THE MUTUMWA MAWERE COLUMN
We were once colonised in the majority and yes, we were once slaves, but we have come of age. The modern Africa began a journey that we are still traversing even today in 1956 with the independence of Sudan.
As we continue to interrogate the post-colonial African experience, we should critically address the question of why the African brand seems to have no African ambassadors as if to suggest that no investment has been made by Africa to create a new and confident African that can operate in any mind and market-space.
The absence of African ambassadors is striking and unmistakable. The space is so open that people like Bono, Clinton, Madonna; Blair etc have stepped in and are now the global ambassadors for Africa’s pain, replacing the Mandelas of yesterday. The struggle for Africa’s political emancipation was led by Africans and yet the struggle for economic emancipation in the post-colonial Africa seems to have no African champions.
India, China, and other newly industrialising countries have their own indigenous ambassadors. Colonial Africa invested in its own demise through the missionaries who armed future revolutionaries with toxic knowledge and the end of colonialism was, therefore, predictable once the natives had been given the opportunity to read and write without being given an environment to practice their trades. Evidence available suggests that post-colonial Africa has invested substantially in building the continent’s human capacity that is well recognised in developed states that have been able to assimilate such skills to advantage.
The brain drain is nothing more than the externalisation of Africa’s expensive investment in human capacity. The role of the African intellectuals often created at a great cost to the continent in addressing the political and economic challenges of the continent is an issue that requires sober analysis. Where the hell are these people? Is it the case that Africa is a hopeless patient who when she invests the last dollar is not able to salvage her position in the global marketplace?
If one were to undertake an exercise to identify all the professional and business people who share an African heritage but are now calling Europe, America and other developed states as home, I have no doubt that the number would be staggering. What would be of more interest is to aggregate their earnings and wealth and compare it with Africa’s gross income. I have no doubt that the African economy represented by the Diaspora may be one of the largest economies of the world and yet there appears to be no evidence of its existence or organisation to help challenge the widely held view that Africans can never get it right.
Why would Africans in the Diaspora do well and yet their comrades in the continent are suffering often at the mercy of tyrannical African regimes? It is instructive that Jewish, Irish, Indian; Polish etc people in the Diaspora are the ambassadors of their own brands and yet Africans in the Diaspora have collectively failed to take ownership of their brand.
We lack organisation and maturity to define the African agenda when we are so privileged to do more. What is amazing is that Africans in the Diaspora are the biggest source of vocal diarrhea about why people should not take the continent seriously without ever taking a minute to locate their own actions in the value chain of the continent’s problems.
It takes Oprah to invest in a girl’s school in South Africa and no similar initiative seems to be coming from Africa’s own nameless and faceless icons. Where is Africa’s Oprah? Can Oprah still be considered as an indigenous African when history has eroded the memory of what it means to be African? But Oprah has seen what many Africans who emigrated as free people have not been able to see.
Even when you look at Africa’s institutional players, it is evident that there are very few such institutions that are owned and controlled by Africans in the Diaspora. To what extent are Africans in the Diaspora responsible for contaminating the African brand? What should Africa’s expectations be on its most costly investment? How can Africa be universally credited for being mismanaged when its most expensive investment appears to be alive and well in the sanctuary of imperialism? Incidentally, I have yet to see African clamoring to immigrate to socialist and failing nations. We all seem to want the good life.
Africa’s mines, industries, financial institutions and other key drivers of transformation are owned and controlled by non-Africans and as such the ambassadors of economic change cannot reflect anyone other than the source of capital. Africa’s supermarkets remain dominated by products produced by institutions controlled from without. What role if any have the Africans in the diaspora played in democratizing the African shelf space?
Africans, like Jews, may be resident in foreign areas but surely should have a memory about their origins. Jews in the US for instance are relevant in shaping Israel’s political economy in as much as Irish Americans are relevant to Dublin. Apart from the fragmented remittances of cash to Africa, Africans in the diaspora have failed to provide the kind of leadership that Africa needs.
In the main we do not have interests in the continent for us to be relevant in the discourse. The few that have economic interests in the continent and choose to reside outside the continent are often viewed with suspicion. The lack of organisation by Africans in the diaspora is no different from the state of play in the continent and yet the Africans in the diaspora seem to think that they have some superior advantage and are often critical of their peers who remain misgoverning the continent.
What is striking is that for example, a Professor who elects to teach in England and another who elects to be a government minister would invariably regard the one that remains in Africa as corrupt and useless even though they may have gone to the same university and qualified with the same grades. Why is it that there is a discount that is placed on service to the continent and a premium on service to former colonial masters? Only the people in the diaspora must start to think about this.
Brand ambassadors are similar to brand evangelists in that they also have a vested interest in seeing their favorite brand succeed. It should not be so much that they should attempt to influence other customers to buy a product but they should share their passion for a brand with their fellow customers.
Whereas a company markets to customers in order to sell more products, brand ambassadors must attempt to relay their passion for a brand (Africa) to non-Africans. If Africa has to succeed, it needs its own brand icons and brand ambassadors in as much as people like Mandela and others provided for the success of the civil rights movement.
A way to get any brand noticed amidst all the brands in the human marketplace is to get brand endorsement. Who is there to endorse and affirm the African brand? What are we doing as Africans to get the brand visible and projected in a positive manner or are we through our actions and in many cases our inaction adding to the undermining of the brand that we all love. The investment in Africa’s rich mineral resources is a testament that non-Africans are more passionate about the continent’s possibilities than people who call themselves Africans and choose to be armchair revolutionaries while the continent’s future is being mortgaged by the day by its unaccountable political brand ambassadors.
The key question to pose is whether brands are built by brand ambassadors. The answer is a yes and no. It is a big Yes if the brand ambassador you choose and nurture is one that is solus not promiscuous for your category. And a big and vehement No if the ambassador you choose is a promiscuous one, focusing not only on your brand but also on others! Brand ambassadors must not moonshine! Brand ambassadors who focus on one brand can achieve great results. How many of us want Africa to be a little Europe and are promiscuous brand endorsers.
In order for Africa to build a continent that is safer, secure, more comfortable, dynamic, innovative and productive, it is incumbent upon all of us to play our part without expecting others to do what we are not willing to do ourselves. For more than half a century, the African brand has been synonymous with poverty and insecurity and yet the quest for civil rights was premised on a brand promise of advantage for the majority and not the new classification of disadvantaged citizens.
In these complicated times, more than ever before in Africa’s history, citizens have no choice but to turn to the Africans in the diaspora to help solve many of the most complex problems confronting the continent. The diaspora African brand is well known in the global labour market and is a valuable asset that must be harnessed and deployed to the advantage of the continent. Brands that are recognised and respected should help the African cause.
One of the ways Africa can build and protect its image is by using the diaspora African and resources to leverage its position in a globally competitive world. The sustainable development of the continent can only be guaranteed and inspired by its own people otherwise the risk of non-Africans playing football with the continent’s vast untapped resources is high.
In conclusion, it is the responsibility of all Africans to stand up and be counted. We must be the change that we want to see. The only power we have is the power to organise. Are we organised? Who is going to organise us? How can we make our money speak for us? Don’t assume that anyone will work in your interest and bring the change that you want to see. Only you can make the difference.
weekly column appears on New Zimbabwe.com every Monday. You can contact
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