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Archive for September 10th, 2012

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

Here is a fact; the world’s impression of Africa is hopelessly outdated. Ian Birrell writing in the UK Guardian recently, admitted that much. I guess that’s not so shocking. What I consider unfortunate and I dare say alarming however is that even in this age, many Africans continue to hold a very low impression of themselves and thus helping to perpetuate  a simplistic narrative about the continent.

There is no doubt that we’ve had a painful history of slavery, colonialism, dictatorships, civil wars, famine, corrupt leadership and those other issues that Western Journalist feast on and make Pulitzer Prize winning headlines out of. Speaking quite frankly, some of these issues remain ongoing challenges in some parts of the continent. But our reality has since changed and a new narrative is or ought to be in place which painfully many have continued to ignore.

Africa has ceased to be that Dark Continent stereotyped by naked tribes’ men as seen in The Gods Must be Crazy. We are no more the continent of black victims and white saviours…a continent dependent on foreign Aids and which could not define its own destiny. The Africa which Kenyan Caine Prize winning writer and founding editor of Kwani? Binyavanga Wainaina wrote about in his bestselling satirical piece How to write About Africa has since long been confined to the archives of history. And yes, we are not a country for all those who still shamelessly express such myopic thoughts.

The regurgitation of stories from our past which are made to seem like our current reality sadly continues to influence how policymakers, investors, and ordinary, curious foreigners and even our own people see Africa and distort their judgment of her possibilities.

This is about to change.

Years of telling stories that portrayed us in the light of largely helpless savages are fast giving way to stories that tell of possibility, innovation and self-reliance. Like every other society, we have evolved, overcoming our many challenges and rewriting our history. The result and the reality of our time is that quietly, a new Africa has emerged powered by capitalism, embracing democracy and tearing down stereotypes.

It is this new Africa, of creativity, innovation, freedom, pure beauty and open happiness that Coca Cola wishes to bring to the world’s attention through the “A Billon Reasons To Believe In Africa” Campaign which was recently launched in Nigeria.

Like celebrated Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie rightly advanced in her viral TED Talk video The Danger of A single story, there is no single story about any people and the hearing of only one version of the story about a people or nation leads to ignorance. It is thus high time a new story is told about Africa, this time not by foreign correspondents of western or international aids organisations, but by Africans themselves and Coca Cola is championing this cause.

All over Africa, from Cape to Cairo there are amazing stories of change, of resilience and of success which we must be proud of. Countless evidences abound of progress, growth, as well as political and economic vibrancy. FDI projects grew by 27% in 2011, pushing Africa’s share of the world’s investment to almost a quarter. FDI inflows, now about $80bn (£50bn), should reach $150bn by 2015, according to a BBC report. Every smart business person is headed for Africa. The African Development Bank (ADB) has projected a 5.8% economic growth rate for 2012 on the continent. Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country has been enjoying steady economic growth since 2005 with recent figures putting growth as high as 7.5%.

Our people are pushing the boundaries and excelling at everything from music to science to literature and sports. Any top European club without an African footballer is incomplete. The first black man to graduate with 3.98 GPA at John Hopkins University is a Nigerian. We hosted the World cup. We delighted at the Olympics. Nollywood produces more films than Bollywood and Hollywood put together.  There is a fast growing new middle class across the continent. New businesses are springing up; technology incubators are building our own Silicon Valleys. And all over you can feel it that never before did it feel more befitting to be an African.

So we will shout it from the mountain top. It’s about time, you will agree. Never again shall we allow our stories to be told by others. It’s time for our youths who make up the bulk of the continents population to shake off the stereotype and renew their pride in their unique origin and commitment to the common destiny we share. It is time for us all to recognize how far we’ve come and how much more we can do with a little more effort.

This campaign is about you. For the next three months, we shall share the best stories about us. The Billion reasons to believe in Africa are your stories, those of people you know or have heard about. I urge you to share them by tweeting at @CocaCola_NG

Enjoy your week.

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