Friday, November 23, 2012

Straight Dope on Continent in 'Africa Straight Up'

THIS is not your grandmother’s or father’s. Africa. This is not the dark continent (nor has it ever been). It is not backward.

Indeed, Africa is (moving) forward. This notion is the main theme of “Africa Straight Up,” a new documentary produced by founder/CEO and former Goldman Sachs executive Teresa H. Clarke. The film, just shy of 30 minutes, chronicles a quiet renaissance going on practically all over the Continent. (View it in its entirety above and/or at

A new generation of Africans – mostly from regions south of the Sahara Desert – is tired of these tired-old, one-note stereotypes about them and their homeland. Many speak English among other languages; this is particularly true of the educated class. South African singer Lira, who discloses in "Africa Straight Up" some self-actualizing discoveries, speaks four. No truly thinking person should be surprised by such trifling facts.

Lest too many forget (and to those who are completely unawares), Africa is the home of civilization. It is the place that gave birth to mathematics and science that others have snatched credit for. It is the place that enriched a destitute Europe. Indeed, the European enrichment program continues. Africa is the place that is currently enriching China, but some principled folk are in place in various pockets to ensure that it does not do so to the utter detriment of the African peoples.

Sure, Africa has corruption, catastrophe and calamity. No one is denying such obvious truths. However, as “Africa Straight Up” correctly and persuasively points out, the Continent is also a place of culture, computer technology and commerce.

“Africa is not waiting for aid,” asserts an Ethiopian businesswoman, sharing the view of the Nigerian Minister of Finance and others. “Africa is open for business and business is agriculture.” founder and CEO Teresa H. Clarke. Photo from

Business is also technology, which is enabling agriculture and other sectors. Speaking of technology, Kenya is the Silicon Valley of Africa. Who knew Kenya was responsible for anything aside from safaris and marathon runners? People in the know, that’s who.

Viewers of “Africa Straight Up,” available free for all who wish to see it, will learn some things that will straighten or curl their hair, as the case may be. For instance, Africans were using their mobile phones to transfer money to and from bank accounts long before such services were available in the United States and Europe. Of course, mother was the necessity of invention because much of the Continent does not have the brick and mortar structures that are common in the West. But, still. Who knew, for Africans aren’t capable of such innovation, right? Wrong!

A main driver of this African renaissance that virtually no one in the West and other parts is aware of is Africans. Increasingly, Western-educated Africans, like the female Harvard grad shopping for a country in which to make her mark, are now returning with the express purpose of lifting the Continent out of the debilitating role of “aid recipient” in which it has too long been typecast.

“I have never heard of a country that developed on aid. If you know of one, just let me know,” one businessman challenges. “I know about trade and innovation and business. I don’t know of any country that got so much aid and suddenly became a first-world country.”

This is the dominant sentiment among the new generation of Africans. This new blood, many associated with an outfit called the African Leadership Network (ALN, also recognizes that corruption must be dealt a death blow. Numerous initiatives are underway to do just that. One businesswoman cautions, however, that such an undertaking will not happen overnight. To that end, no one should expect corrupt government officials and leaders to disappear in the blink of an eye.

One caveat as it regards “Africa Straight Up”: it is hoped that all of this talk of lifting up the Continent will have a trickle-down effect to the lowliest woman in the remotest village. For if prosperity is to be the domain of only the so-called elite with Western educations from top tier schools, the Continent will be no better off for it – only trading one over-privileged class for another. Africa has had quite enough of that.

Lira made some observations about Africa and Africans that aided her in achieving some goals earlier than she would have otherwise. Photo from

Yet another sentiment that is echoed in “Africa Straight Up” is that returning the Continent to its rightful place on the world stage is the job and responsibility of Africans and Africans alone. In doing so, an admonition from an ALN member.

“I wish and I hope that it is not your prayer to simply get to the top of the world,” he emphasizes. “I hope that your prayer and your ambition is to change the world and be on top of that changed world.”

Well said.

Visit to learn more about “Africa Straight Up” and

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