Opinion

Ivorian Writer Tadjo Speaks Out

10 July 2005 at 21:17 | 958 views

Tadjo was a lecturer at Abidjan University until 1993
Each day this week, the BBC is looking at African problems through African eyes.
Here, Veronique Tadjo, a South African-based writer and artist from Ivory Coast, reflects on the African people themselves.

I have got some radical friends, scattered across the continent. When I want to clear my mind I call them.

So I asked them the question: "Can Africa’s problems be solved by Africans themselves - or is there the need for outside help?"

None of them liked the question. They thought that it was wrongly phrased because, they argued, how can Africa be exploited by the West for hundreds of years and yet be expected to sort everything out on her own?

OK, they have a point. But what do we do, now? We have got to find solutions to the major problems facing the continent: poverty, bad leadership, conflict and the Aids crisis.

As an African writer, I am constantly trying to grapple with these issues, because literature is rooted in the reality of our lives.

Creativity and culture

You don’t need to go very far to find poverty even here in Rosebank, an affluent shopping mall in Johannesburg.

In the parking lot, two middle-aged women approach me begging for some coins, while a man plays his guitar for money.

For me, in a sense, putting an end to poverty is the most important issue facing Africa - and the whole world for that matter. This is not something that concerns the black continent alone.

If you look around the continent, you can see organisations like the AU and Nepad are not fully effective yet

The rich countries and their agricultural subsidies strangle the continent. Tariff barriers bar African products from entering western markets.

Kofi Osei, a Ghanaian who is busy putting the final touch on a book about what he calls Africa’s painful renaissance, thinks Africa must tap into its own economic strength.

In the workshop of South African fashion designer, Ken Sani Ngozi, is a business which is a perfect example of culture meeting economics.

She is not mass producing but in her small way, she is working on her own terms, creating employment while promoting African creativity, history and culture.

When I look at her well managed workshop, I wish the whole continent was run this way.

If we look at Africa, we are constantly reminded that it won’t be possible to achieve progress if we don’t do better in terms of running our economies.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) is the latest solution that African leaders have come up with.

Nepad is not just economics. It is also about leadership and good governance.

In the past, we have been badly let down by our leaders through corruption and mismanagement.

Here again, South Africa seems to set a new example. President Thabo Mbeki has just dismissed his Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, following allegations of a corrupt relationship with his former financial adviser.

Some argue that this move sends a very positive message for the whole of Africa.

Obviously, if there is one thing that we can and we must sort out on our own, it is going to be leadership.

Too often the West itself has been implicated in our corruption scandals. In this sense, the West must clean up its act and stop compromising African leaders.

Ivorian conflict

As a woman, I have often wondered if the state of the continent would be different had African women been allowed to play a bigger role.

And it is obvious that leadership and conflict are intertwined. Every morning I listen to Radio France Internationale (RFI) to find out what is happening in Ivory Coast. It is my belief that the crisis in my country is primarily a crisis of leadership.

It seems to me that we are still a long way from a resolution of the Ivorian conflict.

Tadjo does not see an imminent end to the Ivorian conflict
I wonder if a more radical approach is not necessary - I am thinking in particular about imposing an international mandate on the country to prevent more clashes from occurring.

We do have our own AU peacekeeping forces which have been deployed in several conflict zones including Darfur.

But if you look around the continent, you can see organisations like the AU and Nepad are not fully effective yet.

For example, Nepad has a system for monitoring African leaders who do not behave well. It is called the Peer Review Mechanism.

But so far, it only had partial success. Zimbabwe with Robert Mugabe is a good case in point.

In the end, I feel that Africa is really trying to forge ahead - but we are still groping in the dark, because we still have so much to overcome.

We must continue to look inwardly, to look within ourselves for genuine solutions that will work for us. But we are not living on an island.

No one lives in isolation on this planet. We are all connected, rich countries, poor countries, the North and the South.

The sooner we all realize this, the better it will be for the whole of humanity.

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