United States of Africa
South Africa already has a pretty bad rep for how we relate to other Africans within our own borders, but what is the bigger picture across the continent and what does it mean? In his first post for GNS, Travelling Man takes a look…
Two weeks ago I woke up in a Protea Hotel, jumped out of bed and realised that I didn’t have any toothpaste; ran across the road to the shopping centre; drew money from a FNB ATM and dived into Shoprite for some supplies.
Later on that day, I met up with folks from Standard Bank at Rhapsody’s, where I nibbled on some biltong over a couple Castle Lites. I got back to my hotel room just in time to catch the cricket highlights on Supersport 2.
Was I somewhere in Joburg or maybe on a work trip to PE?
No. I was in downtown Lusaka, Zambia. The week prior, I had gone through a similar experience in Accra, Ghana. It’s the same scenario everywhere I travel in Africa.
The impact South Africa has had, and is still having on the rest of the continent is nothing short of phenomenal. Unfortunately 95% of South Africans do not appreciate this – do not understand this. The 5% that get it are enjoying the fruits from this influence. There are two major reasons for South Africans’ dismissive attitudes. One is that South Africans are simply clueless. The other is a bit deeper though.
“Africa” – oh how I loathe the term – Africa has this weird love-hate relationship with South Africa. Let me try explain – It’s like a poor family where sacrifices had to be made, so that only the last born child got educated. But what happened once the last born became educated? He became arrogant towards his lesser relatives.
So even though Africa resents South Africa’s ungratefulness, it can’t get enough of South Africa’s produce. The continent is hungrily lapping up everything the country can dish up. It’s not only SA’s products and services that have gained acceptance. In Ghana, ETV has localised programming offering local shows. Sports like cricket and rugby are gaining new popularity in countries where they never existed. In Kenya, South African TV soaps are so popular they command prime-time viewing.
It’s a travesty that the business, cultural and political influence SA has in Africa is so under-appreciated. And because its remains so under-appreciated many more opportunities have been lost. SA could be the main driver of socio-econo-political change on the continent – even more so than China. This is because the continent relates better to SA and SA still has some credibility. But that’s changing as we speak. Lately SA’s profile seems to be dropping. You can tell because no one is taking Zuma seriously and soon, no one will take SA seriously. SA might lose it all… very fast.
South Africa too must learn to love Africa – it needs to love Africa. Why? South Africa’s international political standing depends on Africa’s support. If Africa doesn’t endorse SA, you can forget about that highly coveted permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Culturally, SA needs Africa to provide that grounding and that sense of belonging. Without that sense of identity, SA will end up back in the wilderness.
Consider this for a moment: MTN’s most profitable market is Nigeria, Distell’s 2nd most important market after China is Kenya and Standard Bank is opening 50 new branches a year across the continent. Africa promises the only opportunity for growth for SA business.
This new appreciation will only start with a change in individuals’ perceptions. As a people, South Africans must reconnect to their continental roots – especially African South Africans. Travelling more to other African countries and reading more on African nations would be a great way to start. Make friends with people from other countries – friend them on Facebook and attend cultural days.
Go Beyond Borders – It will change your life!
Image: boxroommansion (c)
Travelling Man is a first-time GrownNSexy contributor. His bio simply reads: ‘Going beyond borders to bring you wisdom since 19…’