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.
I love this article. Sad.. but so true, for example in Guinea kids are out of school living with (une annee blanche) one year without school. Second, Ebola still claiming lives, the 2015 presidential election may not be held. And last but not least, the business sector is plunging because people cannot travel .
Thanks for your input @NeNe. Didn’t know about the annee blanche in Guinea. Sigh.
African scientist says
There is little reason for optimism in the coming years as long as African affairs are concerned. As a matter of fact, we should expect an increasing trample of gigantic forces in the form of western militarism and aggressive capitalism from emerging economies, in parallel to stagnated political development and a silently stirring socio-economic upheaval for the next half-dozen years. But, there is a chance for a drop of hope in this sea of darkness – knowledge, awareness, the internet… and the fire of panafricanism rekindled by these! We will expect to see more and more African youth standing up to take matters into their own hands. Perhaps the biggest positive change that each of us can instill in 2015 is informing, empowering, supporting these youth alongside actual engagement in serious, practical endeavors for economic liberation.
Love this comment because I do agree, as I wrote, that there is a lot to worry about. Perhaps more than ever before as we live in such megalomaniac capitalist and militarised times. But also that the hope is for increased knowledge, which strategic reflection and brewing energy of Africa’s youth will generate
Graham Askey says
Despite the gloom let me at least offer something positive re your point about the attitude towards Africans. As a white man who has travelled more than many on the continent I know only too well that it’s not the scary place some would have is believe. I keep going back because of the wonderful people I meet who have a culture of welcome to strangers and a generosity often the opposite to their own limited material situation. Those of us who do travel there almost always come back seeking to destroy the myths and prejudices that media dwelling on bad news end up perpetuating, particularly those of us who are also travel bloggers. So if there is one thing I would ask Africans to do it is ask your governments to remove the beauraucratic obstacles for westerners applying for visas and to make them free. Often $100 or more it seriously inhibits the ability of budget travelers to do bigger trips, even without the hassle of getting them. Why should you care about a few white backpackers? These are the people who will go home to spread the word about the real Africa, who will blog, tweet and tell their friends about it. Think of places like Thailand, once it was only a few hippies who fell in love with the country but it was how a multi billion tourist industry started. Sure, it will be a long process but these are the people you need to start with but countries will be rewarded far more than they are at the moment from over priced visas.
We should have less bureaucratic and visa hassles for Africans and Westerners visiting African countries. In many African countries this is already in place – at least for Westerners who can get a visa, a few minutes formality, at an African airport.
Many African countries impose obstacles on Westerners because their nationals face much more worse when they attempt to come to Europe. Business and the tourist industry are crucial but so to is self respect and reciprocity.
Graham Askey says
Hi ebele. I understand totally the resentment Africans can feel re trying to get visas for the west so fully share your call for self respect and reciprocity but by restricting travel it only serves to prolong the negative attitudes. Of course some governments have understood the value of an easier visa process but others have got worse in recent years. The more adventurous travelers who will be in the vanguard of those trying to break down stereotypes of Africa tend to travel overland through several countries and these are people who will be spending money at local businesses and with individuals rather than agencies, some of whose profits may even be disappearing abroad. Also they will be the kind of people who create links between Africans and the West, further serving to improve understanding. These may only be small individual steps but with the power of the internet, particularly how it is used by younger people it has great potential for making a difference.
It should be a two-way stream, western travellers who love Africa should equally lobby their own governments to reduce the bureaucracy and obstacles for Africans entering Europe. This is just as important in terms of perceptions and mutual understanding.
Thanks for your heartfelt comment, Graham. However, looking at some of the perennial political tensions in Thailand, I would not claim that the multi billion industry has done so much for the people of Thailand as it has for its tourists and elites. Moreover, it has not changed perceptions of Thai people, in contrast, it has reinforced some problematic stereotypes. I would certainly hope that these are the kinds of discussions that Africans will be reflecting on this coming year though.
Graham Askey says
Tourism was never going to be a cure for the internal struggles within Thailand and I didn’t intend to advocate mass tourism as a cure for the ills of Africa as it often has its downsides. By facilitating travel in Africa for what will generally be the more adventurous traveller we will create direct links between people who will work hard to create the kind of understanding you desire. You appear to be dismissing tourism altogether, which is to deny a potentially valuable source of much needed revenue for local people as well as route to more understanding- which of course needs to be carefully managed in the case of more large scale tourism. As someone who has worked supporting immigration detainees in the UK, which i was inspired to do by my travels I might add, I am only too aware of the injustice and lack of humanity in our system and have fought hard change it. I would suggest that my experience is indicative of the kind of westerners who are inclined to travel in Africa. Given the welcome i have received from Africans i dont hear them saying they would rather see less whites just because they are denied the rightful privileges to visit our countries.
Growing up in Nigeria I remember going through periods of ‘serious reflection’ and ‘stock taking’ promoted by apparently austere po faced military governments in the 1980s. Since then I have become wary of ‘official’ introspection and gloom. Also I remember how the insidious doctrine of ‘Afro-pessimism’ informed the depravities of the structural adjustment decades in Africa. Predatory elites can create a particular sense of or reading of a crisis to roll back hard won gains.
I suspect African reality has probably always been challenging and on occasion apocalyptic but it has not stopped invention and dynamism. Even listening to African folk tales you get a sense that Africans have lived with crisis for a long while and are no strangers to responding robustly. For me then the issue is about recognising the crisis but also noting that the solutions are all around under our noses and ready to be built upon.
Thanks Ebele, and of course I agree that Africans are inventive and dynamic (or we would not be standing anymore). My intention was not to be apocalyptic but rather realistic. Truth be told, daunting challenges face the continent which I do not believe can be solved without strategic and conscientious (inventive and dynamic?) reflection.
By the way, by inward reflection, my view is not in the direction of ‘War Against Indiscipline’ or any other buharism, or other po-faced dissentism, which I pray we will never see a repeat of, even if it seems that discipline is already becoming a favoured word of Nigeria’s political landscape in 2015.
lameck mahachi says
There is a very big problem that besets Africa. Greed that is exuded by the majority of its leadership. The man in the street does not have the slightest influence while the majority of these greedy leaders are at the reigns of power. If only these leaders I am referring to have the stomach to read such articles and act positively, there wouldn’t be these problems in Africa. But they will even toughen their resolve once it comes to their attention that within the boarders of the country they control are people who are fighting for HOW TO GET TO WHERE, WHO AND WHAT WE WANT TO BE.
Thankfully, I take solace from the fact that at least there are Africans like me elsewhere whom I share the same dream similar to that of our legendary Nkruma.