A new ray of hope for Zimbabwe
With the end of President Robert Mugabe's rule so close, international investors are now beginning to show early interest in the country again, and its people are starting to hope for a bright future.
After often violent seizures of white-owned farms and clearances of slums raised fears over the safety of any outside investments, and with inflation officially at an annual rate of 100,586 percent, even the most risk-hungry investors have avoided the country in recent years.
But with Mugabe failing to win a majority in an election for the first time in nearly three decades, raising the prospects for a run-off with Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, sentiment is beginning to shift.
The people of Zimbabwe are ready for a change, and perhaps this will show the rest of the continent that a country can get back on its feet.
Regardless of the outcome, the situation in Zimbabwe points to an interesting conclusion: the notion that Africa can heal itself. There's no denying the urgent need.
Africa acquired its epithet, the Dark Continent, in the 19th century from Europeans largely ignorant of its geography, but today the name is more apt than ever. Take a look at a composite satellite map of the Earth at night. Europe and the Middle East are jewel-bright, afire with myriad glimmering lights like stationary fireflies. By contrast, save for a few forlorn spots mostly on its fringes, neighbouring Africa is a light-sucking void, shadowed in gloom.
Despite endless goodwill in the form of hundreds of billions of dollars of aid money and debt forgiveness, Africa remains poor, poorly governed and poorly developed and these shadows seem unlikely to lift any time soon. Africa is projected to suffer worst from climate change despite being least able to cope with it.
There is no doubt that the road ahead will be hard for the people and the government of Zimbabwe, but after all they've come through so far, it seems like they cannot fail now. They do have some tough challenges to overcome however.
Aid agencies face a number of challenges in Zimbabwe if and when President Robert Mugabe cedes power.
The collapse of the once prosperous southern African country has seen life expectancy drop to 34 for women and 37 for men -- the lowest in the world.
Inflation is running at more than 100,000pc, bringing the economy to its knees.
NGOs were threatened with de-registration by Mr Mugabe, accused of being infiltrated by pro-opposition supporters.
But many agencies continued to operate in the country.
Charities agree that any emergency response needs to focus on food shortages and health, particularly HIV/Aids.
Judith Melby, Africa Specialist at Christian Aid, said: "The life expectancy figures tell the story. These are people who are both ill and very hungry.''
She said four million people were facing food shortages and about 1.8 million people were suffering from HIV/Aids.