African leaders meet like ‘Africans’

Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma proves that thinking like an African is not so bad if done in moderation

Pretoria –

African leaders on Tuesday opened talks in South Africa to discuss the formation of a panel that will consult on the creation of a committee that will confer to set up a forum that will moot the idea of different representatives meeting to exchange views on the possibility of the use of a rapid-deployment emergency force to swiftly intervene in crises on the continent.

The proposed new force will assist the continent pending the operation of the long-planned AU African Standby Force.

Jacob Zuma, the South African president , stated that the aim of the summit is to let leaders know that when it comes to security, “thinking like Africans in Africa in general” is not such a bad thing.  He added that the meeting would “enable Africa to act swiftly and independently in response to the urgent security challenges this continent faces”, except in Malawi where the dire state of the national road there makes it hard for anyone to act at all let alone act swiftly.

Apparently this decision came about due to the perceptive  and revolutionary realisation that 10 years was a long time to wait for “swift African responses to crises that arise on our continent..while the building blocks of the African Standby Force are carefully being put in place”.

The AU’s standby brigade has made little progress since its inception. A decade ago it was proposed that the force would be made up of 32 500 troops and civilians drawn from the continent’s five regions. Of the 32 500, only one has turned up. It’s not clear whether this lone ranger is actually part of the force or if he is the security guard of the site where the proposed base of the proposed force would have been built.

Name change expert, Diddy, formerly known as Puff Daddy, commented that “it probably has a lot to do with the use of the word brigade instead of force. I remember that when I was still called Puff Daddy the Puff got between the fans and I hence it was dropped in favour of Diddy. Now that the African standby brigade has a new name we should see it become more effective”. Other experts echo this view even stating that since the Organization of African Unity became the African Union things have been happening a lot faster in this body because of dropping the word “organization” from its name.

The meeting is being attended by countries that have said they are willing, in principle, holding all factors constant and provided the AU provides their soldiers with sunscreen that has SPF 15 or higher, to contribute to the force. It was not immediately clear how many countries have so far pledged troops to the new force.

The new force will be known simply as the African Capacity for Immediate & Swift Response to Crises in the Greater Africa bar Malawi (ACISRCGAM). – norushinafrica

photo credit: Embassy of Equatorial Guinea via photopin cc

How to steal an election

Ballot paper, specimen ballot paper
Spoilt for choice.

Being a dictator is not easy. In addition to ruling the country there are stresses that come with the job. You have to worry about the economy, international relations, making opposition members ‘disappear’ and deciding which wine to drink with your caviar. Of course all these things come with the territory. As a dictator you will quickly find that for you to stay in power there is one skill that is an absolute must have i.e how to steal an election.

One must never feel guilty for resorting to this method of letting the people ‘express their will’. Think of it this way: Superman flies, Spiderman spins webs, Batman fights, Hulk has unlimited strength, rapid tissue regeneration powers, and inexhaustible stamina and what’s your superpower? You can rig… oops sorry hold elections to affirm the people’s unwavering support of your policies. It will involve a lot of hard work on your part.

Firstly, you need to secure the media and by secure I mean literally. If you can find all the media people in your country and tie them up somewhere that would be ideal. For those you can’t tie up gentle persuasion is advised. Since you control the media already, if you’re the incumbent, the former wouldn’t be necessary because the latter would be easier. Starve the opposition of airtime on the mass media so that for most of your voters the very first time they even hear about the other candidates is in the voting booth. With your name the only one in their sub conscience in the run up to elections, it’s obvious who they will choose.

You’ve heard it said that too much of a good thing can be bad? Well, when it comes to ballot papers with an X next to your name this is not necessarily true. Extra ballot papers are inexpensive to print as they are part of the election budget. Just don’t end up winning by 100% or something crazy like that. Unlike American Idols you want to make it look like it was a competition from the get go.

To aid the facade of your honest victory resist the urge to use violence… at least on camera. When the results are declared, act surprised but state you were always very confident that the people would vote for you. You must add that the will of the people has prevailed and focus should now shift to bettering the country as a whole regardless of political affiliation.

When Pigs “flew” in Nairobi

A few days ago protesters in Nairobi, Kenya released almost a dozen pigs outside parliament to show their anger at newly elected MPs (Members of Parliament) asking for higher salaries. The statement they were making was that the MPs are like pigs because of their greed.

The association with pigs is apt given that politicians (I will focus on Africa because that’s where I live) have many similarities with pigs.

For example, a typical pig has a large head with a long snout used for smelling and foraging. Many African politicians typically have large heads and large stomachs used for the same things. The stomach adds, for the politician, an increased ability to absorb all that has been gathered from foraging.

Ever heard the saying “don’t ever wrestle with a pig. You’ll both get dirty, but the pig will enjoy it.” Nothing is more truer when dealing with politicians. For years politicians have enjoyed slinging mud at opponents, critics and citizens alike. Similarly pigs have, over centuries of evolution, perfected the art of wallowing in mud so much so that the word “pig” has come to represent dirt and greed e.g “how disgusting you’re such a pig” or “your room is such a pigsty” or “last night we ate all the food in the house we really pigged out”.

Actually ever noticed how, of the many sayings about politicians/politics there are a significant number that make reference to pigs e.g “you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig”. It seems my Kenyan brothers took this a bit literally. That said the act of standing up against these pi….oops I meant politicians is commendable because far too much is spent by our politicians on personal development and not on nation building.

Lost In Abroad (Part 2)

As an African living abroad, what are you doing about Africa’s problems?

Have you ever been asked this question?  I was recently, and the following is the second installment of my answer.  As with most things in life, I think money is part of the solution.

[Read the first part here if you haven’t done so already]


Unfortunately many of us in America work too much.  We don’t manage to save much under the age of 40 – even though most of us are well-paid professionals. By our 40’s the sense of adventure required to contribute significantly back home is gone.  Family responsibilities ($$) take center stage, and other things become more important.  Those with the incomes that make wealth-building easier often stay here because life is easier and rich people are safer.  The huge houses that can be purchased in nice upper-class neighborhoods are too hard to resist.

I also doubt that Africans live like visitors in the U.S.  We don’t behave like people that have a home elsewhere.  We acquire hard assets, and live upper-middle-class lives – some even create social clubs and the sorts of things that make it feel like “back home”.  If you come to Houston, you’ll quickly find imported African foods as well as traditional fabrics.  Our home countries inevitably become vacation spots, rather than places we go to get goals accomplished.  Sure some people do Medical Missions, but other than saving a few lives, what systemic changes can that affect?  In Lost In Abroad, one of the characters understood this, and made an effort to use his Architectural skills back home where he thought it was needed most.

For my part, I don’t have plans right now to live in Nigeria.  However I recognize that plans change.  I remember that I was sent out to acquire certain things, and once I have them I don’t want to be stuck here or anywhere else.  I am also starting to question the merits of living out the rest of my life in the Western world. Do I want my children to grow up here?  I’m not saying that there is something wrong with being here, but I have other options.  I just heard that my father built a [second] small house, with the notion that my brother and I should not have to share space in the house he already has.  Somewhere in the world I can live in a house without rent or mortgage payments!

Will I Be Lost In Abroad?

My family wasn’t stuck in Nigeria; nor were we stuck in Zimbabwe.  When the kitchen got too hot, we moved on to greener pastures.  Doesn’t it make sense that if we weren’t stuck at “home” that we wouldn’t become stuck abroad?  This has many implications for how we build wealth in foreign lands, and how much we strive to be “at home” in another man’s house.  Citizenship acquired through legal means doesn’t feel quite like the citizenship that is a birthright.

Every time President Barack Obama’s race or citizenship is a topic in the American media, I smile at the thought of having a place where my grandfather’s house still stands.  I haven’t been there for a while, but that doesn’t mean I never will.  The prodigal son always knew he could go back, because even time cannot call into question the rights a person has on the land of his ancestors.  That means, no big house for me and no fancy car — not unless and until I can go home and contribute my sweat to African progress.  I may or may not, but I never will if I cannot.

So now I ask you.  As an African living outside your home country, what are you doing about Africa’s problems?

Albert Okagbue is a world travelled and globally educated Certified Public Accountant from Houston, Texas. He is a guest blogger on norushinafrica but mostly writes about finance related issues on

Lost In Abroad (Part 1)

As an African living abroad, what are you doing about Africa’s problems?

Have you ever been asked this question?  I was recently, and here is my answer.  As with most things in life, I think money is part of the solution.

The most important thing is for me to position myself financially so that I can go there myself and get involved. Many Africans move abroad, but don’t ever go back for more than a few weeks’ vacation.  It seems we become too comfortable with life in the west, and stop feeling homesick.

My Life As A Foreigner.

I grew up watching my family move every few years due to physical safety and to earn more money.  My childhood was spent in Zimbabwe, where I was a foreigner.  We were not citizens, could be sent home at any time, and had limits imposed on how much of our money we could take out of the country.  As a result we felt very unstable, and even though it was the first time my family lived in one city for almost a decade, we were not settled.  We never owned a house there.  We had a very old car that didn’t fit all of us.  Once the Zimbabwean economy began to falter, we had to move on.

When we got to the U.S.A., it was even worse.  We struggled financially because our parents’ credentials were not as marketable.  My mother started a new career that stressed her out, and helped us survive life at a little above U.S. poverty level.  My father was far too experienced in his field outside the U.S. and took jobs that were beneath him, just to keep us moving forward.  My parents were waiting for me to grow up, because once I headed towards my first job out of college they moved back to Nigeria.

My father returned to Nigeria to accept a full-time teaching position with a title and pay that he deserved.  Often when we talk, he tells me that there is a strike or some other interruption of school – but we both know he still takes care of his students.  He tells me that only 27% of people my age have jobs…that I am better off here with student loans.  However, he has no doubt that Nigeria is where he should be.  He can have far more impact there than in the U.S., and considering that he has been traveling out of Nigeria since 1977, it’s good for him to finally go back home.  Recently, he sent me a copy of a book he wrote about the history of Catholicism in my hometown.  I’m told he spent a lot of his own time and money researching the topic.

Returning Home Not The Norm.

Some of my parents’ generation are moving back home, but it is still not common. I wonder why that is – and money always pops up.  I know that most Africans abroad did not ever intend to make a new home in the western world. As mentioned in the film “Lost In Abroad”, we typically left with the intention of someday going back.  Some left to get an education, while others sought wealth – but few ever intended to spend the rest of their lives in  countries where most people don’t look or sound like them.

Today however, there are Africans that cannot or will not ever go home for more than the two weeks of vacation they get each year.  This is unfortunate because I think we who have seen other parts of the world can help things get better back home.  We don’t even need to move back and live in Africa, but we have to be able to go there for many months or years at a time. This is happening with the Chinese, and Indians – and their economies are responding positively.

I think in the long term, we need to create a class of people that move more frequently between the the two worlds. Although this is not easy, it is not particularly difficult if we set our minds to it.  We can’t continue to claim citizenship in places where we spend less than 1% of our lives, can we?

[Look out for the second part of this article.  Coming soon.]

Albert Okagbue is a world travelled and globally educated Certified Public Accountant from Houston, Texas. He is a guest blogger on norushinafrica but mostly writes about finance related issues on

Myths about Africa

map of Africa
We really don’t like being called the ‘dark continent’

It amazes me that in 2012 certain stereotypes about Africa still exist and some are even embraced by people one would think are open minded. There are many such misconceptions out there but this week I will focus on a few that I’ve encountered personally in my reading, in the media and in conversation with Africans and people from other parts of the world.

  • Firstly, contrary to some beliefs we actually have airports. Some of these airports rank quite highly due to their world class facilities. So no worries, when you visit you will actually land. You won’t have to parachute off your plane while it circles the country to allow for everyone to jump off.
  • Secondly, Africa is a continent and not a country. It is the 2nd largest continent and is made up of +/- 60 countries (depending on your politics and whether you count a peck on the cheek as a kiss). So before you ask, No! I don’t know that guy you met in Ghana this one time. I’m from Malawi which is a separate country very far away from Ghana.
  • Although we have wild animals that live in the wild, we don’t have pet lions. Instead, we have these weird creatures called dogs, cats and birds amongst other things that we like to keep as pets. I know a guy who used to have a Lion though (psssh! giving us all a bad name).
  • In addition to this, we have computers, broadband, Blackberries, iPhones, Tablet PCs, the internet and in fact most technologies that people in the 1st world (whatever that means) are used to . We don’t have a soothsayer who posts Facebook status updates on our behalf using smoke signals. In case you need to send a text message, make a call or send an email via your phone we also have 3G connectivity in most areas.
  • Most of the major media companies would have you believe that it’s all doom and gloom here. What with all the stories of corruption, hunger, war and disease. Yes, like Britney Spears, Joe the plumber and Homer Simpson we have our problems (like running out of beer on a weekend) but despite this we go to movies, we have comedians, we gossip about celebrities doing what most people can’t imagine their parents doing, we have parties (where we actually eat), we worry about health insurance (yes we have that too) and we go to the park on weekends with our families.
  • Though Nelson Mandela is an icon he is not the only icon to come out of Africa. In as much as we appreciate the work that Mr Mandela did for his country and the rest of the continent we have a large number of Africans working hard to effect change in their countries today. Off the top of my head names that come up are Kofi Annan, Nwanko Kanu, Roger Milla, Desmond Tutu and many more.
  • Furthermore, we don’t need your help (I am of course referring to Tarzan, Superman and whoever feels that we need to be saved from something). We have the intellect and the human resources to come up with solutions to our problems. Don’t get me wrong everyone needs a little assistance when they are facing difficulties however giving us 22 million pounds or dollars and then lecturing us about ‘good governance’ doesn’t really sit well with most Africans especially if you are involved in a myriad of dodgy wars across the world and your airport security policies regard toothpaste as a potential weapon. That said, Oprah we love the school you opened and we hope you come here and do another one of ’em shows where you give away cars.
  • Finally, most of our clean water is provided to us via the tap and not Matt Damon.*

*Matt Damon funds projects in Zambia to bring clean water to communities in some areas that do not have access to it.

Steve Biko 1946 – 1977

The cover of "I write what I like"
The cover of “I write what I like”

September 11 is a date that will forever live in infamy in the United States and around the world as the day terrorism showed its ugly face. September 12 is a date that will forever live in infamy around the world as the day after the day that terrorism showed its ugly face.

For South Africans and all involved in the black consciousness movement September 12 has a different significance. It is remembered as the day that Steve Biko died. He was one of the founders of the black consciousness movement in South Africa.

If one relied solely on television for news, one could be forgiven for letting this date slip past without much pomp. Even for a struggle hero it’s tough when your memorial has to compete with the memorial of two jumbo jets crashing into two very iconic buildings as far the New York skyline is concerned.

I watch TV a lot and I must say during that week, I saw planes, I saw explosions, I saw aliens, I saw Ben 10 but I didn’t see Steve Biko much.

Steve Biko’s question to the world at the time was very simple: ‘what is the state of the black world?’ Today my question is just as simple: what is the state of the African world?

Well, where do I start? We are held to ransom by politicians who were born in an age where having your picture in black and white was just the way you had to have it and not a choice. In between burps that smell of foie gras and caviar, they go on and on in their speeches about how the youth of today have lost focus and how they died for this freedom that we take for granted.

We have a leader in South Africa who has 5 wives, goes on record as saying he took a shower to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and reads slower than the cookie monster on Sesame Street. We have a leader in Zimbabwe trying to be president and yet he ignores a court order to marry a second wife.

Still in South Africa, we have a situation were black people and other groups are still massively under represented in decision making roles especially in upper management roles in business.

We have a police commissioner who presides over the killing of 34 miners who were protesting (carrying weapons) for better wages. This commisioner replaced the commissioner who replaced the commissioner who was put in jail for corruption.

Plan A is not working. Come election time, what do we say to ourselves? Let’s try plan A again! We vote these same people into power then spend the next five or however years complaining about how corrupt they are.

Steve Biko died attempting to put together a united black front. I wonder what he would say were he alive today about the state of the black world. What is abundantly clear is that at the rate we are going, the black world and the Trade centre Towers might have more in common than we think. Just like the people on those American Airlines planes, we are on our way to crash but unlike them we are in a position to do something about it.

To quote Ben Okri, who spoke at Biko’s memorial lecture “there are three Africas. The one we see every day. The one they write about. And the real magical Africa we don’t see unfolding through all the difficulties of our time, like a quiet miracle.”

In years to come the Africa we become will depend on each and every one of us.