Diethelm Metzger sits at one of the two computers on his Namibian ranch and spreadsheets the expenses of raising and selling this year's production of Simbrah bulls. He then e-mails a customer in Johannesburg to negotiate a sale.
Garrett Uhl, a professional hunter with a concession on the Okavango River kneels with his tracker, Mateus, beside the newly lifeless carcass of a huge Cape Buffalo. He pulls out a GPS device and, tracking three satellites, pinpoints the location of the kill to within a few feet.
Later, he'll e-mail this information to the Namibian government … and a digital photo to one of his clients.
Mark Olivier, the general manager of Sussi & Chuma, a treehouse-style resort near Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia, walks down to the boat dock on the Zambezi River and flips out his cellphone.
The hippos in the water nearby don't even perk up their ears. They've seen this before: cellular reception here is best down by the water.
Saif Malik, a young Zambian executive at Barclay's bank dressed in all-over urban black, eats his elegant filet mignon dinner and talks proudly about how his country is racing ahead of the West in the use of wireless technology. "We're a connected country," he says.
Welcome to Africa in the 21st century.
Sipping Lattes, Far From the Horror
There is a vast disconnect between the Africa one hears about in the press and the Africa one encounters here on the ground.
The Africa of the news is a hellhole of AIDs, teenagers with Kalashnikovs and government-induced famines. And, indeed, Africa is that. Just a few hundred miles north of where we sit drinking wine on the Zambezi more than two million people have been murdered in a war in Congo.
Across the river, in Zimbabwe, a thugocracy led by Robert Mugabe is about to set off a devastating famine by driving the white farmers off their lands and turning the farms over to unskilled squatters. Thousands more are likely to starve.
And yet, here in Zambia, and even more in the three nearby countries of Southern Africa — Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa — peace and prosperity reign.
In modern cities like Johannesburg, Windhoek and Capetown, the population is as multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan and technosavvy as in any major metropolis in the world.
They sip their lattes at the mall while talking on the cellphone with their brokers about buying Intel stock or their travel agents about frequent flier miles. They buy off eBay and complain about too much spam.
And they shake their heads over e-mails from friends charting the horrors in Zimbabwe.
So Many Failed Dreams
Africa, as the saying goes, will always break your heart. There is so much potential here, so much magnificence — and ultimately so much squalor and failed dreams.
Marxism was one of those dreams — the anti-colonial revolutionaries had the bad timing to adopt the worst nation-building model ever imagined, and millions of poor Africans paid the price. Too many city capitals still feature Fidel Castro Boulevards and "Doctor" presidents with degrees from Moscow's Patrice Lumumba University.
Yet, even as they continue to spout liberationist rhetoric and betray their failed educations (one aging president recently called for government-sponsored yogurt plantations) the current generation of black leaders is slowly embracing the idea of infrastructure development, balanced books, free markets, and education.