Africa / Ghana

The World Was Silent When We Died (Musings on Gold Madness)

(Title originally used by Chimamanda Adichie in Half Of A Yellow Sun)

Musings inspired by Gold Madness:

In many respects, I have been intrigued by the phenomenon of Chinese in Africa. In fact, I was somewhat incensed when I read an article that listed the 10 fastest growing economies in Africa and the in the top ten I found China, Brazil and India listed amongst other African countries like Rwanda, Botswana and Ghana. I said to myself, “Whoaaa! So now these countries qualify as actual “economies” on our radars? wow!”. The weight of my thoughts hits home some more when you think of the fact that you can never fathom any country in Africa actually being put on the list of “fastest growing economies in Asia/Europe/the Americas”. It is this “irreversibility” of sorts that makes the dynamic between Africa and the rest of the world very lopsided, with Africa seemingly on the “begging” end. This is not to say that we do not have serious needs that are incomparable with the rest of the world, but it is also to say that there has been an exaggeration in the portrayal of Africa’s neediness that blurs all the other good things that come out of Africa. For instance, not much noise is being made about how Africa will retain lower-middle and middle-class majorities by 2030, with consumer spending increasing from $680 billion in 2008 to $2.2 trillion. McKinsey and Co. recently reported that Africa already has more middle-class consumers that the more-populated India.(McKinsey&Co.)

When it comes to African prosperity, the world seemingly goes “Shhhhh. Let’s not talk about it. We don’t think it is heroic enough to merit our attention, rather, let’s continue to build our image as the good-hearted philanthropists we are and consolidate our efforts to ‘save the world'”. At least, that is the way I see it, to put it mildly. In fact, the irony of the matter  is, the international community has a very interesting way of staying silent on African issues, when they should very well be trumpeting streets advocating for the freedom of peoples everywhere! Case in point, current crisis in Congo, Nigeria in the 60s (Biafra), 1994 Rwanda (The Genocide). When it comes to such situations our mantra changes from “Let’s save the world!” to “oh, let’s just wait and see if these people will sort out their messy issues. You know. We don’t really want to get involved. African’s are known for this à la ethnic rivalries) they will get over it. Let’s wait and see what they can sort out. If worse comes to worse, we’ll intervene”. Often, worst comes to worst turns out to be over 6million people being killed, and seriously dire horror stories. The funniest bit of this “first-world help third-world fiasco is that it repeats itself time and time again, and history doesn’t seem to have been a good teacher”, yet, we still pride ourselves on advancing international human rights.

After things like the holocaust and slave trade, we vowed to never see such discrimination and inhumanity again. Go to the woman in the Congo and give her the feminist manifesto. Remember to tell her how we have taken great strides in creating awareness of many of the crises women face. Go to the children in the Congo. Preach to them about their childhood rights from the Declaration of universal human rights. Or better still, tell Ugandans how you reposted the Kony 2012 video to spread awareness and help find Joseph Kony to put an end to senseless injustice.

In the same vein, go to the Kenyan investor in mobile technologies, or the South African social enterprise guru and preach to him of the little hope you have in Africa’s business environment, that there is little opportunity or preach about calamities African’s have brought on themselves and perhaps chip in how the rest of the world always has to intervene to alleviate our social burdens. Tell them Africa is not doing enough for themselves. Go to Chinery-Hesse, Kelvin Doe or this unnamed child, and tell him there is a lack of innovation in Africa, or better still, tell Aliko Dangote, that billionaires cannot be made on the continent. Go to Binyavanga Wainana and learn how to write about Africa, or perhaps Chimamanda Adichie to ask how to tell the African story. Remember to tell them too how we have done a great job in the past narrating stories for Africans because they couldn’t speak for themselves, and yet we could not use these same “storytelling voices” to truly tell the world of the horrors happening in Congo, Rwanda and Nigeria (past [Biafra] and somewhat present-[Boko Haram bombings]). Tell the Ghanaian miner that colonialism in the Gold Coast is a thing of the past and that injustices will never be condoned, and use this article to back up your argument. Or perhaps tell the Addis inhabitant how Ethiopia never escaped colonialism in the past by show them how “foreigners” currently inhabit and run large portions of the country. Tell that to Zambia too but modify your speech by saying to them that countries are sovereign nations and should have dominant holds on their land, their resources.

No matter how attenuate or downplay these issues, the fact remains that there are issues at hand, repercussions to consider, in the past, present and future. This is perhaps the worlds sin termina, a plague of humanity without an end.As a budding anthropologist, I am cognizant of the problems that come from dispossession and the transfer of an ownership that belongs to a people. (Case in point the strong connection Angela Garcia makes on how disposession in New Mexico is the root of many social ills including drug addiciton. See The Pastoral Clinic).

I cannot emphasize the more the importance of our voices. I can only conclude with one of my all-time favourites from Martin Luther King Jr. who reminded us that, “Injustice Anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere”.

I rest my case.

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