Between hope and despair: the Africa I want to see…

Friday, June 3, 2016

Every May,  Africans celebrate and declare the month as that of the continent. We wear a doek, take pride in our food and treat each other with respect.

But Bathandwa Mbola wonders whether in the midst of this celebration, are we actually doing enough to correct the negative perceptions of Africa that the rest of the world continues to hold.

While browsing on Twitter recently I came across #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou hashtag.

The hashtag, which has been doing rounds since last year, is accompanied by photos from ultra-modern hospitals to upmarket suburbs, airports, to state-of-the-art road infrastructure and beautiful beaches. These are the things that one never really sees in the media.

This made me reflect – why don’t we ever see this side of Africa in the media?

Despite being in the media myself, I have observed that the system of storytelling on Africa is too often incomplete, stereotyped and false.

Even in the 21st century- it’s sad that the images of Africa for those outside the continent are those of hunger, disease, malnutrition, wars, massacres, terrorist attacks, corruption and human rights abuses.

Yes we have terrorist organisations like Alshabaab in Somalia and Boko haram in Nigeria and the rebel movements all over Africa. What the world doesn’t know is that Africans are changing their communities every single day. It may be a slow process, but, we changing the situation nonetheless.

We have the means. We have the human capital. Our raw materials  continue to make global trade possible.

Novelist Chimamanda Adichie put it best when she said: “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”

How do we then complete this African story?  What is the African story?  Who needs to be telling this story?

Indeed, Africa has learnt harsh lessons over the years. But we have also gained the wisdom.

What is left is the courage to take tough decisions which we will execute as individuals, institutions, governments and organisations in order to realise a better Africa and the Africa we want as outlined in the African Union’s 2063 vision.

The Agenda 2063 envisions an integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance.

It envisions a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development, an Africa where development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth.  An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.  A peaceful and secure Africa with strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethical leadership.

Agenda 2063 should be supported for a number of things. It’s true that we need to take harsh  decisions to ensure that we grow our economies to keep up with our growing population. We can achieve this by diversifying  our economies to focusing on alternative sources of growth.

We need a new trade paradigm that takes us beyond the dramatically unequal exchange of our cheap raw materials for expensive finished goods, which disadvantage us.

We need to start being involved in the entire value chain. Instead of exporting crude oil, we should be exporting gasoline and petroleum products.

Instead of exporting timber, we should be exporting furniture and fittings. Surely if we do that we would create jobs for the youth of Africa and it will increase revenue sources, diversify our economies and poverty will be reduced.

Most importantly, as Africans, we must learn to take pride and promote our own brands whenever possible. The Chinese are already doing it and the proof is in their economic growth.

We all need to commit to concrete actions and decisive steps towards Africa’s rebirth. Driven by our hopes and inspired by our dreams, I believe we can create a better Africa.