A number of recent stories about Africa bring to mind the question, “to whom does Africa belong”? This question cannot be adequately answered without asking another question; who loves and feels African enough to die for the continent?
Those two questions, especially the first one, may sound rhetorical to some, but they are not. The concept of Africa, for all intents and purposes is lost on many Africans who have failed to understand how to make use of that geographical oneness in any sphere of human endeavour.
The first story that pricked my interest was the story of a huge diamond that, like tens of thousands of others before it, was picked from an African mine, taken and sold in Europe for a cool 35 million dollars. That is not the problem.
The problem is that, till today, ownership, extraction, valuation, marketing and selling of almost all African raw materials is done by others, not us.
The excuse of Africans not having adequate technology to do it themselves does not hold water; especially when one considers that individual adventurers in the middle of 19th century literally, and successfully at that, used their bare hands to scratch the earth for whatever resources they wanted.
Africa nations now have enough resources to pay contractors to do the work for them. Yet selling out to foreign multinationals is still the norm.
The second story or rather commentary was a well researched piece in The Sunday Times of 28/02/2010 by Dr. Peter Butera Bazimya titled ‘Land resources in Africa: issues and opportunities’, in which he clearly lays out Africa’s geographical advantages nicely juxtaposed with the reality of population issues, geopolitics, the all too common challenges of diseases, brain drain and a dearth of appropriate technology.
This commentary showed the reasons why Africans should be willing to and actually die for their continent. But then, the question that needs to be asked is, “to whom does Africa belong?”
The reality of Africa, as a continent, is that from the very beginning, it’s been other people’s playground. First the Portuguese and then others European powers determined Africa’s destiny.
The Berlin Conference of 1885 divided Africa into different spheres of influence that disregarded the ethnic, social and economic composition of the people that lived in the area.
The dream of uniting this great expanse of territory to form a great nation could not, for a long time, be practicable in this fragmented Africa.
During and after the fight for independence Africa got its fair share of noteworthy transformative personalities such as Mandela, Nyerere, Machel, Neto, Lumumba, Cabral and Nasser.
The one thing all these revolutionaries showed was a willingness to be beaten into the partition theory; fighting mainly for the nation states that were the creations of the colonial masters. In other words, they were willing to fight for and die for the small nation states but not for the grander idea that is Africa.
What is gone is gone but is it acceptable that, even as we recognize the utter importance of creating a viable African nation, we continue to prevaricate? Africa needs a new class of citizens; people who don’t look at their own borders with satisfaction but dream of a border that extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Antarctic Ocean.
Bernanrd Urayeneza is a social commentator