Last week on Tuesday, I received a text message which simply read ‘Tune to BBC2 now’. A good friend of mine had sent it while I was making dinner. I stopped and immediately switched over to BBC 2. What she wanted me to see was a documentary about Zimbabwe narrated by Xoliswa Sithole – entitled Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children. Unfortunately the show was a repeat and I had already watched it before. This did not however deter me as I continued to watch it for a further 10 minutes before lowering the volume, and eventually returned to my cooking. What struck me the most about these brief 10 minutes was the ease at which I reverted back to my normal existence. I was more worried about the chicken stir fry I was making and whether it would turn out as planned. The reality is these stories are incredibly sad and we typically discuss, tweet, and update our facebook status with a variety of thoughts on these issues. Yet the most fundamental piece of this sad situation is missing – our ‘united’ response.
Why do I choose the word – response?
- Response takes a thought process of some sort – you clap me, I might clap you later but I will time it (the response) when it suits me best.
- Reaction is as the name suggests a ‘re-action’ usually without thinking of the consequences – you clap me and I’ll clap you back.
We tweet and/or update our facebook page with our thoughts about how sad the situation is and yet most continue to live as if nothing actually happened. After the documentary ended I turned to Twitter to gauge people’s reaction. As I expected the multitude of messages were indeed heart-felt, full of despair and yet I could tell that most of us were just ‘talking’ – just exchanging thoughts, ideas and uttering ‘words’. I woke up following morning worrying about traffic to work and my typical inner conversation about what I was planning on having for lunch and what I had to accomplish before returning home. Yet the previous night I was engaged in various conversations on Twitter about this documentary and what we should do to help others in these situations. Where did I (we) go wrong? You see I wordsmith every now and again so I am vary of ‘words’ on most days. I now seek action – a collaboration or perhaps a co-ordinated response to the various Forgotten Children on the continent.
Interestingly, I am also acutely aware of the investment and other such opportunities that Africa offers now and going forward. According to one McKinsey report I read recently: –
- $1.6 trillion – Africa’s collective GDP in 2008 roughly equal to Brazil’s or Russia’s
- $860 billion – Africa’s combined consumer spending in 2008
- 316 million – the number of new mobile phone subscribers signed up in Africa since 2000
- 60% – Africa’s share of the world’s total amount of uncultivated, arable land
- 52 – the number of African cities with more than 1 million people each
- 20 –the number of African companies with revenues of at least $3 billion
- $2.6 trillion – Africa’s collective GDP in 2020
- $1.4 trillion – Africa’s consumer spending in 2020
- 1.1 billion – the number of Africans of working age in 2040
- 128 million – the number of African households with discretionary income in 2020
- 50% – the portion of Africans living in cities by 2030.
This information was provided by McKinsey in a report published in June 2010. However I am aware that not all will benefit from the African economic growth contained in that same McKinsey report. I have so far stayed away from breaking into a Dr Martin Luther King Jnr inspired ‘I have a dream’ speech. But I feel I must! Why lie! – I do have a dream. I am not naïve so I understand the mathematics of the world we live in today. In my head, a pyramid system exists and most hold up those at the top who enjoy the bountiful pleasures of life. Personally I worry most about those at the bottom – the Forgotten Children.
Too often we neglect those in need. We shift blame accusing our African governments of this and the aid community of that. I tend to agree that our African leaders need to change certain behavioural traits. Yes we as Africans need to be free from our dependence on aid. I agree that there are many examples of things we need to do collectively including and more importantly what we say about Africa to other people. Before we realise those larger more complex dreams, I believe it all starts with us Africans. Interestingly enough I wrote about some of the things we can personally do a few months ago. Another friend of mine wrote about this same message as well. We can in own way affect and change our respective communities however we must do this collectively.
What am I really advocating for? What is my dream?
I am by no means an economist or some community development consultant with several years experience. I am a Zimbabwean, an African who firmly believes that ‘little me’ can make some difference somewhere somehow. By day I crunch numbers for one of these multinational corporations. By night I work tirelessly together with my brother to realise our dream of becoming social entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe. Both of us have committed our lives, resources and otherwise to fulfilling this very dream. Along the way we realised that the business we initially set up evolved from just being a great business opportunity for us, to being a social enterprise that we hope will play a vital role in the various communities we intend to trade. No longer is this business just a means to feed our families but a paradigm shift took place and affected the way we think and live – we realise now we must give back.
We are no longer thinking of just employing people; we are looking at real sustainable partnerships with the local people and the wider community. We are looking at assisting those around us less fortunate so that we no longer have as many Forgotten Children as we do now. You see, most times we watch these documentaries and do absolutely nothing except tweet or update our facebook status with messages of sorrow and pity. Going forward let’s do something about it this time, or rather let’s do more that currently being done.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a community development consultant with several years experience. I’m just an aspiring social entrepreneur trying to make a good chicken stir fry, whilst plotting how to give back to my beautiful Africa so that our Forgotten Children are part of Africa Tomorrow. Most times we think we can’t possibly change the situation. You would be surprised how many of us think like this. Some donate $30 a month to support a child somewhere in Africa. If this is how you contribute, please continue to do this. If you know of organisations that need people to volunteer their time, skill or even donate blood – by all means please assist them.
I do dream, perhaps this is the idealistic in me. I dream of an Africa where we the Africans take responsibility in resolving our various differences – economic or otherwise. I dream that irrespective of government policy, those that impose their policies on us and the indeed the makeup of that government,let us not ignore the Forgotten Children. We cannot forget them. I dream of a day when we as Africans leave no one behind. Together we venture forward as we seek a brighter Africa Tomorrow.