Respect is reciprocal.
“Respect is reciprocal.” Damini (aka Oluwa Burna Boy) Ogulu, African Giant — Circa 2019
Full disclosure: I wrote this and a few other posts (some from 2017) and have kept them in my draft without publishing, yes there are others.
Today Friday, March 27th, 2020 is the first day of my conscious experience, living in a country that has been declared on “lockdown” by our president. The new world order AC, after-CoronaVirus, will be markedly different than what was when I wrote the entirety of this post.
- Will the potential economic collapse thanks to this pandemic and the need for globalization-resetting put more respek on my Africa’s name?
- At a minimum will there be (similar to the policy of nuclear deterrence) a call for community development beyond just capitalistic industrialization that allows localized communities to be geographically sufficient (on essentials like healthcare and health equipment manufacturing, food and essential material supply, and logistics, continuous and uninterrupted education of our children & adults) in the advent of another epidemic?
I dunno. I can not only hope, but also pray and be part of the movement for the better; I can let you in on my thoughts and click “publish”. Enjoy.
How many times have we heard, that Africa is not a “safe” enough market? The purchasing power of Africans doesn’t foster global “innovation”? Most repulsive yet perhaps motivational to prove wrong: “Sh*thole continent”
All the while Africa is the United States’ 3rd largest trading partner globally with AGOA?
Let that sink in. Some profitable sh*t.
For us millennials, there is a conscious awakening of sorts happening: expressed earlier on in waves of political activism (Arab Spring year ago & South Sudan uprisings recently as examples); social equality & the willingness to tackle patriarchy head-on with the #MeToo movement & the intent to challenge white privilege; especially in the privileged of academia with the adamant exploration of decolonized curriculum for African kids. This needs to be channeled into economic empowerment.
And in all of this, we have contended with the perception that our Global South in general, our Africa in particular is poor. Poor in academic research and global innovation contributions, poor in global political influence and negotiation, and poor in opportunities for a teeming youthful population that has seen rocketing unemployment rates among young people in various countries across the continent. My cadre of professionals — thrust into the job market during the global recession 2008/2009- eagerly explored digital as if it was a democratized marketplace (lies! A decade on we have a rising number of countries using the internet access to political control, oppress and tax) with expectations sustainable economic opportunities for new entrants: bloggers, YouTubers, content creators, and digital specialists.
The persistent & ardent well-intentioned “avengers” (myself included) foraging in little-financed entrepreneurial ventures & throwing our diminishing energies to establishing social enterprises to augment gaps in government intervention in every day lives of our citizens. A decade on and there is deep disengagement & disappointment. Sustainability is intrinsically tied to economic empowerment — simple speak: you can do good, better with money.
The once brazen, bold, and optimistic, are now disenchanted with the Economic World Order — A finely-tuned capitalistic system that favors the already rich, exploits the poor, and thrives on youthful (and marginalized groups) economic productivity energy, often without adequate compensation. What is a permanent internship? (Some of us are interning permanently and working professionally without compensation to “build a resume”) How many “entrepreneurs” are self-employed consultants with no social benefits “finessing” multiple contracts and needing to budget-in debt recovery from clients (global and local and government clients alike) for delayed and still accruing payments of the job done?
What is “I’m an entrepreneur” if one? And have been for years now? The definition of entrepreneurship truly goes beyond sole-proprietorship on a platform. I digress. 🧐
It’s been a harsh world out there and yet, there is something brewing on the African continent that needs all hands, and minds(generational, multi-sectoral, and disciplinary) on deck.
After decades of political instability, military dictatorships, and mistrust among the colonial-influenced nation-states with broader tribal allegiances than artificially created geographical barriers; a personal glimmer of hope is the ratification of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. Skepticism aside, post the 1991 Abuja treaty 34 years ago; we are the intent and willingness of the African Union leaders in policy execution. If fits into a much larger integration policy and dream of an African Market and Single Currency — that truth be told has to be reimagined. We cannot and should not mimic any already-existing (and fraying Economic blocks — EU comes to mind) but should learn from them and incorporate new market tools that speak to Africa’s unique needs.
What negative connotation (corrupt, lazy, unimaginative, cronyism) isn’t associated with Africa and our African leaders? And yet we are in the early stages of creating the 2nd largest trade block (amidst a skeptical EU & protectionist America/global world order) with the most diverse continent 50+ states, and counting, and hundreds of languages with thousands of dialects represented. Let that sink in; against all odds, external and sometimes internal votes of confidence we are truly creating something unprecedented and it is hard. There are no easy wins and yes the implementation (as popularly shared by the IMF) are short-term sacrifices for collective long-term gain.
Reminds me of the marshmallow experiment on deferred gratification…my divergent-thinking friends suggest we should try the experiment with hungry (diverse: white and/or other children found in the Global North) let us see something? And recognize that human need is no respecter of color. Privilege and the opportunity to future-cast, however, is.
Respect is reciprocal and Economic Clout is what is respected in a Global economy. Having a single market demands respect. Having the world’s most youthful population calls for it, but our collective efforts in creating a unified market that sets the African Union’s vision ultimately ensures it.
I started this medium page to share my personal explorative journey of:
- Putting Africa first
- Thinking through scale-up for indigenous African businesses while borrowing from Eastern & Western best practices
- Putting a digital stamp (in this case of my thoughts and opinions and hopefully in the near future, my research) on the inter-webs that goes beyond a “Yes We Can” narrative to interrogating a legacy that tells our children “Yes We Did”.
I definitely hope to not hold “popular” or “conventional” opinions, and deeply appreciate comments and feedback (respectful pushbacks) to constructively contribute to a better Africa we all are proud of.
In terms of our economic emancipation, it is just the beginning, as our leaders start building much needed regional trust and alliances, our brothers locally and in the diaspora unabashedly gain global know-how and still represent Africa & blackness with pride and our musicians such as Burna Boy remind us the Giant that is Africa (Western interference be damned) we march further with intent, we dream bigger with audacity and send a rallying cry to unpack our economic development in systems-thinking that allows the next generation of DOERS in a converged (4th Industrialized world) to be even better.
Originally published to Unpacking Africa newsletter’s 15,000 + subscribers on March 27, 2021.