'In dreams begin responsibilities': Ola Sheyin reviews the past year and hopes that in 2005, Africa and its peoples will not waste their energies persuading the West that we are not as hopeless as they suggest, but rather concentrate our efforts on getting to where we need to be.

Author:Sheyin, Ola

There is an emotional excitement which comes with the commencement of a new year that the erudite mind sometimes misses. In truth, the time frame between the last day of the outgoing year and the first of the incoming is the same as every other day and its precedent. However, it is not the mathematical facts that people celebrate, but the hope--rightly or wrongly--that somehow things may be different this time, given the opportunity to start afresh.



I have reviewed the happenings of the past year, and it all seems like a serving of what had hitherto been. There were wars and rumours of war, elections and the cancellation of such, floods and disasters that begged international relief and topics that pushed the edge of humanity.

As it is usual with the bulk of the domineering Western media, Africa continues to be the "basket case". The indices, they claim, show this much: Aids is rampaging across the continent. Sudan is ethnic cleansing. Debts are insurmountable. People empowerment and literacy are largely lacking. Bad governance and corruption are endemic. Natural disasters are truly at home, and the gap in poverty has never been wider between Africa and the other continents. First, the object of this article is not to agree or disagree with any of these views, and if truly these are the only problems Africa, and indeed the world at large, faces, then we must see ourselves as really lucky and blessed.

I have learnt not to regard as personal, the Western media's attack on Africa. I don't condone it, neither do I see it as being morally just, but I do understand the unavoidability of its necessity. I have been fortunate to live portions of my life both in Africa and the West, and neither is perfect.

In the West, however, many people are deeply unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives. They work all the hours they can, earn all the money they can, but it doesn't seem to make a difference. They yearn for happiness, peace, acceptance, and relationships, but have virtually given up hope of finding them. For so many of them, life appears hopeless. They have nowhere to turn, neither anything to cling to. The brave new world has turned out to be worse than the one they left behind.

For comfort, Africa has become the global palliative (after all, one's life seems better off if consistently reminded of people whose stock is worse off than one's own). Personally, I believe it is largely for the general...

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