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(1997) The Idea of an African Renaissance, Myth or Reality?

I come to you from a liberated South Africa, a nation that many of you helped to set free. I come from a continent about which more is written but less is understood; so I come with a message that is straight-forward and simple. Like the Apostle Paul on his return from the provinces, I come to bring good news, but I also come with an appeal for your support of a new generation of Africans who have a bold, new futurist vision for their countries and their continent; but who live for the moment between two worlds, an old order that is dying but not yet dead and a new order that is conceived but not yet born.

The reports coming out of Africa are often confusing and contradictory:

Transformation and reconciliation in Southern Africa; conflict and crisis in Central Africa; new leaders with new vision in some areas and old leaders desperately hanging onto the past in others. It is now obvious that one can not speak of Africa as one continuous stream of ideas and social arrangements providing either cultural unity or political uniformity. There is much that unites Africans; W.E.B. Dubois reminded us at the turn of the century of the common bond created by "the problem of the color line," for example. But the first thing that must be accepted and acknowledged by any one who dares to write or speak about the new Africa is that what seems self-evident in one area may not be the reality in another. Far too many people who would not dare to speak of a homogeneous Europe or Asia speak of the more than fifty independent nations of Africa as if the continent was a single political entity.

It is indeed difficult for many Americans to grasp either the extraordinary range of cultural, political and economic diversity or the immense size of a continent so large that the whole of China, the continental United States, Europe, Argentina, India, and New Zealand can fit within its boundaries. It is even more difficult for Americans to recognize that any idea of a retreat from the African continent at the very moment so many

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