The Uncomfortable Truth:The Myth of Africa’s Rise

Recent high growth rates and increased foreign investment in Africa have given rise to the popular idea that the continent may well be on track to become the next global economic powerhouse. This “Africa Rising” narrative has been most prominently presented in recent cover stories by Time Magazine and The Economist. Yet both publications are wrong in their analysis of Africa’s developmental prospects — and the reasons they’re wrong speak volumes about the problematic way national economic development has come to be understood in the age of globalization…READ MORE

As I read the title The Myth of Africa’s Rise :Why the rumors of Africa’s explosive growth have been greatly exaggerated, all I could think was here we go in finally facing our “Uncomfortable Truth”. For those global Africans like myself, this is a truth that we are well aware of and not at all uncomfortable with facing because it is part of our daily lives that we live and face on a human to human level. While I am far from buying into the narrative that Africa’s rise is a myth, I know first hand that it is only half of the truth of Africa. The idea of development from an African point of view is far different from a westernized and globalized point of view. What is having a bunch of shopping malls, upscale hotels, abundance of foreign luxury cars on dirt roads causing immeasurable traffic while polluting the environment, vast parts of the population all vying to squeeze into a small city  radius for opportunities that never seem to come, and more western fast food chains than one can count on a small city road that only a small minority can even afford, while the vast majority of the population have no jobs, no money to farm for their daily bread, deplorable and often non existent education systems, no real well functioning healtcare system even if you can scramble together some money to pay for it, and an even greater part of the population praying for the chance to leave the country to seek opportunities elsewhere? Those who get the opportunity to leave find out that the grass is not always greener on the other side, so you are better off doing your best to tend your own lawn and the African dream before someone takes that too.

Case and point: my mother who as a young woman had to leave Ghana to come to America to further her education, while working multiple jobs to be able to provide the daily bread, education and basic healthcare as needed for her nine other brothers and sisters and extended family, and still continues to do it til today on her pension with the help of some of the same brothers and sisters who she helped educate to become productive citizens at home and abroad in order to be able to also pay it forward in helping to see the needs of our village. This continues to occur in a nation that boasts itself to be the gateway and shining star of Africa , with new found oil wealth and massive amounts of gold and other other natural resources that have brought great economic gains to everyone except the everyday Ghanaian. From Africans struggling abroad, to Africans in the Congo, to South Africa, to Angola,to Somalia,  to Sudan, to Egypt, to Nigeria and most of Africa- this is the story of far too many Africans asking of where their place is in this so called “Africa’s Rise“.

As a young child being separated from my mother in the care of my family in Ghana, I once harbored resentment in not understanding why my mother would choose to send me to Ghana while she was in America. As an adult when we were finally able to have this conversation, I was made very aware that it was not a selfish choice, but rather a true altruistic sacrifice because the money she would have been spending on childcare alone while finishing her university degree and working multiple jobs as a single parent afforded a large part of our family’s survival. It also afforded me a life and education of family, love, culture, sense of home, belonging and safety along with a knowledge and comprehension of our  native tongues that even a million dollars spent in America by my mother could have never rewarded me with. My mother’s sacrifice, participation and sense of responsibility toward our family honored and embodied the Ghanaian proverb of “it takes a village to raise a child“. This ingrained in me that the mere basics of being an African, a Ghanaian and upholding my Africanness included the responsibility and sense of duty in being part of raising the collective village where neither my life, my children nor my wealth should be considered solely and selfishly my own. As the saying goes ” home is where the heart is“, and the heart can never be fulfilled and complete without knowing and seeing to it that home is being taken care of. When I go back home to Ghana, the love and pride of my family in knowing that they all played a part in raising me to become the woman I am today can never be measured by any amount of money nor sacrifice. My grandmother’s greatest pride at the age of 85 is me calling her from America or coming home to our village in the mountains of Ghana and being able to speak with her and our community in our native local language- that many today who have never even travelled outside of Ghana have completely forgotten or have just abandoned as primitive in their consumption of globalization and English ways. This in return fills me with so much joy and pride of the sacrifices that my mother made to gift me this unequivocal sense of knowing who I am and where I came from with a vast history of generations before me  for hundreds and thousands of years walking those same roads, a history that many of my fellow African-Americans in name can never unequivocally lay claim to because of the horrors of our shared history that was stolen from them. When I think about this privilege, I am embarrassed that my young naivete once had me resentful of it; yet it also gives me great drive to make sure I too contribute to the legacy of helping to raise the village to become that much greater.

As global Africans at home and abroad we have lost so much, as well as gained so much in our sacrifices and duty to maintain the little and a lot that we have, from our local resources to our basic sense of self, family and language. Unfortunately, as we have been spread around the globe by force and choice, many of us lost this basic sense of Africanness and responsibility to our duties in helping to raise, grow and better our global villages. I watch and applaud as many Africans around the world continue this sacrifice and sense of responsibility not as a burden, but as a badge of honor with a deep sense of pride and duty to that which is ours! For those who are not raised in this culture, the idea of charity begins at home is only a bunch of words and a catch phrase that they hear and use, but for Africans it is not about the redefined warped sense of charity in giving with a sense of something you don’t really have to do, but do so as part of the haves to the have nots– with no sense of responsibility and complete detachment from those who you are giving to. For Africans it is a real sense of duty and pride in knowing that you too have contributed to raising your village, as those before you and those after you have and will continue to do because this is our culture. It is unfathomable to most in a westernized, overtly capitalized and completely globalized world’s sensibility to think that what you have and earn is not merely the belonging and possession of you alone, but part of the greater contribution to our collective economics and a natural and human way of life void of overt excess, while knowing that your village is suffering for the basic necessities of life.

This is narrative that we are missing in the idea of the much talked about and praise of “Africa’s Rise” from an African perceptive, because a nation and a village can never claim to rise while so many are left behind- lost in a modern day middle passage with no sense of hope or help to meet their God given potential. As many of us try our best to redefine a New Africa in progress and forward movements, void of the dark hopeless continent stereotypes, we must not forget that while the riches and light of new opportunities and gains are flowing for some, there are still far too many of us left in the darkness of hopelessness- literally and figuratively. As multinational companies, foreign investors and a new wave of expats flood into Africa in the modern day “Scramble for Africa“, we must not forget nor close our eyes to the reality of us losing our Africanness in not being part of the “village that raises the child”, for each and every child is our shared responsibility as Africans. We can not leave it to those not of this African culture and mindset to do the defining and raising for us because it is not their way, and we have seen it manifest in history much too many times not to recognize that we must find African solutions for African problems. We must also first and foremost hold ourselves and our leaders accountable to not repeat the worst of our history- by not moving our nations forward in order to truly be able to unequivocally claim a new rise in Africa that is far better than what was built and left for us to build upon by those great leaders who took the bull by the horn, made the sacrifices and would not take no for answer in shouting “Freedom Now”! From North to South, East to West “OUR INDEPENDENCE IS MEANINGLESS UNLESS IT IS LINKED UP WITH THE TOTAL LIBERATION OF AFRICA.”

As Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said : Countrymen, the task ahead is great indeed, and heavy is the responsibility; and yet it is a noble and glorious challenge – a challenge which calls for the courage to dream, the courage to believe, the courage to dare, the courage to do, the courage to envision, the courage to fight, the courage to work, the courage to achieve – to achieve the highest excellencies and the fullest greatness of man. Dare we ask for more in life? Something in the nature of an economic revolution is required. Our development has been held back for too long by the colonial-type economy. We need to reorganize entirely, so that each country can specialize in producing the goods and crops for which it is best suited.We have the blessing of the wealth of our vast resources, the power of our talents and the potentialities of our people. Let us grasp now the opportunities before us and meet the challenge to our survival…We shall measure our progress by the improvement in the health of our people; by the number of children in school, and by the quality of their education; by the availability of water and electricity in our towns and villages, and by the happiness which our people take in being able to manage their own affairs. The welfare of our people is our chief pride, and it is by this that my Government will ask to be judged…It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world. Although most Africans are poor, our continent is potentially extremely rich. Our mineral resources, which are being exploited with foreign capital only to enrich foreign investors, range from gold and diamonds to uranium and petroleum. Our forests contain some of the finest woods to be grown anywhere. Our cash crops include cocoa, coffee, rubber, tobacco and cotton. As for power, which is an important factor in any economic development, Africa contains over 40% of the potential water power of the world, as compared with about 10% in Europe and 13% in North America. Yet so far, less than 1% has been developed. This is one of the reasons why we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty, and scarcity in the midst of abundance. Never before have a people had within their grasp so great an opportunity for developing a continent endowed with so much wealth. Individually, the independent states of Africa, some of them potentially rich, others poor, can do little for their people. Together, by mutual help, they can achieve much. But the economic development of the continent must be planned and pursued as a whole. A loose confederation designed only for economic co-operation would not provide the necessary unity of purpose. Only a strong political union can bring about full and effective development of our natural resources for the benefit of our people..”

The Reality is People Are Pushed to Poverty. The Original State of Human Beings is Not Poverty. In the Amazon, people aren’t poor in the sense they are not deprived, they have their food, they have fresh water, they have rich culture, they have medicine, their own medicinal plants. Poverty is created first by grabbing the resources of the people. Africa- a continent whose poverty is deeply linked to the appropriation of land historically and today the biggest land grab taking place in history is creating new poor people. We are living in times where the new wealth is highly concentrated in a few people’s hands and there is a new language of oligarchy emerging- the hand full of new oligarchs who’ve made it to the ten top billionaire grab the land of the people, benefited from the privatization of electricity so poor people have lost access to electricity- so the rich are getting richer the poor are getting poorer- it’s totally interconnected because if water is privatized of course 1 company makes more wealth but people get cholera because they lost their access to drinking water. If seed is patented and privatized 1/4 million Indian farmers commit suicide all related to debt, all related to mechanisms of creating wealth by taking away the commons of the people…” Vandana Shiva, Indian activist, environmentalist and scientist

The time has come 4 u to see
That love is something else u practise it to be
The line is long
4 u and me
That leads us 2 the very debt of our hearts
We’re still on the surface deceiving ourselves
Inside we hate,
and want 2 see our best friends fall… oh

Let us make a change why can’t we turn the page
Lord make us able
Without u we are totally unstable

Let us make a change why can’t we turn the page
Lord make us able
Without u we are totally unstable

U talk about peace
Put it in ur mouth
The same mouth u use to declare ur bombs
Ur system is a joke
No heart in it
It’s choking us to death
We living in decept so
Tell me oh, please tell me that
Love, ain’t what u are talking about on TV
Love, ain’t what u practice it to be
Love, ain’t the Love that u are giving me
Love, gotta be something un can not compare anything to

Let us make a change why can’t we turn the page
Lord make us able
Without u we are totally unstable

Let us make a change why can’t we turn the page
Lord make us able
Without u we are totally unstable

“Made In Africa”

Scholars and scientists now conceive that Africa is the first place of mankind
Africans were the first builders of civilization
They discovered mathematics, invented writing, developed sciences
Engineering, medicine, religion, fine arts, and built the Great Pyramids
An architectural achievement which still baffles modern scientists’

The 225th Emperor [echo] direct descent from Solomon and The Queen of Sheba [echo]
He is the “King of Kings, The Lion of Judah [echo]”
The name Haile Selassie I means “Power of the Trinity”

[Verse 1: Stephen Marley]
Educate yourselves, of Africa
To liberate yourself, Africa
Keep your heads up high
No more will we cry

Our history that they stole, Africa
Is written in our souls, Africa
Oldest nation on this earth
Know just what you worth
Well well

Ships that sail to distant places
Robbed us of our rising worlds
History says that you’ve betrayed us
Talking of the Gods you serve
Hear the rambling in the sky
Tears that our fore fathers cry
And today we’re still in chains
Take the shackle from our minds
You’re the corner stone
The king upon the throne

How beautiful are thou, Africa
Our nation have to bow, Africa
Don’t you fall from grace
You’re that secret place
Aye! Aye-ah-aye!

[Verse 2: Wale]
Power to the people, Motherland representa
I’m on trial with the man she my co-defendant
And I demand her attention, can you focus women?
I’m getting closer to the sky errytime I hit it
Haile Selassie I, “Power of the Trinity”
Soul made in naija, my voice made in Italy
White mans world that I’m livin’ in, some say
But it was Africa the continent we all came from
Can’t nothing come between me and you
So before I have seeds gotta understand my roots
Gotta understand the truth. We is all king’s ’round here
Lifes not all fair, work till we fall dead
Paul goin’ hard ’till I urn like a Pall-Bearer
Although my body’s in the U.S my heart’s there
I can never be ashamed of her, I got my features and my name from her
Mama Africa

[Verse 3: Stephen Marley]
The richest place on earth
Know just what your worth

Talking about the God you serve

Keep your heads up high
No more will we cry

They infiltrate our homes, Africa
They claim it as their own, Africa
Now we must stand tall
To break down all these wall-alls
Well well

Our children must be taught, of Africa
The science and the art, Africa
Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nahhh!

Educate yourself, Africa
To liberate yourselves, Africa
Keep your heads up high
No more will we cry

Beautiful are thou, Africa
A legend have to bow, Africa
Oh Oh!

Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)

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