Unveiling the most read articles about Africa on Global Voices in 2023

A photo showing the different topics Global Voices articles highlighted about Africa in 2023. Image by Zita Zage.

In 2023, discussions about Africa have sparked widespread interest, covering topics ranging from geopolitical shifts to race and visa restrictions. Global Voices witnessed a surge in readership for articles addressing critical issues on the African continent. Here, we delve into the six most-read articles in 2023 that captivated a global audience.

The article “Which African countries may join the BRICS group of nations, and why do they want to?”  garnered the most attention. The BRICS group, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, attracted interest from some African countries. The group has achieved significant strides since its establishment in 2009, with the creation of the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement. Ethiopia applied to join BRICS with reasons including deteriorating relations with Western powers and the desire for alternative avenues for growth. Nigeria was urged to consider joining. African countries see membership as a gateway to new markets, investments, and collaboration on shared challenges. However, there are concerns about economic dependence on major economies and the need to harmonize diverse structures and systems. 

The article “Africa: Can white people be Africans? – Part 1” received a lot of readers as well. This article discusses the question of whether white people can be considered Africans. The author argues that historically and culturally, the term “African” has always referred to Black people. He states that white people, even if born in Africa or living there for generations, cannot claim to be African because African identity is tied to race, not nationality. The author also dismisses the idea that Arabs or Afrikaans-speaking individuals can be considered Africans. Another article, “How African is Northern Africa,” which was read by more than 3,400 readers, further discusses the question of why Africans from North Africa are sometimes not considered “African” enough. It explores the divide between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, which is rooted in historical, cultural, and linguistic differences. Some North Africans identify more as Arab or Arab-Muslim than as African, and this perception is reinforced by prejudices and stereotypes. However, the notion that “African” is synonymous with “Black” is itself rooted in racism. The article suggests that the African Union should work towards deconstructing this divide and promoting a sense of unity and common destiny among all Africans.

What’s Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki’s next move after a dubious truce?” also garnered significant readership. This article discusses the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia, particularly in the Tigray region, and its historical roots. The war, which started in 2020, has resulted in a high number of casualties and atrocities committed by various forces involved. The conflict has its origins in tensions between different ethnic groups and power struggles between the central government and regional authorities. Eritrea, which gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, has played a significant role in the conflict, supporting Ethiopian forces against the Tigrayan rebels. The article also highlights the autocratic rule of Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki and his ambitions to extend his influence in the Horn of Africa. The future of the region remains uncertain, with potential for further conflicts and instability.

Kenya’s decision to remove visa restrictions sparks discussions about a borderless Africa also attracted significant audience. Kenya’s president William Ruto announced plans to remove visa restrictions for African citizens traveling for business purposes. This decision received positive reactions on X (formerly Twitter), with many users praising Kenya and calling for other African nations to follow suit. Some individuals even advocated for the complete removal of visa restrictions for all purposes, arguing that it would enhance trade, economic growth, and unity across the continent. However, concerns were also raised about potential abuses and the need for security measures. This decision aligns with research that shows visa restrictions can harm poorer countries and redirect flows to visa-free destinations. Opening its doors to African entrepreneurs not only benefits Kenya's economy but also fosters economic growth and development across the wider African region. It also promotes human rights, social cohesion, and cultural exchange.

The sixth article that attracted a lot of readers is “8 West African countries rename currency in historic break from France — but colonial-era debts persist.” This article, which was written about four years ago, discussed a recent currency reform in several West African Francophone countries, where the CFA franc was renamed the eco. This reform includes changes such as French officials no longer being represented on the governing bodies of African central banks and member states no longer keeping half their foreign reserves in France. However, critics argue that this reform does not address the legacy of French colonialism and the ongoing debt that many West African countries owe to France. The article highlights the history of these countries being forced to deposit their foreign reserves in France and the resistance leaders faced when attempting to sever ties. It also mentions the plans for a regional currency called Eco by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is not pegged to the euro. The article concludes by acknowledging that while the currency name change is symbolic, it does not undo the effects of French colonization in West Africa. 

These most-read Global Voices articles about Africa in 2023 delved into a spectrum of pivotal social, political, and economic issues shaping the continent. From exploring membership in the BRICS bloc to examining regional conflicts and scrutinizing visa policies, these stories resonated widely with readers eager to comprehend the complex dynamics influencing Africa. They ignited debates on crucial topics such as racial identity, regional divides, authoritarianism, and the enduring legacies of colonialism, all of which pose challenges to Africa's progress.

As 2023 concludes, a unifying theme emerges: Africa's ongoing journey to shape its own future, navigating the delicate balance between internal and foreign interests while striving to foster unity. Global Voices’ audience demonstrated a robust desire to move beyond stereotypes, showcasing a keen interest in gaining a nuanced understanding of Africa's challenges and opportunities in the years ahead. Undoubtedly, Global Voices will continue to provide insightful coverage which will be of interest to readers, contributing to the elevation of African perspectives in the global discourse.

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