The word ‘Africa’ conjures so many different images and emotions, it’s hard to know where to start.
The massive continent is home to more than 50 countries, each with its own challenges.
But if asked what words might best characterise our impressions of that vast continent, I doubt ‘success’, ‘progress’ or ‘inspirational’ would be high on the list.
The sad fact is most news from those countries is bad and, in some cases, downright depressing.
‘Poverty’,’ war’, ‘genocide’, ‘famine’ and ‘corruption’ maybe, but the positive impressions would, I suspect, rarely figure at all.
And yet a continent fought over, exploited and environmentally degraded is not all bad news.
And the current political boilover in Zimbabwe, while highlighting bad governance and greed, does not reflect the whole African experience.
Botswana has one of the highest incomes per capita in Africa at about $AU20,000.
That’s not to say it is evenly distributed but the economy has been growing at an average rate exceeding 4 per cent for decades.
Underpinning the economy are large diamond mines that contribute heavily to GDP.
In other African nations mineral or oil wealth hasn’t always been a blessing, with corruption and theft at the highest levels simply creating a class of the super-rich at the expense of ordinary citizens.
But in Botswana, money is distributed more fairly with significant investment in education.
Botswana is also the longest continuous multi-party democracy in Africa.
This tiny nation of scattered islands is top of the list of the Human Development Index for Africa, which looks at all aspects of progress.
It is the richest, per capita, of all the African nations and has some of the best infrastructure, including well-developed airports aimed, in part, at the growing tourist trade.
South Africa is one of the most developed of African countries with a multi-party democracy, and somewhat functioning education, legal and health systems.
After the high hopes post apartheid, many South Africans have been frustrated by the perceived failure of the current Government to tackle corruption, social and economic challenges.
But while certainly not evenly spread, there is wealth and a developed economic base with potential for growth.
This former British colony scores highly for safety, governance and the economy. Also for computer crime.
While corruption does exist, it’s not seen as endemic and is regarded as a relatively insignificant problem.
Education, health and legal structures work and the economy is expected to continue to grow.
Out of the horrors of the genocide of the 1990s has grown a vigorous economy fuelled by an entrepreneurial spirit that defines the nation, and has led to increasing incomes and better employment prospects.
While it is, on paper, a democracy, opposition figures accuse long-time President Paul Kagame of behaving like a dictator.
On the plus side, years of foreign aid and a determination the nation will become the Singapore of Africa have seen the average income lifted substantially, with continued economic progress predicted.
There are some other nations both above and below the great Sahara desert which have recorded economic, social and political progress in recent years.
But there are still armed conflicts, food shortages, refugee flows and corruption so this is not the whole story of Africa.
But behind the pictures of want and war there are many millions of people living increasingly secure and prosperous lives in countries that are moving slowly ahead.