Letter to Africa: Why African Pessimism Now Sucks?

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – One of the toxic after-effects of colonialism in Africa coupled with the failings of its post-colonial leadership is that it gave rise to a language and psychology of self-deprecation among Africans themselves.

Forget the images constantly flighted in the world’s media. Forget the negative stories that Westerners are often accused of writing about the continent. Among many Africans, the recurrent story of Africa is that Africans and Africa will always fail.

Africans themselves are at the vanguard of demeaning and denigrating their own selfhood, injecting doses of pessimism into their psyche. They appear stuck in what Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes as the “danger of a single story.”

Now, the danger of a single story exists because its perspective of the world exists in a single frame to the exclusion of all other frames that can help to make the story whole. That single frame becomes the defining factor of how to interpret and react to people and experiences. Any detail that does not confirm to the dictates of the single story is conveniently ignored.

Undoubtedly, African still has much work to do; self-serving leaders at all levels of our societies on the continent have certainly not helped matters. Indeed, throughout our history, we’ve suffered pain and heartache from war, state brutality, corruption, crime, injustice, poverty, sickness, and the death of loved ones. Ever so many terrible things have happened in our continent, resulting in great sorrow, many tears and a sense of hopelessness. All these factors combined have given to the rise of rueful tales of doom and gloom.

As Africans, we’ve internalized these tales of gloom so much and melancholic conclusions that nothing good will ever come out of Africa. Listening to some Africans speak about their homeland, you’d think that we on one hell of an edge of any abyss. That we’re so hopeless and misdirected and lacking a vision to steer ourselves progressively into the future.

It is not surprising; as we are so stuck with the single story model of Africa, it is only natural that we’re so obsessed about harping on about the dysfunctional nature of the Africa state and society.

Many Africans openly ridicule their continent without proffering any alternatives or committing their lives to a new way of living that will propel their motherland to a new plane. They enthusiastically cackle at the demise of their motherland. You’d think that from their spew of putrid rhetoric that the continent is on a deathbed but nothing could be futher from the truth.

Then there’s another class of Africa that is so obsessed with  only putting out highly polished images of the continent. They’re determined to whitewash all the evil, to sweep it under the rug, so to speak, and only show a beautiful face to the world. But such Africans are also hostage to the danger of a single story.

What gives rise to African pessimism is empirically verifiable, some have argued. But our struggle, as we go forward, is to begin redefining our perspective of the continent. There’s so much to the continent that merely seeing it through the lens of despair only tells a quarter of the story. Africans need to abandon the idea of being eternal victims whether to history or their present circumstances. A new future and possibilities can be opened up if we begin to transform the way we perceive ourselves. We have to be courageous to step out of the stereotypes that have forever hung over our heads like heavy loads.

Are Social Network Followers A Mere Fallacy?

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Because social networks are largely fickle, it’s very difficult to tell how much influence you have on people that like or follow your postings.

Having loads of followers on Twitter or Facebook or any other social network does not automatically translate to high levels of influence, according to a new research titled, “Measuring User In?uence in Twitter: The Million Follower Fallacy.”

Just like individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations across the world have jumped onto the social media bandwagon all with the aim of influencing in an already information overloaded universe. According to the study, influence is not gained spontaneously or accidentally, but through concerted effort such as limiting tweets to a single topic.

This is poignant: what this means is that rapid updating of content on social networks does not always translate to influence. Often times such postings go unnoticed and make little to no impact. Posting links after links is as spammy as sending emails after emails for link exchange. Social media is about engagement, just like we do in real life.

Another thought is that social media ought to be fun, and thereby evolve organically. However when you wan to add value or when your intention is to seek to influence than you have to be aware of the challenges associated with using social media.

The conversational or content-driven strategies in Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are not enough in creating influence. According to the research, there are three interpersonal ways that Twitter can be used to influence, and these include: a) users interact by following updates of people who post interesting; b) users can pass along interesting pieces of information to their followers, an action known as retweeting; and c) users can respond to (or comment on) other people’s

The research states that in order to gain and maintain influence, users need to keep great personal involvement. As social media guru, Brian Solis notes, the path to engagement is strenuous, uncharted, and anything but easy.

“Everything begins with understanding the magnitude of the gap and what it is that people want, are missing or could benefit from in order to bring both ends toward the middle. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t build a customer-centric organization if we do not know what it is people value,” says Solis.

” Social media are your keys to unlocking the 5I’s of engagement to develop more informed and meaningful programs: 1. Intelligence – Learn about needs, wants, values, challenges; 2. Insight – Find the “aha’s” to identify gaps; 3. Ideation – Inspire new ideas for engagement, communication, new products/services, change; 4. Interaction – Engage…don’t just publish, bring your mission to life; 5. Influence – Influence behavior and in the process, become an influencer,” he adds.

According to Solis, social media doesn’t have to be void of “fun”; it must offer value and usefulness to be successful.

The Beauty Of Disillusion

Disillusionment  in life is real, and we never for when it strikes because it has the antics of the proverbial thief in the night. In a way, it gathers its strength like snow which falls in flakes and goes knee-high over an elongated period of time and that’s only when you realize that you have a problem of being gridlocked in your life. Disillusionment in life is when you find yourself asking the question, “Is this worth it?” or “How the heck the I end up here?”
If not resolved it can have negative spiritual, physical and social repercussions. But, fact of matter, life is a journey, and disillusionment, too, is part of the passage which we must first embrace in order to deal with it. If used appropriately, the detour offered by disillusionment is the beginning of an awakening to spiritual openness and greater enjoyment of our short stint on earth. Continued disillusionment in your life could be a wake up call to redesign your life, and act out of the depth of your being, free from the illusions that may be the reason why you find yourself a victim of disillusion in the first place.
However, when disillusionment sets in, everything can becomes gray and dark like the sky on a mid-winter day. Being disillusioned can be corrosive to say the least: it can feel as if acid is being poured down your soul making you prone to cynicism, depression and other maladies. Continue reading

Fresh Air of Each New Day

Making prompt amends is the fresh air of each new day. ~ Sandra Little

Today brings us a new hill to climb and a new view from the top. Taking time to reflect about our daily journeys is a challenging adventure in self-discovery. Looking down, we see our past trials and difficulties as lessons to learn from. Letting go of old baggage as we end our day will give us a bright window to open onto tomorrow.

Completing a daily inventory creates a good foundation for living peacefully. Honestly acknowledging the things we have done or said to hurt ourselves or others enables us to say, “I’m sorry” and to begin each day with a clean slate and a peaceful heart. As we empty ourselves of regret by making amends to ourselves and others, we make room for the love and comfort of our Higher Power.

Today help me take inventory and make amends where I need to.

Body, Mind, and Spirit. Copyright 1990 by Hazelden Foundation. All rights reserved.

Obama-mania for Africa

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

First things first: (his brains aside) Barack Obama is handsome, cool, and energizing like a drop of dew on an October morn.

By ancestry, Obama is an African and it’s not far-fetched to say through him the ancestors have spoken with a voice that has resonated across the globe, rebranding the black image. Just like me, my friend Innocent has been glued onto Obama’s presidential campaign.

We both know the twist and turns of the law professor cum US Senator cum presidential candidate’s campaign trail like our hidden souls.

“Obama is a shining star of our generation, and his rise has been nothing less than meteoric. He represents a line of great inspirational and transformational leaders like Nelson Mandela, and he’s making history right before our eyes,” says Innocent.

I couldn’t agree more: if anything, Obama’s decision to run for presidency is one of the best things to happen to Africa after Mandela.

Apart from his personality, Obama’s message of hope, if actualized, is one that can potentially heal global wounds inflicted by increasingly belligerent US policies over the past eight years of George Bush’s rule. In fact, I must admit that that I have become emotionally, spiritually and intellectually hitched to the Obama star over the past two or so years of the US presidential campaign trail.

With all due credit to Obama, he has managed to build a golden stair that has resonated with many people across the world. For the first time in my life, I have absolutely fallen in love with public service life, courtesy of Obama. Continue reading

Zimbabwe Give-Me-A-Book Campaign

Dear comrades and friends – countrymen and countrywomen – lend me your ears for a minute; for we surely can do something together to help the children of our country have a chance to own a book to read. There are many books that lie like dead and silent tombs in our houses that, if resurrected, could help to shape a vibrant reading culture in our beloved village of Zimbabwe. We need to dig up such books from our homes and give them away to those that do not have access to books like the little orphaned and vulnerable children in many parts of our land. Every child in Zimbabwe must be given an opportunity to own a book, and the solution lies at our doorstep. Access to books is every child’s right and a long-term investment for the future.

Having said that, let me take this opportunity to introduce the Zimbabwe Give-Me-A Book Campaign. The Zimbabwe Give-Me-A-Book Campaign is nationwide effort with a single mission: to give children the opportunity to read and own books. The primary goal is to collect and distribute books to children who, for socio-economic reasons, have little or no access to books. Our objective is to promote literacy, life-long learning and understanding by distributing donated books and other forms of educational media to orphaned and disadvantaged children. Continue reading

Climate refugees: A 21st century challenge

In early 2008, Tsitsi Madavo, 67, was forced to abandon her village after a severe hailstorm hit Muzabarani, a village in central Zimbabwe, destroying her three huts, crops and livestock.

Every year, as in Muzarabani, environmental excesses around the world force millions of people to abandon their homes in search of places that are perceived to be safer. The impact of extreme weather will be felt more heavily among the poor and marginalized people.

Since time memorial, climate change processes have devastated human settlements, resulting in untold human suffering and vulnerability to poverty and disease. As the world increasingly grapples with the phenomena of climate change, there are fears that it will lead to the internal or international displacement or refugee situations.

There is scientific evidence that the number of people killed, injured or displaced as a result of unpredictable weather patterns has been on the rise in recent decades.

For instance, according to a report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year, it is likely that global warming will make future cyclones more intense, thereby worsening the magnitude of human suffering.

Continue reading

Magic of the Tsotso Stove

According to an old adage, necessity is the mother of invention; it forces people to find alternative ways and tools. In Zimbabwe today, devising skills to survive is the norm of daily living.

As a means to cope with erratic electricity power cuts that are undoubtedly a defining characteristic of the ongoing socioeconomic crisis in Zimbabwe, many Zimbabweans living in urban areas have resorted to using the tsotso stove because of its low labor and energy saving characteristics.

Traditionally, rural as well as low-income households have always depended on fuelwood, which usually chews up loads of firewood, thereby endangering the environment.

However, in urban areas firewood for use as domestic fuel is always in short supply or simply too expensive. Continue reading