Vusi Thembekwayo, a young prominent South African entrepreneur posed a question on his social media account, and he coined it like this “.. During the slave trade era Europeans, the Arabs etc had a plan for Africa but did the Africans have a plan for them? In the modern era Russia, China, America etc have a plan for Africa but does Africa have a plan for them, as a matter of fact does Africa have a plan for Africa“?
I found his question thought provoking, hence I decided to put my thoughts into words.
Whatever plan Africa has should first start by changing the existing narrative used to describe our beautiful continent.
Not so long ago Africa was labelled as the dark continent; a continent ravaged by wide spread diseases such as HIV, and other derogatory issues poverty, war, hunger, corruption, dictators, rape etc. We were seen by the outside world as a hopeless nation. .
We were seen as incapable of governing ourselves,hence heavy foreign influence into our political, social and economic policies. Although this has been going on years before our countries gained independence, we still see it in post independent Africa.
We have been made to think less of ourselves and our continent at large. The story of Africa has been a that of shame and failure. Recently thousands of our brothers and sisters risked their lives on the Mediterranean ocean, some dying in the process, trying to make their way into Europe.
I ask myself, “Why are the children of a continent blessed with an abundance of natural resources dying in the middle of an ocean, running away from their homes to the lands of their former slave masters or colonisers. What type of stories did these former masters or colonisers tell about their lands?”
Oh beloved Africa our forefathers must be turning in their Graves!
I reckon it is time the world knows the other story of Africa; the modern Africa. I believe there is more to Africa than the famous ‘Big Five’, the beautiful scenery of our landscapes, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Mighty Victoria Falls etc. What a beautiful continent that we have, perfect destination for tourists who want to see the majestic power of our Creator. From the Kalahari deserts, down in the Southern part of Africa all the way through to the Malabata Coast, in the Northern part of Africa. One will be flabbergasted by the mind blowing, breath-taking beauty of the continent. Although I would love to brag about our continent nonstop, this is not the story I want to tell.
There is so much going on in our continent that we have to bring to light. Yes of course, we still have challenges but it is these challenges that have brought about new ingredients for the never ending African story. A Continent with a very young population, it has the potential to have the world’s largest Middle class and it is home to the world’s fastest growing economies.
We have seen a growing entrepreneurial spirit among our people. An extract from a Forbes magazine dated 11 June 2019 by Toby Shapshak reads, – Africa’s technology ecosystems have experienced “incredible growth” as they have rapidly expanded in recent years, with 618 active tech hubs providing “the backbone of Africa’s tech ecosystem,” this was according to the GSMA.
Recently, Rwanda launched a ‘made in Africa’ smartphone. It was also announced that the German Automaker VW will be making its electric vehicles in the nation of Rwanda. This is a testament to the belief in the improved infrastructure, governance and the skill set of the young people of Rwanda. There are some interesting world class infrastructure projects happening in Rwanda. For instance the development of a state of the art airport. The leadership clearly has a vision for the country.
Down in South of Africa, a nation historically divided by race, successfully elected their 4th president in their 6th democratic elections, with slightly more than 40% being women in parliament. This is incredible given the history of South Africa and the various ethnic groups in the country.
As I write this article the South African rugby team, made up of black and white players, alienated England to be crowned world champions for the 3rd time. In the words of Captain Siya Kholisi “We have so many problems in our country,but to have a team like this, we come from different backgrounds, different races and we came together with one goal”.
This is the new Africa we are slowly seeing from Rwanda to South Africa that only unity among our people can alleviate us from the deep challenges we are facing.
The president of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace for his reconciliation efforts in the war-torn region of Africa. Albeit there is still a lot of work to be done, progress is slowly being made. For instance they are preparing for democratic elections in 2020 and there have been talks with the neighbouring nation of Eritrea to end the long standing border conflict which has seen thousands lose their lives. Some exiled Ethiopians have returned home.As they say small progress is better than no progress.
Africa is expected to be home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies for the year 2019. Statistics vary according to different sources but countries like Ethiopia, Rwanda, Ghana, Senegal, Benin and Cote d Ivoire are expected to grow in the region of between 6-8%.
In this article I chose to pick a few countries and scenarios because if I were to go into detail I would need to write a book. The intention was to show that Africa is slowly evolving. Some countries have appointed good leaders who are committed to reviving their countries and uplifting their people.
In the words of one of the outstanding presidents at the moment His Excellency Paul Kagame, “Africa should not just wait to be exploited or influenced. No! We should be part of the conversation. We should raise ourselves to a level where there are certain terms we dictate in the conversation because we have a lot to offer”.
I strongly believe that the entrepreneurial spirit of our young population, their resilience and their drive will be the next big initiative to come out of Africa. We have seen how the Kenyan born fintech company, Mpesa, has disrupted the traditional ways of sending money. Also in Nigeria the Dangote group is building the largest oil refinery plant in the world.
There is so much going on in our continent but we have to change the perspective we have of Africa and Africa has to understand that our past just a part of our history. We should not allow it to define our future.
In her book, titled “Becoming”, Michelle Obama wrote, “…. Even when it is not pretty or perfect. Even when it is more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”
Africans, be proud of your own story. Be bold as you share it with the world because it is a story of hope, resilience, diversity and courage.