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Opinions of Saturday, 5 April 2014

Columnist: Quarshie, Richmond

Less Talk, More Action!

Role Modelling Africa’s Future

Although Africa sports an impressive count of role models, there is plenty of room for improvement. To be fair, those she refers to as such boast the credentials, achievements, qualities and so forth to justify the honour. With Africa ‘eyeing-up’ leadership as one of her priorities, consolidating what she has by way of role models seems a natural progression. In the first place, she can work with a clearer picture of the challenges and their resolution. Moreover, as this writer argues, this is the surest route to the succession of ‘doers’ that Africa needs to realise her transformation.

A role model, by definition, is a person who by example is deemed to be worthy of emulation. Africa, in this sense, is not short of anything even if the youths opt for celebrities, stars and so on in large numbers. However, the subjectivity of such an exercise cannot be ruled out for obvious reasons. In a world where the media has a big say in relation to ‘who or what’ makes the news, Africa can no longer take it for granted that the process will have the impact intended. Any eventual position taken, therefore, has to take all these issues into consideration.

Africa, of course, does not exist in an abstract vacuum and has to make allowances for the externalities. In the past, however, this has not always been put into effect. As a result, Africa has not ‘bagged’ the advantages of a catchment area that includes the continent and Diaspora. Neither has she exalted the important theme of finding African solutions to African problems. In the process, Africa seems to be unaware of her own capabilities dampening self-determination. Coupled with the lack of transparency, visibility and measurability, the cynicism in general seems justified.

Over the years, many of those celebrated as role models have milked the fame leaving Africa ‘in a spot’. The absence of structures is perhaps forgivable but not some of the inhabitations. Whilst the rhetoric does not cease, Africa has not made the clout of the role models at her disposal count in significant terms. Apart from exacerbating the leadership crisis, the continent is left in a quagmire as the aspirations of the population are down-pressed further. Amidst all this, the efforts of those role models doing their bit for Africa go unnoticed.

Even the African film industry with its potential as a powerful exponent of culture and values has lost its bearings. The over-dramatisation, ‘corny’ storylines and idolisation of ‘wannabe’ characters have become too much. On top of being cavalier, naive and narrow in its outlook, the industry’s fascination with the ghettoisation of the Black experience is another worry notwithstanding the backwardness. Just like trends on the music scene, the misconceptions being planted in the minds of Africans are a sign of a continent setting itself up for future problems.

Whilst Africa evolves over time, the fundamentality of key issues cannot be left to chance. One cringes at the process of how Africans judge success as a precursor to their choice of role models. At a time when Africa is poised for great things, many are blinded to their own talents and abilities. Worst, the shortage of creditable actions, initiatives and productions telling Africa’s story makes it very difficult to signpost Africans in the right direction. Without this, she is left exposed to the corruption that has blighted progress in her post-independence history.

Africa cannot be ‘blasé’ in her choice of role models. Accordingly, she must rout out the misfits and elements that use their positions to further divisions, conflicts and so on at her expense. In the worst cases, this has seen ages of coexistence, intermarriages and nationhood dissolve overnight. What will future generations make of such a legacy if they are not shown or taught any better? Nations like Ghana, at least, signify hope that Africans can co-exist without acrimony and strategise sensible, swift and measured responses when the peace is threatened.

The irony, actually, was to see the above enacted at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Whilst the display of sisterhood between Winnie Mandela and Gracia Machel throughout deserved ‘full-marks’, the heckling of Jacob Zuma at the FNB stadium on the back of the ecstatic reception given to some of the leaders that are instrumental in Africa’s woes was uncalled. One is taken aback that Africans would stoop to the level of funerals to ‘hang their dirty laundry out to dry’. It was commendable that Zuma blanked his distracters to put-on such a solid display of statesmanship with composure and humility.

Role models, to conclude, cannot be ruled out of Africa’s future plans. Instead of the rhetoric, however, she must expend effort on the practicalities and create outlets for their presence, talents and clout. This, invariably, means her choice of role models has to be deliberated or strategized with specific gaps or goals in mind. With this, she can erase doubts about the impact and set her sights on new horizons. Africa, if she wants, can entice a critical mass to embed a catalyst for future responses that encapsulate ‘less talk and more action’.

Richmond Quarshie

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