in: Andreas Mehler / Henning Melber / Klaas van Walraven (eds.), Africa Yearbook: politics, economy and society south of the Sahara in 2012, Leiden: Brill, 31-45
Africa experts have long bemoaned the rest of the world’s tendency to focus on Africa’s troubles while ignoring positive developments on the continent. In 2012, Europeans who relied primarily on media reports and press releases for news about African affairs could have been forgiven for having security-related concerns uppermost in their minds. Examples included the runaway success of the YouTube sensation, Kony 2012, which was watched by millions in Europe and North America, sparking wide-ranging debates not only about brigandry, blood diamonds, child soldiers and foreign intervention, but also about images of Africa and how these are interpreted in the ‘West’. In East Africa, violent flare-ups between Sudan and the newly-independent Republic of South Sudan occupied many column inches in the first half of the year. West Africa’s conflicts were remembered in coverage of appearances before international tribunals in The Hague by former Liberian president Charles Taylor and former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo. Meanwhile, Africa’s pirates were never far from European TV screens. On a more positive note, the sharp contrast between economic growth in Africa and Europe’s struggles with the Euro crisis and banking sector liquidity did not escape many African observers. Some Africans may even have felt a sense of Schadenfreude at the challenges faced by former colonial powers.