By Francisco Da Costa
|(Francisco Da Costa was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Currently, he is the Northern Region Co-Chair for the California Delegation to the National Summit on Africa. He is also a manager with the U.S. Park Police and an activist who is sought after by many organizations for his leadership skills.)|
Often times we delegates to the Summit sit down at a table to discuss matters pertaining to Africa and we listen to a lot of verbosity -- also known as hot air. This Summit affords us an opportunity to study practical and simple solutions to help Africa. Yes, help Africa. It is very important to understand that if each one of us sincerely loves Africa we can make things happen. Yes, every single person counts in the solution to this equation. The solution, however, should be done with the African in charge; the African way.
The soul of Africa lies at the village level. The big towns and cities have followed the lead of so-called industrialized nations and brought with them problems for which Africa has not been prepared. These problems include overcrowding, pollution, slums, lack of jobs and so on. Many Africans leave their villages thinking that they will find wealth and solace in the cities.
And yet when they are in the cities and big towns they long to be in their villages. Their souls are torn apart and they become stress prone. The simplicity of an African village is unique and cannot be explained in words. One has to live it. Talk to the elders and the women, men, and children to fathom the values that once were held with high respect.
"Modern" and "contemporary" ways of life have made deep inroads and eroded the traditional values that kept so many living in harmony for so long. In the name of so called progress, the traditional life style has been ruined. Where once there was abundance of food and the ecological balance was respected, there is now no food and the ecological balance has been ruined.
Where once there were rivers and streams that were clean, there is now pollution. Where once there was family and tribal life that was sacred, this has now been destroyed because of greed. African tribal values were never measured in concrete terms of money and hoarding wealth, but rather in terms of hospitality and sharing.
Spiritual values always held the high ground throughout Africa -- traditional spiritual values. These values and traditional medicinal practices kept Africans living a healthy life for centuries. With the influx of foreign immigration and conquests, foreign diseases never known to Africa were introduced and with it lifestyles that were foreign and contrary to the traditional way of living.
Today, we all realize that we ought to live simple lives. Yet it is a paradox that for centuries foreign influences forced the Africans from living their simple lives and turned their lives into the stress prone life style that is becoming more and more common all over the world.
We should put ourselves in the shoes of the African and learn to resolve and see African issues in terms of helping the ordinary African woman, child and man. The common people in the villages need our help, not the machinery that fosters greed and brings power to a few in the cities of Africa.
Again and again those that have visited Africa and spent some years in the villages always remember how stress free it is. One may not enjoy all the amenities that one enjoys in "developed" nations, but one enjoys peace of mind and good simple living. Peace Corps members and others often recall such living experiences with nostalgia.
Africa, with a little help from their friends can restore traditional African customs and not join the rat race. What Africa needs today more than ever before is clean drinking water, health care, cottage industries that bring no pollution, practical education in the fields of agriculture, forestry, preservation of traditional music and dance, local governance and all such traditional customs that "modern" civilization has tried to destroy.
Now, we have the dilemma of infusing the five thematic topics: Economic Development, Trade, Investment; Democracy and Human Rights; Sustainable Development -- Quality of Life, and the Environment; Peace and Security; and Education and Culture. Picture implementing all these policies all over an Africa that is basically traditional. Picture explaining these terms to the ordinary African citizen.
The foreign nations who have links in Africa are there mostly for the money, including the United States. Not one nation has gone to Africa to help Africa without asking for heavy compensation. For centuries Africa has been looted and destroyed so that "developed" nations could enjoy Africa's wealth of resources at Africa's expense.
Africa is a continent with a rich history. Long before foreigners set their foot in Africa, Africa was inhabited for thousands of years. Most history books are never written in a fair manner. History books about Africa have been distorted and have not portrayed Africa as the home of humankind, the land of Kings and Queens, Chiefs and heroes. Many people still do not realize that Africa is a land whose resources, despite the looting, are still in abundance today.
At the turn of the last century, vested interests divided Africa and paid no respect to sovereign nations that were ruled by Kings, Queens, and Tribal Chiefs, despite the fact that this governance was was in place. Also in place was peace of mind and harmony. At the time, African resources were intact. Its forest, the animals, millions of tons of various ores, precious diamonds, rubies, and metals had not been looted.
The outside world played a key role in destroying the richness of Africa in what we now fully realize was a mistake. We should permit Africans to bring back the glory and the goodness that once existed.
The greed, the corruption, the wars, the turmoil has to all go away. But, it will not go away unless the Africans want it to go away.
In place of the greed and corruption, solutions should be found that are initiated by Africans. For too long foreign influences have had the gall to dictate terms to Africans. Africans do not need terms dictated, Africans need understanding.