We Can Take Africa Back, One Village at a Time!

George Ayittey is a large thought leader in the field of change in Africa. His book, Africa Unchained, has been a seminal book for many. Opening his talk, he named and talked about two generations in Africa:

George Ayittey

The Cheetah Generation – made up of the youth, specifically the TED Fellows present here, the saviors of Africa who are not going to wait for government and aid organizations to do things for them.
The Hippo Generation – the current political and business leaders who are happy to wallow in their water holes, complaining about colonialism and poverty, but doing nothing about it.

Ayittey pulls no punches. He compares well-meaning international aid organizations who don’t understand Africa as the “Blind leading the clueless.”

Here are some of my notes:

He reminds us that 40% of the wealth crated in Africa is taken out of Africa, that “Africa’s begging bowl is leaking horribly”. Examples:

  • Africa loses $148 billion to corruption each year
  • Africa loses $80 billion to capital flight each year
  • Africa loses $20 billion to food imports each year (when it used to be a food exporter)

Since 1960 we’ve had 204 African heads of state – name me just 20 good leaders! Most can’t even get 15. Even 20 out of 204 is still a failure of government. The slate of post-colonial leaders is a far cry from the leaders Africa had known for centuries.

Sometimes we think there is something called a government in Africa that cares about the people, and represents the people. What you and I understand as the government doesn’t exist in any African country. They suck the economic vitality out of the people. It’s a vampire state. The richest people in Africa are politicians – the chief bandits are the presidents.

An American says, “I am because I am”. An African says, “I am because we are”.

11 thoughts on “We Can Take Africa Back, One Village at a Time!

  1. Carol says:

    Yes,I am 100% ok with this.I have not read unchained Africa but I will soon.I love my continent and it is a shame that we beg yet we have all,will corruption ever end?When will polititians ever stop being greedy?
    Some whites say they would never give anything to Africa because they just want to be given yet they do not work.Why don’t we keep working to show them that we are well able to provide for ourselves with no foreign aid?
    Hope this will be realized in Africa,the sooner the better.

  2. when George hit the stage he was electric from start to finish. I love the fact that he could intertwine humour with a serious message of change.

    He is definitely a thought leader that many of us in the diaspora have a lot of time for.

  3. I have lived in Africa, and intend living here for as long as I can. I run an inclusive art and craft workshop, and on a daily basis I am paralysed at how my crafters are victims of increasing violence, Aids and poverty. We are an NPO an have to run as a business as the public funders are essentially out of action. The Zim Crisis deepens and deepens, and we find our African leaders applauding Robert Mugabe, while we try to assist increasing numbers of Zimbabwean beaders to make some kind of a living here, and to not turn to crime.

    I believe in Africa passionately, I do however worry that we need to reignite that passion and belief in ourselves, and I hope that our leaders can put down their buckets of money for a while, and help to lead the way.

  4. George N. Mtonga says:

    I agree that a new generation of African leaders needs to emerge, one that is not tainted by the politics of the fossils of the colonial struggle. Indeed, we met the challenges of independence with valor rivaling that of the American revolution. However, we should not in any case wonder over that absurd reality. The world has drastically changed and I think that at some point we will need to address the need for new thinkers, new leaders. Often times the values that have given prosperity to many nations such as the United States are often discarded away when individuals try to integrate them as ‘westernization” when in fact the reality of economic development should not be a matter of who brought it: we just want to develop for God’s sake, which ever God you might subscribe to. I might consider myself a Cheetah generation soon to be Hippo generation; and before anything is tainted I want to make sure that I can lead a portion of Africa in the right direction. With all do respect, I don’t want the whole section of “developmental economics” to always be associated with Africa—THE CONTINENT IS A CASE STUDY FOR SCHOLARS TRYING TO UNDERSTAND DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES!!! To be honest, we are coming we are currently in the hallways of some of the best universities in the United States; and the day will land will be the say the world will wonder where we have been!! Oh yes, we will give the ” Founding Fathers” something to think about and we will shame them; because our Africa will go in a whole different direction!!!

  5. Kwaheri says:

    What needs to be taken from Goerge Ayittey is that what we call “western” as far as government, existed in Africa long before there was a United States.

    In other words, yes Africa needs to remember colonialism and the part it has played and continues to play in the under-developement of modern Africa. It’s fine to place blame where it is due, but at the same time, Africans need to re-educate themselves on the history of pre-colonial Africa.

    Africa has never needed white men and never will. As soon as it realizes that and stop looking to europe, the true leaders will emerge.

  6. Africa_Umoja says:

    I can’t agree more with Kwaheri. Fine to blame the leaders, but let’s note that they are themselves the product of the mis-education the majority of Africans receive. The average African graduate, the potential African leader, knows literally nothing about the African Historical Experience, he has been trained a worshipper of European experience, heroes and society in a way that did not even challenge him to emulate that but just to rever them in a very self-disempowering way. To speak like Ki-Zerbo, he only know how to sleep on the bed of others and rarely dream how to build his. No doubt he expect salvation from there! We can’t really blame him that how he was trained all those long year. Re-ducation is key. And there is a lot of initiatives in that direction now. The future will tell.

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