Africa has problems too, but it's special

November 11, 2015
File A Ghana soccer fan painted in his national colors watches the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Ghana and South Africa in Mongomo, Equatorial Guinea, in January.

I'm having an intense little debate - all by myself. Yeah, arguing with myself is something I do all the time. As usual though, I'm inviting your input. Here's the issue: For the past weeks, I have been sharing highlights of the awesome, inspirational experience of my visit to Ghana. And, partly because I'm tired of hearing all the negatives about Africa, I have consciously opted to only focus on sharing the positives. However, a part of me is quietly whispering that I should avoid painting an overly

romantic picture and share some of the ugly encounters as well. But I'm stubbornly refusing, hence the argument. What's your take?

You see, I really don't want to contribute to extending that negative narrative that is already tired and played out. That story has been so effectively sold, enthusiastically bought and voraciously consumed. And, it is sickening. Many of us in the West and even many of those who occupy the continent have completely bought into many of the negative stereotypes about Africa. Look here, nuh, when I tell some people in Jamaica, for example, that I'm going to Canada, Britain or the USA, they immediately perk up. Yeah, folks, they draw brakes, pull over and park up by the corner where admiration intersects with envy. Most ask

jokingly if I could take them with me and many demand seriously that I take back a gift for them. Some just get straight to the point and tell me what size Clarks or Air Jordan they wear, or start giving me a list of gadgets to get them.

When I tell some of them I'm going to Africa, it's a whole different ball game. The scenario usually turns to one in which I get bombarded with silly questions and ignorant suggestions. And sadly, like the storied snake in the Garden of Eden, topics like Ebola, HIV/AIDS and famine invariably slither their way into the conversation. And just like Eve lost her decency and earned blame for the sins of man in that story, I risk losing my temper and gaining enemies in the ensuing temptation.

So, yes, I refuse to occupy the space of those disingenuous or ignorant tellers of stories, who usually only see darkness and poverty when they look at Africa, and who generally use one observation in one country to draw conclusions about an entire content of 50-plus diverse countries. 'Jamaica, No Problem' is a popular phrase, but everybody who experiences Jamaica knows that it's really an aspiration and not a description of the reality. In fact, if you ask me, 'Jamaica, no problem' is a fairytale whose once upon a time died long before the birth of its own mother. Jamaica has enormous problems, but the presence of problems never seem to halt the perpetual party. Same thing here. Africa has problems.




And Ghana, like any other developing state is dealing with all the issues that accompany poverty and underdevelopment. But people, when we contrast the poverty of Africa with the wealth and prosperity of the West, we need to remember that Africa is, has been, and still remains the source of much of that very wealth and prosperity. As Kwasi Pratt Jr states in an article in The Insight - a small independent newspaper in Ghana, "Foreign multinational corporations and their associates siphon more than US$50 billion out of Africa annually." Pratt was quoting from an address by Dr Gamel Nasser Adam of the University of Ghana, who cited a UN Economic Commission for Africa report that suggests that the funds and resources that annually leave Africa approximately doubles the so-called official development assistance that Africa receives.

So, yes, problem deh yah. But I know I'm in a special place. I was in Kumasi, which is the centre of Ghana. And Ghana is the centre of the earth. Yeah, check the map if you think I'm kidding. And everything here tells me that nothing that I see is as simple as it first appears. I'm leaving now for Cape Coast to visit the place from whence my ancestors were shipped to Jamaica. Yes, folks, I return, to remember and recover.

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