When We Say Africa Rising, Who Exactly Is Rising?

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Some Africa rising magazine covers. Image from http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/africa-rising-time-runs-with-same-title-as-now-famous-the-economist-cover/

Africa Rising: are we willing to dissect facts?

I was so excited when one day while flipping through the numerous channels on TV, I came across the behind the scenes of a song called: Africa Rising. This song/video is filmed by Callback Dreams in Ghana. I could hardly wait when at the end of the hour long show, the credits rolled then the words, “coming soon” appeared. I hoped it would be sooner. I will tell you the source of my excitement shortly.  The song Africa Rising, puts together some of the top musicians in Africa: Sarkodie (Ghana), Micasa (South Africa), Diamond (Tanzania) and Tiwa Savage (Nigeria) among others.  Here is the source of my excitement: I was looking forward to finally understanding this thing called ‘Africa Rising’.  Tiwa Savage being on that song also just made it so exciting for me. I will not tell you what that music video is about because this is not a music review. But in a nutshell, I was none the wiser about this Africa rising story by the time the song ended.

Here is the thing: The first time I heard it, Africa rising, it sounded like a very good campaign slogan for something I did not understand and which was none of my business, or so I thought. Then it struck me at some point that I was an African, and if the continent was rising, then I was definitely part of it. I was still looking for my connection with it. Then I thought that, it was perhaps something that happened across Africa, you know like a heavy downpour on all countries of Africa at the same time or a different colour of sunshine again across all of Africa which our experts had aptly named, Africa rising.

I decided to silently google what Africa rising is and discover the details on my own. I found out that Africa rising is the term that journalists coined to describe the economic boom in Africa since 2000.

Some Africa rising magazine covers. Image from http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/africa-rising-time-runs-with-same-title-as-now-famous-the-economist-cover/
Some Africa rising magazine covers. Image from http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/africa-rising-time-runs-with-same-title-as-now-famous-the-economist-cover/

Then I came across a question that immediately switched on the critical part of my brain, “When we say Africa rising, who exactly is rising?”

Before anyone labels me a pessimistic writer, I will tell you why we need to do something tangible really quickly in order to stop attracting the ridicule that critical observers are already generating. We can all go on twitter-rampage and say that Michela Wrong should shut up and leave the African continent alone but the truth is that, she can only be quiet if we can prove her wrong. In fact, she might even become irrelevant but until that happens…

Below are some of the things which, in my estimation as a thinking member of the society need immediate attention before we can even begin to talk about this rising business. Let us look at Kenya as an example.

Corruption needs to go

Maybe it would not be such a big issue if it was not responsible for crippling so many people’s dreams and aspirations and in the process, the nation’s. I am told that people can even buy form one places in secondary schools! Apparently, when one has money, they can access anything including the annihilation of the country’s development. I do not need to list the many corruption scandals in this country that have brought us to our knees. A survey by the audit firm PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC)  in 2016 revealed a report that ranked Kenya as the third most corrupt country in the world. Now, you do not really need to be a genius to understand that with such institutionalized corruption and a seeming desire to steal from ourselves whenever we get the chance; Kenya will be stuck in the Third-World country category for a while.

  • Development has to go past the big cities

One of my mentors once told me that, if he visited my house and wanted to assess my cleanliness, he will base his verdict not on the living room where I will have put my best foot forward, but rather the kitchen and the toilet. How apt! Remember how grass was planted in this city – was it for the Pope’s or Obama’s coming? What would actually happen if one of these high profile visitors insisted on visiting a village deep inside Western Kenya where a tarmac road is still something that causes excitement for the locals and they are too far away from civilisation to even access electricity? I will tell you what would have happened: we would have been embarrassed. And I am not just saying these things because I am a bad person who is refusing to see the good in Africa. I can see the good. Totally. I just want the phrase Africa rising to be transformed into a true reality. This is not only a big issue in Kenya but everywhere as Chibundu Onuzo talks about going back to her village in Nigeria after almost 10 years only to find nothing has changed although insecurity has increased. She asks If Africa is rising, why are the villages left behind?

  • Improved healthcare for everyone.

We currently have cancer patients lying on the floor of Kenyatta National Hospital awaiting treatment. One of the officials speaking to the media called it, “a little inconvenience”. I do not know how little this is although I am sure that this cannot be one of the markers of the beautiful Africa Rising slogan. When we still have reports of women dying in labour or losing their newborns because they had to walk for kilometers to access a hospital, then we are unlikely to have the moral grounds as sane people to say that Africa is rising.

I think the most disturbing part of this is that, most African countries can well afford to provide all these basic things for their citizens but through either greed or magic, the money and resources that is allocated for these things just disappear into thin air!

I think maybe as the public, we need to sit down and actually look into the problems of our societies and truly work towards ending these charades. That is if we are truly interested in moving the continent forward.

Time and space will fail me if I decide to list everything that needs to change if at all we are to catch up with the developed world. So I will leave you to list the other things that are seriously wrong with the continent of Africa.

Africa is my home. I would not trade it for anywhere else. I believe that Africa rising can actually become a reality but only after we all decide to be honest with ourselves and  honestly deal with the challenges that continue to draw our continent behind.

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