Celebrating the 4th of July with Alexis La Pollo at Mama’s Round Table

I am so incredibly proud to have a guest at Mama’s Round Table that I can honestly tell you I love dearly, my daughter, Alexis La Pollo. Only 18 years old, she is a self-published author, president of her graduating class and someone you will certainly be hearing more about in the years to come.
As a member of the first generation of African from our family born in the United States, it seemed fitting that she be the guest at my table this 4th of July. I am her mother, so of course, there are lots of other things I could ask her about which are fun and interesting. But, this is Mama Afrika’s table; so don’t worry, we will stay on topic.
Hello Alexis and welcome to the Round Table. I know that you have read other interviews conducted at this table and I’d like to begin by welcoming you to this space which is so important to the future of Africa: A place where all viewpoints are welcome and respectful dialog is encouraged.
So, let’s get started:
1. Who are you? Can you describe yourself in a couple of phrases?
I am a daughter, sister, friend, and leader. I am African, Italian, French and American, all at the same time.
2. What does it mean to you to be African?
It means the world to me to be African, even though I may not look African in appearance it is a big part of me. Growing up I met plenty of Africans both in the US and in Europe and the bond that Africans share, whether you are from Senegal or Madagascar or whether you now live in Sweden or China is undeniable. Africans have built a strong community and a bond worldwide and I am privileged to be a part of that.
3. What does it mean to you to be American?
America, to me, is one of the greatest countries in the world. It is a beacon of freedom and hope to many around the world for good reason, it is a nation built on hard work, equality and diversity unmatched throughout the world. I feel proud when I tell people I am American, our nation may have made mistakes in the past, but we have overcome them and set a wonderful example for the rest of the world. I am proud to live in this land of opportunity.
4. Do you think that members of the African Diaspora, especially those born abroad, have a greater allegiance to their nation of birth or the nation of their ancestors’ roots?
In many ways I feel that it greatly depends on how close the person has remained to their roots; however, I also know that no matter how detached a person becomes from Africa while living abroad they still consider Africa their home. In this way, there will always be an allegiance to Africa that runs a little deeper than the newer bond they have with their adoptive country.
5. How do you imagine your life if you’d have been born in Eritrea instead of the U.S.?
I can truthfully say that my life would not be as great as it is not. Living in Europe and the US has given me the freedom to follow my dreams and forge my own path in the world. Living under an oppressive dictatorship in Eritrea would not have allowed me to voice my opinions, continue with my education the way I wanted to or even to be able to write my book. On top of this, living in Eritrea would mean being in fear of my government instead of being able to vote and give my opinions like I can here. Just being able to take part in the political process is not something I could have done in Eritrea.
6. What are some of the things that you think any young African can do to contribute to the betterment of Africa without necessarily dedicating their life to politics or running a non-profit organization?
One of my favorite quotes, by Margaret Mead, reads “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” As cliché as it sounds, small thoughtful acts done by everyone could really change everything. Donating your time, talents, or funds to an organization that you can see doing good in the world is a great start. Even spreading the world to your friends about the issues facing Africa today is a great help. The more people know about an issue, the easier it is to be solved. We cannot count on the media to spread the word for us, we must do it ourselves; and in this age of media and social networking it isn’t even difficult. Share a link, like a page, re-tweet something powerful, it is as simple as that. You may never know who will see it and be able to also contribute their time, talents or funds.
7. In what ways do you feel your African heritage has driven your goals for your own future?
I think that the main driving force in my choosing to major in International Relations has been my background. Being African in particular has made me really want to make a change in Africa through the political arena. I want to see the day that all countries, especially Eritrea, see the freedoms that I had the privilege in growing up with in America and I now plan on working towards that every day.
8. If I say “tiger mom” many think of high pressure Asian mothers which push their children to attain success in all things academic. If I say to you “lion mom” what do you think of?
Immediately I think of African mothers, though Asian mothers get a lot of the attention, African mothers are just as fierce. I grew up, as I’m sure most members of the diaspora have, hearing all about family that still lived in Africa. Every time I brought home a bad grade or misbehaved in some way I heard all about this cousin or that aunt who would kill to have the opportunities that I do in the west, and how it was wrong and disrespectful to them for me to squander those opportunities. I have not met many Africans, especially in my family, who have not risen up to every challenge and met every goal they set for themselves; not just for themselves but for those back home who never could.
9. OK, my signature question: “If you could wave a magic wand over Africa and change any one thing for women and children, what would it be?”
I would stage fair and just elections for all oppressed countries so that the voices of the people, the ones who really know best for the country, can finally be heard.
10. Finally, please tell us all about your book and what made you write it.
My book, Patchwork, began as a school project in my senior year and grew into something bigger than I ever thought it would be. I, and many others, struggled with my identity as a child. Where was I really from if I had so many cultures as part of me? I was filled with questions, what really makes a person American in a nation comprised of immigrants? How strongly to others feel connected to their home countries? So I set out to interview immigrants to the US from all over the world. My journey, along with their interviews are what became the foundation for my book Patchwork.
Thank you Alexis for showing us a glimpse into that shadowy space where cultures blend.

I often talk about how important our youth are and how necessary it is to invest in them if we want to see a strong Africa. I hope that today as many Americans of African heritage celebrate freedom and liberty in this nation; we are able to take a moment to think about how to create a generation of African youth who have the ability to express themselves and their vision for their respective countries in a productive way. Our children, be they in Berlin or Boston, Beijing or Bamako… all have something to contribute to the future of Africa. Let us raise those living in the Diaspora to take what is good from where they live and find a way to incorporate it into Africa’s future in a way that respects our indigenous traditions and heritage.
Happy 235th Birthday America! And thanks most of all for giving me a safe place to raise and educate my children and for having provided me with opportunities that I’ve been blessed with during my time here. The U.S. has welcomed me and despite the glitches and needed improvements I see in this nation; I must say that today, along with millions of other people of African heritage, I am also proudly American.

Why Africa Day Matters

Africa mapI was pleasantly surprised to see so much talk about Africa Day today (#AfricaDay is even a trending topic on Twitter).  After all, it used to be something that only people who were interested in African politics even knew existed.  One question I keep getting asked today though is: What is it and why do we need an Africa Day?  This post is my reply:

Let us begin by defining the terms.  What is Africa Day? It is not another “Black History Month”!  It is a celebration of the formation of the Organization of African Unity, (OAU), on May 25th, 1963.  Although the OAU no longer exists; it was the predecessor to the current African Union (AU).  Why should we care about the OAU you might ask?  Well, the first meeting of the OAU was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when the 30 leaders of Africa’s newly independent states (all but Ethiopia had just shed the shackles of colonialism) met to set common goals.  With this meeting, Africa finally had its destiny in its own hands and our leaders decided to work collectively to accomplish the goal of prosperity for the continent.  Africa Day is at its heart, not only the celebration of the founding of the OAU; but the celebration of empowerment and unity.  Many years before the European Union existed; the African continent was already working toward common goals and with the greater African vision in mind.

Realistically, I have to admit that the OAU/AU was and is far from perfect!  The list of their errors is long and we should hold them accountable for each and every of them.  But, there is no denying that their vision is a good one: Africans united to build a better future.  It is only through cooperation both regionally and continentally that we will advance to the levels that we are capable of!  We are a rich continent both in resources and human capacity for innovation.

Though diverse in language, cultures, appearance, tradition and religion, Africans have much in common as well.  Africa Day is a reminder that we should continue to forge forward in our daily job of building a stronger, healthier, prosperous future for all of Africa’s children.  It is a reminder that we need to remember the commonality we share instead of allowing others to tell us how different we are.  It is a reminder that like members of a large, extended family, we should remember always that we are sisters and brothers before we are individuals.  Africa Day serves to push us in the direction of remembering our common roots instead of our individual preferences.

I have been African since my birth, I was born in Africa (Eritrea to be precise), I am a scholar of African politics and I’ve worked (via MamaAfrika) for African women and children in a dozen countries for 10 years now.  I think it’s fair to say that I am African in body and soul.   But, I remember that I can only as proud as I am of being an African woman because of all of the sacrifice, leadership and example of millions of other Africans throughout the continent.  It is only because of hard-working farmers in Swaziland, fisherman in Senegal, village elders in Zaire, women working their vegetable stalls in Kigali with a baby on their hip, ancient kings and queens of long-dissolved African empires and current kings like those in Ashanti lands, Rwandan kids forming IT start-ups, the vision of men like my grandfather Araya… my pride comes because of their work, their dignity, their kindness, their faith and their desire to build a stronger Africa.

My hope is that this Africa Day, like all of the other 364 days of the year; I can work to accomplish the kinds of things that make the Africans who are part of Mama Afrika’s family proud to be African because of something I’ve done, a choice I’ve made or a contribution I’ve been able to make to their lives or the lives of others on the continent.

The specific things that the African Union does or doesn’t do are not a reason to celebrate Africa Day.  Let’s face it; they are simply nothing when you count the potential (still dormant in many places) of the millions of individual African men, women and children.  I will dance and sing today because I love the idea of focusing on that potential and knowing that with the right choices… we can all do our parts to awake that sleeping potential.  When that potential is unleashed, we will be a continent like no one is even capable of imagining today: strong, unified, and blending the wisdom and traditions of our ancestors and the optimism and innovation of our children!

Africa day matters to me because Africa matters to me.

Happy Africa Day everyone!

Love,

Mama

Interview with President Kagame of Rwanda, Part Two

Click here if you missed the first part of Mama’s interview with President Kagame.

PART TWO:

6. “No man is an island.” What women in your life most shaped your world view and influenced you?

I have been influenced mostly by the injustice that I lived in my childhood and youth. There are women who worked hard in difficult circumstances – like the mothers in refugee camps who raised families in desperate conditions, and our female comrades fought beside us to liberate Rwanda. Their acts of courage and bravery are a continuing inspiration.  I greatly admire the women of Rwanda and how they have taken up the task of building a new country after total devastation – they are a big part of why Rwanda is where it is today. I also have a wonderful partner in my wife Jeannette, who works tirelessly through the Imbuto Foundation to educate and empower women and girls.

7. I would imagine that one of the biggest challenges to leading a nation which has seen the devastating effects of hate speech; is to then find a balance between freedom and restraint.  Considering Rwanda’s history, how have you walked the delicate line between respecting human rights such as freedom of speech and preventing hateful speech from again dividing your nation?

I think the answer has been in writing a comprehensive constitution. We looked at many constitutions and also involved citizens in determining what would serve them best, considering the experience they had just gone through and how they lived harmoniously together before colonial dislocation. Today we make sure that that constitution is strictly adhered to. Only those who do not understand today’s Rwanda and Rwandans, or those feel they have a right to influence how Rwanda should be governed, talk about lack of freedom of speech.

8. I’ve noticed a certain duality in your leadership style.  On the one hand, you have reached back to Rwanda’s traditions to implement solutions such as the Gacaca courts; yet you are also utilizing high-tech solutions like Twitter to communicate.  How do you think Africa in general, and Rwanda in particular, can best manage the natural conflict sometimes caused when tradition and new ideas meet?

I seek out the best of everything, in tradition and in modernity. I am relatively new to tweeting but I really like the way it allows me to talk directly to people all around the world about everything from African politics to Arsenal, my favourite football team. Similarly, the traditional Gacaca court system helped us try a huge number of genocide cases quickly but, more importantly, it also helped reconcile and unite Rwandans after an incredibly painful period in our history.

9. “Africa for Africans” is a phrase that is used by some to mean that Africa shouldn’t be “recolonized” by China.  For others, it means that Westerners shouldn’t be the ones that dictate the solutions to Africa’s problems.  Others use it to mean we should look invest in our African children in the hope that they will be our future problem solvers.  What does the phrase mean to you, Mr. President?

It means Africans determining their own destiny. We truly value the support and friendship with partner countries, including China and other countries in the West and elsewhere but ultimately, Africans alone must shape the future of this continent. By giving our children the best possible education and health facilities we are not only giving them the best start in life – but ensuring Africa’s continued dignity, development and transformation. This is the only way for us to be on equal footing with the rest of the world.

10. Please forgive me for asking such an unsophisticated question to a man of your status.  But, it has become a tradition here at Mama’s Round Table, and if you’ll allow it; I’d like to ask you the same question that I ask all of my guests: If you could wave a magic wand over Rwanda and change one thing; what would it be?

I would rid Rwanda of all poverty so that everyone, regardless of background or birth, were able to enjoy all the opportunities that this wonderful country, and our abundant continent hold.

Again, thank you so much Mr. President for your time and candor.  I am sure that no matter where people stand on the issues that we’ve discussed, they would join me in thanking you for sharing your time, views and opinions with us.  As for me, I look forward to another 10 years of work with the wonderful people of Rwanda.  May God bless your beautiful nation with a wonderful and prosperous future.

Feel free to share your views with us in the comments section below. This is a round table after all and all voices are welcome!

Blessings,

Mama

Mama’s Round Table: Nigel Mugamu (Part 2)

Hello again everyone, and welcome back to Mama’s Round Table! I hope that you enjoyed yesterday’s portion of my interview with Zimbabwean, Nigel Mugamu.  Let’s just jump right in where we left off, shall we Nigel?

6. Here is an easy one: freedom or food?

Give me freedom any day

 

7. You are a well-educated, successful man who is doing well for himself in the West.  What has made you decide to contribute to the reversal of “brain drain” from Africa and return home to Zimbabwe?  Would you recommend the same move to other Africans living abroad?

 

Firstly home is home and I always intended on returning. Without getting too sentimental, returning home had to make sense both financially and otherwise period! Let’s be realistic here. This is very important for anyone thinking of this. It made sense for me to return home given my work experience, exposure and the direction of my own life. I have been away from home for several years now. I was fortunate enough to spend a year in Zimbabwe 5/6 years ago so I’m not jumping into the deep end without experience. Economically things were bad then – shortages and so forth. This is no longer the case. I have been home twice in the last 10 months and I am currently involved in a startup which we hope to launch once I am on the ground. So you see it makes sense to go home for me.

 

People need to realize that this plan has been in the works for 2 years now. It takes time and proper planning and even then things don’t always go according to plan. Reversing the brain drain in my opinion is a direct by-product of my decision to go home. We need to be realistic and less emotional about returning home. I recently wrote about this issue here. I asked the question of others and many people I know personally have real concerns about moving back home. I believe that Zimbabwe or Africa is not for everyone for a variety of reasons. Some are simply accustomed to certain things or a certain life. Some have children to consider and the list goes on. I completed my MBA a few years ago now, and I have to admit that it (MBA) definitely has a direct impact on the way I think and live now. I have always been very entrepreneurial in the way I think but this program pushed me over the edge and now that’s how I live. I see a challenge and opportunity to overcome and I move forward. Others might see a roadblock and simply stop. It’s all relative. Staying here for me meant employment and going home (in my head) meant employing others. So you can see why returning home made sense for someone like me. Like I said, everyone is different and our journeys are certainly not similar.

 

8. From your experiences living in the U.K., what would you like to take home as a lesson for Africans?

I am a proud African as you know. Proud of our heritage, our ability to ‘make a plan’ and move forward. One of the things I want to take home (in any unorthodox way) is to remind myself and others like me that our way of doing things in Africa isn’t necessarily good or bad. It’s an African way of doing things and we should be proud in some cases. We often need to find middle ground. We also need to learn from others if we are to achieve our potential; for example learn about how some businesses in UK operate and the benefits of some strategic relationships they have whilst remembering the context. It is imperative that we acknowledge that UK businesses operate a certain way but we must, for fear of a better phrase ‘Africanize’ or localize certain business practices when I return. I firmly believe that humility on my part is key. Humility is critical in working out that something that works a certain way in the UK won’t necessarily work in Zimbabwe. Humility is important to realize that one shouldn’t force or expect employees or various stakeholders to adopt completely foreign and unnecessary business practices simply because ‘this is how the British do things’. It’s not right to patronize others – we must encourage cohesion and sharing of ideas. So to answer your question, humility is what I intend to take home with me.

 

9. The United States is often called the “land of opportunity” because it has become a place that people from all over the world go to live out “The American Dream”.  Do you envision an “African Dream”?  If so, what is it and how does it include foreigners coming to Africa as their “land of opportunity”?

I’m not too sure about the ‘The American Dream’ and I certainly don’t believe in Africa being viewed as just the ‘land of opportunity’ by foreigners. I want to discourage such practices – this is not the gold rush era. Like I mentioned earlier I believe in Africa first. Africans must be empowered both economically and otherwise. Inward investment is good and in fact encouraged but not at the expense of the local people and their livelihood. Wealth and opportunities must be distributed so that people are involved in the economic process. I would like to see a situation where certain sections of society are not marginalized. Let people become empowered to go out, work hard and achieve prosperity whatever that means to them.

From an investment destination, I see Africa as a place where partnerships via joint ventures and so forth should be sought and in fact encouraged. We need to diversify our partners. Traditionally we have partnered with Europe and the Americas but we need to look east as well. India is an interesting partner with similar challenges and population. I envisage a situation and you know this already, where our African governments are aid-free. Africa has sufficient mineral, land and other such resources to sustain ourselves. We already know that aid doesn’t work and those that push for it have other agendas.  I envisage a situation where we increase our intra-trade within Africa from its current levels of approximately 10%. Why shouldn’t we trade more with each other? We definitely need to. I envisage a situation where we borrow and work closely together in terms of resolving various challenges like electricity and so forth.

 

10. Finally, I couldn’t let you leave our Round Table without asking you what has become my signature question; so here it is.  If you could wave a magic wand over Africa and change one thing; what would it be?

 

One thing only huh? What it means to be a true leadership with respect to governance related issues.

 

Thank you so much for your time Nigel!  I am sure that many will be inspired by your journey.  I wish you the very best on your ventures as you return home to our mother, Africa. May God bless and keep you on your road to success.  Since I am a mama at heart, I ask you to always keep our people in your hearts as you walk toward the realization of your own dreams; so that you can take many others with you.  Even if you never run for political office, this is what will make you part of the leadership change you said you’d be inspired to change in Africa.

Now, friends, please join the discussion via Mama’s comments section because the most important portion of our Round Table discussions isn’t our guest or me… it’s you!

Q&A How many countries are there anyway?

Dear Mama,
I keep reading about countries in Africa which I’ve never even heard of! How many countries are there today in Africa, I’m lost!
Thanks!
-A

Dear A,
Thanks for your question. I understand how you must feel and don’t worry; there are so many people who feel the same way. I even know some African men and women who read an article and ask themselves “Where is that?”, or “Is that what they are calling it now?” There are many nations which have kept the same borders since their independence; but have changed their names. One such example is Zimbabwe, which was known as Rhodesia until just after independence in the 1980’s… yes, I said 1980’s! And it isn’t even Africa’s youngest country.
And now, to answer your question: There are currently 54 countries in Africa. I’ll list them for you alphabetically below:
Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Many of these are island nations which are off of the coast of the African continent itself; but are included in the count of “African nations”. Madagascar is one of those countries. Some are lesser known islands like the Seychelles, (which are absolutely beautiful by the way!).
And who knows? By the time you have learned them all, there may be a new country or two. After all, because of the history of the continent and how the lines were drawn by European colonists; many African peoples are struggling to redefine themselves and their borders. If you’d like to learn more about two such countries, you can research the history of Africa’s “newest” country: Eritrea (which became a nation officially in 1993). Or, you can research more on the Western Sahara, which might end up another country on the list of African nations. It is a former Spanish colony seeking independence; but currently split and partially controlled by neighboring Morocco.
Again, thanks for taking the time to ask your question. I hope that the New Year is off to a fabulous start for you and your whole family.
Love,
Mama

And if we paid our taxes TWICE…

How would you answer the following question: “Many people leave Africa to live in Europe or North America each year. What do those people owe to their nations once they leave?”
 
Some countries, like Eritrea require that duel citizens pay income tax. Yes, this means that an Eritrean who moves to London would be required to pay taxes on their income twice, once to the English government and again to the Eritrean government. Recently, the government representatives in Germany decided to require an additional 300, 150 or 50 Euros from all Eritrean-German citizens depending on if they are employed, unemployed or students.

What do you think? Should African people be required to pay to keep their citizenship even if it means paying income tax to two different governments? I ask primarily because almost all Africans who leave “home” send money home regularly to support those family members that they left behind. Tell us, what do YOU think?

 Blessings, 

Mama 
 

 

 

Donations: How to Best Help

Hello again everyone and Happy New Year!

I would first like to apologize for not having any posts earlier; but you will soon see what I’ve been so busy on (hint: BIG changes coming to MamaAfrika.com soon!)

I was talking to a really nice woman today on the phone and our conversation brought something to mind that I would like to share with you. It is something I briefly touched on during a talk I gave in Vienna a few months ago and I’m happy today’s conversation reminded me to post a note to all of you here:

Donations. I’m sure that some of you have been approached at some time or another by someone at work or church or maybe your child’s school asking for donations of clothing or other items which would be sent to Africa. Despite the generous gesture; next time say no and offer this bit of advice instead: “Send money and stimulate the local economy instead.”

It isn’t the idea of sending tennis shoes or dolls that bothers me, far from it! But what I think many people are either unaware of or perhaps just don’t give any thought to is that Africa is a continent where most things can be found and almost always cheaper than they can be purchased in the West. Let’s think about this logically shall we? Let’s take a fictional scenario as our example of responsible donating:

Jane wants to help poor children in Rwanda and figures a good way to do so would be to ask the members of her local church to donate used children’s clothing at next Sunday’s service so that she can mail them to a church that they are affiliated with in Kigali, Rwanda. Sounds like a lovely idea doesn’t it? Yes it is; but there is a more socially responsible way of accomplishing the same task:

Instead of paying the shipping (and often bogging the receiver down with import taxes in addition… why not raise some money and send it to someone at the church in Rwanda to ask them to purchase clothing directly. After all, there is a local economy which probably includes women who make their living selling used clothing from market stalls.

By taking this approach, Jane has 1) saved in shipping charges– thus having extra money which could be helping Africans instead of the postal service 2) avoided often heavy import taxes which many African countries levy on imports 3) still provided the children she wanted to assist with clothing to wear and 4) supported the local economy by purchasing the goods from local businesses in Rwanda.

Think about Jane the next time you consider a fundraiser for the poor. Or, the next time you hear someone talking about gathering items for donation to Africa; let them know that you are sure they have the best intentions. But remind them that unless it is a donation of items that really can’t be found in the area they are donating them to… there might be a more responsible way of accomplishing their mission.

Blessings,
Mama

African languages

“Dear Mama Afrika,

I heard that Africans did have written languages; but I thought that they only used storytelling and didn’t write things down until recently. Could you tell me which it is?

Thank you.
J.”

Dear J,
First of all, thank you in your interest in learning more about African history and culture.

To answer your question, yes some African cultures have had written languages, in one form or another, for a very long time. I’ll mention just two of them; although there are others.

In the Akan culture, one of the ways that stories were told was through the use of symbols. These “pictures” were representations which tell an entire tale, or which can be simplified into one-lined proverbs. The symbols are then printed on fabric which is worn in the form of clothing. The symbols, called Adinkra symbols, are also carved, etched, painted or otherwise put into daily use items like pottery, jewelry, stools, gold weights, etc. At Mama Afrika’s carvings stand, ( http://www.mamaafrika.com/products/carvings3.php ), you will find some items such as stools which include some of these symbols as well as an explaination of what the symbols mean.

In countries like Eritrea and Ethiopia, there are even written languages which are more easily recognizable to someone outside of Africa as they include letters which are connected to make up words. Ge’ez is one of the world’s oldest written languages. Although it is now only used by the Coptic Church, it is the language that many others such as Tigrinia (in Eritrea), Amharic (Ethiopia) and Tigray (Ethiopia) originate from.

You can think of Ge’ez as the Latin equivalent for much of Europe. Just as Spanish, French or Italian find their roots in Latin; Tigrinia, Amharic and Tigray find their roots in Ge’ez. And just as it is only the Catholic Church which still uses Latin; it is only the Coptic Church (a form of Christianity which is closely related to the Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches) which uses Ge’ez.

The Ge’ez language uses “sounds” more than it does letters. For example, there is a letter which represents the “b” sound. Then that “letter” is modified to add a vowel sound to it. So, the following sounds would have slightly different ways of being written: “b”, “ba”, “be” “bi” “bo”, etc…

To learn more about Ge’ez, you can visit this site: http://www.ethiopianhistory.com/Ge’ez

I hope this answers your questions. As you can see, Africans have been using written languages in one form or another for thousands of years!

All my best,
Mama

Question and Answer: Moving to Africa

Moving to Africa

I received a phone call yesterday from a nice gentleman who wanted to know where to start. You see, he intends to move permanently to Ghana in a couple of years and has no idea where to get started in his preparations.

I’m no moving consultant; but I was struck by his desire to move to Africa and bring his skills with him so as to assist in the development Ghana in whatever way he could. I must admit honestly that he didn’t have a great knowledge of the country or the things he would need to do to get there. But again, his passion impressed me. With two years to go, he has the time to become informed and here is a piece of the advice I gave:

Before deciding on moving to a foreign country, find out the basics by visiting the US State Department’s website (or equivalent organization from your country of citizenship) and find out what they advise for citizens who want to live abroad in that country. You will often find information concerning everything from health insurance, real estate, schools, and an array of other concerns you might have while living there. Then contact the local embassy or consulate from that nation. For example, the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington D.C can inform him of the visa requirements and tell him what things he will and will not be able to do as a foreigner living in Ghana.

Africa has a major problem of brain drain. Thousands of Africans leave their home countries each year looking for opportunity elsewhere and they take their training, skills and experiences with them. It is clear that there is a role for those who are interested in reversing the “Brain Drain” and immigrating to African countries in order to contribute their skills and abilities.

But first, check out the area you would like to move to… thouroughly. Good intention, without good research, can be more harmful than good: not only to the people you are going to help; but to you as well.

Blessings,
Mama