Africa must wake up
“ Africa must wake up
The sleeping sons of Jacob
For what tomorrow may bring
May a better day come
Yesterday we were Kings
Can you tell me young ones
Who are we today, yeah now”
— Damian Marley and Nas, Africa Must Wake Up.
In their 2010 collaborative album, Distant Relatives, Damian Marley and Nas have a track titled “Africa Must Wake Up”. In it, they sought to remind us of our rich history and our contribution to the fields of philosophy, science, arts and religion, as well as the development of the West. The crux of their argument is that as a people, we have slept for too long.
Today, as countries struggle to come to terms with the reality of a changed world in the wake of the Chinese Virus, I hope that what we Africans learn is more than an appreciation for Zoom meetings. If anything, the Chinese virus has taught us that a pandemic that has nothing whatsoever to do with us can become the source of our greatest headache as a continent. From Addis-Ababa to Zululand, Africa is feeling the weight of a pandemic that is as foreign to us as calling our elders by their first name. All of a sudden, our economies have been ground to a halt, and like the beggars we have learnt to become, we are once again asking for debt relief from those with a history of engineering conflict on the continent.
As if that is not enough, the Chinese virus has once again shown us just how much our ‘friends’ hold us in contempt. From French doctors suggesting Africans be used as guinea pigs in experimental vaccine trials to Arab countries shipping Ethiopian migrants on cargo planes back to their country, or the Chinese now blaming Africans for the virus and, subsequently treating our citizens as trash (literally throwing them out on the streets) we have seen that the best we Africans can hope to get from the rest of the world is a peek at the table, but never a seat thereat. Not even an uncomfortable stool.
It is for this very reason that I believe we must listen to the wise words of Damian Marley and Nas: Africa must wake up.
History has taught us that when it comes to Africa’s relationship with the rest of the world, there’s no balance whatsoever. Right from the scramble for the continent in the 1880s to the slave trade, from colonisation to regime changes and now the Belt and Road Initiative, Africa has always been treated as a means to a foreign end. Yet, our leaders have continued to look without rather than within.
As the world reels from this pandemic, perhaps it is time to negotiate a new deal for Africa by Africans. Perhaps it’s time for the iron ore in Zimbabwe to fire up railways in Angola, for the uranium in Niger to power up homes in Nigeria or for the cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo to firm up the industries in Ghana. Whatever it is, and naive as it may sound, Africa must rise up for Africa. The rest of the world already has its own problems. Now is the time to wake up to the responsibility of solving ours by ourselves.