When I visited the United States in 2005, I met many influential personalities and well educated people. However, it's absurd when someone in this category would ask me by what means I had reached the US. When I replied, “by air,” this gentleman keenly wanted to know whether there are planes in Africa. This simple conversation with an educated person in the US made me think twice about the rest of the western world.
From the several public lectures I gave at prestigious gatherings and colleges, I noticed that questions asked by people at the gatherings were very simple, an indication that they know little about Africa. The western media is strongly to blame for the continued ignorance of western people about Africa. It gives very little coverage of Africa, and if any, it's totally negative. If the Rwandan genocide, the insurgency in northern Uganda, and the twenty year old civil war in southern Sudan had received publicity like coverage on the Darfur conflict today, the west would be highly informed about Africa.
An average form three pupil in a Ugandan primary school knows a significant amount of world geography and history. Such a pupil is not surprised about news regarding electric trains in Japan, knows about the Mississippi river, and understands more about the Iraq war than their American counterparts. Most Americans hardly know that Africa is a continent and not a small country. Those who think they know something about Africa view it as a desert, with hungry, sick and poor humans who are always fighting. They will say they fear coming to Africa because of this image, which is enhanced by western media.
However, Africa and the West need to learn from each other. It shouldn't be one-way traffic from the West to Africa. Never. Americans need to come to Rwanda and learn about gender and governance. Britain's first lady should come back to learn more about the Rwandan gacaca community courts. HIV/AIDS needs prevention--antiretroviral drugs to the sick will never solve the problem.
Ever since colonialists from the west introduced religion and other weird forms of leadership, purely un-African ideologies have kept the continent in wars, disease, hatred, abject poverty and illiteracy. These problems caused by the West have replaced Africa's image today. The image is likely to stay for more than a thousand years. Africans have been deeply divided on religious grounds which often ignite wars such as what is seen as seen in Nigeria. Rwandans will never forget or forgive the Catholic Church for its role in the 1994 genocide, and neither can insurgencies orchestrated by Islamic religious groups in Somalia today be condoned by anyone.
In Africa democracy will never take root. It is not an African concept and those in the west who preach it have never implemented it. Singapore, which most African banana republics are looking to emulate to achieve similar economic development miracles, attained her current success under a dictatorial administration. Africans are told that Democracy is rule of law, yet some governments have used laws to discriminate and dehumanize tribes and ethnic groups.
If the western world is strongly interested in helping Africa solve her problems, which were inflicted on her by the west itself, then this should be done in a manner that puts into consideration how Africa wants to be helped.
It's not fitting for donors, IMF and the World Bank, to tell a peaceful no-party government already making economic progress after several years of destitution under an ousted multiparty rule to mutate into a multiparty system of rule in order to qualify for financial aid to help this country pave her roads or buy chalk for schools. If an African country is endowed with strong rivers and lakes, and that country needs a hydro electric power dam to generate electricity to end the energy crisis and attract investment, then why should the West make noise quoting environmental vocabulary? Uganda has done well on this part to ignore such western voices.
Interference into internal affairs of African nations by the West through NGOs and special volunteer groups continues to derail progress on the continent. If an NGO has established root in an African country under the objective of drilling bore holes for safe water, then why should the NGO be interested in how the host government deals with a political prisoner? This leaves everyone suspicious of the NGO’s intentions. Help should be in the spirit of helping, not help with conditions attached.
What Africa Wants
really wants, then any help provided would assist Africa to move in great leaps forward, and success would be evident in a few decades.
Currently, Africa needs the west to open up her markets so that African products can access western markets. Most agricultural products from Africa would be competitive in the western market. African farmers are capable of constantly supplying the world with good fruits and vegetables, especially corn that is free from chemicals. Coffee from Rwanda is top quality, and Uganda is capable of producing quality cotton and silk, but due to lack of liberalism in the western market, such products never cross the borders.
Africa also needs help with science and research to improve on her industrialization and to enable particular countries on the continent to utilize her natural resources. This would also help the continent get rid of malaria and reduce illness caused by lack of safe drinking water, poor hygiene and transmittable diseases.