How We Hate Africa: Lessons from that Charlie Hebdo incidence

2015-01-15 23:22

One need not be an advanced reader of Africanism theory to see that there is a lot wrong with the way Africans view Africa. To many, Africa is the epitome of setbacks, the capital of diseases and sickness, rampant with corruption and greed; the perfect case study to other citizens of the world of how not to live. Sadly, while the rest of the world, its leaders and corporates giants vie for Africa’s wealth and contend to see who will plunder what’s left of her resources, the people who cause more damage to this continent is us.

This realization came to a head amidst the recent attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, France where 12 people were killed. The devotion and energy with which we guzzled that story as fed to us by the media was not to be seen when it transpired that Boko Haram has been murdering our fellow brothers and sisters in our very own backyard. The self-hate that we have is only rivalled by the love and devotion we have for foreign (particularly Western) things, even when it comes to death.

It’s all in the mind, really. Years of disenfranchisement and sheer belittling by our colonisers has subconsciously made us hate ourselves and what we can offer the world. You know very well that in your mind, you see very little goodness in Africa and if you do, God bless you; but whatever little goodness you see in Africa pales in comparison to how highly you view foreign products or ideas or ways of life. Your mind has been impeccably trained to not appreciate that which your continent can produce, but love that which it can buy from foreign sources.

Perhaps let’s consider a few practical examples. Very few of us own Zest Mobile or Dream Mobile or Nigerian Nerve Mobile handsets; in fact, even fewer of us know that these are African cellphone manufacturers. To us, it seems inconceivable to use a mobile handset manufactured at home and we bend over backwards to purchase foreign products (of course, myself included). We don’t even have a tangible reason why we don’t want these homemade products (‘cause it’s not like we tried them and didn’t like them); this is because we have been conditioned not to appreciate anything which comes from Africa.

I speak of mobile phones but the list is endless. Given enough money, you are more likely to visit France or the US or Spain (all in the top three most visited countries in the world) than a city on this continent. And if you would visit an African city you would probably opt for Western-like accommodation and treatment and be less inclined to tour the villages and try out the cuisine (like you would when visiting villages outside Moscow). Sports is another sad frontier. We throw our entire weight behind foreign clubs and even foreign national teams. We become such a pathetic bunch of people who cheer for things which are not ours because we hate what we are. It’s not even about the poor performance of African teams; Spain was kicked out in the group stages of the World Cup but you will still have Africans fanatically supporting it in the next round of national team matches.

Perhaps even sadder is the fact that we are blinded to the promise and future that this continent holds. In fact, it is our very ignorance of how rich we are and how much potential we have that is stunting our growth. For if we really knew who we are, we would surely look at our continent in a different light.

Many experts believe that Africa is in the same position as Asia was in the 1970’s. Asia had experienced many decades of great political and economic instability as well as significant decline in the provision and standard of education and healthcare. Countries like Singapore, heavily beset with civil disorder and paralyzing ethnic conflict, did not inspire a lot of hope. But today they are performing at high levels of efficiency and productivity. So there is certainly hope that Africa can overturn their bad fortunes. Underpinning this belief is the vast abundance of natural resources that the continent has as well as the right population mix with many young people (unlike other continents) which translates to longevity and more sustainable development.

Admittedly, we must be very careful of being merely inspired by Asian countries without doing the right things to ensure our own development. Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works explains that the Four Tigers focused their energies on agricultural and agrarian reform and used proceeds from this sector to finance the ever-growing industrial sector and underpinned this growth with strict government control. Luckily, Africa has the potential to focus on agrarian reform and all that jazz.

But I would like to believe that we face bigger demons than Asia faced in the 70’s and our escape from extreme poverty won’t be as easy. On top of what they faced, we have a poignant and painful legacy of colonial oppression that no other continent can boast of. And this oppression has deeply influenced our way of thinking and our very psyche. We have this great big mental and psychological impediment that bars us from truly flourishing as a people. The sad part is that colonial oppression now has entrenched itself so much that we now have a prefix for it: neo-colonialism. Thus, our oppressors (that is, Europe: fellas who, we must admit, never really left) now have friends who also oppress us, like the US and, irony-of-ironies, China. Neo-colonialism ensures that we remain oppressed and self-despising and redundant. Our colonialists don’t want us to be great. And that is what makes our development so limited.

Clearly our leaders also have a role to play. Much like leaders Gaddafi, Mugabe, Lumumba, Sankara and Mbeki, our leaders should be the catalysts of any paradigm shift that will happen in Africa. United, they can collectively make us realize our worth as a continent. The first thing they can do is to stop selling us and our resources to the highest foreign bidder. Also, their ineptitude in dealing with internal issues of corruption and poor service delivery makes it hard for one to fall head-over-heels in love with this continent.

You were probably convinced (and still are) that you are a true lover of this continent but the fact remains that we are not. As pointed out already, it isn't our doing; we suffer from a myriad of different factors limiting progress. Mainly, it is how we have been socialized and brought up. It is a result of years of foreign indoctrination so much so that we have become thoroughly desensitized to the horrible death of more than 2000 souls here at home, right here at home, and more sad and enraged and worked-up about a shooting spree of a dozen people in some distant time zone. What a sad people we are.

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