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Mistaken identity? Africa’s new challenge

25 May

The continent has recently been swimming in Golden Jubilee celebrations culminating in the Heads of State Summit held in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. The African Union (previously OAU) has clocked 50 years since officially coming to life in 1963.

An existence of half a century is worth applauding and as Africans, we joyfully embrace this milestone.

However, with age comes responsibility and huge expectation. That is the stage our continent has reached. A time that demands more progress, selflessness and development for its people.

The dark continent?

Africa has for a long time carried the tag of the “dark continent”. This is simply on account of the many things wrong that have consistently been highlighted about Africa.

It is not just about the media machinery in the West and how they have portrayed this resource rich continent. We as Africans led by our political leaders have done ourselves enormous disservice.

What with a much publicised tattered past since the colonialism era. Africa has been sucked deeply into underdevelopment thanks to political instability, dictatorships, rampant corruption, governance incompetence and overall failure.

Africa has documented spells of military rule with about more than 70 coups and 13 presidential assassinations between the early 1960s and 1980s. This has not helped in the leadership and development spheres.

Therefore, as the 50 year gong reverberates, what also comes to the fore is the challenge to all of us to rebrand our beloved continent and take our place on the world stage as a leading continent. Because only we can prove our identity has been mistaken and widely associated with perpetual failure.

The case of a sleeping giant

The debilitating poverty and lack of development the continent faces is a huge mismatch given its inherent wealth.

Africa is the second largest continent and with 55 nations is also the second most populous continent with over 1 billion people. Most of the continent’s population is young, a critical factor for economic growth.

With a growth of approximately 5%, it has become one of the continents with a steady and decent rate of growth in the recent past.

That is not all. When one assesses Africa’s mineral wealth, the challenge and realisation grows even more. According to Wikipedia, Africa is believed to hold 90% of the world’s cobalt and platinum, 50% of gold, 98% of chronium, 70% of tantalite, 64% of manganese and 1/3 of uranium.

A country like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has 70% of the world’s Coltan (used in mobile phones) and 30% of the world’s diamonds reserves. The wealth on this continent is outstanding.

Should we be where we are?

The answer is a resounding no. What has gotten Africa where we are has provided sufficient lessons for progress.

Anything less than that will be a betrayal. The continent now cries aloud for her people to move her forward, out of the poverty doldrums.

The lack of progress we have witnessed has largely been attributed to factors such as the spread of deadly diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, corrupt governments that short change their people, defective and myopic planning, not forgetting the painfully high levels of illiteracy.

When one observes all these and Africa’s past, it is easy to lose hope. It seems more likely that this is a miserable state in perpetuity. We seem to have had the bleak side of things longer and more than anything possible.

But contrary to what may appear to be popular belief, it is because of this past that hope is boundless.

Believing in the future now

Africa has everything it needs to attain the development required to make a difference. But she must break from her poverty dented past and all the ills that led to the chronic failure.

The global economy has endured turmoil in the recent past. The economic turbulence has been a constant source of concern with the developed world rattled the most.

The twin reality that has arisen is the fact that while the developed world suffers, Africa has been elevated into prominence. She offers the string of survival the world now needs. With her minerals, resilience, attractive economic growth rates and population, one can see a mighty giant awakening.

The world needs Africa.

But not much will be achieved if Africa and her people fail to realise this. The leaders and citizenry have to step up, embracing this challenge for progress to become a reality.

Simplistic as it may sound, right now Africa needs a large dosage of self-belief, a deep confidence in her potential, abilities and independence. It is a continent that must wean itself from the “mother” it has become so dependent on, the West or any other but herself.

Belief and progress a pipedream?

There are a few things Africa must now focus on to turn her fate around.

1. Transformational leadership- times have changed and the state of the world has evolved. Africa now needs an ambitious and progressive brand of leadership. One that appreciates its inherent value and is bold enough to stand, create and claim what the continent deserves.

It is time Africa veered away from politics of patronage and petty mindsets that do not dream beyond individual bellies. It is time for responsible and progressive leadership.

2. The illiteracy battle-this is a must item on Africa’s agenda. The levels of illiteracy are disheartening. And as a result, mediocrity has found a home and even despicable leadership with a poor work ethic can get away with murder.

To achieve sustainable development, a thriving democracy and the well-being of the citizens, education is critical. This is one factor that can no longer be delayed or ignored without paying an astronomical price.

3. Science and research-we face peculiar circumstances as a continent. It follows therefore that we also require unique solutions.

Africa has never been known for its impact in the world of science or innovation. That does not in any way entail it does not have the human resource or intelligence to succeed in this sphere.

We need to research more, explore more and invent more. There are a lot of advancements that have already been made and we can still study these and adapt them to life changing application on our continent. This is in fields such as agriculture, mining, construction, manufacturing, health and education. Whether it be irrigation systems, crops, teaching methods or sustainable mining, all have potential to make a huge impact on the livelihoods of many in Africa.

But this must be enthusiastically pursued and driven by Africans. Only then will we be on the path of finding home made solutions to our present challenges.

4. Doing business together- The time is ripe to believe and accept that Africa can support itself into survival and success. But this can only be a reality when the continent’s nations trade more with each other.

It is time to break barriers that have stifled trade or derailed factors that can fuel industrial activity. The continental economy can only grow rapidly and securely if it is led by African nations. Because then it will be insulated from the shocks of growth which is dependent on foreign forces such as the West.

The economic blocs currently seen on the continent all provide an insight into what Africa can do within to stimulate growth. Regional and continental economic integration can no longer be a secondary development ingredient. It is primary and urgent.

That is the direction that will give Africa a louder voice and a genuine sense of independence to break the chains of dependence, aid and chronic failure. If it is a direction so rewarding, we must all start the journey now and not later.

The continent of hope

When I today look at Africa, I see only a bright future. Where there is chaos and violence, I see misdirected energy. Where poverty exists, there lies an opportunity to empower people out of lack.

Where poor leadership shows its head, I see new leaders yearning to show the way with a new refreshing mindset of ambition and progress.

Africa is a continent pregnant with hope. It is the future. And it is a future that is not distant but very much upon us.

I see an Africa that everyone will want to come back home to. We have seen so many non-Africans that have come to love this continent. Its own people will soon all want to come back. To make it what it should be. A prosperous place they will love to call home.

It may have a disfigured face today but the beauty is unmistakeable. No African should carry the tag “African” but yet refuse to get their hands dirty to rebrand our motherland.

The lyrics in Steve Kekana’s song remain so relevant and true. “Everything I ever need is here in Africa. I love you Africa.”

That must be the spirit of every African.

Happy 50th anniversary Africa.

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrica. Mungu ibariki Afrika. Lesa apale Africa.

God bless Africa

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