When 96% of Africa Became Insignificant…or the Means to being Awarded

It has been months. Yes- Months since there was a blog written. But to be fair, a lot was going on.  I have made some transitions in both my personal and professional lives. I am seating on my new desk, in my new home office, and thinking of all the things that could be packed in this one blog.

But first things first…. I am so excited for what can only be termed as ingenuity-yes the word is OVERUSED.  I am currently listening to a song by Zambian Artist JK- his new single is out, and I can’t get over it. In one song, his producer, a young Ghanaian Genius, has been able to produce beats that are what I can only term as “afropolitan”- yes, that word that is slowly being used by every Tom Dick and Harry who thinks they have become experts on Africa.  Anyways, I love these collaborations! Ghana and Zambia, Congo and Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Somalia…. yes, it’s finally happening.  We just might find that as Africans, we don’t have to tell the one story that is trending.

As I see budding stories of collaborations among Africans across the continent,  I can finally put away my anger about Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s words at this past Harvard Africa Business Conference where she had the audacity to say that “If you are not in Nigeria, you are not in Africa”.  Off course, the rest of us non-Nigerians who were in the room sank in our seats a bit more trying to figure out just how offended we were-but let that be a story for another time.

This past Sunday, I sat in a cafe and I did the one thing that was overdue- go to brunch with a book in hand and completely ignore the rest of the world while I inhaled pancakes and eggs, with loads of tea.  At that moment, I felt I was back- and to that was the accompanied sadness in what I was reading- AMERICANAH.  What a disappointment! I had thought that maybe for the first time, we had a female literary figure who could really capture people’s imagination without falling to simplicity- but alas there goes the “danger of a single story”.

This single story is being told, the only catch is that – now its about Africa’s glass being half full instead of being half-empty. Meanwhile, while some mighty people are playing with Africa’s coffers, the Diasporan Africans are happy to seat and accumulate awards, speaking engagements, world travels, and having what can only be simply termed as meaningless conversations. – Don’t worry, I am guilty of this also.  It seems, that those of us who do not end up returning home to become a problem, or a solution , have become masters of how to claim Africa, without really trying. We have become do-gooders, we have mastered the art of celebrating ourselves, patting ourselves in the back on all the good work we do. We have even developed some sort of recipe on how to appropriately talk about Africa as the new “it” thing without realizing that this New Africa is shiny glossy representation of a minority. I am all for being hopefully, but COME ON! We are now perpetuating that “single” story, where Africa is hopeful, and instead of the glass being half empty, we think that saying that Africa’s glass is half full justifies our false presentation of Africa, and the people who are living with the everyday realities of the continent.

We have forgotten that maybe Africa is a continent- not a country. We have forgotten the basics- Collaboration, process over outcome, and in its simplicity, liking ourselves as Africans. Because really, at the end of the day, we really don’t like each other.  At the end of the day, those of us who are in the Diaspora have decided to ignore the fact that the there is a very large percent of those who reside in Africa that still live in pure, terrifying poverty.  So we forgot about them, but we are happy to seat and think of all the wonderful things we are doing for Africa, happy to collect the awards, and feel really good that we are the “new Africa”- the Saviors of Africa.

As I said, I am guilty too. For the last couple of days, I have wondered though-, how can we change the conversation.  OR even, better, does the conversation on Africa, and African countries specifically, need to change? It might be that we are comfortable with where we are in which case, I’m just a frustrated African woman who just needs a good reason to vent.


One thought on “When 96% of Africa Became Insignificant…or the Means to being Awarded

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  1. I too am frustrated with the new ‘Africa rising’ narrative going on in the media. It only represent an elite group of people in Africa. The truth of matter is Africa is not rising or booming. An increase in Africa’s GDP is due to increase of prices and output. Not due to increase of employment. The potrayal of Africa Rising narrative is just a facade for people to actually see what is going on. Africa is not rising because there are economical mechanisms in place that prevent Africa from industrializing. How many ‘made in ………( insert an African country here)’ do we see on the continet? We flooded by European, American and Asian products, instead of manufacturing them ourselves. We are not allowed to subsidize our producers( farmers, etc) because the WTO agreements forbid these but yet Europe and America subsidize when they want to. Let an African country do the same and there is trouple. African countries are being told to remove taxes and import tarrifs from importing goods to stimulate trade. Now tell me how can our African manufactures compete with European subsidized manufacturers. How can we industralize if we cannot protect our infant industries. We are just over 50 years old. We have a lot of catching up to do! Trading is good but maufacturing, that is what will lift us out of poverty!!! Look at China, heck look at any rich country. Arent they all industralized countries? Yes, most are shifting to service industries but still, industralization is still important part of their economy. Even food production! Africa has abundant land, even lending to foreign countries!! And yet it cannot feed its population? And we have to import? Look up at the European Union EPA agreement with certain African countries and how they are shoving ‘trading with Africa’ is good but yet fail to inform the mass that that same trading will mean African jobs will be lost! You are right. It is time for the diaspora to really see what is going on and stop seeing our native countries as a summer vacation destination and posting on how we want to re-write African history. How many of us sit our you g siblings down to teach them our history? Yet we dance to the beat of the West. I am tired of it all. We need to restore Africa’s dignity!!


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