New Year's Day is "Africa's Birthday".
This is true on so many levels. For starters, Africans not born in hospital are often undocumented until they enter primary school, and mothers often recall the birth year and state new year's as the birthday. Many famous Africans (including my personal favorite, bass soukous guitarist legend Shaba Kahamba) celebrate their birthdays on New Years.
It's also a wonderful continent to visit in January. It's warm. Rainy or dry, there are plenty of sunsets and blue skies between thunderously heavy, Disney-esque downpours and showers. In Ghana it's dry season, but not yet too dusty.
The New Year's Eve is a common holiday, Christian and Muslim and Animists feel comfortable celebrating together.
At an almost metaphysical level, Africa has a growing number of women acting in politics, and you know what that means. Compromise. Progress. Diplomacy. Splitting the difference. And the more women who serve as either head of state (Nine African Nations) or in major positions of government, the more Africa puts its New Years Resolutions in order.
China is betting big on Africa, and America and Europe should too. The highest number of pre-teens born today are African. The fastest teledensity (growth of internet, phone communications, TV and radio, and other mass media) in the history of the planet is happening there.
And by and large, it's the happiest group of people. Facebooking with Africa is way less depressing than Facebooking with Americans.
That may turn heads. I mean, sure there are Mugabes and Ebola and Boka Harams to worry about. Literacy may be light years ahead of when I lived there in the 1980s, but it has a ways to go. Climate change, rising debt, high unemployment, and persistent dictatorships still seem huge obstacles to Africans on the path of Asia's "Tiger" economies.
Still, it's a Happy Birthday. The doom and gloom and povertyporn images of Africa are more fairy tale than typical. Africans suffer from traffic jams, electricity outages, rising rents, and surly teenagers. Those were NOT the problems forecasted for Africa in the 1980s, when doom-and-gloom NGOs started treating Africa like a baby harp seal (metaphor of photo-driven-nurture-exploitation). Save the Children is now being copied by African NGOs, and photography of Africa is increasingly posted by Africans like Yepoka Yeebo, or the mixed African-Western children of cross ocean marriages (Barack Obama, DK Osseo-Asare) or second gen immigrants like Heather Agyepong.
Africa's #Hashtags are changing. #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou was a huge hit on Twitter, and #povertyporn and #whitesaviorcomplex and #charitableindustrialcomplex are deeper philosophical trends than #ebola. My own contributions to the hashtag economy, #freejoebenson #freehurricanebenson, #geeksofcolor, #AfricaTechSector, and #ewastegate #ewastehoax are not exactly tsunamis of social media, but the people I meet on Twitter via those hashtags #getit and are eager to share their own positive messages about the continent.
Boka Haram is a symptom that an old, tribalist, anti-feminist, anti-literacy guard must turn to Hollywood violence to get attention, because otherwise this generation of Africans has completely turned away from primitive philosophy.
There is a huge natural resource in Africa. People. My favorite people to hang out with are laptop technicians, but there are plenty of friends to make at restaurants and beaches and clubs. People to wish Happy Birthday to, and to wish many many more, in 2016.