Healing Africa-- that G8 summit got me thinking about a lot of things... What, really, is Africa? And, what happens when we continues see it as a polyglot? There may be similarities between the countries occupying North America--but, there are unique cultural, social, ethic and spiritual differences that categories and delineate these nations.
The same hold true for Africa. There is no one size fits all. The North is Arabic...sub-Saharan is black Africa...and fraught with many of the holdover evils and complexity associated with Colonial rule. Then,
there is East Africa-- Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania...black, but certainly not Malawi, Zimbabwe or Zambia...yet, each nation is every bit as rife with conflict, desolation and brokenness of spirit.
OK, let's say that a million dollars is ear-marked for food and housing projects is made available for projects in Zambia. Once the money is allocated and transferred to banks in Zambia, how is it disbursed? Who gets it? What's the criteria and who determines the criteria? What oversight is in place?
What infrastructure--roads, bridges, petrol stations, workers to load and unload, storage facilities-- to get the food and building materials to the villages? Once it arrives in the villages, who trains the
builders? Who inspects the building to ensure safety. And, after they are trained, who organizes and manages distribution of food and who moves in to the new houses being constructed?
It's more than just the giving of money-- it is about the systematic creation of a communication and financial infrastructure that will allow for sustainable change. And that takes a helluva long time. So, the
committment to 'healing' Africa requires more than talk from Messrs. Blair and Bush, but a paradigm shift, so to speak, than represents, at the core, nation building. A kind of Marshall Plan" for sub-Saharan Africa is what I mean.
A further reality--and probably the second most debilitating shadow cast by Colonial rule is the drawing of borders without consideration for existing tribal allegiances and history. (The Germans get this, the
Belgians get that, the French and British go here and the Italians and Dutch get the leftovers....)
In much of sub-Saharan Africa--as is the custom-- one is more connected with their personal, traceable history than the geo-political lines drawn by some guy who lives in The Hague.
Given this, fixing the deep-rooted infrastructure weaknesses of sub-Saharan Africa can happen most effectively with an approach that targets similar groups-- this, of course, is only a starting point because it evinces two mighty problems. First, what if your group is in conflict with the group who is politically 'in power," and secondarily, with which group does the military align itself?
Who has access to the AK-47s and the rocket-propelled grenades is a very important question in
Nothing can happen in any sub-Saharan African nation until these questions are confronted with crisp, clear honesty.
Another consideration is religious. Islam loosely unites the bulk of Northern Africa--or, the parties in charge--Sudan and Algeria come to mind-- who embrace Islam are either Sunni or Shiite. Christianity, in sub-Saharan Africa, is in competition with traditional African religions and the normal ebb and flow of centuries-old divisions within Christianity: protestant v. catholic v. orthodox v. evangelical...this list goes on ad infinitum. Religion, therefore, is not a uniting force-- although I believe it has great potential to become such, it isn't currently happening. The message of Christianity as articulated by the founder-- inclusiveness, deep respect for ones fellowman, embracing the equality of women, sacrifical giving, a view toward eternity-- could be a shining star for sub-Saharan Africa. I applaud Dr. Charles Blake of West Angeles Church of God in Christ for taking on stand on these needs. His is the only voice I've heard from the African-American church community.
What currently unites sub-Saharan Africa? Poverty. Hopelessness. Despair.
The answer, indeed, is complex. Let us look beyond the simplicity of 'appealing to the G8 for relief" and musical concerts to a more practical understanding that includes answers to this: How did we get here? What can we do--short-term-- to educate and empower the women/girls of these nations? What can we do--long-term-- to build a communication and financial infrastructure? How can we work with existing tribal confines and localities and appeal to a greater good...which, I hope, can be a
concerted national and regional effort. And, moreover, how do you help people, ensnared in 'how do I get through today' to believe that some amorphous greater good is possible. That, I think, is the toughest sell of all.