In May 2000 The Economist ran a cover story: “Africa. The Hopeless Continent.” People couldn’t stop talking about it for a long while afterward. It spawned countless op-eds about Afro-pessimism and -optimism. It even became the basis for “Contemporary African Politics” college courses for a while. Now last week, they ran this feature cover (above) –complete with silhouetted boy with kite running across the savannah– where the magazine predicts a more hopeful scenario for the continent’s 54 states. The feature is completed by a glowing leader (“Angola and Equatorial Guinea are oil-sodden kleptocracies, Rwanda and Ethiopia are politically noxious, Congo looks barely governable and hideously corrupt, South Africa is tainted with corruption” but “Africa is at last getting a taste of peace and decent government”) and a 3-page article. The most remarkable thing about this cover feature is that it was a non-event. Problem is, the media environment has changed. And no one is waiting for The Economist’s verdict any more. Not much new here from the stuff you can read on blogs or the countless boosterist tweets you have to mine through everyday. People who measure Africa’s progress by how many dollar billionaires it has will be happy to hear that “the richest black person in the world” is not Oprah Winfrey and her $3 billion fortune –that only makes her “the wealthiest black person in America”– but Aliko Dangote, the Nigerian cement king.

Further Reading