The Africa We Want
We all have a valid stake in Africa's future and yet we must never forget the words of Mahatma Ghandi who said: "Be the change that you want to see". History has taught us that you can never trust a third party to invest in the change you want to see.
The Africa we have today is a product of many Africans who died in its fields, valleys and mountains; who died hanging from trees, who died in the cells of their jailers, who died with unfulfilled dreams and hopes, and who traded their valuable personal time for the fight against race-based economic and political systems.
The cornerstone on which the Africa we want has to be constructed is the legacy of the great men and women of the continent who refused to accept the proposition that change can occur on its own, but who accepted the responsibility that history imposed on them to transform the despised, oppressed, economically disenfranchised to become the foundation and builders of a new Africa.
We find ourselves, some 51 years after Sudan's independence, a divided, fractured and challenged generation filled with fear, envy and distrust. Many of us including Africa's leaders, teachers, pastors, businesspersons, workers and students are still under the control mechanism of our former colonial masters and their successors to know what time it is.
We are forced by the magnitude of what we see today to accept the responsibility that history has placed on our generation to advance the cause of Africa and its people in an increasingly complex and globalised environment that is hungry for what lies in the continent's belly i.e. mineral and other resources.
We must rise above the narrow restrictions of the divisions that have been imposed upon us by ethnicity, race, religion, class, and status. We should, therefore, not see ourselves through the narrow eye of the limitation of the boundaries of our own individual, family and country spaces. We cannot call ourselves Africans and yet act in a manner that undermines or tears down Africa. It is all we have and the majority of us can never be, for example, Korean in as much as Koreans can be African.
For some of us, we are keenly aware that thinking global is desirable but many progressive nations act locally. There can never be a wrong time to do the right thing and I strongly believe that it is our time to make Africa live to the promise of its people.
We know, for example, how difficult it is for many black Africans to be European and be accepted as such and the implications of doing business with people who hold you and your people in low esteem and yet surprisingly black Africans find themselves challenged in doing business with their own governments and fellow citizens.
We now call ourselves free Africans and many of us never pose to think and reflect on the meaning of freedom. Yes we are free but we are also freed from the means to be free. If you live in someone's house, you can never be free. Freedom is latent and expensive for you need the means to enjoy it.
A few of us have gained scholarship that should ideally be a potent weapon for enhancing power, wisdom, knowledge and understanding but how many of us use this scholarship to change the realities of African life and civilisation?
Some 295 years ago, this is what Willie Lynch said about what is required to control a slave in perpetuity: "In my bag I have a fool proof method of controlling black slaves. I guarantee everyone of you, if installed correctly, it will control the slaves for at least 300 years. My method is simple. Any member of your family or your overseer can use it. I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves and I take these differences and I make them bigger. I use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes."
We find ourselves wondering whether many of our leaders in Africa today are disciples of Lynch or there exists a uniquely African way of governing that is divisive and seeks to pit brother against brother, rich against poor, educated against uneducated, businesspeople against those who don't know anything about business, those who are young and those who are old, believers against non-believers.
Many of us are still slaves trading money for time day-in-and-day-out until death. Without selling time for money, many of us would perish. The few who have escaped the trap become targets of the political elites whose control of Africa is premised on fear, envy and distrust and yet a poor man's dream is to be rich one day.
There are many Africans who believe that being rich is necessarily evil and anti-poor and yet I have yet to see a graveyard with ATM machines where the rich dead souls can access their wealth. Even the rich still have to die and they leave their so-called loot on this earth for other living people to inherit.
I have often argued that an equal society has no hope in as much as one cannot expect to have children in one family being the same. The poor need the rich in as much as the rich need the poor. Life ultimately is a nuisance of time and the only legacy that we live is what we do with the time that God has given us. Death is the ultimate equaliser and it is true that the rich have the same time that is accessible to the poor notwithstanding the fact that the time is differently priced in the market. A poor person gets less per hour than a rich person for instance. However, what makes civilisation interesting is that rich or poor, the sun shines on all.
Do we really want an Africa with no rich people? If all the rich were to be eliminated from Africa, would Africa live up to its promise better? Do we need an Africa where only black people are defined as Africans? If European civilisation and values had not visited Africa, where would Africa be? Do we want an Africa in which the state is the exclusive engine of growth and transformation? Do we want an Africa where the value of time is the same irrespective of education, responsibility and quality and content of work input?