Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24, 2012 - This is Not Africa - WAIT!

South Africa IS Africa – saying or thinking these four words is a mental exercise which tends to stretch most people’s level of comprehension. 

I’m attending a training in Cape Town, South Africa this week, which is a very desireable location although it is cold down here. Very cold in fact: 19 degrees on a sunny day is cold when you’re used to a humid 34 degrees (C).

We were picked up from a very modern airport on Sunday (that would be the opposite of Dar es Salaam's airport, by the way) and during the drive to town (in a Mercedes B S class) I noticed something that Lisa, friends and I have been talking about recently. 

Firstly, though, I have to talk about infrastructure.  The roads are fantastic, South Africa has Nuclear power, my colleague and I went to a shopping mall with 400 stores which would put most malls in Europe and the US to shame (of course, there are other issues in South Africa which I won’t cover in this blog). Internet is fast and everything seems efficient. To this overwhelming development many react with: “This is not Africa!” You would hear the same from people visiting Namibia, Angola and maybe Botswana. But the statement is so wrong.

Because this obviously IS Africa, but the modern development here conflicts with our perception of Africa as a poor and undeveloped continent. Our perception is wrong and there is a need to alter it because Africa is changing rapidly and has already changed in so many ways. If you're reading this and you've never been to Africa, it is very likely that your perception might already be way off - as I assure you mine (and Lisa's) was before we lived on the continent.

It is the same with the white population in this region of Africa. “They are not really Africans,” you hear people say. Well they are as much Africans as Irish-Americans and African-Americans are Americans in the US. The white population has been here for generations (regardless of how or why), so they really are Africans. Keeping our perceptions in line is challenging as the African continent changes by the day. 

Try to allow yourself to think about Africa as a developed continent...some parts of it REALLY are, and the rest is catching up. 


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