Femi Akomolafe is a computer engineer with a successful movie production studio in Accra. He is also a well known essayist and writer, passionate panafricanist, who recently published two books, which compile the best of his thoughts and articles published over the recents years about the struggle of the African people to free themselves from europeans violence. The two books are: Africa – It Shall Be Well and Africa: Destroyed By The Gods.
It’s a tremendous pleasure to speak with Femi. He has a wealth of knowledge and insights he generously share with his followers and the public.
In this interview Femi shed more light on his upbringing and background, and gave us numerous practical steps and ideas which would instill optimism and hope into anyone, include those who have lost hope about Africa.
SiliconAfrica: Good Morning Femi. I’ve spent days trying to figure who you are and what motivates you, but unsuccessfully. Like a chameleon, you move swiftly from prolific essayist to IT & computer consultant; from film producer to business and economics analyst. What is your story?
Femi Akomolafe: My story is simple. I am a very simple bloke, who is passionately curious about the world in which he lives. I am like a child – I found almost everything in life fascinating, and I want to know more and more.
As a child, books have always held special attraction for me. I am an introvert, so I have no problem losing myself in books. It is a habit I have not manage to shed. Books remain the only thing I still collect insatiably.
I like to write because I get easily irritated by lots of human follies. I cannot stand injustice of any description, and from any quarter. Since I am not inclined to engaging in physical violence, I find it easier to do my battles with words.
Writing is for me therapeutic, a catharsis that allows me to release my tensions. If I get irritated by something, I write either a polemic or a satire to get it off my mind and move on.
I bought my first computer, a Sinclair Spectrum 48K (K is for Kilobyte, mind you) sometime in 1985, and have fallen in love with computers ever since. From programming to networking to almost everything else in between, I have done it all. I ran the first African Bulletin Board System in the Netherlands – AFRO BBS. It was fun.
Producing videos is also very exciting. It gives you awesome power to conceive a story, write script, shoot, edit and produce ideas into video forms. It is like creating life. Video editing allows you to run riot with your imaginations. With video production, you make things happen.
I read somewhere that the most intelligent human beings use only about one percent of their brain power. I am very curious to know why we have such huge unused capacity. I hate to be ignorant on any subject; so I keep on reading and learning.
My motivation comes from the deep passion I have for our beautiful and hugely blessed continent. It pains to see that, despite all our vast mineral wealth, we still remain the world’s favorite whipping boy.
Given the huge talent and enterprise I see around Africa, I know we can do a lot better.
The urge to contribute my quota is primarily what motivates and drives me. African problem was not caused by politicians alone, and we all should be responsible for trying to solve them. That, for me, is enough motivation.
SiliconAfrica: You live in Ghana, and from the many articles I’ve read about you, it seems like you have fallen into the Panafricanism soup from birth. What is your version of Panafricanism, and what is the current fate of Panafricanism in Africa?
Femi Akomolafe: I live in Ghana. Yes, I am a committed and deeply passionate Pan-Africanist.
Pan-Africanism is not for me some fanciful slogan to be bandied about. It means the very survival of the African people. Sadly, many of us fail to recognise that we in Africa face an existential struggle.
There are forces that simply do not wish us well, and continue to do their best to destroy us. We can take a look at this quote form Time magazine, “The objective of the war is not to make UNITA win a war, but to devastate Angola and make the people lead wretched lives.” (TIME, August 10, 1987. p.33).
I also ask people to read the ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman.’ No, it is not conspiracy theory, it is just recognizing and facing the stark reality of the life in which we live.
It is only those of us in Africa that naively believe that things just happen. President Truman once famously said: “Whatever happens in politics is planned.”
We are about the only people on earth that do not know that economics underpins racism. People are not racist because they want or choose to; their economic well-being and survival depends on the racist structures they have constructed. European racism is validated only by the inferiority of Africans, and the current mess in Africa only serve to further reinforce this.
It is in the West’s best interests to maintain the status quo. It is time we recognise this and shorn it of all pretenses. It does not mean hating or disliking anyone; it just mean that we Africans should learn to take care of our own interests, like other people are doing.
Europeans, whatever their pretensions, recognise the truth that without Africans and African resources to exploit, Europe would have gone down ages ago. Where would Europe be without our Coffee, Cocoa, Tobacco, Cotton, Oil and Gas without which a meaningful life cannot be imagined?
How RICH would Europe continue to be if we can compelled Europeans to pay fair prices for these products? It was former French President Mitterrand who admitted what we all knew all along, that it was only Africa that still makes France relevant today.
Sadly, it is only those of us in Africa who fail to grasp the start reality that confront us. It is only we in Africa that still take solace in the wretched hypocritical smiles of our historic oppressors. It is only those of us in Africa that still seek friendship, rather than pursue our national interests with the same cold, calculating logic that other people bring to the table.
Whichever way we throw it around, the only future for Africa is through Pan-Africanism of one sort or the other. To begin with, outside of Africa, the only identity you have is your African identity. Any African who have spent any time in the Diaspora can relate to this.
It is equally important to know that when we discuss our oppression and exploitation, we ought to be cognizant of the fact that we are not exploited as Togolese or Senegalese or Angolans. We are exploited as Africans.
The external forces we deal with are organised into strong blocs. Good example is the European Union.
Those that tell us that they are against Pan-Africanism should tell us how they think that an African country (even powerful ones like Nigeria and South Africa) can have meaningful negotiation with the EU that is made up of 28 countries and still counting. It is simply ridiculous for one African nation to go and face an EU delegation.
On the economic level, it is only by one form of unity or the other that Africa can begin to utilise her vast mineral resources for the benefits of her own people.
Today, we are exploited simply because we are fragmented into unviable colonial garrisons we call countries. This makes it easy for the stronger blocs to continue to railroad us into easy submission and imposed on us unfair trade regimes.
There are very good examples we can cite. One is the ridiculous situation in Niger where France derives 50% of her electricity from Nigerienne Uranium and continue to pay pittance for it. Whereas most of Niger lives in darkness, electricity is abundant in France and it is also relatively cheap.
Another example are the countries of Ghana and La Cote d’ Ivoire, which together produce more than half of the world’s cocoa. Divided these countries remain beggars when they can easily combine forces to form a Cocoa Cartel, and start to dictate the prices of their produce. That alone will solve some major problems for them.
No, contrary to what some say, Pan-Africanism is not a romantic notion of Gambians loving Kenyans or Namibians falling in love with Nigerians. We talk here of Africans combining their forces to face a very hostile and inhumane world that is bent on exploiting her riches, and is unwilling to pay fair prices for them.
Why do we not ask ourselves why it is more expensive to call Togo from Ghana than say Australia? Why do we not ask ourselves why Europe makes money whenever Africans trade among themselves? For example, a Malian that want to buy something from Kenya must first purchase dollars or Euros, which means that Westerners get a cut of the deal without doing anything.
A Ghanaian entrepreneur told me the unbelievable story of how his shipments to Liberia is routed through Spain, because there is no direct link between Ghana and Liberia, with only one country between them.
These are what we meant when we talk Pan-Africanism. It is being misconstrued as some romantic nonsense. Then, they say that we are dreamers. We should remember the saying the future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Those that talk about poverty in Africa often disingenuously omit the fact that they dictate the prices they pay for what Africa produce. How do we expect Africa to make progress when foreigners dictate the prices they pay for what we produce. These are uncomfortable questions, people are unwilling to discuss; it is far easier to blame the victim.
These are some of questions to which only a united Africa can successfully address and conquer.
SiliconAfrica: In the introduction to your recent book “AFRICA – IT SHALL BE WELL“, you wrote “It is said that it is the sad duty of a writer to chronicle the ills of his society.” I can feel a lot of pain and frustration in your writing. How do you deal with that pain of seeing Africa so crushed and in the same staying so optimistic? Are you optimistic about Africa?
Femi Akomolafe: It is quite sad to see our beloved continent reduced to its current state.
It is especially sad for those of us who lived through the sixties and the seventies, when there was so much hope. Crushed? No, we are not crushed. We are beaten, definitely, but not conquered.
Am I optimistic about the future of Africa?
You bet that I am. I won’t live anywhere else. Our African cosmogony thrives on unbridled optimism; we are the eternal optimists.
In 1994, I wrote an article which was published in the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant. Let me quote from it: “If slavery and colonialism did not destroy us, no force on earth can annihilate us. We shall continue to face the morrow with hope and confidence and cheerfulness.”
If slavery and colonialism did not destroy us as the Europeans planned, there is no reason for us to become pessimistic. We have our beautiful continent with its fantastic weather and climate and rich soil. We have a very youthful population. We have mineral resources that others salivate over.
Where then is the point for becoming pessimistic?
I would be more pessimistic were I to be a citizen of Europe which today, in the words of Frantz Fanon, sway between spiritual and atomic disintegration.
Europe has got little to recommend it except unbridled violence, and once we develop strategy to successfully counter them like the Asians did, let us see where they will run to.
The trick is for us to get our acts together, recognise where we went wrong and make amends. Start to do the correct thing and we shall be unbeatable.
I think every other people recognise our potential strength except us. We don’t have a problem a good Afrocentric education cannot solve. We need to change the stupid mindsets colonialism and its inferior education has instilled in us.
That is all. We shall be unbeatable once we grasp the promethean heights.
SiliconAfrica: In the Chapter 11 of “AFRICA – IT SHALL BE WELL“, you passionately argue that it is time for Africa to abandon all the orthodoxies and chart a new course. What are these orthodoxies we should abandon?
Femi Akomolafe: Without a doubt we do little except to engage in stupid mimicries in Africa.
We do little but copy every ideas from Europe and hope, or rather pray, that they will work for us.
The political system we operate is Western. Our constitutions are nothing more than copy and paste jobs from Western constitutions. We use the same dog-eat-dog capitalist economic system of the Western world. Even when all the evidences we have point to the utter failure of these systems in their home regions, we continue to latch onto them.
Today, fewer and fewer Westerners bother to go out and vote, because they are wise up to the fact that the system is nothing but a con-game – aptly defined by Kwame Nkrumah as the “competition between oligarchists.”
Today, only the supremely delusional still believe that capitalism can be saved. Yet, we continue to operate these failing systems and, bafflingly, we pretend not to understand why everything went awry with us. Not only did we borrow these systems, we appear to badly understand them and the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.
We borrowed foreign ideas that we barely understood, and in our attempt to make it work, we become laughable caricatures. People laugh at us when they see the mess we made of, say, the so-called democracy we practice. They laugh at us because we have turned Christianity into religious madness.
In Africa, we have manage to turn the simple affairs of electing officials into do-or-die major productions.
Election times in Africa have become occasions for national stress, violence and mayhem. We operate a capitalist system but we lack the discipline to defer our propensity for primitive acquisition. For us, at least for our elite, it is all about consumption with no production. What I argued for in my book is the total re-orientation of our thinking department. First, we must recognise and admit that we are in an emergency situation. Emergencies are saved only by unusual measures.
I gave example of the current political system which only generate tension every four years, with the same set of elite engaging in a game of revolving musical chair, and take us for smooth rides to nowhereland.
Let us start by having Emergency Government where every political party that win about ten percent of popular votes form the government. This should be for ten to twenty years during which time we forget all about partisan politics. With the tension of useless politicking reduced, all hands should be mobilised for economic development.
The current system of winner take all is alien to our culture and to our nature. In our traditional system, we did not divide societies into winners and losers. We need to have inclusive government to move things forward. The Emergency Government should have remit to engage in total mobilization to tackle the gargantuan economic challenges.
The greatest calamity colonialism wrought on us was the success it has in making us forget that we had governments and we ran empires thousands of years before Europeans woke up from their Alpine caves.
Today, we have been brain-dirtied into forgetting all those things. But it shouldn’t be beyond the capabilities of our political scientists to chart for us new systems, if the political will is there.
What is evident is that the current system is both untenable and unsustainable.
SiliconAfrica: If you were given power tomorrow in Ghana, with the full latitude to choose the team you need to fix and grow the country, what will be some of your priority projects, and who will you work with?
Femi Akomolafe: We assumed a lot here. But as I have said in many of my articles. Africa does not face a problem that other societies have not faced and successfully conquered.
Our Elders say that there is no new thing under the sun.
The tools and the ideas that other people used in solving their problems are in the public domain, so we need not invent any new wheel.
I am always astounded by the sheer amount of projects Kwame Nkrumah was engaged in during his nine years in power. From a robust foreign policy engagements, to massive industrialization, to atomic energy research, to workers houses, to modern road networks to massive dams, to agricultural projects, he left his indelible signature all of over the place.
He is still the yardstick with which progress in Ghana is measured.
What I would do is what any serious Ghanaian leader should do. Nkrumah’s development plans are as relevant today as they were when he developed them. They are still around. Some of his lieutenants are still alive. What we need do is revisit them and bring them up to modern speed.
What any serious African leader should do is study Nkrumah’s plans and also the Alternative to SAP strategies developed by Professor Adedeji. The great Egyptologist Cheikh Anta Diop wrote a very good blueprint he called: “Africa: The Economic Basis for a Federated State.”
We do not lack inspired ideas to turn things around; what is lacking are inspired leadership.
No, we do not lack original ideas. We are sadly bedeviled by rulers with neo-colonial mindsets, who believe that we should remain appendages of Europe. They would rather listen to the Bretton Woods institutions, than to their own people.
That is our problem, and that remains our tragedy. We will not make a headway until we can successfully cut the umbilical cord that bind us to Europe off. The Asians successfully did it. What I will do is assemble all the best brains that Ghana has wherever they are. I will work only with competent Technocrats.
I have written severally that governing a nation is not something to be considered as finding jobs for boys and girls. Modern nations are run by highly qualified technocrats. The German Chancellor is an Engineer, we can imagine the intellectual power she brings to the table. I read that the new government in Iran have more American-trained PhDs than the White House.
I also know that the Asians draft the best graduates from their best schools into the civil service. It is only in Africa that we appoint party hacks to important government posts. It is only in African we appoint Ministers who are just fresh out of undergraduate studies.
Education, free, compulsory education will top my priority. It is time we do away with relying on finite mineral resources. We have to rely on brain power with its limitless potentials.
Defence will also receive good attention. As victims of the twin holocaust of slavery and colonialism, our security should be of paramount importance to us.
Agriculture. One of our proverbs say that nothing can enter the stomach as long as it is occupied by hunger. With our vast arable land and great rivers, we should easily be self-sufficient in food security. Luckily, almost all our stables can easily be grown.
Industrialization, research and development and manufacturing are areas that will require urgent attention.
Ideological and cultural education will also be tackled with vigor. We shall do every possible thing to recreate the African Personality like Nkrumah attempted to do.
We live today as schizophrenics because we have lost with our historic roots. As Cheikh Anta Diop rightly said: “Our history shall remain suspended until we can connect it to Ancient Egypt.”
SiliconAfrica: In your second book “AFRICA: DESTROYED BY THE GODS (How religiosity destroyed Africa)” you wrote that religion has contributed to the “Zombieization of the people”, what do you mean?
Femi Akomolafe: It means that foreign religions have reduced many of our people into unthinking Zombies.
What do people say today in Africa except: “Only Jesus can save,” or “Jesus is the answer,” or “God will take care of things”?
The only thing we see gods take care of in Africa today are the fattening bank accounts of the ungodly Thieving Charlatans in priestly robes.
What do we have in Africa today except for presidents to be parleying with priests rather than with scientists and engineers?
Let us be serious. How could anyone spend four years in a university and closes his mind to rational thinking? How could a whole professor, who became president, tell people that a fictional character called Jesus is in control of his country, and that he will turn his country into a prayer camp?
If I tell a sick primary school child in Europe to go with me to a priest for prayer, he will question my sanity and ask me what doctors are for. But a full Professor in Africa will go and shout himself hoarse at prayer camp, burn candles, dab himself with olive oil and speak in tongue.
That is the level to which we have sunk with our religious depravity in Africa. These are serious issues and I tried to tackle some of them in my book. It is time we in Africa recognise that all these Jesus business is a cultural war the West is waging against us. Why did they become so generous to send us free Bibles all the time? They do not send us free books on science, electronics, mathematics or engineering.
First, I spent time in Europe and I know that were Jesus to be such a nice guy, Europeans will not let us know about him, not to talk about sharing him with us. They will guard him jealously and put embargo on anyone that try to pry the secret from them.
Also, do we in Africa need not ask ourselves the serious question of how Europeans, a people that have walled their continent into a Fortress, could be so generous in welcoming us to a paradise, where everything is blissful?
It should tell us that the whole Jesus and Paradise things are some huge fakeries. Someone is seriously jerking us off very badly. Jesus was an invention of the Romans who needed something to pacify the restless barbarians they have subjugated.
Even assuming, without conceding, that he was real, I know that those that came to despoil us with slavery and colonialism would not have brought him to us. Correct me if am wrong, I do not know of any instance where conquerors brought a saviour to the people they conquered.
I have read the Bible and, to be honest, I cannot understand how any honest and sincere person can read it and declare it to be the work of an intelligent, kind and compassionate god.
In my book, I tackled the origin of the Bible, its numerous forgeries, contradictions, absurdities and atrocities. I asked that Africans abandon superstition and join the rest of humanity in embracing science and technology.
What I advocated is that we in Africa should do what others have done to overcome their developmental challenges: use our brains to solve problems.
I once engaged a Pastor in a discussion and I told him that were I to be Jesus, I will ask African Christians only two questions: Having given you such immeasurable mineral wealth, for what exactly more do you pray to me to do for you?
If given all your mineral wealth, you continue to live in primitive conditions, unfit for animals in some countries, what are your praising me for?
I wrote it up in an article which you can access here: www.alaye.biz/for-what-exactly-do-you-pray.
SiliconAfrica: The Romans were very adamant fighting Christianity, but with very little success. In the end the Romans decided reversed course to use the same religion as a pacifying tool to control their vast empire. Do you think we should also find a way to use the Christian fever to some extent for some political gain for the continent?
Femi Akomolafe: One way or the other, the menace of foreign religions must be tackled before we can begin to address the serious challenges facing the continent.
Our rulers (honestly I prefer misrulers) in Africa must be bold enough to tell us that we waste too much time in useless religious pyrotechnics. We spend too much time in prayers, speaking in tongues, fasting and other useless religious jamborees, instead of engaging our intellects in laboratories and try to pry secrets from nature, like other people do.
It could be true that prayers and supplications to gods are efficacious, we simply do not know. We have no proof. What is beyond doubt are the miracles modern science and engineering wrought in laboratories every day.
The challenges that we face – how to provide electricity, food and water for our people are physical problems, they require no spiritual intercessions. They have been successfully solved by more serious people.
It is only children and barbaric savages who ought to be impressed by infantile tales of a Jesus walking on water. Why should that impress us when see the Advanced Sub-marines and Aircraft Carriers other people have deployed in their navies?
Why should the story of David killing Goliath with catapult excite us to shout hallelujah when we see other people with their Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles and Advanced Drones?
I say it is time we get up from our kneeling down and forget about the gods, and get seriously involve in mathematics, science and engineering.
There is simply no other way out. We cannot build a civilization with people whose mind have been addled into states of unthinking. We cannot make a headway when we have citizens who are petrified to think.
No civilization has ever been built on ignorance and superstition.
SiliconAfrica: You are very critical of the western countries actions in Africa. I share the same feeling and opinion, but found it very difficult to discuss the issues with the officials in my home country. Are officials in Ghana more wary about the West, or Ghana is like many African countries another puppet-leaders country?
Femi Akomolafe: In Chapter 11 of my book, Africa: It shall be well,” I wrote: “Let’s consider the example of Ghana, the birthplace of the doyen of Pan-Africanism, Kwame Nkrumah which, unfortunately, has become the stalwart of Global Imperialism Puppetry.”
I guess that answered your question.
SiliconAfrica: On July 18, you’ll be performing a reading session for your 2 books “AFRICA – IT SHALL BE WELL” and “AFRICA: DESTROYED BY THE GODS” at Pawa house, Opp. Accra Girls, behind Choice FM, Roman Ridge, Accra. July 18 is also the International Mandela Day, What do you think about Mandela as a leader? Is he someone other African leaders should emulate?
Femi Akomolafe: Our culture frown heavily on talking ill of the dead. Whatever a person did when he sojourn here, once he becomes an ancestor, we let him be in peace.
Mr. Mandela certainly did his best, may the ancestors forgive him his sins. But he definitely was not a man I would like to emulate; so he was not someone I would recommend as worthy of emulation.
I actually have a chapter of my book, Africa: It shall be well,” devoted to him. In Chapter 10, which I titled: “Mandela: A Hero badly betrayed,” I gave my views on him, and have a lot to say about those that could have helped him achieved greatness, refused to do so and come out to wax eloquent at his funeral.
I was particular incensed by the prominence giving to the president of the United States, while leaders like Presidents of Zambia and Nigeria that did so much to help him, were reduced to mere spectators.
SiliconAfrica: We have lot of young people in our audience at SiliconAfrica, what would be message to them?
Femi Akomolafe: I will repeat the cliché: “Children are the future,” here.
It is crucially important for African youth to recognise the onerous responsibilities they carry. We should hope that they are alive to that responsibility.
It is not going to be easy since we, their parents, did not adequately prepare them before we saddle them with that huge obligation.
Not only did we fail to pass on to them knowledge and the value systems that we learned from our parents, we denied them the same free education some of us enjoyed.
To make matter worse, we appear to have mortgaged their future with our insane and mind-boggling corruption. We have sold their future by accepting ridiculous prices for our mineral wealth and signed this for many years. We can only hope that they are charitable enough to forgive us our numerous transgressions.
All that said, though, our youth have access to better information than we did. Thanks to the internet and the social media, they understand the world better than we did. It is critically important that they do fall into the same stupid fatalism that became our fate.
They need to recognise that we Africans have nothing more to prove by dancing and singing and jiving. The world already recognised us as champions in those endeavors. What is important now is for our youth to recognise that the future lies in mathematics, computer programming, science and engineering. It is in those areas that they have to face the world and prove their mettle.
Luckily for them though, most of the tools they need to make a difference are in the public domain, available freely on the internet. It is possible today to learn computer programming, web-designing, computer-aided design for free on the internet. We were not so lucky.
It was Frantz Fanon who said that: “Every generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission or betray it.”
Let us all hope that our youth, despite their numerous handicaps, will rise to their responsibility and will not fail our beloved Africa, the way we did.
Here few link to to Femi books:
Introduction to Africa: it shall be well: http://alaye.biz/africa-it-shall-be-well-introduction-in-pdf/
A FREE Chapter of ‘Africa: It shall be well’ could be downloaded here: http://alaye.biz/africa-it-shall-be-well-a-free-chapter/
Africa: it shall be well is available for sale on Kindle books at this link: https://www.createspace.com/4820404
Introduction to Africa: Destroyed by the gods: http://alaye.biz/africa-destroyed-by-the-gods-introduction/
A FREE Chapter of ‘Africa: Destroyed by the gods’ could be downloaded here: http://alaye.biz/africa-destroyed-by-the-gods-free-chapter/
Africa: Destroyed by the godsis available for sale on Kindle books at this link: https://www.createspace.com/4811974
The books are published in Ghana by Alaye Dot Biz Limited.