My mama always used to tell me that if Africa pulled itself together – dropped all the tribal bickering, allowed both genders to realise their potential, stopped with the corruption etc. – it’d be a force that could dominate the globe. Think about it: even after colonialism there are enough natural resources to flood the markets.. The pure human capital.. The raw entrepreneurship that comes with living in a developing country – I’m so sure that your average hustler in Koumassi market would put Lord Sugar’s apprentices to shame, if he had the same means and opportunities. The problems facing the continent are diverse, numerous and challenging, yes, we all know that; but the potential. Is. Phenomenal.
For this reason, it saddens me to hear Africans (both at home and in the diaspora) admit that they’ve “given up” on their respective nations. The modern era has infected human beings with a crippling selfishness: you’re born, you look out for yourself, make as much dollar as possible, then die with it. Maybe that’s how it’s meant to be: maybe I’m just a soppy socialist. But when you’re from the continent, that means “escaping” via the yellow brick road to Europe or the US, and never looking back. Never going back. Never investing in the land that birthed you with your new-found excellence. Never mimicking the hand that helped you up, by doing the same for those left behind. What? Why?
(Wow, I feel almost betrayed. That’s so weird. I’m taking this way too personally)
Luckily, I think I’ve been subconsciously surrounding myself with people that think the way my mama taught me to, and it’s as refreshing as lemon and cucumber ice water on a scorching August day. These are the close-to-annoyingly optimistic ones: The Africanists.. The ones that shout about how “our generation” will be the difference: more generous, less corrupt, less bogged-down by regressive ideas and practices! Remember when you first learned about Martin Luther King and got it in your head that you’d change the world too? Yeah, they’ve somehow managed to retain that hippy-student-wannabe-superhero mentality. Surround yourself with these kind of people once in a while. They’re inspiring.
Back to Africa. That’s where I should probably head after my little digression: that’s where they’re inspiring me to go after I finish uni. The continent is screaming out for young, innovative graduates right now: don’t be too proud to go home. She made us; she shaped us; we owe her.
Let’s take education, for example. Going through BIS, we knew that one of the greatest selling-points of our school was the number of expatriate teachers that it boasted. Principal, vice, heads of department – the majority from the UK, which somehow made them a “bonus” with which to impress parents. Obviously everyone wanted their children to have “the best” teachers – but why did that entail going abroad to get them? Why don’t we want to take on that responsibility? Yeah, the salaries of a schoolteacher and a stockbroker don’t really compare, but just think about it for a second. It’s probably the most important job in the world, next to being a mother.
– Maybe, if we really want change, there’s no room for pure paper chasing. It’s time to put everything on the line –
I guess I just had a moment today, after speaking to one of these Africanists. A moment of glaring hope for the continent. I don’t think it’s too late. We’re trying to squash an insane amount of development into just over half a century, to catch up with countries which have had hundreds of years of making and learning from their mistakes. That’s like getting to pre-drinks 5 hours late and thinking you can catch up in 5 minutes. Come on now, big fella.. It’ll take a while, but it’s not impossible. And if church services are anything to go by, the average African has more passion in their little finger than the rest of the world could dream of – it’s just time to direct that passion into building our future.