Our Continent today is still confronting a myriad of issues that are both
real and imagined. Consider that 62% of African urban dwellers live in
slums, only 20% of the Continent is linked to an electricity network; 40% to
portable water; and 27% have access to sanitation. These low levels of
access to basic services combined with the fact that informal economic
activities account for 93% of all new jobs and 61% of urban employment
translates into widespread and deeply ingrained poverty. The complex and
intractable problems confronting Africa are not only held within the facts,
but also within perception.
Looking into the Continent from the outside or from within it, the mainstream messages that define Africa rarely articulate the subtlety and nuance of its people or their existence. The clichés and commonly held notions of Africa and Africans as poor, corrupt and criminally inclined crowd out a balanced understanding of the extraordinary diversity and creativity of everyday existence.
Part of breaking with these perceptions comes from how and who has access to all the alternative realities that abound. Knowledge, ideas, expertise and experience are all too often hard to come by or uninteresting for many people. The complexity of daily survival as well as the inaccessibility to alternative ideas and experiences has far reaching consequences to the daily choices people make, how access is controlled or denied, when and where opportunities are presented and realised, how social justice is both vetted and meted out, and more sweepingly who receives what rights and privileges. Africa’s reality as well as the misconceptions about it, creates a myriad of limitations that stifle growth, opportunity and most critically innovation.
It is within this combination of reality and fiction that the Africa Centre has found its purpose of creating a platform for exploring contemporary Pan-African creative practice as a catalyst for social change.