For a while now I’ve been fascinated by the difference in the concept of power and authority in the western world as compared to Africa. Partly because of my experiences “outside here” working for a firm that embraces a western culture of management. Everybody being equal and on first name basis regardless of whether you are a doctor, professor or a driver.
This made me wonder if maybe what ails us as a continent, Africa, is our perception of power and authority. An African in a position of power anywhere always must have the itch of branding themselves in a way that they are differentiated from the “commoners”. It is a headline news when a high-ranking government officer walks to work. Wait that’s even too much, drives themselves. Or buy roasted maize by the roadside…you know what I mean J. It is an absolute breaking news when they fly economy class.
Speaking of airplanes and economy classes, a diplomatic row has erupted between Burundi and Kenya after Bujumbura demanded that Kenya Airways’ low-cost partner, Jambojet, deploy a bigger aircraft with business class seats for flights to the central African nation. What makes this interesting is the reason given by Burundian government for their rejection of the plans to deploy Jambojet. So, these image-conscious individuals are terming it unbefitting of the status of government officials travelling to Nairobi for connecting flights to other parts of the world. This is because the Bombardier DHC8-Q400 aircraft on the Nairobi-Bujumbura route has no business class.
This got me thinking, is it that we have more of “primpers” in power than we have selfless leaders ready to look at the bigger picture and the common good? Tell me, what’s the cost-benefit trade off to the country of having any flight plying that route than having none. Is it more important for these “very-important-government-officials-to-fly-economy” to fly business class or fly at all? So, in short Burundi is ready to forego the benefits of having a connecting flight to Nairobi just for the sake of comfort and class, not for the sake of majority of its populace but for the benefit of “those who matter”. Speaking of the benefits, a few days ago Kenya launched a direct flight from JKIA to JFK. A gamechanger as Jeff Koinange says.
I sought to find out the genesis of this perception of power. Mind you I don’t have too much authority in this field of study or any at all, so when I talk of research it mainly involves google. Sorry it totally involves googling and a lot of my own views on the matter so don’t trust me too muchJ. We Africans love to blame everything on slavery and I wouldn’t be left out of the Mzungu-bashing party either.
The foreigners who invaded Africa had to stamp some authority on the locals and create a sort of superior versus inferior form of a society for their agenda to work. I mean you wouldn’t go auctioning your friends like chicken somewhere in Sugoi while smiling and bidding them goodbye. Though we know the modern day “slayqueens” auctions you know what to the highest bidder without any feeling of shame. (Where did that even come from). Sorry that’s beside the point.
The point I’m trying to drive across is that colonization played a part in the problem of classism that we have currently in Africa. Mostly the part where politicians view themselves as superior citizens than others and therefore in a bid to show how better they are, they will use the public resources to clearly put the demarcations. And these include the business class plane tickets, the choppers, the fuel guzzlers, the palatial homes, security guards and not forgetting the expensive wheelbarrows.
My observation is that not until we demystify the perception of power and authority in Africa then our vast resources as a continent will continue to be misused and Africa shall never realize her full potential. So Kenyans let’s stop praising these people buying maize by the road side, let’s stop celebrating when they drive themselves or even when they join Marathons. I mean, are they not as human as all of us? But anyway, of importance is life.
Written by Lewis Adera
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