For Your Daily Dose of MbA

Microblog on Facebook so follow today :)


"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Zed Culture Part III: A Call to Arms

This post originally featured on Unchain Africa Press in June 2012.  I have been looking to post it at the right time on MbA. It has been modified slightly from the original.  This is also dedicated to OXFORD SHIRT,  and appropriately is posted during her birthday month.

“You Lazy (Intellectual) African Scum”  recounts the frank, chance meeting between an American venture capitalist and a Zambian. This man of the Caucasian persuasion, depending on the way one reads the retelling, either comes off as arrogant, insensitive and even racist, or, he is a man that understands that capitalism has no morals, that money begets money, that many in the financial sector have no qualms about exploiting whomever to get it, but through his travels has made some astute and insightful observations about Africa and its educated elite.  This recounting of a coincidental plane meeting went viral at the beginning of the year and has touched a very sensitive place in the African psyche.

Whatever your view of this exchange between two men from two different continents are, it is a welcome addition to the debate about the state of Africa and what we on the continent are doing about it.  Jacqueline Musiitwa, a proud Zambia, decided to defensively attack the American. Her tone is caustic, vitriolic and dismissive. Even though she acknowledges that there are Africans who leave and turn their back on Africa once they are educated, it is clear that she has decided that this man is racist, ill-informed and evil.  She acknowledges that some of us still have an inferiority complex and that Zambia, and the continent, still have a way to go to being in an economically sound place, but has missed the crux of this account.  She has committed the opposite of the sin that is the colonised mind: she appears to be bitter, and herself prejudiced, letting these shortcomings cloud her judgement. She has focused on the (evil) white man, rather than what the men’s discussion has brought to the fore.  That makes her no better than the type of people she seems to despise.

The point is that the American is well aware that there is no difference between races and that we are all capable of achieving great things.  If he had been sitting next to a Kenyan and had done business there and had the same experiences, he would have probably said the same thing.   Zambia was merely the example to serve a much greater purpose: talking about the state of many parts of the continent.  We Africans are some of the most educated people in the world and yet we are not a force in it.  The Economist reported that even though many of the continent’s countries sported high growth figures, despite the global economic downturn, last year we only contributed to 2.5% of the world's output.  We may be blessed with raw materials that are pivotal to the world today, but we are not using this wealth to develop and progress wisely.  In DRC, instead of its coltan reserves being harnessed to uplift its people or to make technological equipment such as mobile phones, it is being used by rebel militia to fuel the conflict that is disempowering women and terrorising villages.  Nigeria supplies a fifth of the USA’s oil and yet in January its own people were lining up for fuel.   Many of us complain about our governments, corruption, discrimination and the fact that we do not have this or that but do not follow-up proactively enough, if at all.  We as individuals need to do more, and the intellectuals, both home grown and those with exposure to other cultures, countries and continents through education and work, need to be at the forefront, leading the rest into a better future.

Rather than be offended by this account, let us take it as an opportunity to take stock, to re-evaluate our position, and to figure out a way to affect change for the better.   This is a call to arms for intellectuals to use the knowledge they have amassed and transform it into innovation, solutions, development and change. The newly certified generation of educated Africans should help the continent on the ground, or from abroad in any way they can, no matter how small. We as Africans need to stem the tide of vulture funds, and reduce the reliance on Western economic and humanitarian aid.  Instead we should be inspiring each other to innovate, create and collaborate on the continent and with the world.  It is up to us to show that Africans are achieving great things, from the grassroots level to the lofty echelons of government and business.  Many of our local media do not cover the work people are doing in their communities and what great things already happening on the continent.  We need to encourage ourselves to use the tools we have acquired locally and abroad to better our future and stop the systematic exploitation of our lands and people.
We need to be inspired by people such as Fred Swaniker who started a leadership academy in South Africa to encourage secondary school children hailing from all corners of Africa to think about how they can contribute to the continent. We need to believe that we have African products to offer like Magatte Wade, and fight against African stereotypes like Olivier Nizeyimana. We need to continue to create and support sites like the Zambian Entrepreneur that “match entrepreneurs and investors” and Celebrating Progress Africa that highlights success stories and provides a forum for debate.  And we need to support women like Bethlehem Tilahun who created the worlds first and only WFTO fair trade certified footwear company, soleRebels, as this recent New York Times article outlining female entrepreneurship driving African economic development highlighted.  We also need to take control of and produce the messages and the definitions of who we are that are transmitted through global media.

We need to ramp up our mission to fully reclaim ownership of our continent and its destiny that continues to be bright despite being obscured by our inability to more actively fight for it, even though we have the means to do so.


  1. Thank you for this!

    I am feeling this, every line speaks to me and I hope to many more young Zambians. Keep on blogging!

  2. I am glad it spoke to you, people have spoken to me like this too, we are out there and we want a better Zed :) You keep on keeping on too...