[Paschorina Mortty is a communications expert who is passionate about Africa. She was a student on the City, University of London Writing for Business short course in October-December 2019. Paschorina wrote this blog as part of a homework/in-class exercise on that course.]
The global narrative on Africa is often a paradox and here’s why. On the one hand, Africa is often linked to a plethora of negative representations and perceptions. These include poverty, famine, corruption and conflict. Conversely, we also hear of the great potential of Africa with phrases like ‘Africa Rising’ and the ‘Next Frontier’. However, these representations do not come close to defining the true character and potential of a continent that is still, in some parts, being stunted by neo-colonialism. Many people still view Africa as a continent that is dependent on aid and the West, when in fact this dependency is a two-way street. There are many diverse and often positive stories about Africa and its contribution to the developed world that remain untold.
Black Panther hints at Africa’s potential
Black Panther, a 2018 Marvel Comics movie, painted a picture of what Africa could have been without colonization. The movie is based on the character of a superhero who returns to his technologically advanced African home following the death of his father to take his rightful place as the king of Wakanda.
Although a fictional story based on a utopia, this movie gave Africa a microphone on the global stage. It highlights important messages and potentially changes the universal narrative into one that is more positive. Black Panther also succeeded in providing a multilayered portrayal of the continent and its people. One that does not shy away from posing difficult, thought provoking and ultimately important questions to both Africans as well as audiences worldwide.
Africa houses the earth’s ‘second set of lungs’
Just as Wakadians possess their vibranium in Black Panther, Africans have been blessed by inhabiting not just one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse continents, but also one of the richest. It is not just gold, platinum and diamonds that are abundant on the continent. Cobalt, manganese and chromite are almost exclusively found in Africa. These metals are essential to modern inventions and gadgets ranging from mobile phones, electric cars and jet engines. Most of the chocolate we eat is produced in a handful of West African countries. East African farmers, meanwhile, are responsible for a significant segment of the world’s tea and coffee production.
Aside from its economic produce, we should not forget that Africa also houses the earth’s ‘second set of lungs’. The vast Congo rainforest, which stretches over 4 million square kilometers, is responsible for filtering much of the world’s carbon dioxide back into breathable oxygen.
Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash
Africa’s influence on arts and culture
Africa’s contribution goes beyond our natural resources. While sipping on your morning coffee and eating a chocolate muffin, you may find that the outfit you’re wearing or new collection you’ve been admiring is inspired by African designers.The continent’s vibrant use of colour and creative designs in traditional African fabrics has been a source of inspiration in the fashion world for a number of years. Its impact was demonstrated in the spring/summer collection from Luis Vuitton and Stella McCartney’s controversial use of Adinkra prints in her last collection.
Vlisco showcasing African print at its best during a fashion show in Ghana
Aside from fashion, the contemporary African art market is also experiencing a surge in popularity. Having inspired important artists in the past century such as Picasso and Matisse, it is now increasingly featured at major international galleries and auctions, with the continent’s artists getting their share of critical recognition.
Better Version by artist Ayesha Feisal of the Black British Female Artist Collective
Africa’s technological footprint
In the field of technology, Africans have also been making noteworthy contributions. For example, Egyptian scientist Aly El-Shafei, recently came up with a unique bearing design which has been found to significantly improve performance in power plant turbines. The invention has already garnered interest from turbine production giant Siemens and is likely to contribute to more sustainable energy production both in Africa and in the west.
Another invention which is bordering on the latest wave of the current tech revolution is from a Nigerian inventor, Osh Agabi’s Koniku Kore. It is the first device to fuse live neurons from mice stem cells into a silicon chip. And it has the potential to identify from afar a number of threats, ranging from cancer cells to explosives. A lesser-known yet long used discovery is the Cyber Tracker, a device created by a couple of South Africans in the 1990s that helps provide environmental monitoring through GPS.
Egyptian scientist Aly El-Shafei winning first place at the Innovation Prize for Africa 2017
Djembe’s commitment to changing the narrative on Africa
Africa’s footprint is visible through vital resources in the world’s economy, technology and the latest trends in what we wear. This is not a continent purely dependent on the west; and nor are its people. Rather, Africa is a significant contributor to world civilization and many of the products that we hold dear.
At Djembe Consultants, we endeavour to play our part in telling the positive stories coming out of Africa. We do this by showcasing the best of the continent’s groundbreaking innovations through our work and partnerships across the region. We are particularly proud of our work with the Innovation Prize for Africa. This award highlights game-changing innovations for Africans by Africans, such as Dr El-Shafei’s bearing design mentioned earlier. Our Africa outreach campaign as part of the Zayed Sustainability Prize generated more entries than any other world region. This result reflects the continent’s rapidly-growing innovation ecosystem.
We are also proud to work with our sustainability partner, the Black British Female Artist Collective (BBFA). This is a platform created to showcase the best female emerging artists of the diaspora, Africa and Caribbean. We have a long way to go before we have Wakanda-like inventions. But there is no denying that the future is within Africa’s grasp.
[Feature image by Damian Patkowski on Unsplash.]
[An earlier version of this blog was published on True Africa on 19th April 2018.]