By Harlan Barker, A UN Millenium Development Course participant
In many ways Adisa was lucky. His wife Nkiruka was pregnant with their first child, a daughter they had decided would be called Bolanle. He had never met this unborn miracle but already he loved her more than he could properly explain. Paternal instincts run deeply, and he was fully in their sway. For the first time in many generations many of the people in his country felt like they had a firm foothold in something better. Something they would fight for and not give up easily. It was a simple matter of bundling this expectation into his unborn daughter.
In 2015, when Adisa was born, things had been improving but were less certain. At the time a child in Sub-Saharan Africa was roughly fifteen times as likely to die before 5 years old as a child in a developed nation. Adisa’s own entrance into this world had nearly been his exit. A trained midwife, rare at the time, had been called in emergency to his town when he decided he wanted to come out backwards and be born as a breech baby. Thanks to the new roads, constructed just 6 months before, the midwife had arrived in time and neatly performed a caesarean section bringing Adisa into the world.
Both of Adisa’s parents avoided the AIDS epidemic of the late 20th and early 21st centuries but he had lost an aunt who was not diagnosed before giving birth to her own daughter. His aunt had died some years later, but thanks to anti-retroviral drugs his cousin was living a mostly normal life. What had not been expected, but perhaps should have, were the explosions of various viral outbreaks that came after AIDS and took so many lives. Ebola, S-HIV, and TK-9 all started in the jungle primates of deepest Africa and spread to new continents before becoming contained. Epidemiologists said these diseases had actually been around for decades, slowly working their way from town to town. Thankfully many of the same procedures and precautions that had worked for HIV worked for these new diseases too. For now, there was a stalemate between the medical ingenuity of humans and the destructive creativeness of Mother Nature.
Long after the imperial colonials had come and gone from Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries, a new commercial colonialism began. First it was the Australians, then came the Chinese, Americans and a whole host of others. Where the mining companies blasted their way into African soil great amounts of money was spent and earned, and some trickled into the local economies in the form of low paying jobs. This had been the case for South Africa, which was one of the first to thrive economically and raise itself above many of the maladies affecting its less rich neighbors.
At first these foreign multinational mining companies sought luxury resources like diamonds, gold and silver. However, in the first few decades of the 21st century numerous deposits of valuable metals were discovered in many African nations. Rare earth metals such as ytterbium, strontium, and rhodium were flown from Africa and manufactured into the technology increasingly common around the world. Owing to the experience of their neighbor countries, hard won unionized labor, and the 2028 formation of the African economic zone, nations with newly found deposits were in a much better position to avoid exploitation. Jobs in mining and all its ancillary support structures were now well respected in Africa. Secondary goods based industries were sprouting up to make use of the products of mining. Employees of these companies could now expect good pay and health benefits. It was due to this fact that Adisa’s wife was afforded monthly pre and post-natal care, and his daughter would have regular medical care throughout her childhood.
After being so long a focus of aid programs child mortality rates had fallen rapidly in Africa. The work of the medical and infrastructure volunteers and food and monetary donors had been essential, helped save millions of lives, and their lack would have delayed Africa’s progression by 100 years or longer. These efforts had truly bridged a chasm of human death and suffering while infrastructure slowly caught up to necessity. In a continent with a population approaching 1.5 billion people the only long term and sustainable solution was one that enabled economic security. As a result of production and commerce many communities which previous relied on varying forms of aid were now fully independent and themselves supporters of others in need. It was because of the resulting ideals of pride in self-sufficiency and collaboration that Adisa and Nkiruka gave their daughter the name Bolanle, which means “finds wealth at home”.
Bolanle was born in a community hospital on December 15th 2041. After being wrapped in a blanket Bolanle fell asleep as she was placed in the viewing area. Her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all pressed faces and hands against the glass to get a view of her among the scores of other newborns. Tears ran down the face of Adisa’s mother as she took the hand of her husband in her own and squeezed. It was hard to imagine that less than 30 years ago 1 in 10 children did not survive to 5 years old. This was the new generation in Africa. Healthy and safe from disease and starvation.