WHY AFRICA NEEDS TO TAKE CARE OF ITS OWN

In a recent edition of the Business daily there was an article on Coca Cola and not a very flattering one.

It was all about the alarmingly high percentage of 4-MI or methylimidizole a chemical used in the manufacturing of its very popular Coca Cola brand.

Kenya had the highest percentage among 9 countries  of the chemical in the Coca Cola samples tested by an independent US consumer advocacy group.

Norah Odwesso the Public Affairs and Communications director for Coca Cola Central East and West Africa Business unit response was “All of our products are safe and comply with regulations in every country where we operate. Regulators throughout the world have approved the use of caramel in our products.”

Read the full article here

Apparently each and every country in which Coca Cola operates in has different safety standards and for Ms Odwesso so long as they are meeting the minimum requirements in each country and making money it really does not matter.

Africa lacks a continental food safety body like the EU but that should in no way allow Coca Cola to take advantage of the ignorance most countries have on globally accepted safety standards.

As much as we would like to attract foreign investment, African leaders  should be more reasonable and demand safety before profits from the international brands operating on the continent.

Why for Pete’s sake should the Fanta I take in the UK, be  different from the one I take here in Kenya where another possible carcinogen sunset yellow is used as a colorant.

Yet in most other developed countries Coca Cola uses a certain percentage of fruit pulp to manufacture the same brand?

When cheap toys that have certain toxic substances are dumped on the African continent,who is going to protect our children from these harmful substances if our leaders do not put public safety over the cuts they receive for approving importation of these items ?

When inferior brands of household items,baby products like diapers are dumped on our continent who will speak out?

When foreign banks are making mega profits from deposits and very high interest loans from their African branches ,in countries where populations are still living before the poverty line,countries where governments are propped up by foreign aid,is it really fair?

African leaders need to put the needs and the plight of their people before all else.

These brands and businesses selling their products here have no interest in the safety of the continents people,all they care about is money.

Africa needs to look after its own.

Only then will we stop being ridiculed for our ignorance,people will respect us,brands will be more reasonable and stop slowly killing us with inferior products. stand on our own wo feet.

 

AFRICA’S FATHER FIGURES ……..

Being a Bantu from Eastern Africa I have been struck recently by how words which color both my language and our national language Swahili have in common with Shona that is spoken in parts of Southern Africa especially Zimbabwe.

Swahili for anyone not familiar with the language is the most colorful language in the world.It is spattered with Bantu,Arab,Portuguese even Indian influence and originated along the Kenyan coast before it became the national language .

Words like nyoka(Swahili for snake),muti(Bantu reference to charms),while the Shona call a witch doctor nganga the Swahili word for it is mganga.

All these  learnt while reading a number of books on Zimbabwe.A country which has become famous for all the wrong things in the last two decades.It fell from being a bread basket to a country whose inflation rate hit the stratosphere and it started receiving food aid.

I did a review of a book about Robert Mugabe called  Dinner with Mugabe  here and why his story could be that of any other African liberation leader.

What struck me however and sent chills down my spine was the book The Fear :The Last days of Robert Mugabe by Peter Godwin.

Godwin whose parents left England for Zimbabwe has written many other books but The Fear is a book that is raw,unedited and tells about what happened in Zimbabwe after the disputed 2008 elections.

The accounts of victims whom Peter visited in hospitals in Harare,in villages outside the capital tell of blood curdling human violence.

It did not matter if you were black or white but  if you voted for Morgan Tsvangirai’s(the  only other contender in this election) MDC or movement for democratic change,you got your ass whipped black and blue literally.

These handy men of the state reigning error on their brothers and sisters did not discriminate on sex,age or color,everyone had to be taught a lesson,how could they shame the country’s liberator from white rule(read Mugabe) by voting against him.

They had to be taught a lesson.

African leaders watched silently while these was going on….but here is why they should not have kept quiet…

Reading this excerpt from the book it is easy to understand why African leaders are sometimes all lumped together.It was an observation made by one of Mugabe’s former students who had travelled widely in the 1960’s and had met a lot of the new crop of leaders who would take over leadership in their countries after independence….

“I knew Kaunda  and Banda and Kenyatta before independence,when they were still on bicycles,when we were still elarning.I know the leadership of Africa:a father is a figure head.It’s about masculinity.All radical fathers want to dominate their wives and kids,so in a political party,that domination is carried out too-you don’t want people to answer back-you select “yes” men.People have to listen and obey,or else.”

That short paragraph summed up all of Africa’s struggle with democracy for me.

Years after many countries were set free by their colonial masters,many more countries ar now shackled with new slave masters who bear the same color as a majority of citizens in these countries only difference being that they  wield bigger whips.

When will things change…?

Change will come when we stop thinking political leaders will save the continent.

Change will come when the millions living on this continent collectively pull themselves up by their sandal straps and start the move towards change….. themselves not at the behest of so called father figures.

Change will come when we as a continent understand that so long as one country in Africa is at war,then we are all at war.

Change will come when we challenge the so-called father figures to stop dragging us backwards in the past where terror,submission and blind obeyance earned you brownie points but left you less of a human being.

Change will come when we dare tell these father figures that they are wrong to think submission is a sign of respect.

Change will come when demand that our leaders stop living in a past full of the ghosts of colonialism.

Change will come when we are all working to ensure the sins of the past are not visited on any other future generation of Africa’s children.

 

 

 

 

A REASON TO END WARS IN AFRICA…….?

“War is Africa’s perpetual ripe fruit.There is so much injustice to resolve,such desire for revenge in the blood of the people,such crippling corruption of power,such unseemly scramble for natural resources.The wind of power shifts and there go the fruit again ,tumbling toward the ground ,each war more inventively terrible than the last.”-

Cocktail hour under the tree of forgetfulness -Alexandra Fuller

 

Perfect.

This was my first thought after reading this analogy by Ms Fuller.

Reading through the wars that have plagued the continent,we seem to have developed a knack for coming up with more terrible ways to revenge perceived wrongs.

If it’s not tribes trying to correct historical injustices,its victims of Africa’s colonial past who want the wrongs that were committed then corrected now.

But can we really rewrite history?

We can only seek to understand it,learn from its lessons and hopefully never make the same mistakes again.

For Africa to ever move forward all ethnic and religious  groups living here must acknowledge that this is home .

We can never claim to own a part of this continent or a part of any corner of the globe because soon we will be dust.

As Shakespeare says…as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.

One moment we are here,the next we are gone.

Of what use will be theesources we fought over,the acreageso land we fought over and the power we mindlessly hang on be?

Recently these wars have taken a new dimension because now we are fighting under the guise of our beliefs.Think of the sectarian violence in Nigeria, where Chrisitans and the war in Somalia that has been driven by fundamentalists…it never seems to end.

Yet the underlying reasons for the wars remain the same power and resources.

Why do we find even more ingenious reasons to kill and maim each other?

The wheels of history grind on and todays wars will be history tomorrow but we never learn.

As soon as one fire is put out in one corner of Africa another erupts in another corner of the continent.

We cannot keep insisting in righting historical injustices half a century later or else we will always be looking backwards instead of forwards.

We need to learn to live with the scars past wars have wrought on us and swear that it shall never happen again.

We need to forget the prejudices we hold against other tribes,ethnic and religious groups and realize Africa belongs to none of us,it belongs to all of us.

We need to make sure the next generation of Africans be they black ,white,green or purple are not scarred by the mistakes of the past.

We need to find a reason to end the wars……

AFRICA NEEDS ITS WOMEN…..FREE.

“…… all countries (especially developing ones) are better served when women are encouraged to play a full and mature role in the running of their communities.”

 

These are not my own words but those of a former head of the Canadian International Development Agency Margaret Catley – Carlson.They are from the book In My Own Name ,a memoir by another Canadian,  Maureen McTeer.

Women in Africa,and the world over have faced the same prejudices and challenges for years and until each and every woman is free from the prejudices society places on her,then no woman can claim to be truly free,no matter what corner of the globe she lives in.

When African women lack access to equal opportunities in education,employment and the political sectors,none of us can claim to be free.

When women are dying as they bring forth life into the world, because their countries lack hospitals that should have  basic life saving facilities or trained medical personnel,then none of us is free.

When women are denied jobs or face discriminative  policies at work because their employers are afraid they will get pregnant in the future and disrupt corporate/business functions then no woman is free.

When women are denied the chance and opportunity to make informed choices in regards to their reproductive rights then no woman is free

When an electorate looks down on a female candidate not because her experience is lacking or her educational capabilities are lacking but just because of her gender,then no woman is free.

When women have to turn to prostitution,degrading working conditions in foreign countries because their lack of education leaves them little choice,then no woman is free

And until we are all free,none of us can lay claim that we live in a free and democratic society.

Most African governments are just beginning to acknowledge the role of women in development.

When men are  running for elective posts they see these posts as  challenges and ask them selves one questin ,”why not ?” and then run.

For women it is a whole set of different rules ,as Maureen says in her book, women will first list all the reasons  and setbacks (real and imagined)  of why they should not run then either give up or if they do decide to run have to work ten times a s hard as men to prove themselves.

It is time African society sets women free from the chains it has bound them  in.

Let us allow women the chance to embrace the  opportunities their  lives gift them  to lead their  communities and countries.

Let us not to be afraid to let them stand tall and be counted when the opportunity arises to make better the institutions and bodies that serve their fellow citizens..

Let us change the way politics is played,let’s make politics relevant again to the millions of people who call Africa home and especially for its women .