Optimism: Perspectives on Africa's Advances

Afro-Optimism: Perspectives on Africa's Advances

Afro-Optimism: Perspectives on Africa's Advances

Afro-Optimism: Perspectives on Africa's Advances


The view that Africa regressed the moment that colonial governments left its shores is widespread. This volume is a counterpoint to the orthodoxy. Here 13 scholars with specializations ranging from literature and history to philosophy and economics argue that Africa has advanced since colonialism and is poised to march forward in spite of setbacks and disappointments. The contributors to the book contend that development is about human beings, so they do not rely exclusively on statistical estimates and projections.


This book crystallizes Black Africa’s successes since political independence. There is a need to discuss Africa’s achievements, to recognize her positives, and to make them a part of the general academic and popular discourses.

The necessity to do this, of course, says more about the scholarship on and media portrayal of Africa than it says about Africa. But this need is neither here nor there. the deprecation of Africa is widespread and enduring. It dates to precolonial scholarship and reporting on Africa and abounds in contemporary works. It permeates news coverage as well as television and cinematic portrayal. This volume is intended to be a counterpoint to this near universal portrayal and perception—what the then U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Chester Crocker, once decried as Afro-pessimism. Here we make the case for Afro-optimism.

There are some works that have illuminated Africa’s pre-colonial glories, but the view that sub-Saharan Africa has regressed since independence from colonial powers is one that has hardly been challenged. We challenge it here. the chapters in this volume examine a wide range of elements of societal advancement and conclude that sub-Saharan Africa has made progress in all facets, including (gasp!) the economic. Evidently, our view of development is that it encompasses much more than the economic.

We are not under illusions regarding Africa’s failures and problems, nor have we tried to whitewash the realities. Rather, we provide what is missing in the discourse in hopes of moving it toward a balanced perspective. We believe that such a balance is important to Africa and to the world at large.

We do not dare to think that a work of this nature will undo centuries of distortion. But we hope that several of the chapters force readers to reflect on Africa’s other stories—the success stories.

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