Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri once wrote: “There are three Africas. The one we see everyday. 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.”

These words from one of the foremost African authors in the post-modern and post-colonial traditions, definitely invoke a lot of questions, as one tries to figure out what exactly Africa is made up of.

Some see Africa as a dark continent… but is that what it really is?

Definitely a big NO, especially after hearing people like Professor Mugendi M’Rithaa, a lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), speak proudly about African inventions.

M’Rithaa recently spoke to News24 about some of Africa’s greatest inventions, among them, the “first world-class” Kenyan running shoes that were created “based on the advice, skills and experiences of great Kenyan athletes”.

They are called Enda Running shoes and were created by people in the east African country. Read more about the shoes here.

The African narrative

M’Rithaa said that Africa had great potential, but unfortunately, the media mostly portrayed it otherwise.

“Media sometimes has an agenda, where the way it looks at Africa is biased, and unfortunately us as Africans are not critical enough to interrogate and ask questions about some of the things that are written about our continent,” said M’Rithaa.

He said that most of the time, the media portrayed Africa as a continent that could only be defined by poverty, instability, disease, illiteracy and corruption.

“Some people always want to write and hear certain things about Africa. For some reason, most people want to perpetuate this narrative about Africa where issues about poverty, instability, disease, illiteracy and corruption are constantly raised. They fail to go beyond that narrative,” said M’Rithaa.

M’Rithaa said that it was unfortunate that most people living on the African continent also consumed, in a gullible manner, whatever appeared in the media.

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“All of us who know better must help create a more inspirational world and help people understand that Africa is as capable as the First World. Africa already has a lot of richness, which unfortunately is only seen in a very exploitative way that does not add value,” he said.

M’Rithaa said that the time had come for the international word to view Africa as a powerful continent which was ready to work with world partners in a “collaborative way – to say, we have the resources, so if you want to work with us, don’t exploit us”.

He said, by 2050, Africa should be an equal player in the business word, “because we have the richness in terms of natural resources and of course human resources”.

In this he echoed the words of Kenyan poet Binyavanga Wainaina, who in 2012 wrote in an article which was published by the Guardian and entitled “How not to write about Africa”: “The booming continent is ripe for new partnerships, but with those who address us as equals not in aid bullet points.”

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