On the 16th of June 2015 I had the awesome privilege to officially open the Bergen Afro Arts Festival in Bergen, Norway. This was the day of the African Child hence the topic “Towards a Better Africa”. Find the abridged transcribed presentation below.
Brothers and Sisters
Both near and far
We are gathered on a very important day in the history of Africa. June 16 is a day that will be remembered for generations. We reflect on the impressive boldness of young men and women who stood up against the injustices of the day to usher in change that many enjoy to this day.
As we celebrate the Day of the African Child, we must repeat the message that the continent of Africa expects the youth of today to follow in the footsteps of the 1976 youth and become agents of change, this time in the continuing struggle to achieve the goal of a better life for all our people.
Whereas the youth of 1976 fought against inferior education as part of the struggle for freedom, today’s youth should confront illiteracy and lack of skills as part of the struggle for development.
History is only useful to the degree that we can draw lessons from it that we can use today to chat the course for the future. Below are some lessons we can use to work “Towards a Better Africa”
1. We need a legacy mind-set.
- As African youths, we have a mandate to build lasting value rather than focussing on scattering value. We have to realise that future generations rely on what we are building today and they will hold all of us accountable for the actions or lack thereof from the present generation. We marvel as we reflect on the legacy and heritage from events in the 70s. The bravery and determination of those young people will be talked about for generations. What will our own generation be remembered for? Lost generation? Most divided generation? A generation that failed to think of the future but chose to satisfy the hunger of the moment? Should our legacy centre on how intolerant we were for immigrants that came into our space to the point of burning them alive? What is the one indelible contribution that we seek to bring to the table as young Africans regardless of where in the world we are living now? If we can find that one thing, let us work on it.
- As leaders of the future, we have to be thinking of the future we desire to see and not be confined and constricted by the dictates and demands of the moment. Tomorrow is shaped by today’s actions. Today is the tomorrow we spoke about yesterday. What we do today is either shaping or destroying our heritage and legacy.
2. We need a winner’s mind-set
- Success and failure have one common source or denominator. They are both products of the mind. We have to win in our minds before we can win with our hands. The biggest battle we will ever face in life is not physical; rather it is between our ears. If you go to the battlefront with a defeatist mind-set, you would have sealed your fate. It is called a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we continue to think that we do not amount to anything we will succeed at being nonentities. If we think we are candidates for greatness, everything about us will be mobilised to make sure that success is attained speedily. The mind reminds the seedbed for success. It is also the factory for failure. We need mental re-engineering or re-wiring; we need a thinking that does not propel our inferiorities, inabilities, insecurities and shortcomings, but one that sees possibilities and opportunities beyond measure.
- For us to shape our thinking we need to start speaking and affirming ourselves about what is possible. At the same time we need to guard what we listen to. We are products of what we repeatedly hear. What you hear over and over again, you begin to believe, what you believe you start promoting, what you promote you being to do effortlessly, what you do repeatedly forms your habitual life, your habits generate a successful future or degenerate into failure. You are where you are today as a result of the mind-set you have built over time. We have to start speaking those things that are not as though we have attained them. Our experiences have shaped our mind-sets and therefore it is time to shape the winner in us through what we say. We therefore need to be careful what we say about a fellow African. We have to keep raising each other, encouraging each unto great works.
3. We need solutions driven mind-set.
- There is no amount of feeling sorry, mourning or complaining that will ever change our fortunes as young Africans. Africa’s turnaround is premised on creation of solutions daily for the ever-changing shape and magnitude of African problems. Regardless of location, the African child needs to drive solutions where it matters the most, the homeland we all love.
- There is no challenge facing Africa that does not have an expiry date. Every problem has a solution laminated on its body. The challenge is; are our eyes open to see beyond the challenges to reach for the opportunity and solution. We have to start getting our hands dirty, rolling up our sleeves and work towards a better Africa. They say success comes before Work only in the dictionary. If we all embrace a mind-set that we are the solutions that Africa needs, we will pull in the same direction and cause an unprecedented turnaround.
- Africa is not short of ideas, what I find lacking across the continent is the willingness to implement ideas – make them a living reality – make ideas solutions to African problems. A lot of young people cry across the continent. The cry is centred around lack of opportunities and yet all they need to do is implement what is already in the mind. We should never die while holding to seeds of our own greatness. You never know who will benefit from your idea.
- Money flows in the direction of value. We must quit wishing for prosperity of the continent when we are not willing to trade our solutions for the value we wish to have. Do what you can with what you have to get what you want. It does not matter what area of endeavour you are in. We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that you only succeed in specific fields. For as long as you are willing to work on solutions and you do so with excellence, people will scramble for your attention.
- Lets start what we plan and finish what we start. Who are we waiting for? The season for waiting for those outside Africa to bring aid is long gone. It is time for a fair exchange of value. Let us see Africa for what it can be rather than focus on what it used to be known for. We have a responsibility to reshape Africa’s fortunes.
- We have enough consumers across the continent; we need more contributors. We must not rest on what already is but also look on what we can create now.
4. We need a mind-set that makes decisions, now
- We will never achieve much as a continent if we are not willing to make decisions when called upon to do so. Yes, decisions mean some level of risk. Our generation has to realise that where there is no pain there is no meaningful gain. We always think we have time hence we have become procrastination experts. The fortunes of our lives and those of the continent could be buried in the graveyard of procrastination. Our generation loves to create comfort zones rather than working through pain and discomfort to create a solid and sustainable future.
- A generation that opts to enjoy the comfort and security from its mother’s nest may never develop the capacity to fly. We cry for economic independence while we enslave our minds from taking responsibility for the continent’s outcomes. We need a mind-set change.
We can blame historical injustices all we like but until we make a decision to shape our own destinies and create new path, the wilderness will forever be our habitat.
- Decision-making is not easy simply because with every decision you make comes a responsibility for the outcomes whether good or bad. That becomes the hallmark of maturity.
Time is impatient with us. It will never wait for out indecisions. We have to bite the bullet, decide now to move forward. We need to shift our minds from the crippling, retrogressive and lazy mind-set of entitlement towards a progressive and sober mind-set that moves with the times.
- The greatest asset that Africa has is in the collective mass of intellectual capital in its people.
- We cannot move Africa forward while holding onto yesterday’s ways of doing things.
- The time has come for the youth of Africa to arise and not merely rest on yesterday’s achievements.
- The time is now for the African child to take responsibility for his or her advancement.
- Today is the day when the African child needs to be reminded that he/she has an equal chance of making a lasting contribution.
- It is not the time to downplay each other’s ideas.
- It is not the time to pull each other backwards.
- It is not the time for a hand-out but for us to give each other a hand up.
- It is not time to mourn over lost opportunity, but a time to create new opportunities.
- It is not time to be angry at yesterday’s injustice, but the clock is ticking for us to shape a brighter tomorrow.
- Let us therefore rally with a new sense of urgency, to harness potential into one space and forge ahead in unison.
Let me end my speech today by reciting a poem from my anthology, “Showers of Inspiration”. It is my belief that Africa can only move forward if its people learn to understand the Power of the mind.
My mind, my life
A mind released, permitted and sanctioned
A mind free to blossom, dream past boundaries
A mind resistant to status quo to the core
A mind restless, ruminating and flowing
A mind so pregnant with thoughts to overflow
Where nations are built, one thought at a time
A mind so captivating it makes others wonder
A mind with scintillating ideas never experienced
A mind seemingly strange, definitely rare by nature
A mind so unpredictable, uncontainable yet stable
A mind so creative, a factory feeding the soul
Where greatness germinates and success abounds
A mind I won’t disown till death do us part
A mind detesting conditioning formulating wonders
A mind capturing history making new mysteries
A great calculative reasoning engine
A composed garden where the future is planted
Where decisions are designed and action is weaved
A mind so focused, undeterred by history
A mind pushing past pain, set for the ultimate
A mind resisting negativity
A mind holding fast to possibilities
A mind so hopeful and optimistic
Where productivity is the mission and bedrock
A mind that breeds awesomeness
A mind affecting society positively
A mind fashioning lifestyles of human nature
A mind so deep, the base is not known
A mind I love to own and carry around
Where my life rests, the epitome of my success
May God bless Africa and its people.
I thank you!!!