Why Africa?

SummaryAcknowledgementIntroductionWhy Should We Help?The BenefitsThe Venture ItselfHow to Avoid the Marie Antoinette SyndromeThe Action PlanConclusionSelected Bibliography


I would like to recommend that BCIT focus attention on Africa. Why? Because Africa is in desperate straits and needs immediate and oceanic help. Other parts of the world also suffer from poverty, but surely none has as many other obstacles and difficulties as does Africa.

When I was in my early twenties — young, adventurous, restless — I travelled through north and west Africa. It was 1975, and I was deeply influenced by the 1960’s counterculture movement. For an idealistic young woman, concerned with improving society and living an intensely meaningful life, Africa was a profound shock. Such poverty I had never seen, in spite of having travelled in Mexico and the Caribbean. Such oppression of my gender I had also never seen. I realized that my life was extraordinarily privileged, and that if my concerns were Women’s Lib, getting my B.A., and trying to find truth and beauty, then I had no serious problems at all.

When I returned from that trip, I immediately stopped criticizing the shallow culture and lifestyle of Western society. I have appreciated every single day since then the fact that I live in such abundance: potable water, plenty of food, health care, and the right to be educated even though I am a woman, to have innumerable career opportunities, to choose to do whatever I wanted to do, to live my life the way that I wanted to. I stopped complaining forever.

My mother told me that she expected that I would come back even more scornful about Western society and was surprised that I hadn’t. Never again. I told her that I had been stunned to see how little the people in Africa had compared to how much we had. (I would be willing to share what we [the developed world] have,) I told her, (but I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.)

Well, it’s thirty years later and the movement to share what we have has begun. Africa desperately needs us. You, me, our students, BCIT, the developed world — we are all needed.

In fact, much of what is needed in Africa is the technology that our students learn at BCIT. This would be an unparalleled opportunity for students to practice their skills and inventiveness, as well as help solve a gargantuan crisis.

Besides, Africa is our ancestral home. “. . . [H]uman beings are ‘hard-wired’ to feel a special resonance (‘biophilia’) with the African savannah, the place where our species arose some 150,000 years ago” (Sachs, 2005, p. 192). Figure 1 shows the African savannah.

Figure 1: The African savannah
(African Savannah, 2006)

The beautiful landscape shown in this photograph is part of our shared history. We all feel a kinship with this great and ancient continent.