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Rethinking the African Renaissance

Aug 20, 2009, 6:34 AM

So much has been written about how to move Africa forward along the path of peace, progress and prosperity. Experts have identified challenges that are endemic to the continent. They include poverty, disease, hunger, destitution, war, corruption and leadership crisis. According to the experts, all of these challenges bog down the continent.

The challenges are like a hydra-headed monster: as one challenge is tackled another one springs up, leaving experts rather bewildered as to how to go about the Africa Question. The upshot is that most people have already given up on the continent as a lost cause. This explains why there is so much brain-drain and why illegal migration is now the norm among African youth. But Africans must never despair.

The first step, surely, is to have faith in ourselves, in our products and in our values. In some parlance, this is termed as mental emancipation. If we believe that we are inferior, we will act inferior. If we think in a positive fashion, then we can turn the continent around. We should as a matter of necessity and urgency clear our minds of defeatist sentiments like "nothing works in Africa". Everything and anything can work on the continent if we put our minds to it and exert ourselves to put our positive and constructive thoughts into action.

A prime example of what Africans can do when they are determined is the Nollywood phenomenon. The Nigerian film industry took the world by storm by its originality and African-ness. It is rated third in the world, after Hollywood and Bollywood. And Nollywood started modestly, building on the success of Nigerian soap operas such as Checkmate. By the mid-90s, there was an explosion of Nigerian home videos, which has overwhelmed the world. The instructive thing about the Nollywood success story is that it is thought up and implemented entirely by African talents. Through trial and error, they have got it right, and it has heightened the cultural profile of Nigeria, and by extension that of Africa.  There is no part of the world today where Nigerian home videos are not watched.

So if Africans can achieve such a feat that had previously been assumed to be the exclusive preserve of others, then they can also accomplish engineering feats that can transform the continent that will make it prosperous. This shows that Africans have the latent talent and ability to change the continent for good. But what is lacking is the will to unlock their potential.

We have to begin somehow and learn from our mistakes as we progress. If we keep relying on others, or wishing for others to do for us what we can get up and do for ourselves, we will always remain behind, plagued all the time by misery and despair.

'What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.'