Saturday, August 30, 2008

Seven Questions Interview: Q&A Nr. 4

4. What do you think about America's current relationship with Africa in general terms?

I think in general terms the American people have a good relationship with the people of Africa. Of course there is room for improvement on both sides. We are living in a period of history where we can learn a great deal more about each other thanks to rapid advances in communication and information technology and the ease of travel between countries. These advances help people to interact with one another in ways that were not possible before. I think that these new opportunities in communication and travel will have an even bigger impact on relations between the people of African countries and the people of America in the next few decades.

A perfect example of this happened just last week. The mother of my three sons from Togo arrived in Germany for a visit. These three young men are not my blood relatives but are three young people who I have built a close relationship with over the past 8-10 years. This was Mama’s first visit to Europe or anywhere else outside of her small West African country and after introductions the conversation between us started flowing like a river. We needed the help of a translator, a duty that was proudly carried out by her youngest son Sassou, because Mama speaks French and the Gbe languages of her homeland (Ewe and Mina). I speak only English and German so it was difficult to communicate with one another directly.

I treated their mother with the care and respect that an older person deserves as I explained who I was and my relationship with her sons. I described for her the connection of my own family to West Africa via the transatlantic slave trade and how African Americans are bound through our hearts and minds to her own people’s history. This brief meeting between an elderly African woman and an aging African American man is an experience that we both shall hold dear for the rest of our lives. It was absolutely precious. This is what I mean when I say that the relationship between Africans and Americans is generally good because I believe that millions of people in America and Africa are anxious to meet and learn more about each other.

What I sometimes find disturbing is the huge amount of misinformation about U.S.-Africa relations intended to create suspicion, prejudice, and fear. I often get the impression that many Africans believe the U.S.A. is only interested in exploiting Africa for minerals and oil without any real consideration for the welfare of African people. A careful analysis of the situation of course tells a different story than the ideas that so many people are trying to sell through their propaganda and lies.

Americans have a variety of impressions and attitudes toward Africa but chief among them is a great deal of human compassion and concern. Americans from all walks of life have been and continue to be actively engaged in helping Africans workout and solve problems. This is often overlooked in discussions and debates about the relationship between Africa and America. Many Africans I have come to know over the years have respect and admiration toward the people of the United States of America. Despite our differences on a number of issues my African acquaintances and friends are eager to improve their country’s relationship with the U.S.A.

Increased contacts and knowledge exchanges between the people of Africa and the U.S.A. will help improve cooperation and understanding. These things take time but thanks to changing attitudes and a number of other factors the pace of improved relations between Africans and Americans will hopefully quicken in the 21st Century.

Link to Seven Questions Q&A Nr. 5-1 (next page)
Link to Seven Questions Q&A Nrs. 1, 2, 3

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