Why does Africa desperately need a new CAP?

Photo by Adrianna Van Groningen on Unsplash

22nd of Jan 2020, Blaise Diagne Airport, Dakar Senegal

Here I am back to Senegal after a long period. My heart is beating intensely.

For my wife Laure and my son Noah Ali, this is the first time for them.

For me, it’s the home and gush, I am feeling good. I see Black people everywhere and I am anonymous again.

We grab our luggage and we go outside the arrival area.

My young brother Thierno Amadou and my older brother Thierno Daouda welcome us.

We hug so intensely. I am home!

The Blaise Diagne airport was built recently in Diass, a town one hour of drive from Dakar, in the countryside.

It is a bigger and more modern airport, replacing the Leopold Sedar Senghor airport in Dakar.

Blaise Diagne and Leopold Sédar Senghor were 2 prominent politicians and leaders of Senegal and contribute to the rise of negros to gain their independance in the early 60s, in the last century.

Senghor became the first president of Senegal after the end of the French colonisation and is with Aimé Cesaire and Léon Damas the fathers of the Négritude movement.

Négritude can be seen as the #BlackLivesMatter movement in Africa.

The car is speeding at 110km/hour on the route to Dakar. In the car, I notice the similarity of the road, the road signs to what I am used to in France. I am puzzled.

I feel like I am in France, I said to my big bro Thierno Daouda.

Yes, this motorway has been built by Eiffage and its name is “Autoroute de l’avenir”, he replied.

Huh, the motor way of our future is built and managed by a French company, interesting, I thought to myself.

One hour later we are arriving at our home stay, in Yoff, a popular district in the north of Dakar.

We need to go buy some groceries as it was the evening, do you know where if there is a store open at 11:00 pm?, I asked.

My little bro, Thierno Amadou, said: In Dakar, we have everything you have in France:

Well the list goes on and on. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. And I am not even talking about how our whole economy in the former French west and central Africa colonies is completely tied to Europe, with the currency of the region, the franc CFA being baked by France and indirectly the European Union. Those ties were built after the “end” of the colonisation in the early 1960s.

Fast forward in 2020, 60 years after the official end of the colonisation. The world is taking a big wave of Covid-19. All countries are hit at the same time. This period will be the only time where I don’t hear in the media the distinction between developed countries and “third” world countries.

We are all on the brink of collapsing. Of course there is a lot of solidarity and kindness in the world and countries are building humanutary bridges to help each other.

However, be it Italy, Spain, France or the USA, they are facing their domestic battle against Covid-19. And the direct, tangible consequence of that is that the West is not in a position to help other countries this time, especially not African countries.

Why? Because they are working on developing solutions which are tailored to their needs and which answer to their reality.

They are applying total or partial confinement, which cannot fit African realities.

They are advocating “social distancing”, which again, cannot fit realities in Africa.

They are working on developing respirators and ventilators with the equipment they develop in their own domestic companies, which again, is not possible in Africa.

Lets deep dive quickly on the 3 topics above.

Confinement is not fit for Africa because most people live on a day by day basis. They have to go out, sell something, buy food and then come back home to feed their extended family.

Social distancing is totally in contradiction with the point above. In Africa, most people live with their parents, their children, their cousins, their friends in one roof. Most often, there is only one person being the one and only source of income for the rest.

Washing the hands multiple times a day is of the 5 dos against Covid-19, advocated everywhere. Great if like me, you have just to open the tap and wash your hands.

What about the billions of people in the world, in particular in Africa, who do have to go fetch their own water everyday by walking miles?

Everybody is trying to build a ventilator or a respirator of-r 3D print a mask or other PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment).

Do you know what all these things have in common?

3D printers and their raw material were created outside of the African continent.

Most of the components needed to build a basic ventilator or respirator for Covid-19 patients can only be sourced outside of Africa.

Well I hope you see where this is going. For 60 years in Africa, we have been nurturing and developing the “Copy and Paste” (CP) mentality from the young child in a remote village in Senegal to the people with power in Dakar, who see the western model as the one to “just” apply, the ultimate success model.

What does it say about us, as Africans, both living in the continent of the diaspora?

We are just applying the foreing recipe handed to us by the West or China. Yet it is just a reCP: repetition of Copy and Paste. This is a reCP that is bringing a bad taste in our mouth after we eat the last bite of that meal.

We are Africa, we are on our own, today and forever. We have always been. This is our wake up call. We must rise to the occasion.

When I think about Donald Trump, all I see is the red cap in his head and the bleeding letters: “Make America Great Again!”

When I see myself, most of the politicians, leaders and people from Africa, living there, or abroad, I see us wearing a beautiful white cap in which is carved the following sign: two black hands being chained back together by one blue and one red hand.

I see us walking in our beautiful houses, where we have destroyed all the mirrors, with a bloody smile on our face.

Now is the time to go to the river and look back to what we have become all together.

What we need today is to remove that colonial cap and create our own CAP.

What does CAP stand for, for me?

I am glad that you asked!

CAP means for me:

  1. Create
  2. Anticipate
  3. Program

1. Create

Africa must be a continent of creators, not just copypastors. We have to believe that we are as capable as everybody else in the world to come up with new ideas and bring them into our reality. We have to be in the frontline of building solutions that fit our needs. This answers to our current issues and how we have to be part of the solutions finders, not just importing some solutions from elsewhere.

2. Anticipate

Anticipation is for me the bring that you build on top of creation. We have to be able to believe that a brighter future is possible for us Africans, and in Africa.

Yes it is me, living in France, married to a white French woman, who is saying that.

It is only by anticipating our needs in the future that we would be able to build a plan that will make that vision a reality. Anticipation is about our future.

3. Program

We have to create a tradition of taking things in our own hands and show it to the next generations. It is only by programming the right mindset that we will write our history. Our children’s children are reading right now in their history books in the future our answer to this Covid-19 crisis.

Are we taking initiatives? Are we just followers?

We have to stop using the old code we inherited from our grandparents.

We have to stop adding to that code patches we receive from the west or elsewhere in the world. Program is about rendering the old program obsolete.

Now is the time to write our own code. We must build a new program from scratch and not try to think that we can indefinitely improve that old code from the last century.

This CAP is the one of hope, it is the one of makers, it is the one of legends.

It is the one of CAPable Africans, as dreamed by Blaise Diagne, Césaire, Damas and Senghor. Today we can hear the echo of such voices in the battle of African Americans with the #BlacklivesMatter movement in the US.

I would like you to join me in the movement: #AnActALetter. As a apn-African, each of our actions a letter in 2 ways:

  • A letter, part of a word in this page of the African history,
  • A letter as a message to be passed on to your children’s children.

So let’s wear our writers’ CAP and hack the future of Africa.

What is your vision of Africa, today?

What are you doing to support the building of a new reality in Africa?

What is your vision of a bright future for Africa?

Leave a comment below.

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You can read my previous article on Why should you be an OCC and not an occurrence?

Photo by Adrianna Van Groningen on Unsplash