Africa is rising because Africans are rising
Since my arrival in Uganda a little over a week ago, I have been waiting to experience something that takes my breath away. The scorching heat from the [African] sun that torturously welcomed me when I got off the plane almost took my breath away but that wasn’t quite the experience I was looking for so I fought back with water. As I ran errands during the first few days in the capital city, Kampala, I became convinced that the boda bodas (motorcycles) buzzing and weaving through traffic were literally trying to end my life but again, that was not part of my strategy for losing my breath. I actually ended up holding my breath several times as I walked Kampala’s streets and became convinced that if I could fearlessly walk those streets without getting hurt, I can survive any street in the world.
I arrived in Yumbe, the rural town/village in which I now live and work, on my fourth day in Uganda. I checked into a Notel (a hotel that is really Not a Hotel) and was quite pleased to discover that my room had a functioning shower. I jumped in, ready to wash away the exhaustion from the two-day journey that got me there. I found myself holding my breath one more time when the water stopped flowing right after I lathered up the upper half of my body. At that point, I had to decide whether to lather up the other half while hoping the water will resume running or abort the mission and wipe the soap off with a towel. I chose the first option but the water never came back. My journal holds the rest of that story.
A few days ago, I finally experienced the kind of breath-taking moment I’d been waiting for. I was walking home from town around 9pm in absolute darkness since there is no electricity in this town (don’t worry I had a flashlight). I began to focus so much on the darkness that I started harboring negative thoughts about Africa in my head. This went on until I decided to look up at the sky. My, oh, my, was it beautiful! The thick darkness around me made the stars shine more brightly than I have ever seen in my life! I smiled as I let out a quiet “wow!” I never thought a day would come when I would look forward to it getting super dark outside but these days, I often find myself sitting outside my house staring up at the night sky.
During one of my stare-fests, I began to think about how similar the contrast between my dark surroundings and the beautiful night sky was to Africa’s current state and its future. I’ve said before that if you want an easy way to depress yourself or your company, think or talk about all that is wrong with Africa. The paradox is that Africa is simultaneously the world’s richest and poorest continent. Being the world’s second largest, the continent is incredibly loaded with natural resources (and foreign aid but I digress) that could make it much wealthier and more powerful than it is or has ever been [wait, has Africa ever been powerful?]. However, due to an array of issues, which we shall simply classify as poor management to keep me from turning this post into a dissertation, the continent remains bound in the shackles of poverty and underdevelopment. That’s the story today, but I believe another story, one that is as beautiful as the Ugandan night sky, is being written. Despite the effects of mismanagement and exploitation on Africa’s growth and development, the continent still holds great potential to compete and excel in the global marketplace. More importantly, it has great potential to feed, educate, and provide quality healthcare for most of its people while affording them more luxuries. The 2014 and 2015 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation annual letters do a colorful job at explaining why.
My belief in Africa’s future is a great source of motivation for me to keep doing the work I do when things get tough. Like the Ugandan night sky, I see Africa being saturated with human stars who will do everything within their power to light up the continent and lead it out of darkness – literally and figuratively. The really cool part is that I work with some of these stars and know/know of several others. It’s important that we continue to identify, encourage, and support such people. Africa is rising because Africans are rising.
Thanks for reading!