When was the last time you read an amazing story related to Africa? Or forwarded a Whatsapp or Facebook post? Africa and Africans find mention in the Indian media or our conversation only when there is violence on them or by them. This is not surprising as this is exactly the kind of news we often publish about ourselves.
Africa is a “pillar of the earth” and a planet in itself. It’s a gigantic land mass comprising of 54 sovereign nations and ten non-sovereign territories having both unique and common cultures. Still, usually don’t read about exceptional people and developments from this extraordinarily diverse continental plate grappling with daily socio-economic upheavals.
Despite the brutal narrative of exploitation and self-destruction, many men and women of Africa — from Algeria to South Africa and Senegal to Somalia — are not fleeing their countries. They are writing their inspirational stories, which should resonate in a still under construction democracy such as India.
The big picture about Africa is that from 2020 to 2050 the continent will be the most rapidly urbanizing region in the world. According to Time magazine, Africa’s rate of urbanization is at 37 per cent, comparable to China but more than India — indicating a rising and powerful middle class. In the last ten years per person real income has shot up by 30 per cent.
The African Development Bank has stated that one-third of Africa is middle class, and spends between $4 and $20 per day. By 2060 more than one billion people will join this middle class.
It’s from all levels of this middle class that personal stories of success are being recorded in African countries. Kenya is a good example of financial inclusion. About 42 per cent of Kenyans had access to bank accounts in 2011. Today, the vast majority of the country use a mobile transfer to move money. Countries such as Tanzania, Uganda, and Cote d’Ivoire have straightaway jumped to mobile banking from conventional means in a few years.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, recently had an interesting experience that India should examine. In Africa, less than 10 per cent people use social media, and most countries face the ‘stolen’ election problem. It’s said about African elections that “it’s not who votes that counts but who counts the vote.”
In the 2015 elections in Nigeria as results were being counted, volunteers started tweeting unofficial vote counts from polling stations to help ensure transparency during vote tabulation. This initiative was crucial in the peaceful transfer of power to Muhammadu Buhari, the first opposition candidate to win a transparent Presidential election in the country’s history.
Seeing the success of social media in Nigerian elections, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the country since 1984, shut down WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook on polling day in 2016, and was re-elected as President.
Nigeria, like India, also has a ‘girl child’ problem. Many African communities consider households lacking a male child a curse and abnormal — to such as extent that some societies allow men to divorce their wives if she doesn’t give birth to a male child.
But Dr. Uja, a prominent journalist, and administrator posted the following Facebook message for the people of his country and continent: “…Tor & Berry (referring to himself and his wife) met about 35 years ago, and they decided to dedicate their lives to God. For a while, it seemed like God was just minding his business and ignoring them. He gave them 5 children, 5 girls…and we all know Nigeria; they don’t think much of the girl child. Anyway, fast forward a few years and God decided to shut everyone up!!!! Ladies and gents I’d like to introduce you to the first parents in Nigeria (I stand corrected) who have 5 KIDS, All GIRLS, All LAWYERS!!!”
Ciiru Waweru is another woman who found success. Unable to find quality furniture for small children in the Kenyan market, typical of an entrepreneur, she founded Funkidz, a furniture brand that has become a powerhouse brand in Africa and is set to go global.
Then there’s Kenyan Lucy Gichuhi, born in a village, who has recently become the first person of African origin to be elected as senator in Australia, as per Rising Africa website.
Born in Ghana, Edward Enninful has been appointed the next Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue — the first male editor in Vogue’s history and also the first black Editor of a major fashion magazine in Britain.
In the US, 24-year-old Nigerian ImeIme Umana made history in February when she became the 131st President of Harvard Law Review — the first black African female to do so. In 1990, former US President Barack Obama became the Review’s first black President at the age of 28.
Rwanda has become the first country in the world to build and operate drones, in partnership with a California-based company, to transport medical supplies in the country especially to remote areas.
In a truly inspirational story, having stayed in the US for 16 years, Patrick Awuah returned to Ghana recently after leaving his highly paid Microsoft job to set up Ashesi University in Accra with the aim to educate young Africans.
Nigerian Ukoma Michael is one of the youngest technology entrepreneurs in the world. He has created a battery-operated fan for low-income families. It can run for 19 hours in a country that has frequent power shutdown. Pakistan, with its dismal chronic power shortage, should place SOS orders for Ukoma’s fan.
As Africa strives, in fits and starts, to focus on harnessing all its tremendous natural and human resources, we as a nation, the national media, and society should pay more attention to the people of this continent and their achievements.
Once the economic engines of Africa start performing, the continent is likely to become a towering figure over the G-5 by the latter half of the 21st century in which China and India will be Africa’s major cultural and economic competitors. And knowing Africa and Africans better will be critical once the giant truly wakes up.