Madiba, My Great African Hero

Image I just learned of the passing of a Man who  had reached the Angel status, in my eyes, while alive.

I have ceased all activities,  turned all the lights off, am now laying on my bed, in the darkness, and decided to write this letter to you. The tears are heavy, the heart is heavy, but my love for you and the hope you left behind is pure as fresh water.

I am not sure where to start. Everything is so blurry before my eyes. With your passing, one of my greatest dreams died: to meet you and bask in your grace, at least once in my lifetime. And tell you face to face how much I love you, and thank you for all you have done for all of us, my Great African Hero.

I am not alone, we are hundreds of millions, children of Africa and the World, who would have loved to meet you. We are hundreds of  millions, children of Africa and the world, who see you like our father, grandfather. You have  done so much and meant so much to so many of us. For me, my Beloved Madiba, you are my constant and comforting proof that Good wins over Evil. That Love wins over Hate. That Togetherness wins over Division.

I  can't help but be so angry at the 27 years of your life stolen the way it was. I will never forget the first time I sat foot on Robben Island, and then stood inside what was your cell. I remember being very scared of my feelings on my way to the island, I was afraid I would suffocate with anger and hate. I started feeling such anger and hate and revolt at what Evil had put you through. But then I entered in your cell, and there something happened. There was something so peaceful about your cell. I am not sure how to describe the feeling. But there was something so graceful and celestial in that room, something that was clearly above it all. I never understood what happened in there, I just felt. Perhaps what I felt there was the resolve of a clear mind, and pure heart and unshakable commitment to Justice, Truth and the Good.

Later that evening, and as we went back to land, to Cape Town, I could not help but look around me, at the rainbow of people around me, going about their lives in a peaceful manner and think that all of that was owed to you. On the boat ride back, I had been wondering how you managed to go from that cell and the journey there to calling for Reconciliation, Peace and Love. But then, at the sight of different color babies and children, all innocent, and standing a chance to live in harmony, it hit me. The meaning of your journey hit me. And I just stood there, struck by a new reality, with a new door in my heart now open. A door in my heart I always wanted to have access to, but never was quite capable of accessing: the door in my heart to unconditional forgiveness.

In the end, Beloved Madiba, I am just so grateful that you were granted a long life. And I hope you felt the absolute love, appreciation and respect we all have for you. Too often we fail to express how much we love them to those we love while they are still alive. But I want to believe that in your case, Beloved Madiba, we have not made that mistake. I want to believe that you have known our love for you. Thank you for inspiring me every day to live a full and meaningful life, no matter the price to pay. I would have liked to have you forever, but I understand you were ready to say goodbye. So goodbye, my Beloved Madiba. You dance inside my heart, as you always have. I ♡ you.

My Book Review of Rwanda Inc.

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"Compared with the embarrassing parade of leaders in Africa since independence, Rwandan President Paul Kagame is clearly intelligent, disciplined, and principled. It is inspiring to read about the economic gains he has brought to the long-suffering people of Rwanda. In light of Kagame's unquestionable achievements, it would have been even more satisfying if Rwanda, Inc. had either shown us Kagame warts and all or definitively exonerated him from the most damaging charges against him. Instead, we are left to wonder: Is Kagame great only with respect to economics? Or might he be a truly great African leader?"

This is excerpt from my book review of Rwanda Inc for Barron's. The Full review is available here (scroll at the bottom of the page)

The newly rich and inventive Africans

"Think of technological change this way. Even if you time-travelled back to 1980 with your modern salary, and found yourself far richer than most people, you still could not find wheeled suitcases, mobile-phone signals, hepatitis C vaccines or decaf mocha lattes on the high street. Likewise, time-travel forward to a prosperous 2040 without a wage increase and you might find yourself relatively poor. But think of the products you could find there, some of them supplied by newly rich and inventive Africans. Other people getting rich means other people working to invent things for you." ~ Matt Ridley from "The Rational Optimist"

You can read more here.

I am in love with another man

Sir Seretse Khama and wife
Sir Seretse Khama and wife

I was just reading about Seretse Khama, the first president of Botswana, and I'm wondering why on earth we don't hear more about him. He was a hereditary king of one of the major tribes of Botswana, who was elected president of Botswana upon independence in 1966 and remained president until he died in 1980.

"From "close to the poorest" country in the world at the time of independence in the 1960s, and with few natural resources, an arid climate and little infrastructure, Botswana has transformed itself into an upper-middle-income nation, with the fastest rate of GDP growth (7.7 per cent per annum) in the world between 1966-1996 and 10.74 per cent between 1965 and 1975. [16] It achieved this by avoiding to follow the path most travelled in Africa, that of anti-capitalist, statist policy development. Instead, keeping much of the British common law and British-style institutions, and led by a visionary founding President, Seretse Khama, Botswana embarked on a series of reforms that reduced the government presence in the economy and promoted economic freedom (respect for rule of law, protection of property rights, disapproval of corruption, etc). As a result, government spending fell from 23 per cent in the mid-1960s to 15 per cent of GDP in the early 1970s."

The entire article can be found here.

Bostwana is now the second wealthiest nation on the continent of Africa (after Equatorial Guinea, a small oil rich nation), wealthier than all of North Africa and wealthier than South Africa. While it is true that Botswana's wealth is due to diamonds, Khama reinvested much of the wealth into health, education, and infrastructure, unlike most African leaders who had mineral resources. He also instituted strong anti-corruption policies. Today Botswana is the highest ranked African nation on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, at 33rd one of the least corrupt nations in the entire developing world, ahead of Costa Rica, Hungary, Taiwan, Italy, etc. Please note that the United States is at close 22nd place.

Moreover, diamonds weren't discovered in Botswana until 1972, thus the incredibly fast growth from 1965 to 1975 must be attributed to Khama's good governance, not to diamond wealth (I doubt the diamonds had a large impact on the economy the first year or two after they were discovered; it takes a while to get a diamond mine into production).  At independence, Botswana was the third poorest nation in the world.  And, in part, I suspect that the fact that he had good governance in place BEFORE the discovery of diamonds helped protect Botswana from the resource curse.

He sounds like simply a fabulous leader, a real African hero. And I can't help but notice how handsome and regal he looks :)

He was also exiled from political office before independence, due to his inter-racial marriage which the South Africans hated. Indeed, curiously his inter-racial marriage helped to keep Botswana independent of South Africa:

"After World War II, the British attempted to combine the Bechuanaland Protectorate with their South African colony, but Bechuanaland was able to thwart this annexation attempt. Two important events helped to keep the Bechuanaland Protectorate independent from the South African colony. First, a strong nationalistic current continued after World War II. In 1948, the National Party, a well-organized party that favored an independent Bechuanaland Protectorate, was formed.More important, Chief Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland was banned from the protectorate in 1948. He studied in England and was not allowed to return to Bechunaland because he had married a white Englishwoman. The British hoped the ban would ease tensions in South Africa. South Africa’s white leadership found the interracial marriage to be repulsive, and they insisted that Khama be prohibited from ruling Bechuanaland. Since most people in Bechuanaland supported Khama, this political issue divided South Africa and Bechuanaland. In 1956, Khama rescinded his claim to chieftainship and returned to Bechunaland."

http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj23n2/cj23n2-6.pdf

Also, as it turns out, Botswana successfully combined traditional tribal law with British Common Law (probably because Khama was both an African chief, and thus knew and supported traditional tribal law, as well as an Oxford-trained British lawyer). Basically the Cato article cited above makes the case that Khama's leadership, which included also support for freedom of speech and for harmony between blacks and whites, as well as good legal institutions and a pro-market, pro-investment approach, is the essential reason why Botswana has been so successful. Perhaps there is something less than perfect about him, but from everything I'm reading he sounds like a truly great African leader who ought to be more widely known and recognized. For my part, I am simply in love!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seretse_Khama

Africa is not part of the World

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyGHHxUFY6w] As many of you know, I love The Onion because humor is often the best way to get a message across, however sad, revolting or outrageous the message may be.

So got the message?

Let's wake up and realize that Africa IS part of the World's Economy (as a matter of fact, in recent years the economic growth of Africa has been at or above the rate of growth in the developed world).

And to those so-called do-gooders out there who believe that "plumbing, door knobs and electricity will violate our culture", I answer again that we are tired of being your anthropological wet dream.