When, I was a young lad, my mother often advised me to be myself. The reason she never relented in dishing out this line of advice was that she noticed that I was fond of imitating people and trying out what they were doing. While aping my older brother was not necessarily misfit behavior at that age, my dear mom understood that every human being has their own unique gifts and she made it her mission to drum this on me and encourage me to explore my own talents. As I think of the world economy today, am convinced that in order for Africa to remain competitive, Africans need to be themselves.
Some of you may be wondering what am ranting about. Well, the way the world works, only the best in whichever trade stand to reap maximum benefits from it. Am disturbed every time i see some of the efforts that African nations (Kenya included) are making to partake of the global economic cake. Take the BPO (business process outsourcing) craze that Kenya (and other African nations) is yapping about. I think its shaming that we would be so enthusiastic about building a whole industry on our conviction that other than the English themselves (and the Americans of course) we speak the best English. Indeed the whole concept of call centers in Kenya is built around two things: the first being Americas need for cheap customer care services and the second being Kenya's relative high density of English speaking schooled population. I may sound like a mere critic who has no better alternative. Trust me, I do. The alternative I have is one that takes advantage of our natural strength- sports.
Africans are inherently artistic and athletic. Some of the richest and most prominent Africans (past and present) are sports personalities and performing artists. Indeed the worlds most celebrated footballer ever (pele) is of African decent. As am typing this article, my MS word text editor has recognized the name pele and the inbuilt thesaurus/spell checker has promptly corrected me to make the p caps i.e Pele. According to Sports Illustrated, 5 "black" men made it to the world's top 12 highest paid sports personalities this past sporting year, namely; Tiger Woods ( rated 1st with $127.9 million), LeBron James (rated 5th with $40.5 million), Ronaldinho (rated 7th with $37.5 million), Kobe Brayant (rated 9th with $35.5 million) and Shaquille O, Neal (rated 12th with $35). My fellow Africans, Wood's annual salary is enough to fund a whole ministry's annual budget! what a way to eat at the white mans table!
Sports has become big business. The affluent west is bored stiff and cannot live without regular entertainment. Corporate America and Europe is spending top dollar to tap from their sport crazy population. Visa card for example forked a colossal $ 866 million in sponsorship for the Beijing Olympics. The English premier league on its part earned 2.3 billion Euros in the 2006-2007 season. Many Africans have found their way into the west's entertainment menu, yet Africa has not awakened to the large potential there in. How many African nations for instance, have sports ministries that are well funded? The European Soccer leagues are awash with African talent despite the odds that these players have overcome to make it to the leagues. It baffles me that many of our sports defectors have been vilified yet with just a little forward thinking we could package them as our hottest export product.
The west needs Africa to satiate its every increasing appetite for entertainment. What better opportunity than this. As I mentioned earlier this sports thing comes natural to us. What the west would consider difficult is already easy for us. For starters we just need to continue procreating and bringing forth those strong and artistic offspring. Trust me its easy; i managed one even without trying. Secondly, a little effort and planning needs to go into packaging the product. To finish of let me encourage my friend Edwin in his quest to sire and bring up the next Thierry Henry, you can do it blindfolded.