Victor Kgomoeswana
Victor Kgomoeswana

It was tough week in Africa but out destiny awaits

By Victor Kgomoeswana Time of article published Dec 10, 2017

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Some weeks feel like seven months - not days - in a pressure cooker. Doing duty in Sharm el-Sheikh in the South Sinai governorate of Egypt at the #Africa 2017 Summit made it worse, leaving friends and family wondering what had possessed me.

This touristy town boasts lovely beaches and great hotels. But it is less than 500km from Bir Al-Abed in North Sinai.

More than 300 people died there barely a week earlier in a bomb attack on the Al-Rawdah Sufi mosque, as African Union chairperson President Alpha Conde of Guinea reminded us in his opening address.

“So, you and I could die in this beautiful place we are travelling to,” one of my media colleagues quipped cheekily.

Visiting a country still rebuilding after the Arab Spring, next door to Libya where reportedly 700 000 African slaves are trapped, is not ideal, but it had to be done.

It is also not that far from Jerusalem, thrust into the limelight for the umpteenth time by President Donald Trump’s inauspicious announcement.

The Middle East and North Africa is not my comfort zone.

The fact that I had to stay in a town across the sea from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Israel, Syria and so close to Sudan to discuss African business more than tested my Afro-optimism.

In the words of Mark Eddo, one of the facilitators at #Africa2017, I faced the tough choice: “reason to be cheerful or fearful”.

My African business evangelism forced me to choose cheer over fear.

Back home, to add to my sagging energy level, reports were not encouraging either.

The Steinhoff revelations threatened to haemorrhage the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, whose chairperson, Nonkululeko Nyembezi, had just participated in one of the panel discussions about gender-inclusive growth at the same venue.

That she was still so sure-footed on stage was a sign of her substance as a leader.

Thousands of kilometres from home, it was impossible to have a heart and yet ignore #LifeEsidimeni; or #Khwezi or #EskomHearing. There was just too much intensity around these issues, but I was in Egypt to continue my mission of telling the story of this beautiful - but ravaged - continent.

Africa has been through so much and it’s still standing. Having overcome worse catastrophes, I could not sulk under the weight of my South African blues.

Egypt took a frontal hit in 2011 during the uprising in North African countries. Although this time I merely flew over Tahrir Square in Cairo, the visit replayed the Egyptian revolution with fresh potency.

The summit was part of Egypt’s revival; rallying around the entire Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa for much-needed support.

World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva talked of the “$1.15billion (R20bn) to support the reform of the Egyptian government and make it attractive for investors to come into gas and renewables”. Egypt needs that.

Stars like Tony Elumelu and fellow Nigerian banking giant Jim Ovia, Clare Akamanzi, CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, along with President Paul Kagame, emphasised that a united African cannot be defeated.

In the spirit of the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s $100-million fund to develop 10000 African start-ups over 10 years, 18 young entrepreneurs pitched their businesses in a bid to get funding.

Founder of WeFly Agri, Ivorian Joseph-Olivier Biley, was one of them, and his story was a knockout.

His company is taking the use of drones to another level. He demonstrated on his smartphone how a farmer can monitor his business from anywhere - with the help of integrated technology.

He is young, modern and in favour of smart agriculture. With proper support, he represents the type of African we must back to secure our future.

It was a tough week, with more to come. However desperate and scary the journey might be, our destiny lies on the other side.

We ought to renew our resolve to claim it; if only to honour Madiba, whose death was commemorated on the same day as the birthday of Robert Sobukwe, this very week. We have no other choice.

* Victor Kgomoeswana is the author of Africa is Open for Business; a media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs, Twitter: @VictorAfrica

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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