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Bisila Bokoko and MacDella Cooper to Deliver Keynote Addresses at the 5th Annual Young African Leadership Symposium in NYC

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Bisila Bokoko

The Council Of Young African Leaders will host the 5th annual CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium (YALS) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, New York. This year’s theme Transforming Africa Through Partnerships will focus on the importance of public and private partnerships, within the African community and abroad. The Young African Leadership Symposium gathers students, leading businesses, professionals, influencers and entrepreneurs to discuss many topics affecting Africa and its various countries. This year’s program will feature keynote addresses by Ms. MacDella Cooper, CEO of MacDella Cooper Foundation and Ms. Bisila Bokoko, Businesswoman, Entrepreneur, Speaker, and Philanthropist among other high profile speakers and panelists.

MacDella_Cooper

MacDella Cooper

 According to the African Development Bank, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) have emerged over the last decade as one of the best ways to foster development. Similar to a Town hall Debate, the symposium is designed to be engaging, encouraging speakers, panelists, and the audience to discuss the most pressing African issues and how they can be solved through partnerships. Discussion will feature:

  • African Diaspora’s Assimilation vs Acculturation 
  • Social Enterprise; Funding an African-Driven Development
  • Ebola Lesson Learned from a Deadly Epidemic
  • ICT and African Development 
  • How to successfully implement PPPs in Africa and the Role of the Youth and Women

“This symposium is a unique opportunity for African students and young professionals to get involved in the pressing African issues,” says Loukman Lamany, Director of Programs and YALS Chairman. “In order to accelerate Africa’s development, collaboration between all the stakeholders, the public and private sectors, Africans on the continent and in the diaspora are needed for a greater collective impact.” Due to the steady rise of youth participation in both the private and public sectors, Africa’s youth are proving to be crucial players in social, political, and economic changes on the continent.

The CYAL is proud to partner with the CUNY University Student Senate on this symposium to provide a platform for African youth to lead the way in formulating Africa’s solutions.

Registration and program Open: http://www.yals.info

#YOUTHLEADAFRICA

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Filed under Africa, Africa ICT, African Diaspora, African Media, African Technology, African Women, African Youth, DIASPORA YOUTH ENGAGEMENT, THE COUNCIL OF YOUNG AFRICAN LEADERS

Why Sophia Bekele Should be Forbes “Most Inspirational Young African Leader”

It’s not everyday you meet a woman who just makes you want to become a better you. Even if you knew you were a Bekelehustler, there are people in your life that will just push you, by essentially being rock stars, to become a better and excellent version of yourself.

One of these people is Sophia Bekele. The CEO of the one and only DotConnectAfrica spoke at the 2014 CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium on October 11.  The minute you meet her, you find that is rather hard to not be impressed with a woman who is so comfortable in her own skin that she freely extends this magnificence to others. Unlike many of our “social media made”   Young African Leaders,  Ms. Bekele seems to make sure that she makes a genuine connection with everyone she meets.  So don’t be surprised if she asks you questions such as “where do you see yourself in 5 years?- when you do have the honor of meeting her.  If you are lucky, you will get to hear just how much she is working to change the way Africa connects to the rest of the world.

What truly got earned her this nomination was her Keynote Address at the Symposium.  It was her clear vision, her insistence on renewed leadership in Africa and pushing the envelope for change. Here is a recap thanks to the folks at DotConnectAfrica:

Speaking at the Symposium, Bekele conversed with the students behind what she says are of priority to Africa. Her rallying call “The operative word for what would move Africa is CHANGE.  So we all need to PUSH the envelop – (Persist, Until Something Happens)”

Bekele said that “Our generation has the power to promote freedom of ideas, innovate and be accountable, ethical and transparent, to forge leadership that is keen on every small detail. It is really in building lasting foundations that we can prepare for a better future. It is your chance to chart a new path, without reinventing the wheel so that future generations can appreciate your input”.

She recalled “Our great Pan-African Leaders like Mandela, Mwalimu Nyerere, Haile Selassie, Jomo Kenyatta saw a future in creating opportunities though self governance, economic development through education to drive a change.   As we sit now and analyze their visions we have a great chance to stand on the shoulders of these giants and in retrospect stop and look at their achievements and the challenges that they faced in their quest to make Africa and the World a development platform”.  

She reminded that we can also learn from our modern-day Giants that were close to us, our own fathers, mothers, uncles and village Chieftains. “My Giant is my own Father” she said and

noted his staying power under three varying government regimes with successful business undertakings.  She also named such leading African business figures as Tony Elumelu, calling him “her modern-day Giant“.  His advocacy for private sector leadership in economic development and PanAfican vision under his coined term AfriCapitalism mirrors mine, she said. 

Bekele also sited her first “Nation building systems integration project” in Africa that her company successfully commissioned, saying it was “disruptive” business model.  Since, we had many ventures my various star-ups have accomplished, and pioneered in Africa and the US, in the field of ICT, internet, social media and Corporate Governance, including our very successful and famous Pan-African effort on .africa domain name.

At a country level, she cited Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia as one to use successful and disruptive models models to advance their economies.  

 
Sophia Bekele

She urged the students to develop a “staying power” saying, I was educated in America like yourself, so I can’t help but also learn from some of the Giants right here in the US, and quoted US President Theodore Roosevelt on “staying in the Arena”.   

 Given what we were enduring at our organization at DCA, I was inspired to write an entire commentary from his single quote for our Company’s 2014 New Year’s Newsletter and titled it “The ARENA Issue”, she said.  

We need to learn to stay in the course like our celebrated Giants did, but what would help us move into our journey to the future is to continuously PUSH the envelop – (Persist, Until Something Happens)

Adding that Africa must renew its leadership, “We must invest in training leaders from a very young age, the best leaders of our time have been given a chance to drive change in their own levels such as the one you are doing now”

She used the Biblical citation “Parable of the Talent” to give examples on hard work, success, and wealth creation. She quoted diverse Giants: Aristotle on, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others”. Jomo Kenyatta, first president of Kenya on renewed leadership, “Our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves the architects of the future.”, and Bob Marley, singer and freedom fighter on good governance, “You can fool some people sometimes but you ant fool all people all the time”.    

Bekele encouraged the students saying  “What does not kill you makes you stronger, and It does not mean you are lonely when you are alone.

Not forgetting women in the equation, she said the following – Women represent over 50% of the African continent and they have many gifts and talent and not utilizing them is also missing over 50% of the population’s talent. Without examining the contributions made by African women throughout the ages, the full story of the African experience and struggle cannot be told.  So for those women in this room, have hope and use your talents and when the going gets tough  and or the men want to treat you like you should only be seen and not heard,  pin your ears to these two songs – a must have in your play list – “Can’t hold US down” – by Christina Aguilera and “Girls Run the World ” – by Beyonce:  These two ladies have your back. 

In her concluding remarks Bekele stressed “Consistent with your mission and vision at The Council of Young African Leaders, which is to inspire the next generation of African leaders to cultivate awareness and action, and call to lead the continent of Africa to its greatest era yet”, I call upon you to do just that ” You are the next generation Leaders, Game Changers, and Change Agents – go and do something for Africa“.

“There were so many ways to have answered the questions you posed for today’s symposium, but I spoke to you on what is of priority for Africa – use your talents, do it the right way, practice good governance, no short cuts, stay the course, use the power of hindsight, and PUSH -Persist Until Something Happens.   Otherwise, your leadership will also suffer and you will be “Swinging from the Chandelier” and I let you search whose song is that.

She concluded by acknowledging the victims of Ebola, saying let us  keep them in our prayers. It is a huge tragedy.  Our Continent’s future is online. 

This is a simplified recap off course but we say YES to this:

“We must invest in training leaders from a very young age, the best leaders of our time have been given a chance to drive change in their own levels such as the one you are doing now”

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Should Gender Matter? Revisiting the Gender Question: Women as Agents of Change

As African countries develop, we are seeing a new generation whose greatest opportunity is creating societies where their gender and age is an asset to their personal and career development, and not a liability. We continue to see that growing the human capital of Africa presents the greatest challenge for business and political leaders. Yet new generations of women and young people throughout Africa are emerging and developing innovative strategies to overcome daily problems at a local and national level. Unfortunately, their combined capacities have not been fully harnessed nor realized.

  • Where are the pioneering efforts being made in education, training and skills development for both the youth and women?
  • What are the key barriers in both social and political spaces that hinder their full participation in development projects?
  • How do today’s leaders (corporate and government) incorporate both the youth and women in overall economic and political leadership?
  • How can we tap the full potential of women and young people?

This conversation was part of the 2014 CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium.

Below is a take from Ms. Mary Olushoga who served as the moderator:

8 Quotes from African Women Entrepreneurs at the CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium

Mary Olushoga, Founder of the AWP Network moderated the women’s panel at the 2014 CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium, which took place at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

On the panel were entrepreneurs: Funke Bucknor-Obruthe – owner and creative director at Zapphaire Events, Karen Nungari-Waweru – special education specialist,  and Mobolaji Akiode – professional basketball player and founder of Hope 4 Girls Africa.

Here are (8) memorable quotes from the event:

(1) “Support me because I am competent not because I am a woman.”

(2) “I don’t see myself as a woman, I see myself as a human being.”

(3) “I truly believe that success always transcends gender.”

(4) “Being an African woman in 2014 is still a stigma.”

(5) “Women need to be more forceful, and not laid back or passive.”

(6) “I want more African women and girls to know that you can be anything you want to be.”

(7) “Get out of the it’s not possible mode, everything is possible.”

(8) “Never underestimate the power of having a role model or mentor – find one.”

Should gender matter? what does it mean to be an African woman in 2014? Please share your comments, thoughts, ideas with us twitter – @Africwomenpower

Link to the Article: http://awpnetwork.com/2014/10/24/funke-michaels-hosts-entrepreneurs-roundtable-at-cuny/

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So You Are: A proud African, Crazy about Africa…GOOD FOR YOU!

(Pat yourself in the back, and if you can’t get a friend to do it for you). I mean these days, all it takes is for one “brilliant” individual to come up with a cliche that leaves the rest of us in a frenzy….

Let’s Get some things out of the way:

  1. front-page-african-photoThere is an economic growth in SOME African countries. This has been the case for several years now, so let’s not act like its new thing, or start singing Kumbayah as if there is some messianic revival in Africa.  In other words, stop telling people that Africa is rising, or the new frontier or that it is emerging- let’s be honest that this is another circular clichéd fad that circles itself around every so often. They say history is the best teacher- but we seem to have kicked this particular teacher out of the room and decided to try and sound like we have made a new discovery. Like Really?
  2. There is technology BOOM in Africa. So get over it and stop042711-National-Cell-Phones-News1
    trying to find metaphors to describe the elation of many Africans. Can we all agree that Africa is moved beyond this whole “heart of darkness” bit? Also, pointing out this “boom” every ten seconds makes one seem like there is nothing else to talk about-which is so far from the truth. The truth of the matter, unless you are in Africa and have heard the cry of jubilee- then you are just guessing as to how people in Africa feel. We will not deny that Africans have progressed in terms of technological advancements, but that’s not just the only front of growth- so can we move on to some other African Innovations please….
  3. africaaidThis whole “Africa cannot be dependent on aid” mantra is not new! Read transcripts of leaders past and present, you will find that all these “innovative” ideas on progressing Africa forward is not new. (maybe repackaged, in new sexy colors, but nevertheless old mantra).  African renaissance, Africa the New frontier, Africa Rising, Africa the Final Frontier (what does this really mean?), oh and now…AFRICA EMERGING for the west. Sooooooo….Africa is emerging from? Basically, lets agree that these concepts are not new, and they will probably come back in another couple of years. So do yourself a favor and read Frantz Fanon, Mohammed Bagayogo, V.Y Mudimbe, Henry Oruka, Samir Amin etc….(maybe we can all learn something)images
  4. Africa is not a pretty package and that is reality- so stop making it into your personal brand.  This is particularly for the African diaspora. There are some harsh realities in Africa- and unless you have stepped on the ground and did some research and interacted with the people, stop making Africa (which is huge by the way) into your pet project.  You find young (and old) Africans who could not handle the playground, bullying or being called names have  now decided that it is their mission in life to make Africa palatable or pleasant. They  now want to make Africa appear more appealing to the world so that they don’t have to be ashamed of wearing their African print, or saying their name outloud= Good for you! But now back to reality. Africa is Africa, and instead of trying to fit it into your mode- look again at the reality- find away to tell the story of Africa without all this fluffy material.  In other words, grow a pair and get real.

These are going to be reccurring themes this year with a dose of “Get real”. But in have a reality check, and stop thinking of Africa as a pet project. We are so afraid of what is going in Africa that we have painted a picture of Africa not meeting the reality. Africa is complicated and there is a lot of beauty, and a lot of ugliness, a lot of happiness and a lot of pain. there is a lot of good, and a lot of bad. We need to reconcile with this. Understandably, Africa is en vogue but lets not forget that there are real people who are being affected positively and negatively by how each one of us chooses to engage with Africa.

MzAwMTUwbm9TY3JlZW4tc2hvdC0yMDEyLTA2LTA4LWF0LTExLjE2LjUzLUFN  Cut your hair if you must. Go natural if its your thing. Wear the kinte cloth by all means- Infact, wear as many colors as possible (I mean Joseph wore a 12-colored coat non?), Shout your “African” name from the top of your lungs (and insist that others correctly pronounce your name) if that makes you feel more African and proud, start chanting “I am Africa/I am African” if wearing a shirt makes you more African than the kid in Soweto slums barely holding to his own shirt. All these fluffy things that we adopt to make ourselves feel better= Do it all! But lets not delude ourselves thinking that this makes you more African and does good for Africa

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From the Desk of an African Man…

images (4)There are probably many issues that could be discussed today, however, given that the Africa Cup of Nations is on, it is best to remind my fellow African females that we will get no attention from the men during this time.

So for those who think that this whole African man phenomenon is exaggerated…enjoy this   letter that first came out during the 2008 ACN.

Dear Wife, Partner, Girlfriend,

1. From 20 January to February 10 2013, you should read the sports section of the newspaper so that you are aware of what is going on regarding the African Cup of Nations, and that way you will be able to join in the conversations. If you fail to do this, then you will be looked at in a bad way, or you will be totally ignored. DO NOT complain about not receiving any attention.

2. During the African Nations Cup, the television is mine, at all times, without any exceptions. If you even take a glimpse of the remote control, you will lose it (your eye).

3. If you have to pass by in front of the TV during a game, I don’t mind, as long as you do it crawling on the floor and without distracting me. If you decide to stand nude in front of the TV, make sure you put clothes on right after because if you catch a cold, I wont have time to take you to the doctor or look after you during the African Nations Cup month.

4. During the games I will be blind, deaf and mute, unless I require a refill of my drink or something to eat. You are out of your mind if you expect me to listen to you, open the door, answer the telephone, or pick up the baby that just fell on the floor….It won’t happen.

5. It would be a good idea for you to keep at least 2 six packs in the fridge at all times, as well as plenty of things to nibble on, and please do not make any funny faces to my friends when they come over to watch the games. In return, you will be allowed to use the TV between 12am and 6am, unless they replay a good game that I missed during the day.

6. Please, please, please!! If you see me upset because one of my teams is losing, DO NOT say “get over it, its only a game”, or “don’t worry, they’ll win next time”. If you say these things, you will only make me angrier and I will love you less. Remember, you will never ever know more about football than me and your so called “words of encouragement” will only lead to a break up or divorce.

7. You are welcome to sit with me to watch one game and you can talk to me during halftime but only when the commercials are on, and only if the halftime score is pleasing me. In addition, please note I am saying “one” game; hence do not use the African Nations Cup as a nice cheesy excuse to “spend time together”.

8. The replays of the goals are very important. I don’t care if I have seen them or I haven’t seen them, I want to see them again. Many times.

9. Tell your friends NOT to have any babies, or any other child related parties or gatherings that requires my attendance because: a) I will not go, b) I will not go, and c) I will not go.

10. But, if a friend of mine invites us to his house on a Sunday to watch a game, we will be there in a flash.

11. The daily African Nations Cup highlights show on TV every night is just as important as the games themselves. Do not even think about saying “but you have already seen this…why don’t

buy-general-tournaments-football-tickets you change the channel to something we can all watch?” because, the reply will be, “Refer to Rule #2 of this list”.

12. And finally, please save your expressions such as “Thank God the Nations Cup is only

every 2 years”. I am immune to these words, because after this comes the Champions League, Italian League, Spanish League,

Premier League, FA Cup, etc. Thank you for your cooperation.

Print this and place it besides the TV so that madam or your girlfriend can see so that we all enjoy the African Nations cup and save some misunderstanding.

This makes me laugh every time. Never fails, because it is so true.  I am sure not every African man subscribes to this, but I doubt I will be hearing much from my African male friends for another couple of weeks.

Plus, since I subscribe to being a football fanatic…I totally get it.

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Obama and Africa: Keeping Things in Perspective

Image Is Obama better for Africa? The question had to be asked. Watching the third and final presidential debate Africans all over twitter and Facebook were applauding Obama’s statements and having the “ooh” and “Aha” moments. Yours truly was part of the twitter mob. As we watched the last of the presidential debates, as wannabe pundits on African issues butchered African political history and sang praises for Obama, one had to wonder whether this whole messianic support from the African community was a misplaced trust or lack of facts.  It was off course a disappointment to have Africa get an honorable mention in the debate, and you could feel the disappointment on twitter and Facebook too, as  only Mali and Sudan were barely mentioned, and Egypt and Libya taking the top honor in African politics.

There is something disturbing about the relationship between Obama and Africa (yes, Africa is a continent, and there might be a sweeping generalization made, but humor the use of the general term). Four years ago, it was like the Messiah had finally arrived. Africans all over the continent thought’ Now here is a black man- and “African” Man” and we can only assume that they thought Obama was their answer to every problem they had. The prodigal son had returned- and joy to Africa restored. And when Obama made the visit to Ghana, the continent welcomed their “son” back, and enough could not be said at how Obama was going to change matters in Africa. In his speech, Obama made a promise to help Africa in strengthening its democracy and building infrastructures. He promised to help in encouraging economic growth with international trade and investment.– Little did we know that, besides that “symbolic” visit, Obama turned out to not being the hero everyone might have imagined. Unless you count the military involvement and intelligence operations.

If any other American president had done what Obama did in Africa- there would have been “hell” to pay so to speak. In Libya, Obama- just like the Bush’s Iraq decision- did not seek the permission of congress to attack. Was war the only other option for him? This is the man that seats down with Netanyahu to find peaceful solutions to Israel and Palestine- so you wonder, why act in haste with Libya?

But that is just the obvious point. How about direct US- Africa strategy? He has given the same rhetoric as his predecessors. Obama’s strategy included introducing multilateral initiatives in hope that one of them might ping to Africa and make a difference. The only problem with this kind of approach is that it is like putting one fish in a group of 7 sharks in hope that the weaker Shark will actually get a bite out of the meal.

There has be a lack of a clear vision for Africa when it comes to trade. One of the easiest way to improve Africa’s relations with the US would have been to do away with the subsidies- but that as it may will not happen very soon. But even with the strategy released earlier this year- one could not help but see that nothing really had changed.

“In substance, the Obama Africa policy does not differ from his predecessors’. His immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, initiated the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003. Through that program Bush funneled $18 billion into the HIV/AID fight in Africa. The Bush Malaria initiative is reputed to have helped cut in half malaria cases in 15 African countries. The Bush administration also backed programs to cancel $34bn in debt for 27 African countries, at the same time pumping $5.7 billion a year in aid to the continent.”-  Obi Akwani

What is surprising up to this day, is why any African state would trust the American government. Recent history from the Cold war to now indicate that there is little of “good intentions” when it comes to African states- just ask Somalia and Congo.

So when Obama was announced for another term  in the White House,  there was a bit of relief. However, there was no need to celebrate.  Africans should know that by now, Obama’s engagement with Africa is on the basis of “ Africa has resources that the US wants, and if they can get it for cheap, then so be it”- It doesn’t help that China is digging its paws into Africa too.

Will Obama change the state of Africa’s democratic process, or make any lasting impact? The answer to that is probably NO.  Obama’s first obligation is to America and American interests. Thus throughout his presidency, expect him to act indifferent to Africa, and African state of affairs. Expect him to care for Africa when it matters only to his advancement of policies. For Africans to expect anything more than this is to set themselves up for failure.

Keeping things in perspective however, the alternative to Obama aka Romney could have been worse- the man needs a geography lesson first before he runs for president again.

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How to Write About Africa…..

There are Articles that are always a good read. So  I am sharing with you, one of my favorite articles that was brought to my attention by my friend Chris. Its funny, but oh so sadly true.

This article was originally published in Granta 92.

How to Write About Africa by Binyavanga Wainaina

Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African’s cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it—because you care.

Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved), references to African writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who are not suffering from yaws or Ebola fever or female genital mutilation.

Throughout the book, adopt a sotto voice, in conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-expected-so-much tone. Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.

Your African characters may include naked warriors, loyal servants, diviners and seers, ancient wise men living in hermitic splendour. Or corrupt politicians, inept polygamous travel-guides, and prostitutes you have slept with. The Loyal Servant always behaves like a seven-year-old and needs a firm hand; he is scared of snakes, good with children, and always involving you in his complex domestic dramas. The Ancient Wise Man always comes from a noble tribe (not the money-grubbing tribes like the Gikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona). He has rheumy eyes and is close to the Earth. The Modern African is a fat man who steals and works in the visa office, refusing to give work permits to qualified Westerners who really care about Africa. He is an enemy of development, always using his government job to make it difficult for pragmatic and good-hearted expats to set up NGOs or Legal Conservation Areas. Or he is an Oxford-educated intellectual turned serial-killing politician in a Savile Row suit. He is a cannibal who likes Cristal champagne, and his mother is a rich witch-doctor who really runs the country.

Among your characters you must always include The Starving African, who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits for the benevolence of the West. Her children have flies on their eyelids and pot bellies, and her breasts are flat and empty. She must look utterly helpless. She can have no past, no history; such diversions ruin the dramatic moment. Moans are good. She must never say anything about herself in the dialogue except to speak of her (unspeakable) suffering. Also be sure to include a warm and motherly woman who has a rolling laugh and who is concerned for your well-being. Just call her Mama. Her children are all delinquent. These characters should buzz around your main hero, making him look good. Your hero can teach them, bathe them, feed them; he carries lots of babies and has seen Death. Your hero is you (if reportage), or a beautiful, tragic international celebrity/aristocrat who now cares for animals (if fiction).

Bad Western characters may include children of Tory cabinet ministers, Afrikaners, employees of the World Bank. When talking about exploitation by foreigners mention the Chinese and Indian traders. Blame the West for Africa’s situation. But do not be too specific.

Broad brushstrokes throughout are good. Avoid having the African characters laugh, or struggle to educate their kids, or just make do in mundane circumstances. Have them illuminate something about Europe or America in Africa. African characters should be colourful, exotic, larger than life—but empty inside, with no dialogue, no conflicts or resolutions in their stories, no depth or quirks to confuse the cause.

Describe, in detail, naked breasts (young, old, conservative, recently raped, big, small) or mutilated genitals, or enhanced genitals. Or any kind of genitals. And dead bodies. Or, better, naked dead bodies. And especially rotting naked dead bodies. Remember, any work you submit in which people look filthy and miserable will be referred to as the ‘real Africa’, and you want that on your dust jacket. Do not feel queasy about this: you are trying to help them to get aid from the West. The biggest taboo in writing about Africa is to describe or show dead or suffering white people.

Animals, on the other hand, must be treated as well rounded, complex characters. They speak (or grunt while tossing their manes proudly) and have names, ambitions and desires. They also have family values: see how lions teach their children? Elephants are caring, and are good feminists or dignified patriarchs. So are gorillas. Never, ever say anything negative about an elephant or a gorilla. Elephants may attack people’s property, destroy their crops, and even kill them. Always take the side of the elephant. Big cats have public-school accents. Hyenas are fair game and have vaguely Middle Eastern accents. Any short Africans who live in the jungle or desert may be portrayed with good humour (unless they are in conflict with an elephant or chimpanzee or gorilla, in which case they are pure evil).

After celebrity activists and aid workers, conservationists are Africa’s most important people. Do not offend them. You need them to invite you to their 30,000-acre game ranch or ‘conservation area’, and this is the only way you will get to interview the celebrity activist. Often a book cover with a heroic-looking conservationist on it works magic for sales. Anybody white, tanned and wearing khaki who once had a pet antelope or a farm is a conservationist, one who is preserving Africa’s rich heritage. When interviewing him or her, do not ask how much funding they have; do not ask how much money they make off their game. Never ask how much they pay their employees.

Readers will be put off if you don’t mention the light in Africa. And sunsets, the African sunset is a must. It is always big and red. There is always a big sky. Wide empty spaces and game are critical—Africa is the Land of Wide Empty Spaces. When writing about the plight of flora and fauna, make sure you mention that Africa is overpopulated. When your main character is in a desert or jungle living with indigenous peoples (anybody short) it is okay to mention that Africa has been severely depopulated by Aids and War (use caps).

You’ll also need a nightclub called Tropicana, where mercenaries, evil nouveau riche Africans and prostitutes and guerrillas and expats hang out.

Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care. ■

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