People like you are needed on this continent to take us to where we should be. Keep it up man!
Ideals and commitment in politics, and in other spheres of life, are considered anachronistic in this cynical era when the public’s view of politicians and politics, or ideals, big or small, is at a very low point. Few are willing to grant that people, especially in public life, are altruistic enough to push for ideals that they sincerely believe would have positive impact on society. This is understandable given that citizens have been cheated, misled, and generally trampled upon by those in positions of power and authority in whom they had placed trust and hope.
This seems to be a universal phenomenon, judging by the number of political and social upheavals, impasses and apathy on display around the globe. Everywhere one looks, political and social gridlock seems to hold sway. Movement in any direction is difficult because the parts that constitute the society can hardly mesh and some view their roles as solely obstructionist. Nowhere are ideals and commitment lacking at the level of official public life as in much of Africa. Only in a few countries can one point to bright spots where the people entrusted with the management of nations and societies are doing their jobs effectively.
Notwithstanding the officials and authorities, however, underneath the surface burbles the ideals and commitments of everyday people. For the most part, it remains inchoate and powerless, and thus is often suppressed, but every now and then it is articulated in various forms and produces results. African expressions of ideals and commitment are reflected in small and grand acts: the selfless communities and individuals who take in orphans and share the little they have with them; resourceful anti-corruption officials who take on the powers that be knowing fully that retaliation will arrive swiftly in some form or shape; the ordinary man, woman, and child who dream of a better tomorrow and conform their daily acts to the promise of that ideal. The list is endless. And therein lies Africa’s path to salvation and greatness.
For as long as Africans retain faith in themselves and believe that what they do matters individually as well as collectively, the continent is far from a hopeless case, as it is frequently depicted. As long as the pulse of life is still there and people can visualize a different and better tomorrow, the possibilities exist to shape the future according to one's ideals.
What Africans are committed idealists? They are to be found in many walks of life: the activist who is not afraid to shout at his or her loudest that "the emperor has no clothes"; the novelist who dutifully and magnificently records the grotesqueness of the present order and creates a mirror through which society can view itself; the journalist who digs up and exposes the rot underneath and demands that we pay attention; and the commentator perched somewhere and surveys what he/she beholds and declares that the darkness is about to give way to light because he or she can detect the first rays of the sun over the horizon.
Ideals and commitment require discipline, conviction, and faith to materialize. That is: discipline to think through a proposition and fashion a plan of action to actualize it; conviction that it is all worth it in the long run even if in the short run obstacles abound; and the faith that the positive invariably overcomes the negative over time.
Africa Unbound is premised on the idea that all things are possible in Africa and by Africans. The wellspring of this impulse is a profound belief that Africa is full of positives that are sometimes hidden, much like precious stones covered in mud. Africa’s precious stones are magnificent as is attested by the size and quality of gems that have been unearthed and cleaned. They shine and radiate and telegraph the message that there are more where those come from. As a matter of fact, they are ubiquitous. One need not look too far and search too wide to uncover them. They are wherever an African is to be found. They abound on the continent, which is really unbounded in its potential.
The pace of discovery, self or group, varies. In some places, it can be fast, and often furious, in others almost painstakingly slow, but it is movement nonetheless. Bystanders may scoff at the audacity of the hope and dream, but they are very much like the onlookers who scoffed at the Wright Brothers of North Carolina, who invented the airplane and gave their state the motto First in Flight.
Africa, too, is waiting to soar. Many small steps in the right direction will produce the desired results and get us to the chosen destination. Let us not give up on our ideals and commitment. They should be the animating force of our existence, urging us to evaluate our actions and judge them on the basis of what we want Africa to be like. Commitment implies walking the walk slowly and sometimes hewing away at the painstaking task of articulating a particular vision in full faith that others will join and support it. We all have a part to play in unbinding Africa. Africa Unbound is an idea whose time is here.
Dr. John Mulaa is a policy analyst and development communication practitioner. Currently, he is a consultant at the World Bank and also a columnist for the Nairobi based regional newspaper, the East African Standard.