Last night in a packed #UPF HQ, 43 Lancaster Gate, London we celebrated #AfricaDay 2015. It was a bright and colourful evening in which we heard of African cultural traditions, music and many economic developments.
There were speeches from Charlotte Simon from her position as the founder of Mothers of Congo. She shared about the Congolese Inga Dam's potential to supply hydro electricity to much of Africa. She highlighted the music of Mamou and several Congolese artists.
Justina Mutale spoke of the African cultural heritage. She shared about African children who when challenged to win a trophy for running decided to hold hands and run together so that no one would feel hurt by losing.
Justina also presented a number of African Achievement Awards to outstanding Africans of the diaspora. There were inspiring stories of great accomplishments in business, education and development projects in Africa.
Pauline Long contributed her testimony to the inspiration of the evening. She explained how she had built up her business despite many difficulties to now handle the commercials of major brand names and music videos. She explained how the diaspora needed to breakthrough in the UK first before being able to support the development of their African homeland.
One comment of Washington Kapapiro was very popular. He explained that 5.9 million people of African descent in the UK are contributing £10 billion to the UK economy. He added that if they were able to do this then they could also have an impact on African development.
Justina Mutale Presentation:
GOOD STILL HAS TO COME FROM AFRICA
By Justina Mutale, African Woman of the Year
Celebrating 2015 Africa Day, Universal Peace Federation UK
Lancaster Gate, London W2, 4th June 2015
In a globalised world we live in a borderless world where all humanity has been exposed to similar technological, economic, social, political and cultural pressures, as well as opportunities. However, as stated by globalisation expert, Susan George, in a globalised world there will be the exploiters, the exploited as well as the outcasts, who are considered not even worth exploiting.
At a recent Cultural Diplomacy Conference in London, I heard one speaker state that: “In 21st century International Relations and Diplomacy, there are three prominent cultures prevailing in the world today. There is the culture of hope, the culture of humiliation and the culture of fear. The Asian countries in the East live in hope. Countries in the Middle East live in humiliation, while the Western countries live in fear.
For some unknown reason there was no mention of Africa and no mention of its prevailing culture at all.
Needless to say, I read somewhere that when you have walked down a certain path, a path not chosen by self, but one chosen by the cards life has dealt you or indeed a path chosen for you by other people. And after which you have played that hand well - fear, anger, hate can no longer stay in your heart. All that exists in you is your desire for glory and gratitude.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “First they ignore, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. This statement my brothers and sisters, reflects the stages that Africa has had to go through to get to where we are now.
As expressed by Mahatma Gandhi, Africa was first ignored and considered a dark continent. When the explorers from the western world came they laughed at us as being primitive and laughed at everything we did from our cultural beliefs and our food, right through to our religious beliefs and the clothes on our back or lack thereof. Then they fought with us during colonization and during the struggle for political independence.
In the 21st century, Africa is undergoing an amazing transition. The continent boasts some of the fastest growing economies in the world, with Ethiopia topping the world charts at over 10% economic growth rate. And of course, Rwanda tops the world charts as regards to the number of women in political and economic decision-making and the global quest for gender equality.
Not forgetting the diamonds and other precious stones, the carbon sink in the Congo’s rain forest and the coltan that powers the world’s technology. All of this, is in addition to various other minerals and raw materials. Because of its rich natural resources Africa shoulders the responsibility of carrying the world on its shoulders. And Africa’s story, my brothers and sisters is one of hope, success and glory.
From the history that I know, much of the modern world was, and still is being built on Africa’s resources - using Africa’s labour, sweat, toil, raw materials, wealth and intellect - initially as slaves, followed by colonization, and presently through the pilferage of Africa’s wealth and resources as a result of conflict, war, foreign investment, tax dodging and land grabs.
The rich natural resources of Africa have once again prompted a 21st century scramble for the continent with the East and the West fighting for a piece of the Motherland. This positions Africa as a continent of opportunity that signals economic migration from the East and West.
Ahead of the World Economic Forum Africa, Oxfam released a report that states that in 2010 alone multinationals swindled Africa out of US$40 billion dollars through tax dodging tricks as a result of foreign investment. One wonders where the economies of the host countries of these multinationals would be without the wealth that is continuously stolen from Africa to boost up their economies.
However, if there is one thing that makes me proud to be African it is the resilience that Africans have. At its peak, HIV/AIDS pruned the professional and intellectual resource of Africa by claiming the lives of educated men and women in their prime. This retarded the development of the continent and put a huge strain on the economies of the affected countries and the continent as a whole.
As is evident, Africa has now risen above the initial setbacks of HIV/AIDS with some of its countries among the fastest growing economies in the world including my country Zambia. I am very hopeful and would expect the same to happen with the current Ebola outbreak.
Africa has survived slavery, colonization, brain drain, resource and wealth pilferage. Surely Africa can survive disease, poverty, corruption, conflict, war and even theft by multinationals! From a famine stricken country, Ethiopia has risen to become a Tiger Economy with current economic growth rated approximately 11.8%.
It has recently been reported that Africa is on the verge of building its own Free Trade Zone that is expected to run from Cape to Cairo. Africa’s Free Trade Zone is expected to be bigger than the European Union and NAFTA. In addition, the African Union provides the continent with a platform to resolve African problems using African solutions. We also have regional community and economic organisations such as SADC, COMESA and ECOWAS with proposals for these regional groupings to have their own currency and common passport.
As we all know, Africa is the birthplace of mankind. Africa is also the birthplace of human civilization with great early empires, a great tradition of trade; a great history; a wealth of diversity of peoples and traditions; and a full spectrum of skin tones, hair textures, rich religions, and a very rich cultural heritage. In my opinion, there is no continent in the world, my brothers and sisters that is blessed with striking beauty, diversity and warmth than the continent of Africa.
However, because we allow other people to write our history and our current stories, Africa’s good and inspiring stories of our rich heritage are never told. Positive stories about Africa such as those of strong wise men and women, rulers of great empires such as Shaka Zulu of South Africa, and assertive women like Yaa Asaantwe of Ghana are never told.
Even the founding fathers of modern Africa who have not been gone too long like Haile Selasie of Ethiopia; Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya; Julius Nyerere of Tanzania; and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana have already been pushed out of the history books of our children. Those who are still alive like Dr Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia are not given as much credit as is due to them.
Nevertheless, Patrice Lumumba gives us hope when he said, "The day will come when history will speak... Africa will write its own history... It will be a history of glory and dignity."
Leontine Van Hooft, author of the book titled “The Power of African Thinking” poses the question as to whether it is by coincidence that modern great world leaders have African roots. She cites charismatic people like Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu, and Barak Obama who have all been praised for their knowledge, wisdom, vision, and great leadership skills. These leaders have all been praised for their unifying ability and thoroughness as nation builders, peacemakers and campaigners of human rights. A substantial part of this great leadership style stems from the traditional African philosophy of Ubuntu, which believes that one cannot function as a human being without being a part of the greater whole.
Most of us would be aware that the world is already witnessing a global shift towards leadership values and abilities that are traditionally considered African, which focus on inclusiveness, collaboration, empathy and putting humans and humanity at the centre. The philosophy of Ubuntu has been hijacked by 21st century good leadership guides under the guise of “Emotional Intelligence”. In the 21st century, good and effective leadership has been attributed to high emotional intelligence, which has been hailed as the new science of human relationships.
You will note ladies and gentlemen, that emotional intelligence has the same principles as the African philosophy of Ubuntu that places humans and humanity at the centre and emphasises social and self-awareness, inclusiveness, collaboration and empathy. The philosophy of Ubuntu is also reflected in the new motto or slogan of “leaving no one behind” often chanted in recent years by international organisations such as the United Nations and many others in regard to the attainment of sustainable development for the world.
I believe the future can be found in the past. As the birthplace of humanity and the birthplace of human civilisation, good in the world still has to come from Africa, where we place humans and humanity at the centre of all activities.
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