Africa is not a brand

AfricaWhen a region has been subject to genocide, slavery or Maafa (holocaust), colonialism, apartheid and financial exploitation also known as neoliberal multilateral agreements, how do we legitimise its place in a globalized modernity without examining its bruised psyche? Through rebranding it as Bono suggests?

MsAfropolitan does not intend to rebrand Africa, but aims to be part of a network that seeks to tell the truth about it, and the thing is that the truth, warts and all, is so much more wonderful than repackaged modern interdependency. MsAfropolitan, just to point out, does not exist to make me an online personality or a blogger superstar. This site exists, quite frankly, because I have no choice. There is too much wrong with the world to just quietly observe. I HAVE to speak up. I write, and I will only ever write, out of love. If I stop loving writing and loving humanity I will not write. Simple.

People sometimes say to me, perplexed, you’re so nice in person, modest and humble. As though nice people do not have opinions as well as nice people women are not supposed to be feminists or vocal about racism or exploitation!
But I ask myself, how can I not be Pan-African or feminist or doubtful of religion? Africa is by far the poorest continent in the world. Women have been considered the ‘inferior’ sex for centuries and although my reverence for the teachings of for example Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed is timeless, I am starkly aware of the difference between their messages and the religious dogma attached to them, which has done more harm than good.

We are asleep. We decry racism and yet live comfortably in racially unequal societies. We don’t question that we are shifting from citizens to consumers (although the many current protests and occupy movements are a monumental landmark in challenging this). We are experiencing a racial moment where a black US president is waging imperialist war, avoiding identification with women, black Americans, gay people, environmental activists, Africans and so on. We tiptoe around anything imperfect for fear of having to take a stance and potentially be wrong. Perfection is crippling us from being fully alive so instead we call ourselves apolitical.
However, every lifestyle choice is political, the choice of milk or clothes or car one buys, the books one reads, the films one watches, even Christmas is a political celebration!

To wake up, and curiously examine the business of living is an act of resistance. Resistance to the fear of making mistakes. It’s okay to be wrong, godliness is not flawlessness. God resides in darkness, in humiliation, in vulnerability too.

I’ve gone off track. What I’m meaning to say is this:
The examination of life requires intelligence. By intelligence, I don’t mean facts or academic knowledge but an acute curiosity of reality with the means available to one.
It is unintelligent to talk of rebranding Africa.
Brands are images, clusters of stories expertly put together to create illusions that will generate money. Africa is not an image. Africa is not an illusion. Africa is not a cash crop. Africa is not a brand.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Hitchster

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  • Glenn Robinson

    Is someone saying that Africa is a brand or trying to make Africa their brand?

  • Sel

    I definitely heard that!
    It’s time to stop placing band-aids around deep gushing wounds.

    Africa is NOT a brand to be offered up as candy to endless Eastern and Western greed. Africans are not statistics on a UN poverty reduction report – or whatever – in need of salvation by barely surviving, tax-whipped, brain-washed, lower-middle class Western families.

    Down with imperialism! The world is waking up more and more each day.

    By the way have you seen this series on Aljazeera?

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks a mill for the link Sel! And for your comment of course

  • Beckie

    I like your statement, “how can I not be Pan-African or feminist or doubtful of religion?” I will quote you when I continue discussing my evolution to atheism with my family. Somehow, it seems to me, theism married perfectionism and progress and civility stopped.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Hey Beckie, I’m happy that my words may be of use to discuss your journey towards your chosen belief. However, I am not an atheist. I believe in god, just not in religion

  • Kinna

    Thank you! This Brand Africa thing annoys me; it’s so wrong. It puts another in the center of our experiences. If you brand then you must sell to a customer. And we know who this customer is supposed to be. Thanks for the post.

  • Francis Denedo.

    Intellectualy balanced. Question: why the gender disparity? Quite insightful and expositional. It made a good read.

  • Anna Renee

    @Becky, Unfortunately, Atheism is no different from fundamentalist religion. I’ve been in huge debates with Atheists, and the way they speak of their hatred of God and humanity is on par with the fervor of Nazism, or Islamic fundamentalists. Atheists really do believe in God They make the mistake of believing that they are superior than others, and that’s exactly what so many religious fundamentalists do.

    Religion is just man’s attempt to connect with the infinite wisdom/spirit/reality of “God”. Christianity is one method. The problem is that man “attempts”, and often fails. Being an atheist means spending a lot of time mocking the Spirit, which is misplaced anger. It’s the wicked people, not the system of religion or God himself, that is the problem. And these wicked people exist in every religion, including the religion of Atheism.

    @Ms Afropolitan, I am so impressed by your continued struggle to be a true human being, one who is plugged into the people – the issues they suffer the pain they feel. You always assess and reassess just how you see yourself in relation to the rest of the world and Africa in particular.

    You manage to do this with an honesty that is so commendable, and you dont allow yourself to become bitter by the difficulties you see. That makes you a true warrior woman, (like the women I so admire such as Wangari Mathaai) fighting with love. This is exactly what Jesus required, and it’s really all that He requires.

    I salute you, MsAfropolitan! I pray that many young women follow your lead.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thank you so much sis!!! Your words are so encouraging and genuine, I feel very, very warmed by them. Gratitude.

  • 54interviews

    This particular article RILED me up, because Africa is in need of REBRANDING on our OWN terms. Correct me if I am wrong, but you assert that in re-branding Africa, the truth will be covered up. But,pray do tell me, isn’t investment opportunities part of the POSITIVE truth that needs to be told? What about the emerging technepreneurs? Not forgetting, the slowly but gradually improving economics? These are truths that need to be SOLD to people. They are not falsities, neither are they exaggerations of truth.

    Yes, we live in a continent wrought in poverty, disease and war BUT the other side of the coin has to be flipped and acknowledged too. We live in one of the most resource-filled continents on earth. So I do not understand, your resistance when it comes to RE-BRANDING Africa. If looked at from the vantage point of a product, yes it can be a brand!

    Maybe, I’m going off tangent, but if you can, please expound further. Thanks!

    • MsAfropolitan

      Truth does not need branding, it just needs telling on our own terms…

      • 54interviews

        @ MsAfropolitan

        We will have to agree to disagree! Thanks though for your input.

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  • Selali

    Hey, I love the passionate tone this is written in!
    ‘Great’ piece and a great space.

  •!/derintwts Derin

    i’m so excited that i finally discovered this blog. better late than never :)
    looking forward to reading more from you!

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks Derin, pleasure to meet and look forward to exchanging thoughts

  • Zeferino

    I like your courage and determination to speak out my sister…just one concern though, would naming the issues alone bring solutions to the problems facing the continent? I would think re-branding as a practical step (action) in the right direction towards solving the problems facing the continent. Naming the problems/issues alone without action to solve them could simply amount to complaint, don’t you think. Thanks

    • MsAfropolitan

      ‘Naming’ ie telling it like it is, would expose the positive and negative. It’s a choice of living an illusion or in reality and we can see from where we are now whether the illusion has taken us far or not…
      Anyway, I’m awfully late in responding to this comment so I’ll leave it there unless you return. I’ll promise to reply more promptly then!

  • Zeferino

    Hi, I hope I am not keeping you away from other things with my comments. I just think this point is really important to the consciencetisation effort on the plight of Africa you are making in your blog. I felt that you did not quite answer my question. I am specifically referring to this conclusion you make, ‘Brands are images, clusters of stories expertly put together to create illusions that will generate money. Africa is not an image. Africa is not an illusion. Africa is not a cash crop. Africa is not a brand’. I don’t want to be pedantic on semantics (in fact i like the poetry in your writing), but i think Africa suffers (reality) from the image (brand, illusion) it is currently portrayed to be like – poor, lazy, backward, corrupt, warring, etc. So i don’t quite see the distinction you are trying to make between African brand and African reality. You also say ‘Africa is not a cash crop’. But in the end Africa has to become materially (economically) strong and sustainable to end its dependency and subjugation in the world. So Africa must become a wealth producing continent (for the continent i mean) to be able to compete and end its ignominy. And one of the potential ways of doing that is to make it look better, more attractive and true to its potential – rebranding. Absence of wealth leads to lack of education, weak citizenry, outside interference, political instability, you name it. Economic lack has since independences led African countries to depend on and consequently be manipulated and exploited by outsiders. So ‘cash’ does matter for Africa as a region just as it matters to the individual in order to be free from class subjugation. Thanks.

    • MsAfropolitan

      I realised that you actually had just left the first comment yesterday!

      Please do understand, I am not saying that we should not address issues that we have or celebrate the ones that we don’t. Haba.

      What I’m saying is this. Who are we rebranding for? The west. Why? So that the west will bring more tourism, more business, more capitalist intervention. Who benefits? Well, who is rebranding us? Westerners with some help of their African allies. Why? So that they can continue to shape the image of Africa, a crucial component in maintaining status quo.

      It would be great that we start talking to each other without the West as the catalyst or the middleman or the ballpark. We need to encourage development of transAfrican trade and development of agriculture, technology industries etc. or we will continue to be dependant on those who buy into the NEW and IMproved Africa Ltd.

      This rebranding thing is not a new phenomenon. Same thing, different name. Whenever the African economy has grown, the west and allies has gotten involved in using marketing tactics to shape African identities to their benefit, such as advertising from western brands during the oil boom etc
      I’m not meaning to make it sound like the west is at fault here, and Africans bear no responsibilty. Quite the contrary. It is the nature of capitalism to make everything an enterprise. But I do hope that we as Africans can increasingly vigilantly look to examine our past and present so that our children won’t be having these same conversations in the future.

      Branding is about making something appear at a higher than its real value. I don’t think Africa needs to be branded.

      Thanks for your engagement with this topic.

  • G

    Women are considered far more inferior in Asia than they are in Africa. We don’t kill girl babies here and women get land through marriage in most cultures and are assimilated into families. We live in unequal society because we are competing using other countries’ values and systems that we do not understand. We follow other people’s religions, use their legal systems and readily lap up everything they give us. Our leaders have very little vision and all great societies need great leaders.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Why the comparison to Asia? Is that not in itself another type of unproductive comparison? Some things are better for women and some are worse in every part of the world

      Very much agree about using alien value systems

      Thanks for sharing