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?
— Nas and Damien Marley
Africa is in the middle of a renaissance.
The 1960s were a time of change on the African continent. Independence movements were seeing the fruit of their labour. Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who had led the independence drive for the then Gold Coast in 1957, had declared that there was a new African who would take his place in world affairs. In the years that followed, however, that new African lost his way. Year after year, there were reports of coup d’etats – successful and failed – in one African country or the other. Greed and corruption forced these new states into poverty and economic despair. With time, civil war, hunger, and disease became synonymous with Africa. And in 1994, the continent reached its lowest ebb: genocide.
What happened to the new African who would be proof that the black man was ready to be self-sufficient? For close to two generations, stories in the international media from Africa were more negative than positive. Almost no African country was spared.
However, around the turn of the century, something happened. Young Africans seemed to have had enough of the poverty and squalor and went about making a name for themselves in business. Indeed opportunities abound in Africa. It’s for this same reason that foreign investors have for years made Africa their playground. Millions of dollars of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) are poured into African economies each year. As at 2008, China had invested over $100 billion into Africa, constructing roads, stadia and high rise business complexes.
As Africans have striven to develop, so have opportunities increased. Telecommunications is one area which has served African entrepreneurs well, and there, Dr. Mike Adenuga stands tall. In 2003, he established Globacom, a 100% Nigerian owned telecoms giant. In less than a decade, Glo Mobile has registered over 25 million subscribers, and their Glo 1 is the first submarine cable from the United Kingdom to Nigeria. Celtel, which was acquired by Zain (and then by Airtel) in 2004 had over 24 million subscribers in 14 African countries. It was founded by Sudanese-born Dr. Mo Ibrahim, sending his net worth in excess of $1.8 billion. (This prompted him to initiate the Mo Ibrahim Prize for African excellence in leadership to promote transparency in government and quality in managing economies.)
Telecommunications is just one area where Africans are providing Africa’s needs in an internationally competitive field. Africa’s challenges are many, yet in each of these, many glowing opportunities can be found. These needs span wide areas, in construction, in mining, in energy production, in education, and in all these fields, sons and daughters of Africa are taking up leadership positions to meet these needs. In fact, Patrick Awuah’s leaving his position at Microsoft Corporation in Seattle to establish Ashesi University in Ghana says a lot about how Africans are garnering belief in Africa as a place to do business and to thrive.
Today, African youth are taking their fates into their own hands. Right here on this soil, entrepreneurial activity is buzzing in the world of fashion, real estate, agriculture and art. They believe that one can make it onto the world stage from right here. Gradually, the dependence on debt is loosening, and Africans are taking up these opportunities to create wealth.
We eagerly look to the day when the rest of Africa will wake up and hold the reins of our economies in our own hands, and lead future generation into a destiny of prosperity. Then will we can rally our sleeping brothers and sisters with the words of Bob Marley, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.”