Why Africans Need To Stop Denigrating The ContinentIdes Ofune 12th July 2019 0 COMMENTS
There are a few people I follow on social media and one of the few is Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe on LinkedIn. He uses his platform to enlighten people about economic, financial and social issues in Nigeria and Africa. Yesterday, he talked about the University of Nigeria’s (UNN) electric car manufactured by undergraduate students. Of course, it brought a lot of attention. An attitude he noticed among Nigerians which I have talked a lot about is the negativity of Nigerians towards the country. He said many people did not see anything special in the electric car manufactured by the students given that other developed countries have already done same. This is what he said:
“Reading some comments on UNN electric car, I felt really bad. Simply, some cannot just believe Nigeria and its technical professionals even when there is indisputable evidence that Nigerians have never lacked capabilities. Our problem remains absence of enabling environments. In this piece, I use a simple case to explain some of the finest moments in Nigerian university system. Vaccine development looks like a really big thing today. But in 1971 Prof Augustine Njoku-Obi invented the cholera vaccine that stopped the Kano Cholera Outbreak – a moment in the post-war healing process. Yes, an easterner created a vaccine to save lives in Kano when few months ago they were killing themselves! UNN was like MIT of its African era, leading in engineering, medicine and practically any field you could imagine in Africa. Of course, UNN went on lost decades as the military took over and underfunded research in the nation’s namesake university. But who knows ,this electric car could be a positive sign that the Lion is roaring back from slumber!”Prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe
I have noticed this negative attitude among Nigerians and Africans. We don’t seem to expect anything good from the continent. When an African develops something small, many Africans find ways of denigrating it. We always wait until someone does something magnificent before we recognise it or until developed countries recognise it as a feat before we rejoice. In my opinion, this is really very sad. As a continent, we have been ridiculed right, left and centre by other continents. Donald Trump called our continent a shit hole. Joseph Conrad calls us the “Heart of Darkness” and sadly, we see ourselves that way. And just like Chinua Achebe said, the Black man is the most insulted in the whole world. If other people insult us and do not recognise what we do, should we then do the same to ourselves? An African proverb says, if a lizard falls from the roof and no one praises him, he is going to nod and praise himself.
Personally, I see the African continent as a young child. Of course, the continent is very young in terms of western development. And we know that parents shower words of praise on their young children no matter how small their effort is. This is to encourage the child to do more. If the parent does not do that, the child grow ups damaged psychologically lacking the confidence to go on and achieve great things. As a continent, I think our psychology has been damaged by slavery and then colonization. Nobody sees anything good about of the continent. Our culture is denigrated, our way of life is ridiculed. And if nobody changes it, unfortunately I don’t see us growing holistically. We need to start appreciating the small positive things we do.
This is one of the reasons I started Desert Bloom Advisory and Desert Bloom Initiative. To celebrate the individuals and small organisations doing great work in their own spheres. I don’t like to concentrate on the great achievements because established platforms already celebrate them. In addition, my PhD research thesis places spotlight on small civil society organisations doing great things towards improving the quality of education. As Africans, let’s be optimistic about our continent. Let’s celebrate little achievements and in the words of the late Dora Akunyili, let’s re-brand our continent.
Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org