ASO’s The Myths and Realities of Africa

Alexsenia Ralat

On Tuesday, April 19, Millikin’s African Student Organization welcomed Kwabena Tandoh to campus. Tandoh is the founder of GATE Consultancy, where he serves as president and chief executive officer. Tandoh is also the lead consultant on the Goodwin College Ghana project, he serves as the executive director. Tandoh’s presentation on the western views of Africa, titled “The Myths and Realities of Africa: An Examination of Leadership, Economic, and Social Development in Africa,” was as eye-opening as it was informational. Tandoh started his presentation by talking about and explaining some of the standard western views of Africa. Such as, that most of Africa is in poverty, that Africans are violent and war hungry, and that their politicians are all corrupt. That Africa is a disease and AIDS ridden continent. Tandoh spent his entire presentation explaining why these views were simply incorrect.

Tandoh thinks that it’s important not to lump all of Africa into one category. While yes, some of Africa is in poverty, and yes, there are child soldiers, it is important to know that Africa is not the poor and dangerous place that most Americans think it is. Countries in Africa should be taken as seriously as other independent countries. Many of Africa’s countries are actually extremely wealthy. The richest country in Africa is Nigeria, which boasts a total GDP of 568.5 billion as of 2014. It is among the top 20 exporters of goods to the U.S. thanks to its significant oil production. Out of the nearly one billion people who live in Africa, only 218 million of them live in poverty. That’s about 20 percent. Not that much higher than America’s poverty rate, which sits at 15.1 percent.

Africa is the leading producer of cocoa, it has 46 percent of the world’s diamonds, and it is a larger producer of oil and other natural resources. As a continent, Africa is filled with natural riches and resources. Multiple companies have set of large branches in Africa, such as HP, GE, Microsoft, and ADM.

Despite western views, Africa’s politics are not filled with corrupt politicians. Tandoh gave examples of those in Africa who were/are against corruption, such as Nelson Mandela and Leyman Gobwee. He then went on to tell students about the social development of Africa. He gave us examples of how Africa has improved its healthcare, such as providing “Mobile Midwives” for women who are giving birth and do not live close to hospitals. In Ghana there is free medical care for pregnant women. He explained that there are educational policies that favor all, such as free basic education programs and free meal programs.

Protection for women and children in Africa are becoming a priority, there are multiple human rights organizations, working to achieve justice when it comes to both sexual and physical abuse. Female inclusion is also becoming more important, Tandoh explained that in one African country there is a law that one third of Congress must be female. The countries of Africa have taken the phrase, “a healthy nation is a wealthy nation” to heart.

At the end of his presentation, Tandoh brought up issues when it comes in aid, whether it be in the form of food or money. He agreed with the President of South Africa, Jacob G. Zama, who said that “aid should shift to investment. This will help the countries stand on their own.” He said that currently, aid may come with strings attached.

In the end, he explained that students can help countries in Africa by going on mission trips and working with citizens to create or improve businesses. He also explained that Africans need to speak up about what’s happening in their country. “Africans must begin to tell their stories,” he says. “We are allowing the story to be told from a different perspective…there is power in the hands of the storyteller.”

It’s important for Americans to realize what are the myths and what are the realities when it comes to Africa and be able to realize that not all of Africa is the same.