On the brink of the new year, we are encouraged to look into the future with hope. But given the misfortune that 2014 was when it comes to African affairs, I am not hopeful about 2015. Here are some things that regrettably happened this year; violence in the Central African Republic, Libya and South Sudan escalated; over 19, 000 people contracted the Ebola virus in the worst outbreak to date; Malaria, Sleeping Sickness, Dengue Fever, Leprosy, all which should no longer be problems of the 21st century continued to take lives; the UN still refused to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak it has caused in Haiti, a member of the African Union since 2012; militant Islam grew as did western neo-imperialist militarisation projects; across the continent men continued to practice violence against women; the number of African migrants, and death of migrants, grew; brutal anti-gay sentiment led to acts of hate; commodities that Africans rely on sank in value, and although many of the continent’s economies are growing, so are the deficits (10% in Ghana and Tanzania, for instance); and lastly, agreements which will ensure that the west, rather than Africa itself, will continue to benefit from the continent’s resources were signed.
The words of Kwame Nkrumah come to mind, “No African will be free until all Africans are free.” While individual countries may fare better in 2015, looking at it collectively, the prospects are dim.
But look, while 2015 will probably be as gargantuan a catastrophe as 2014 was in terms of political development, we can make it a more meaningful year in terms of intellectual development. Eventually, aware citizens will lead to aware leadership. So, in my view, 2015 should be a year dedicated to reflecting and looking inward. It should be a year where we ask and respond to questions such as:
- What does it mean to be an African in 2015?
- What impact does the legacy of colonialism continue to have on our identity as Africans?
- What does pan-Africanism look like in the 21st century? What should it look like?
- How to tackle the structural causes of inequality and poverty? What kind of structures can be put in place to ensure wealth distribution?
- How can pan-African consciousness shape all economic policy?
- How can we create a thriving job sector in African countries?
- How do we reform education in the 21st century?
- How do we plan to support the creative industries? And can we use culture and creativity as an aid to solving conflicts?
- Should we get rid of traditions that reinforce class or gender hierarchies?
- What role for Africa’s growing middle class? (I wrote about this in the 2014 Africa Prosperity Report – pdf)
- How can Africa’s cities be environmentally conscious? Are there old ways of living with nature that can be adapted?
- How can Africans strategically tackle regressive attitudes about Africans outside, but also, and especially, within Africa?
- How can we create societies where people of all sexualities can live freely with dignity?
- How do African societies whose cultural and social ambitions are pan-African, reconcile the rise of individuality , which capitalist societies encourage?
Confucius said, “There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is imitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest”. We have tried imitation, certainly we do not lack experience, now it is time to reflect.
On that note, may 2015 be a year of deep, philosophical introspection about future Africa. May the result be clarity in how we have come to where, who and what we are. And most importantly, how we will get to where, who and what we want to be. That I hope for. That is step one.
What do you think? Is my prognosis too pessimistic? *wink* Would love to hear your reflections.