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African Truths & Tales

Rachael Mumbi Gichuki
Nairobi, Kenya
Reflecting on African stories 
In the modern day of political correctness, it is amusing to note how Africans and the western world misrepresent African challenges.
We have been hitch hiking around Denmark through nine cities and nine over a span of one and half weeks for a tax tracking project organized by ActionAid Denmark.  In the cities, we visit different institutions that form part of the welfare system in Denmark, whose funding come from tax. We then reflect in a comparative manner how the tax system works in Denmark and how it works in our own individual countries, Bangladesh, Zambia and Kenya.
I get an overwhelming sense of awe when in Denmark. It’s amazing. I now understand the difference between a country that is developed and a ´developing country´, the latter being the political correct term used to refer to third world countries. I now understand the possibilities and the nature of security a functional taxation and subsequent welfare system presents to its citizens. In the face of so much perfection, we unfortunately tend to see and portray our country systems as being backward and dysfunctional.
I feel then, the need to echo perspectives on how to not tell challenges Africa is facing. However, before I go to the how, let me start with the ‘’who’’ should tell African stories and share African perspectives. Persons who should tell African stories should be people with a sound understanding of the African history. In an essay named, "African writers on African writing," Chinua Achebe a renowned African writer states that, "the past, with all its imperfections never lacked dignity." To tell or write about the challenges Africans are facing without an understanding of our history, is to rob the continent of its sense of pride and dignity. In her Ted Talk, "The danger of a single story" Chimamanda Adichie (the author of Americanah) reflects on the prejudicial effect of focusing on a single story about a group of people, and further quotes a Palestinian poet, Mourid Barghoti on how stories have the capacity to disposes a people just by starting the story with the word, "secondly". She states, quoting the poet, "Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story, with the failure of the African state and not the colonial creation of the African state and you have an entirely different story."
At home, we do not have a taxation and welfare system that is as efficient as Danes have because the dynamics are different. Our social and political structures are different from what you have here in Denmark not to mention the population pressure on resources. The other major challenge we face as Africans, different from the first world countries is cultural diversity. Most of the African political structures and policy choices are for one reason or another, an imitation of colonial powers. This means that the political and constitutional frameworks do not, in part or in whole, reflect indigenous cultural diversity in specific countries. 
Further, the identity conflict in most African nations are a results of the divide and rule principle of the colonial state. Of course, there was conflict in Africa during the pre-colonial period, however, the methods of conflict resolution then, encouraged diversity, inclusivity and were thus highly successful. 
This is not to say poor governance and mismanagement of resources is a huge problem, but that only goes to compound already existing challenges. 
Understand the differences, understand the history, understand the culture, then go tell the story right.





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