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Sunday, 12 April 2015

THE TIE THAT BINDS AFRICA’S FUTURE



The landing of a man on the Moon by the Americans engraved a deep footprint on the innovative psyche of the world. The audacious declaration to land a man on the Moon made by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 (realized a few short years later by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin at a time when war and gloom ravished the world) was a watershed moment. It also unlatched the mental constraints that had been placed on humanity a few centuries earlier, in the Dark Ages. This was the beginning of an innovation era that knew no restrain for humanity.

Source: NASA Moon Landing

Africa over the last two centuries has been chained and shackled like a lion in captivity. The more it fought the more it bled and when it licked its wounds they festered.  As our forebears looked over the hills and saw the plunder and enslavement of generations to come they must have seen that we would be disenfranchised from our land, but what would have broken their hearts would have been our loss of dignity to be self-reliant and equal to other men.

Let me be categorical, this article does not ask for anyone to pity Africa. However, it calls on Africa to regain its self-reliance. It calls for it to go through a process of self-awareness, devoid of the imported affluence being thrown at its shores by developed countries that seek to perpetuate an extended begging hand or quench a guilty conscience.

Our past is lucid and vivid, like a dream that haunts us, this is why Africans risk limb and life to cross the unforgiving Sahara, die in droves in sinking boats on the Mediterranean Sea and maybe survive to live in deplorable conditions in makeshift slums in Southern Spain, the belly that feeds Europe.   

Spanish police, in the foreground, and Moroccan police, in the background, blocked dozens of African migrants as they attempted to jump a fence separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla last month as part of an attempt to cross into Spain. Credit Santi Palacios for The New York Times
A people with no vision, perish and look to others for affirmation and identity. Africa is in need, desperately, for a vision and identity. A visionary will sacrifice the now for a better tomorrow.  But how can we alter the course of a particular race?

For every Mandela and Sankara that arises there are systems to continuously plunder and subjugate the continent, a system that depends on corruption, extractive influence and greed.
 
Nonetheless, I see a lifeline that has allowed millions of my generation to rise and understand that there are tools essential in defeating such a system. Similar to what Martin Luther, Rosa Park and others did in overcoming the segregated busing laws of Alabama  when they walked instead of taking buses.  I believe some people are becoming aware that they are not alive only to fend for themselves but they have to serve humanity and drive change.

1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott  source: sos-racisme.org
Africa does not need to be a contradiction (with ravishing poverty afflicting its populations) while it hosts some of the richest deposits of minerals and the most extensive arable land in the world. Africa needs to transform from within. Like a human being who realizes that, his mental mapping was wrong and seeks to correct it.

I then realize that maybe; just maybe, change will not come from better civic education or democratic elections that ape Western systems. But it may come when Africa finds a common voice, spoken by millions across the continent. Driven by a common cause. Where people start to join hands to achieve a common goal, which supersedes personal gratification. And I look to Mahatma Gandhi and how he achieved the impossible in India. I believe if this cause strengthens the position and self-reliance of the continent then there will be a tectonic shift.

America was founded by a migrating people, who had seen the worst ravishes of imperial rule and wanted the freedom and space to undertake free enterprise. Japan was driven by a strong almost numbing honor code, where corporate order and conformance mattered more than personal comfort. South Korea was driven by having hit rock bottom and its keen mentee relationship with Japan. Singapore understood they were geopolitical and cultural underdogs compared to their neighbors.

What does Africa need?

Nelson Mandela gave his life, so that South Africa could be free, Julius Nyerere believed in Ujamaa’s sense of community and togetherness that still pervades across Tanzania. Kenya’s founders believed in corruption, nepotism, accumulation of wealth and this behavior still is rooted in many other countries across Africa.

Founding fathers of Africa Accra Conference of Independent African States April 15, 1958 Source: www.nyahbinghi.com
But is there room for us to alter this course from what was a top-down push of character to one that is driven by ‘anonymous’ individuals? In the past, a few individuals undertook a political revolution.  In our case a “communally” centered revolution, holds the key to change, where we revert to one common goal to advance Africa.

President John Kennedy stated this ideal best in his speech lauding the race to the Moon.

“This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline, which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel.”

We require a goal that will strike a chord across the continent almost to a “targeted” man, so that we begin to uproot corruption, encourage the pursuit of education and knowledge and seek to develop homegrown African global enterprises.
This goal will push us to begin to engage and interact at the global level to push for our agenda; be it agitation for equality or freedom for all. It will force leaders to begin interacting with their ‘clients’ and excellence becomes a reality because it can be felt and seen based on constant interaction with global players.

Allow me to say that the reality of such a goal is here. Access to the Internet across Africa is enabling some of these things to happen though an invisible hand of profit, altruism or human ingenuity gradually drives its spread. Things are changing. And while the change is slow and sometimes lacking any orchestration, there is hope.  

Hope that this could be “the walk on the Moon” for the collective African psyche. A rousing call to innovate and change our mutual distress, alter our course and raise a formidable future generation that can engage and lead the world. Through the Internet I see my children interacting with a concept of excellence that was previously culturally unknown. I also see an innovative dexterity that has been stretched while interacting with the best.

My children’s generation will see transparency entrenched in government, and the fruits of corruption like mass unemployment, extreme inequality, poor infrastructure and terrorism will be defeated. I see the Internet facilitating a tie that will bind us.