Watching a South African TV channel’s news a few nights ago, I was amazed that all the footage from the Congo regarding the troubled cease-fire before its all-important coming election was shot on a cell phone. While the Israeli conflict made headlines, the Congo news was far down the bill, and sending a camera crew up there seems low on local TV stations’ agendas.
Evidently local TV believes that the Middle East is of far greater consequence than our own continent. There’s no debate as to whether Africa has a bit of an image problem, but it saddens me that us Africans perpetuate the myth that we are as important to the world as the rest of the world believes. We lack self-esteem.
But what really brought the image problem home for me was not politics, wars or oil, but rather technology. The announcement that Nigeria is to buy one million laptops for the children of its country was met with an amazing amount of scorn on OSNews’ comments section. “Heck, after filtering through the corrupt bureacracy, with every layer taking a cut, watch 1 000 000 turn into 100 (or less),” writes one commentator. In reply to a comment that “Not everyone in Nigeria is a scam artist,” another reader wrote: “No, many are simply unexperienced scammers. To become a scam artist takes some practice, ya know.” And so it goes on.
I personally was sickened and outraged by the racial stereotyping evidenced by the comments. This is what others think of our continent. The mere fact that MIT is sponsoring the One Laptop Per Child project â€“ while philanthropic and nobel â€“ isn’t ideal. Africans should be leading these initiatives themselves. There are African examples to follow, like the SchoolNet project in Namibia, TuxLabs in South Africa. The perception that Africans cannot self-provision is false, and as noted by Jon “Maddog” Hall recently, it’s a costly perception when believed by ourselves. Why send MIT $500 per laptop when we could set up refurbishing centres? While it’s unlikely that locally produced machines would cost any less, the money would stay on the continent.
Africans need to step up, be proud, and do things for ourselves. We are more than mere consumers for first world capitalists. We can be the producers. Currently, we’re paying the price for being consumers rather than producers. I recently read a report that counted the cost of the licenses South Africans pay for manufacturing per year â€“ a hefty R18 billion. And yet we’re more than capable of coming up with our own designs â€“ have a look at the pebble bed nuclear project.
Perhaps we need an African conciousness movement â€“ a realisation that we are a great continent with more than just potential. Then the rest of the world might think again before dismissing entire nations as thieves, an entire continent as lost. If you care to look, you’ll find the stereotypes don’t hold up under examination for a second.