A Mandela Moment for Africa; A tribute to Nelson Mandela on his 100th Birthday




A Mandela Moment for Africa

By Vera Songwe, ECA Executive Secretary


It is not the clamour of my enemies that rattles me but the silence of my friends...


Had I been alive in 1918 - with over 15 million of my ancestors traded as slaves, would I have hidden in silence or let the thunder of my voice roar?


There are young Africans who know not what freedom in times of peace means;

who know not what peace can deliver.


The peaks of our continent - from Kilimanjaro to the depths of the Danakil - have only sent forth unbearable suffering and exploitation.


There are young girls suffering under the painful and burdensome weight of a male order that has no use for their existence, but as tokens for bargains and instruments of exploitation.


There is the wailing of families in the heart of Africa who fear to walk the streets, too cowed to farm the lands of their ancestors for fear of being maimed by those sworn to protect; simply because it can be done and that impunity is the pride of the privileged.


There are cries of despair from young boys and girls for whom education is but a long lost memory; for whom arms have replaced books and curiosity.


There are mothers and daughters dying at the very moment when they should be happiest celebrating this inexplicable gift of life, simply because corruption has denied any right to proper service.


We are a continent weighed by false prophets and institutions for whom these daily struggles are but a passing annoyance in the quest for more blood, more loot, and more savagery as no other can define.


Then - and yes then - we have those moments of improbable hope!


From The Gambia, to Ethiopia from Nigeria to Kenya, Senegal to Liberia, where an election Commissioner, a sitting Prime Minister, an incumbent President decides: Maybe, just maybe - there is merit in doing the impossible, the improbable.... and it gets done.

A Mandela Moment. !


We get a transition in The Gambia, we get peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea, we get stability in Liberia, growth in Senegal, euphoria in Ethiopia and suddenly, so much of the impossible becomes possible, so much of the impossible gets done.

A Mandela Moment. !


Do we as Africa want another decade of false prophets and leaders or do we deserve better?

What wail, what movement would deliver a peace so yearned? Long ago, we had the colonial master, then our own finest in uniform or forest wear, and then we took to the streets; with varying degrees of success.  Sons succeeded fathers, but the clouds darkened in most cases.


The deserts more attractive;

the oceans alluring and calm;

 Carrying arms worthy a way of life.


How does a young Africa reconcile itself with corpses at the bottom of the ocean, carcasses in the desert and hungry mouths in every township?


How does a young Africa reconcile itself with rejection from its neighbors as it flees desolation and hopelessness at home?


How does a young Africa believe in a future whose present offers only destruction greed and total demise from a stammering and stuttering order?


How does a young Africa stand firm?

How does a young Africa emerge?

How does a young Africa fly?


In the face of the indifference of its pain; 

In the face of the exploitation of its soil;

In the face of the stench of its corruption


Where forth can we find the hope needed to console?

Where forth can we find the courage needed to innovate?

Where forth can we find the courage to dream? 


To dream a Mandela Moment.