To Bless Africa

How can we make the biggest impact with the most efficiency for the greatest good?


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Africa in the News

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get Aids. Just kidding. I’m white!”

So tweeted the director of corporate communications for media conglomerate IAC yesterday, unleashing a storm of online protest. To be fair, the lady in question is apparently no poster child for sensitivity or good judgement in her utterances, having previously tweeted equally ridiculous and offensive missives. One hopes the backlash of this will teach her some tact – her twitter account certainly has been deleted since.

The fact remains though that the vast majority of stories being reported on out of Africa in today’s news are stories of poverty, disease, war or injustice. While Africa as a continent is certainly beset with great problems and those problems should be reported; if they become all that is reported and all that the majority of North Americans hear and associate with Africa, not only will their picture of Africa be very skewed, but they may well become too emotionally overwhelmed to actually engage in any way that is helpful – Africa then becomes either a topic to be avoided, or the butt of ridiculous jokes, as in the case of the tweet above.

The truth is that Africa is replete with stories of hope, stories of love, reconciliation, joy, ingenuity, beauty and value. Until we begin hearing and sharing those stories, we risk caricaturing and dismissing a continent of a billion people whose lives have a much greater effect on ours – even if we are oceans apart – than we may realize.

We have two choices: One is to continue to see a poor, ill, crying Africa, carrying guns, that depends on other people forever. (The other is) to promote an Africa which is confident, peaceful, independent, but cognizant of its huge problems and great values at the same time.” Zeresenay Alemseged in his TED talk: ‘The search for humanity’s roots’.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-25475862

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/p-exec-cupid-tweets-racist-joke-flight-africa-article-1.1554500

 


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Get Going Already!

An encouraging study by Brookings researchers – made popular when it was tweeted by Bill Gates yesterday as these things tend to go – has looked at the number of people living in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than $1.25/day) around the world.

In exciting-good-news, that number is apparently decreasing and will continue decreasing over the next few decades, thanks largely to increased economic growth and employment opportunities in China and India. Woot!

In considerably-less-exciting-bad-news, sub-Saharan Africa overtook India as having the greatest number of people in that demographic somewhere around 2010 with over 400 Million people, which means that around 1 in 2 people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1.25/day.

Which to me says that we should hurry up and get this show on the road already! Come on!!!

Check out the original study here: http://www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/2013/ending-extreme-poverty#b10g18t20w13


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A Manifesto to Bless Africa:

Several months ago, after having lived in Africa for several years and as a result of our love for its people, my family embarked on a journey to explore not only the best and most effective methods of making a positive and sustainable impact on the continent, but also to find ways of multiplying that impact beyond what one small family could achieve. After much reading, many discussions, and extensive exploration, these have been our conclusions:

1. Faceless people matter. We’re in this together.

If we don’t care where our t-shirts are made, hundreds die in Bangladesh under collapsing factories. If we don’t find out where our shoes come from, 10-year-olds lose their childhood in Pakistan making them. If we don’t know who mined the stones in our rings, communities get enslaved or slaughtered in Sierra Leone to put them there. We cannot afford to allow ignorance, complacence or indifference to be an excuse. We choose to care. When one human being is dehumanized, humanity suffers, and we are lessened as a result. We can do something about this. It is worth doing something about this.

2. Charity is important. Dignity is more important.

If charity and foreign aid were to end, millions of the neediest people on Earth would perish. Just like that. Don’t stop giving – your soul needs it. Nonetheless, the trillion dollars that’s been given to Africa over the last 50 years has not pulled it out of the hole, and we are convinced that the next trillion will be no different. It’s not until people are given the opportunity to not only survive, but to hope and to dream; not until they are allowed the dignity of striving, working, and sacrificing for the fulfilment of their dreams; not until they have the luxury of choice – including the choice to make their own mistakes and to learn from them, that communities – and nations – will begin to change. We are convinced that it is responsible, transparent, and sustainable enterprise that will bring forth this change.

3. The challenge is enormous. Enormous is not impossible.

War, terrorism, disease, poverty, ignorance, famine, corruption, hatred… the list goes on, and does not fail to overwhelm. That is not sufficient reason to give up. We will never cure every ill, right every wrong, impact every community. But every ill we alleviate, every wrong we help bring to light, every community, family and individual we impact will make a difference; and the more of us that come together, the greater that impact and the greater that difference will be. Africa doesn’t need us – it could carry on just as it has for decades; but today we have the opportunity, the honour and the joy of standing together and making a real difference. We choose to seize that opportunity.

4. Ultimately, it’s all about Jesus. It has to be.

We love Africa, and we love her people – they are kind, gentle, hospitable, generous, industrious, beautiful people. But if this endeavour becomes about them – eventually friends will let us down, corruption will dismay, cultural differences will shock and fatalistic worldviews will exasperate – it’ll be a matter of time before indifference or despair sets in, and then this potentially amazing endeavour becomes just another chore or worse. We are of the absolute conviction that if this endeavour is to thrive it has to be about something greater, greater even than a continent of a billion people. We love Jesus – tremendously – and we pray that never changes. Jesus loves every man, woman and child in Africa – more than we ever could – and desires to see their families and communities blessed. That will never change. Our driving force in this endeavour is, and will always be, Jesus and His love.

Rooted in these convictions, we hereby establish To Bless Africa as a trading company that will seek to form partnerships with communities across Africa, that will seek to encourage, promote and advance local enterprise while at the same time modelling integrity and transparency, and that will seek to genuinely bless the communities it does business with rather than to hold to the pursuit of profit as its ultimate goal. In the fulfilment of this endeavour, To Bless Africa will seek to develop relationships with communities across the continent so as to procure the best locally made merchandise available, and will seek to sell these goods in North America – thus creating an avenue for anyone who so desires to not only buy and enjoy them, but to have a direct hand in impacting and blessing our partner communities. Would you walk with us – we want to go far. So help us God.

Through the public posting of this manifesto of our foundational convictions, we ask any members of this community who agree with them and would seek to support this venture to please help hold us accountable to them. If you would be willing to do so, could you please indicate this below by means of a comment?

I do believe we have taken the first bite of this elephant!