The New York Times' recent man in Africa, Howard French, has come out with a memoir, A Continent for the Taking. Allafrica.com reviews the book positively, saying that it balances harsh realities with hope, and criticism of Western involvement with a recognition that African governments must do more for their people:
French's book does feature massacres, illness, violent elections and other African cliches in significant volume. But unlike many of those who have written comparable volumes, he has made common cause with Africa's people, rather than seeing them, from afar, as unfortunate victims.
In what now seems like another time, Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney and similar voices dominated the discourse on Africa with their uncompromising message about who was responsible for Africa's predicament. French is certainly in their camp. But I think he would also endorse a new mantra that is as important for these times as was the challenge to colonialism in theirs.
Africa's most impressive thinkers today argue that Africans have to take responsibility for our own experience and, above all, that we are up to that task. Such a self-confident approach implies an ability to own one's faults rather than blaming others.
The new determination in Africa to bring change to the continent is not contradicted by French's conviction that the international community can serve Africa better. On the contrary, the possibility that the two views may combine should give readers new hope for the future.
The Afrikaner enclave of Orania has a bright idea-- it's created its own currency that can only be used in the town. Kind of like Chuck E. Cheese skee-ball tokens, but with a nasty racial edge...
Black is Bountiful
Interesting story on Salon about South African "buppies" and Jo'burg's first black-owned BMW dealership. South Africa reportedly has the fastest-growing middle class in the world. But that doesn't mean the rising tide is lifting all boats.
Worth Being Pissed Off Over?
This is weird-- Brussel's famous statue/fountain, the Mannekin Pis, has been dressed up as Nelson Mandela. It's supposed to be a tribute to South African democracy, but seems a bit odd to me. Photo here.
All Together Now
As zablogger rightly notes, South Africa has "the best national anthem in the world." But not everyone knows the words to "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" yet. I've heard and/or hummed along to it dozens of times, and even have a cheesy tourist mug on my desk with the lyrics, and I can't get past the first verse. But I'm an American (and yes, I do know all the words to the oft-mangled "Star-Spangled Banner.") There's a campaign to get verse-averse South Africans up to speed.
Step in the Right Direction
Namibian president Sam Nujoma says he will step down when his third term comes to an end. Really. Maybe. Let's hope so. Considering what might be called Nujoma's grudging acceptance of the responsibilties (and in this case, concessions) of being the head of a democracy, such an action would help move Namibia in the right direction. No presidents for life, please!