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Africa 2011: No ‘nigger’ business

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As we reflect on the last 54 years of independence and the role of Africa in the New World Order, we are compelled to pause and ask fundamental questions regarding the place and standing of persons of African ancestry in the global family of nations.

Africa is home to the majority of black people and to the extent that persons of African ancestry are located in other jurisdictions outside the continent of Africa, there is merit in investing in the building of knowledge about the relationship between blacks and business as well as understanding the origins of the stereotypes that have been used to describe black persons.

Generally, people of African descent are not taken seriously in business and what we are best known for is regrettably not in the business of business, but generally we are given credit for one vice or another and more significantly for actions that produce negative outcomes.

“We are as strong as our weakest link,” is a message that I gave to visiting African-American state legislators from the state of Texas last week in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I made the point fully aware that no matter how smart or prosperous African Americans can be, their destiny is intertwined and strongly linked to the destiny of all persons of African descent.

If they do well in America leaving the rest of the African race behind, their brand will never escape the dictates of the law of gravity.

We are privileged to be alive during the presidency of an African-American in the most powerful but diminishing nation state in the world and yet his term may expire without any visible change that many expected from this pioneer.

President Barack Obama is a great orator in the tradition of many African-Americans who have come before him.

His mastery of the Queen’s language is legendary and when compared to many of Africa’s leaders during the post-colonial era, one can be satisfied that colonialism succeeded in creating powerful Africans who can speak the language of the master so eloquently, but devoid of the philosophical and practical foundation to sufficiently capture the imagination of the majority to change the “nigger business” model.

What is the “nigger business” model? A direct and string link is often made between the word nigger and anti-black caricatures. Nigger is usually directed against blacks who supposedly have certain negative characteristics. We are portrayed as lazy, ignorant and obsessively self-indulgent. We are depicted as angry, physically strong, aggressive and prone to unwarranted violence.

Persons of African descent in the US account for the largest number of inmates and excel in sports and arts more than in education.

The traits that are implied in the word nigger generally are used to describe persons of African ancestry.

The social, moral, intellectual and physical characteristics of blacks are often generalised and the relationship between persons of African ancestry and poverty is used as the best explanation about the toxic and self inflicting nature of the nigger business model.
We are the majority in Africa and yet have not found a permanent solution to poverty reduction.

Africa’s place in the New World Order is no different to the place of freed slaves in the Americas.

We are not taken seriously and we should know why.
The transfer of power in Libya and the role of the African Union in the drama exposed the inherent weakness of the nigger business and political model.

It is clear that Africans can use the General Assembly platform to complain about the unfairness of the current architecture of the world order, but have no mechanism to convert the angry voices into action.

Last week, I was privileged to be a guest of honour at Rhodes University of the Eastern Cape with Economics Honours students who were presenting their research papers under the theme: “Africa’s role in the New World Order” and my message was simple and clear that Africa’s future is our collective business and the practitioners in the knowledge game have no choice but to improve their art.

Africa has invested in building knowledge banks at the individual level, but collectively we remain at the bottom of the human development ladder.

The role and place of nigger business in the human development chain has to be interrogated if we are to lift Africa and its people up the ladder.

The founders of America where acutely aware of the need to place whites at the top of the human ladder and were as conscious of the role of their civilisation on humanity and the rest of the settler classes.

The constitutional order supported the ideology and every major societal institution offered legitimacy to the racial hierarchy.

Religion was reinvented to locate blacks outside mainstream churches and scientists were put to work to undertake researches to confirm that blacks were genetically inferior.

The media and entertainment business was put to work to expose blacks as idiots and dangerous.
We all know how the world views us as a people and yet we have not made an investment in positioning our brand correctly in and out of political power. Our leaders are caricatured as criminals and worthy of no trust.

The people who are critical of African leadership are the very people who refuse to participate in civic and political activities.

The niggers are condemned to live in the ghettos where whites refuse to be neighbours. The separation between the races is more evident in townships in Africa as it is in the ghettos of American and Europe.

In South Africa it is significant that after more than 17 years of democracy, the upward movement of blacks has been to suburbs and no movement has taken place from the suburbs to the townships.

In the corridors of power in Africa, no nigger business is tolerated rather the inherited traditions and systems of government are used.

Is it not ironic that the economic and political elites in post-colonial Africa are now the gatekeepers of the colonial business model?

The flag may be ours, but what underpins it in the state are values and principles that are anti-black.
In a new world order we need our own language of power and business. We also need our own role models.

We know from history that nigger business is not good business in as much as colonial business was not good business. The challenge is for us to develop our own model of business and politics informed by the challenges and opportunities of the day.

The founding fathers of America were thinkers of note and they applied their minds to the kind of society they wanted to create and live in.

We also know that the colonialists were conscious of what they wanted to create and to a large extent they accomplished the project, albeit at a great cost to the natives. What is our project? If the project is aimed at reducing the frontiers of poverty then we are compelled to invest in the mind.

The Arab spring has exposed that Africa is as insecure as it was during the colonial era and the future is less in our hands than in the hands of the powerful nations. How should we respond to this revealed reality? What I know is that nigger business will not assist us.

About the Author
Mutumwa Mawere is a businessman based in South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.

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