JOHANNESBURG Say “Africa” and what comes to mind? The genocide in Darfur, Sudan, or the HIV-AIDS epidemic affecting some 30 million Africans, or the violence in the Ivory Coast, a country once considered an oasis of calm on a calamity-stricken continent?
Or perhaps nothing quite so specific, just a sense of a tragic place still justifying Kurtz’s exclamation – “The horror! The horror!” – in a book written more than a century ago, Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”?
At a conference hosted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in South Africa last month, Barbara Lee, an African-American congresswoman from California, said that in her experience a majority of Americans think Africa is a country. The fact is that the more than 50 states of Africa suffer both from outsiders’ ignorance and stereotypical images of disaster that fail to reflect change.