Some see Africa's "rise" as a myth, others a reality. But it's hard to ignore the fact that the continent is changing rapidly. At 6 percent, Africa's GDP growth rate has surpassed that of Asia -- making it the world's fastest-growing continent and a promising target for emerging-market investors. As the Economist noted in 2011 in its issue on "Africa rising," roughly 40 percent of Africans now live in cities, compared with 30 percent a generation ago. That percentage is expected to rise to 50 percent by 2025.
Yet despite this promising trajectory, the modern, urban, and thriving Africa is not the one we usually see -- a reality that Swedish photographer Jens Assur is hoping to change with a new collection of photographs. "In Sweden, we see only two types of pictures from Africa," Assur tells FP. "It's either war, famine, and HIV, or pretty lions on the savanna. I know, because I have myself contributed to those images, being a photo journalist in the 90s," he adds.
This time around, Assur chose to focus on big cities instead of the slums on the outskirts of urban areas, with the aim of capturing "what could be called a revolution in terms of construction, infrastructure, growth, and development."
Assur's exhibit has attracted its share of controversy, mostly stemming from those who haven't understood that its title, "Africa is a Great Country," is intentionally ironic -- meant to draw attention to the tendency many people have to lump Africa's more than 50 countries into one category. "People in Sweden still say, for example, that they travel to 'Africa,'" Assur says. "But they would never say just 'Asia' when going to Hong Kong or Thailand." Assur hopes that the images will push people to see not how "Africa is dying" but rather "how Africa lives."
The exhibit of 40 large-format photos will be on display in Sweden and then travel to three cities in Africa. What follows is a selection from the exhibit -- and a taste of what Africa's frenetic growth looks like.
Above, the Accra Polo Club in Accra, Ghana.