Last week the world commemorated Africa Day 2018, something done annually on May 25 to, amongst other things, symbolise the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination.
My sister Linda coordinated a successful Africa Day event at Trinity College Dublin and had the President of Ireland as the keynote speaker. My friend Andrew was at a conference of African Ambassadors and, in a tweet, wished we mourned less our problems and celebrated more our talents. He had just watched a Burundian t roupe dance while balancing heavy drums on their heads. In the same week, news broke that a small East African country —Rwanda — had become the first sleeve sponsor of a popular European football club and somehow this news was received with mixed feelings. Whereas some people said kudos to the country’s development board and the Government, others thought the money could have been put to better use. Somewhere in the West, members of parliament congregated and expressed disbelief that a country they give aid to could spend so much on such. Different government officials showed up online and tried to drive some sense into the heads of all those that were looking at this ‘devel
opment’ negatively. When one Ambassador’s tweet attracted a barrage of condescending responses from the West, the message was clear…you begged, we gave you, why are you choosing to spend it in that manner? This situation got me thinking that unfortunately most of the people that throw shade at Africa know us from the things we say of ourselves online, they have not been here and will likely never visit Africa. They rely on their news channels and those of us on social media who many a time do nothing but belittle and despise ourselves.
I was reminded of a tweet I put out on May 3, 2018, ‘The internet is full of sad tales of young men and women from Africa trying to flee the continent. The journey some people make in search of greener pastures is horrendous. We may have our struggles as Africa, maybe home does not feel like home anymore but it’s still home.’ Here are some of the comments it attracted: Andrew in Uganda said, ‘Looking at all these sad stories sometimes makes me feel like I’m richer than what I think’; Papa K Omuchesi in Kenya said, ‘Maybe direct that to the despots we call our leaders. Maybe they aren’t creating enough jobs. Maybe they aren’t helping our economies prosper...On second thought, how can they do all that when they loot it all?’ There were many more positive and negative comments. Interestingly, some negative comments came from Africans in the Diaspora who did not go in boats and cases; they went to study or for work and seem to live relatively well.
The language we use daily to describe our homes, workplaces and country says a lot about us. Africa is not the only burdened continent; my African country is not the only one with challenges. When you interact with people from elsewhere they will speak of situations like ours but with a lot of caution. We, on the other hand, wash our dirty linen in public, for all and sundry to see. We have allowed ourselves to be used by foreign media to worsen the already tainted image of the continent. We would rather have our five minutes of fame on international news channels agreeing with those that call our home ‘shithole’ instead of helping them see the other side of things. It is a given fact that majority of Africa suffered a dark past and it may be possible that this is all someone out there (an ignorant someone) knows us for, but the reality on the ground is different. The continent has emerged from its dark past and done a lot to be recognised. If there was an award for most improved continent I would say it be g
iven to Africa. It therefore baffles me when a fellow African wishes we could go back to days of colonisation. I am disheartened by such people who are determined to magnify our weaknesses and failures instead of capitalising on the emerging good. The law of attraction implies that if we speak more of the good the African continent has to offer, it will abound; the reverse is also true.
For how long will we hate ourselves and pride in selling our countries negatively? We have caused the rest of the world to disrespect us, even the citizens of the poorest country in Asia or elsewhere will have the guts to look down on an African all because some of our people have been seen in videos saying they would rather die than go back home. Time to arise and change the narrative. Only then will we bring an end to being denied visit/business visas for flimsy reasons like ‘You do not have sufficient ties to warrant your return [home]’, as if we all want to migrate to the West. It is the responsibility of each one of us to make it known that we have a proper home and a beautiful continent that we are proud to come back to. Only then can we truly have ourselves a Happy Africa Day.
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