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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Irony With Africa


It's only in Africa where water is thicker than blood 
Image: Duncan Walker
In his books The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) and Understanding Media (1964), Marshall McLuhan, popularized the phrase of the world being a global village. This phrase, which explains how the world is getting smaller and becoming more of a global village, has become one of the biggest buzz axioms of the 21st Century.

McLuhan’s works emphasized on the role of the Internet and World Wide Web today arguing that “the globe has been contracted into a village by electric technology and the instantaneous movement of information from every quarter to every point at the same time.”

Technically, his words are sagacious enough. But for a layman, this can simply be likened to a village surrounded by other villages whose inhabitants interact at the market place (Internet) where they do all the trading, be it in exchanging material things for money or just having a glance at the OPPOSITE sex and hoping that things can materialize from there. 

This is because, as they say, no man is an island. Neither are countries. The world has been shifting. The world has shifted. Gone are the days of only local and cross-border trade. Today, those in the west are looking east while those in the south are aiming to establish strong social, economic and political links with those in the north. A live example is the sharp China-Europe rivalry for the once black continent, Africa. This battle which started in 1880 under the name “The Scramble for Africa” or Race for Africa or Africa Fever has apparently refused to waste away.

"Europe is close to losing the battle of competition in Africa." Some have concluded. I think they already lost it.

Lets glide back to my Global Village topic where the beauty of the Internet comes in. Countries can no longer suffer unaided for they can rely on their neighbours for help or even nations as far as in the arctic cycle, as long as diplomatic relations and communication exist. The beauty is that you always don’t have to ask for this help.

This is just what ensued in Chile. With 33 miners entombed in a San Jose mine for over 10 weeks, the South American nation needed not to log a formal help request to the international community.

The Internet, including social network sites like Facebook and Twitter did their bit. Help arrived from far and wide.

It has almost become a norm for countries like the US, Germany, Britain and Spain to be the first nations to arrive where international help is needed. In Chile, they were present, and so was South Africa, Argentina, Canada, to mention but a few. These countries, the Chilean officials and a number of individuals all put their hands together to rescue the 33 men who had been trapped longer than any other miners in history from a depth never tried before.

The results were successful.

The same was the case with Haiti when a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook the Caribbean nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, early this year. Although an estimated 230,000 people are reported to have died, the world cannot be accused of letting Haitian people down.

Again, help came from far and wide. Of course the United States and some European countries were handy enough. But one continent surprised many. Africa. Always regarded as a receiving continent, thanks to food aid that never helps in the long term, the African nation beat the stereotypes during the Haiti debacle and showed the world that it has enough to help others.

Liberian government was reported to have contributed US$50,000, while the Rwandan government doubled that figure. Kenya rallied its citizens to send monetary contributions through the revolutionary money transfer system, M-Pesa, Nigeria sent police contingent while South Africa deployed pathologists to help identify bodies and give other services. But Senegal went one better. The nation's President, Abdoulaye Wade, offered voluntary repatriation to any Haitian who wanted “to return to their origin.” Wow!!


And when in July 2010 heavy monsoon rains pounded different regions in Pakistan, Africa was at it again. Nigeria donated US$ 1 million, Sudan donated 10 tonnes of food, medicine and shelter equipments, Kenya sent 450 tonnes of relief supplies, while North African countries Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco also made their philanthropic contributions.

I think these instances give enough evidence that Africa can actually help other countries.

But not itself.

For what more can you say when Kenya can donate hundreds of tones of food to a foreign country while thousands of her own citizens feed on wild fruits, rotten animal carcasses and even dog meat! How about the refugees from neighbouring Somalia who are living from hand to mouth at Daadab Camp yet no one seems to give a damn?


And just what can you say of even a country like Democratic Republic of Congo which offered $2.5m in emergency aid to Haiti while forgetting her own hundreds of thousands of internally displaced citizens who face a daily struggle to make ends meet.

How about the Senegalese government which welcomed 163 Haitians, with more expected, to pursue university education on the same week that it was reported that thousands of Zimbabwean children drop out of school for lack of fees.

Aren’t African countries always too eager to help outside countries while they fail to help their own who continue to wallow in utter poverty and live in the midst of ceaseless conflict?

Why has South Africa refused to send troops to Somalia to help the anarchy-torn government fight against the malicious Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam extremists?

This is the irony of Africa. While the world has no doubt become a global village, African countries are using this beneficial effect to their own demerit. For when a disaster strikes an outside Africa nation, African leaders are always ready and willing to squeeze their resources and send help. Which is a good thing.


But the question is, what happens to your own people when you remove millions of dollars from your deprived national coffers and send abroad? And is it too costly for Africa to help Africa than for Africa to help a country in foreign continent?

It's only in Africa where the say that blood is thicker than water is mendacious.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!