My reason for writing this piece is twofold. The first is the perception that the west has about Africa, and the second being a special that I watched on the ABC news network on June 7, 2005.
Fellow Ghanaians and Africans, it saddens me to say that in spite of all the great things we have in our various countries and the African continent, the western media always shows the very negative and unpleasant things they could find. There are plenty of these to be found, unfortunately. I blame this on our leaders. When I say leaders, I mean the political, legal, regal, and vocal leaders. At a time when the rest of the world is shouting about globalization, Africa is conspicuously missing from the list. The west only sees the continent as an abomination. Unnecessary tribal rift and bitterness are tearing the continent apart. Tribal sentiments are so high to the extent that Africans are willing to purchase ammunition (guns, grenades, bombs, etc) from the west, kill and maim each other, put a whole population at risk to starve top death, and create further chaos and destruction. Take the cases of Liberia, Ethiopia, the Congo, Zaire, the Ivory Coast, and Somalia as a guide. In Sierra Leone, it has been found that the country's riches in diamond could create multi millionaires only if the right leadership and management are put in place, yet, what did we do? We started a tribal civil war, used the nation's resources to buy weapons of mass destruction, killed and maimed each other, and turned innocent kids into drug induced killers. Who did we buy the weapons from? The west. It is about time we see the light. I took the trouble to record all CNN could offer in both the Liberian and the Sierra Leonean crisis. The lesson I learned from those footages was that, Africans are willing to spend billions of dollars on weapons in order to satisfy our hatred for each other. We give this money to those in the west, then after all settles down, the west uses a tiny fraction of the profits they made out of our purchase of the guns to send aid to the “suffering masses of Africa”. I am not by any means faulting the west over this issue. What I am saying is that in order for Africans as a people to move out of our dark ages, our leaders need to change their way of thinking. Tribal hatred is killing Africa. How many times are we going to hear philanthropist from the west singing “We are the world?”
Last night, June 7, 2005, a very popular U.S actor “introduced” once again, the plight of Africa to American T.V viewers. The moral of the story is that Africa is in desperate need of help from the west. Africa cannot survive without handouts from the west. Sadly, this is true. The actor showed the U.S audience Ethiopian children who need just $ 16 (sixteen dollars!) per year in order to go to school. He also showed the faces of AIDS, death, and homelessness. I felt so bad about the whole situation that I almost wept. How could a continent endowed with so much human and natural resources be so hopelessly managed to the brink of extinction?
I must admit, I was very peeved about a show Oprah Winfrey did some months back where women in their thirties were interviewed from various countries. In Latin America, a professional Brazilian lady was interviewed in her apartment where she shared her lifestyle and experiences with the U.S audience. A professional dancer from Mexico also made us know how confident she was in life and how she could manage her life without a man present. In Europe and elsewhere, the trend continued with the women proving to the world about how independent, smart, and confident they were. Every interview was a positive for the women, and a good image for the respective country. I was wondering why Miss Winfrey did not interview an African lady, then to my joy, she said something like “After this break, we will go to Ghana”. The commercial break took forever for me. I was imagining how the show was going to interview a thirty something year old bank executive in her office, apartment, or a typical East Legon residence, and how this educated lady was going to let the rest of the world know about the good things that is happening in Ghana. Boy, was I wrong! Instead, all I saw was the independent square, with the black star of Ghana serving as a background. Then right in front of it was this lady, dressed in a sleeveless short-skirted Ghana flag with the black star right below the middle of her boobs. There was no interview. Rather, our sister blurted these out. “Thank you very much Oprah. Because of your show, Ghanaian men have stopped beating their women”. I could not believe my ears. Then I started thinking about why Oprah did not interview someone like I imagined. After all, men in America beat up their girl friends, fiancés, wives, and spouses every day. Some even kill the women, just like anywhere else. Then it dawned on me that it's just about the image and perceptions that have been created in people's minds are at work here. The same thinking that makes the security at a store alert when a Blackman enters a store in America is at work here. We have created an impression in people's mind that we are savages, and as such, that is how the people will project and present us. The Oprah show only amplified the perception that we have created through our actions.
I like Oprah very much, and I know that left to her alone; Africa would have been on the same economic footing as the rest of the advanced countries. This is a lady who single handedly is making a tremendously positive change in many parts in Africa. The woman's donation to the ghettos in South Africa is incredible. She even offered U.S teachers a two-year advanced payment if they commit to teach kids in South Africa. What saddens me is that everybody seems to care about Africa, except of course, our leaders. The typical African leader will steal the country's money, deposit in a western bank, and even acquire property and pay taxes on them. I was amazed to read from a magazine that of all people of African descent in America, Africans earn almost $10,000 a year than African-Americans, and about $ 5,000 more than those from the Caribbean and elsewhere. Africans are more than likely to be well educated, hold professional jobs, or have our own businesses. Yet the sad reality is that most of us could not have done this in our native lands because of bad leadership. The good news is that democracy and free press is putting leaders on their toes. If you doubt me, ask the current government in Ghana. You can't sneeze without a reporter asking you why you did not turn your head in a certain manner.
This brings me back to my vacation in Ghana. To all the Papa and Maame Samos in foreign lands, please visit home. You won't believe your eyes. I will write a report on the trip, so stay tuned. A lot has changed in a year. Let's invest in Ghana and create jobs for our people.
PS: Mr. Francis Munufie, I am back in town so please call and let's talk. Kwaku Duah Berchie Keller Graduate School of Management DeVry University, Atlanta GA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.
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