Reflection of Africa’s esteem

THAT it took so long and so much to get here, the significance of the current event taking over global attention, cannot be overstated.

The run-up to the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa produced its fair share of negative reportage.

South Africa’s high crime rate with special emphasis on rape and homicide and the much publicized HIV infection rates, even the attack on the Togolese team bus in Angola at the African Cup of Nations were highlighted.

The aim? To show how incapable Africans are to be trusted with managing their future, destiny or anything that requires global attention.

With the World Cup on, the ball is now in Africa’s court to confound critics in all spheres of destiny, not only in football.

True, without FIFA President Sepp Blatter advocating for a rotational arrangement of continents hosting the World Cup, Africa would never have had this opportunity because of the way the world sees us.

Even though Angola is 3000km away from any of the host venues of the World Cup, no one has questioned London’s 2012 Olympics staging which will be 500km away from Northern Ireland which has been tainted by terror incidents over the years.

The last soccer World Cup was hosted by a country which hosted the 1972 Olympics where 12 athletes were killed. That same country, three decades earlier, had been run by a madman who launched a genocidal world war that killed 60 million people.

It is time to use every minute of this World Cup for every African to promote everything positive about our countries. High school exams should have questions like; Over the past five years, which of the four sporting metropolis has not suffered a catastrophic terror attack? A) New York, B) London C) Johannesburg D) Madrid.

It’s time all African countries grasp the moment. Of course, all those financial expectations that countries around Southern Africa carried when the African World Cup was announced have evaporated but its legacy may have positive spin-offs, including the way we are viewed as Africans.

It was, therefore, disappointing to see American-based artists Shakira, Alicia Keys, R. Kelly and Black Eyed Peas perform at concerts preceding the World Cup opening, yet Africans do not get called up to other World Cup ceremonies.

We have celebrated artists like Oliver Mtukudzi, Yssour Ndo, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Papa Wemba, Hugh Masekela, among others who have pioneered their own blend of African music identity.

If Africa invites the world to its party, the world must revel with what we have.

I am hoping the closing ceremony of the World Cup on July 11 is a reflection of Africa, the current Africa, the past and its future.

Most times, the media has been blamed for unfair overage of Africa in the world press because we, always, let others tell our story.

There are African media houses that sent journalists to cover the event and yet with all our competent journalists, most newspapers and television stations are prominently giving more space to match day reports and pictures from international agencies.

If a good story is going to come out of this World Cup, a story on African perceptions, let it be told by Africans before the visitors get it.

At least all is not lost. The vuvuzela and the makarapa, that colorfully decorated plastic helmet, will forever remind the world of the innovation and resilience that has kept the continent going. And that Africans still have a lot to offer and contribute to the world.

African countries must brace themselves for an influx of tourists within the coming year, the increase in interest in Africa, that we are no more a ‘dark continent’, the acceptance of Africa as ‘partner’ not ‘problem child’ of development and above all the immeasurable legacy of a perception change from outside world.PF