When we speak of the future, it is easier to speak about what we want to see, than to identify ourselves as the ones responsible for its expression. The future of Africa has been dreamt of by many, doubtfully considered by others and theorized by others still. Many songs have been sung for the love of Africa, indeed much of the humanitarian work around the world is targeted to this continent in the hope of a brighter future. But who will do more than just cherish the continent in their hearts and hope for the best, but actually hold the continent to their breast and refuse, come what may, to ever let her go? In the arms of such, does the future of the continent belong.
There is a story in Ancient Israel of two women who brought an infant boy to King Solomon for his ruling. The two women were prostitutes who lived together in the same house, and it so happened that they were both expecting at the same time and gave birth within a few days of each other. The first mother told the king her story, “My lord, just three days after I gave birth me and this woman went to sleep with both our babies living. This woman, in her folly, lay on her baby in the night, smothering him, and he died. She arose in the middle of the night and took my son from my breast and gave me her dead child. When I awoke in the morning, there was the dead child! When I examined him closely in the morning light, I saw that this was not the child I bore.’’ At this, the second women protested saying, “No, the dead child is yours. The living one is mine!’’ and the first woman replied, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead one is yours!’’ and so they argued before the king. In his wisdom, King Solomon simply commands that a sword be brought to him, and ordered one of his guards to cut the living child in half and give one half to one mother and the other half to the other. When the first mother heard this, she cried out to the king, “No! Let the other woman have him! But do not kill the child!’’ but the second woman said, “Kill him! Neither I nor she can have him.’’ And King Solomon gave his final judgment, “Give the living child to the first woman; she is the mother.’’
The Slave trade, the Industrial Revolution and the colonial fiascos of the 20th century left Africa with a dead infant. Previously thriving African societies that functioned autonomously and that were fully capable of self-sustenance and prosperity of their peoples, a century later emerged as weakened and dependent communities. Where communities were once united, divisions arose: Culturally – some Africans perceived the cultures of those that colonized them as progressive and sought to imitate that culture while other Africans saw it as oppressive and wanted nothing to do with it. There were geographical divisions- before, a tribe would always live together within similar contexts, but now there were cities that offered a different life that many were drawn to, and so they left their families behind in what became known as rural life. And indeed, the world altogether became a different place, but nonetheless, the living child of Africa of centuries ago is not alive today as it was before. However, the question is not to ask who is to blame for the dead infant before us. What was lost cannot be regained by demanding reparations from those who did damage to the fibre of Africa because not all was lost. The question rather is what to do with living child of Africa.
Many have claims on Africa. Some consider themselves to be African simply because they were born here. Others have vested interests on the continent and call Africa their home, and cannot imagine returning to the nations of their birth. But who of these is truly fit to adopt the child of the continent and usher in the somewhat illusionary future of the continent? Africa needs more than just well-wishers and people who are willing to make a donation to help feed starving children in an obscure country. The problems caused by decades of racism and poor governance cannot be solved in a few hours in boardrooms and conferences. Such solutions, as noble as they are, are reactionary at worst only dealing with the fruits of problems by offering temporal relief. And at best, such interventions provide functionality which will make African nations like other nations of the world, but somehow lack the distinct flavor of Africa, and are not likely to birth something unique on the continent; something that the world has never seen before. On the other hand, simply being born in Africa does not mean that one has Africa’s best interests at heart. For the African continent to thrive in the future, it will require Africans who are willing to sacrifice even the things that they are entitled to for the sake of the living child.
There is no tried and tested model that has worked in other parts of the world that can be applied universally and made to work in Africa. A mother cannot raise two children the same. She may have rules that all her children must abide by, but she cannot assume that how the needs of one child were met, are the same means by which all her children can be attended to. She responds to each child accordingly, from the relationship she has built, because she understands the dynamics of the world of that child. And if her child does not respond to her efforts, she does not give up on the child; she does not blame the child for not appreciating her methods. She changes her methods to suit the child. For those that will truly nurse the future of Africa at their breast, they must be in it for the long haul, willing to be disappointed and prepared even not to see the returns from their efforts in their lifetime. In the arms of these does this baby belong.