As I scribble down this blog, I’m sitting by a window in the fifth floor of a building, overlooking the newly constructed, eight-lane Thika Super Highway (Nairobi, Kenya). As I watch cars zoom past each other with ease that has not been dreamt before in Kenya I think of the three times now I have lost my way on feeder roads that connect from parts of the city to this highway. This road is one of the flagship projects of vision 2030, Kenya’s development blue-print. Vision 2030 is Kenya’s twenty years strategy to grow into a middle-income country by the year 2030. The blue print also includes a technology center that is being touted as Africa’s first Silicon Valley, a major sea port on the far north coast and massive infrastructural projects all over the country. It is backed by the recently promulgated constitution aimed at a wide range of political reforms.
I’m like most Kenyans. At this point, I’m excited by the ease with which I can cruise on Thika Highway. I’m excited by the prospect of other development projects. Apart from the hard infrastructure, I think of ease of access to basic services like healthcare, water. I dream of the end of the ubiquitous power blackouts. Like most Kenyans, I want those things. It is what we have clamored for. It is what we Africans and our church fathers have had in mind every time they have castigated non-performing governments. It’s what compassionate Christians have wanted when they have started community empowerment initiatives, like orphanages, schools, and feeding programs. We want a future in which these things are such an integral part of our existence, that sadness will be removed from the face of every ordinary African.
When I look again at the flight of cars on Thika highway, I believe that such things are now in sight, not just for Kenya, but also for war-torn-pirate-ridden Somalia; conflict splintered Congo, genocide traumatized Rwanda; indeed, good things are in sight for every country in Africa regardless of its dark past. So for once, I choose NOT to be depressed by pessimistic opinions of how things have been wrong, how mediocre our leaders are, how ethnic strife is a cauldron waiting to erupt. Yes I’m aware of those things, the shadows if you like. It’s like one of our African church fathers, John Pobee said it thirty years ago, ‘it is a though in our attempt to describe the light we have focused too much on the shadows’. Negativities have been the staple of our news airwaves for too long. Far too long that they have immobilized us to inaction. Far too long have blinded from goodness surrounds us, not just of the touristy pristine nature, but also the goodness born of the sweat and muscle of the African people. While we focus too much on the shadows we fail to see how much good we have accomplished. So we have become a continent of complainers and cynics. No wonder the rest world thinks we in Africa falling apart while our day to day reality is much closer to that new coca cola advert, ‘A billion Africans are sharing a coke’.
I like that coca cola advert. I chose to I believe that up ahead, life holds out more for every African, not less. Life holds out more, not less. Which is why on my part, I’m not just doing away with cynicism and negativity concerning our African realities, I have also chosen to actively engage my mind and all of my faculties in actions rooted in hope. In a quote in Life At Its Best, my book-friend, Eugene Peterson puts it this way,
“Hope is a projection of the imagination, so is despair. Despair all too easily embraces the ills it foresees. Hope is an energy and arouses the mind to explore every possibility to combat them… In response to hope, the imagination is aroused to picture every possible issue, to try every door, to fit together even the most heterogeneous pieces of the puzzle”
Let me call you to discard despair-ridden talk. Speak for a new Africa, for better prospects in our age and in the youth of our children. Let’s speak into a world of less misery, better justice in whatever forest paths remain and down the town streets we are paving. Let’s look for clean rain and more grain in the granary. I can tell you, if we wake up in hope each day, we will discover a new spring in our steps, the very energy we need to build the bright future we so yearn for. And hope is like a virus; all it needs to spread is a smile on the face and twinkle in the eye. H-O-P-E. If you’ve caught it, it’s safe to spread too!
*Maggie Gitau is a researcher and leader in Mavuno Church, Nairobi. She is currently working on a PhD in Intercultural Studies – World Christianity at Africa International University, Nairobi, Kenya.