The role of columnists in newspapers and other media is not only to comment on current issues but to tap into the social nervous system and detect new tendencies. Thus they act as weather vanes, predicting the direction of thoughts, emotions and impulses and working out the effects of these on the social consciousness. In many cases, they ring alarm bells; in other cases, they act as thought-leaders, urging their readers to choose certain paths and avoid others.
African columnists are no different from their colleagues elsewhere in the world apart from one fundamental aspect. They do not seem to enjoy the same status in their own spheres of influence that their counterparts in the developed world, and increasingly in the more confident developing countries of Asia and Latin America, enjoy.
And here lies the crux of the problem, which goes beyond the media. There is a reluctance to appreciate the work of Africans unless it is recognised and validated by outsiders, usually in the West.
Over the last few months, New African columnists, from different countries and regions and backgrounds, have been consistently pointing out one theme--the African lack of confidence and appreciation of other Africans.
This is a sensitive issue which many commentators prefer to skirt around but it is nonetheless a profound one. When we talk about African self-confidence, we are not talking about the often false bravado of declaring 'I am proud to be an African!' which by its very declamatory nature often masks a deep-seated inferiority complex.
It often takes the form of asking for help from outside as the first course of action during a crisis, or looking for acknowledgment from outside rather than from within. It manifests itself in the glee with which we rush to parade whatever praise a foreign agency may send our way while ignoring comments from our own contributors.
It manifests itself in the manner in which we refuse to recognise outstanding achievements of our own people unless someone else does so first. The achievements of our writers, artists, sportspeople, inventors, entrepreneurs and so on are sniffed at until Time magazine or its equivalent says so, at which point we rush to add our praises.
We see it in the eagerness of our leaders and politicians to be...