Before You Go On That Trip To Africa

I get it. “Africa” is mysterious and enticing to those who have never been there – who have only viewed the continent (yes, it is a continent, not a country) through sensationalized narratives written by television and movie producers. And of course, there are certain eccentricities to be found, just as there are in any geographical region, among any culture – yes, even (or especially) American culture.

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10 Pictures (Almost) Everyone Takes In Africa

Even people who know nothing about Africa still know that it’s a veritable treasure trove of pictures. It’s a continent full of exotic plants, exotic animals, and even exotic people. From the densely populated urban centers to the open plains, from north to south, east to west, and coast to coast, tourists flock to Africa, cameras in tow. Here are ten pictures that (almost) everyone takes in Africa.

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Flamingo Church

Hadada Ibis

On my first trip to Kenya, I had no idea what to expect. The trip itself was a bit of an impulse buy, and I knew almost nothing about Africa except what I had seen on National Geographic. I wasn’t prepared for the cities, nor for the mountains, nor for the many varieties of lush trees and plants that grace this little corner of the world.

But as I began to get a feel for the natural environment here, one thing that stood out above all else: there are a ton of birds. In fact, over 1100 species of birds can be found in Kenya, including some very large varieties.

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TED Talk Tuesday: Africa’s Next Boom

 

As you probably know by now, I’m a sucker for a good African story – especially one that inspires hope in the future. In this talk, economist Charles Robertson explains how Africa could be on the verge of the kind of explosive growth seen in India and Asia over the past century. His theory is that we are seeing the birth of a new boom in Africa that will change the economy of the entire continent and even of the world.

Having witnessed a dramatic shift in even the past few years in the cities of Nairobi and Nakuru, Kenya, I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Robertson. The growing middle class in Kenya is propelling innovation in the country. Education rates are up, mortality rates are down and the entrepreneurial spirit of the African people is strong. As one economist told me last week, “Kenyans see business not as risk, but as stability – and businesses here rarely fail.”

As my family begins our journey eastward toward Kenya, it’s amazing to think that 10 or 20 years from now, we could be telling stories about the “old” Africa – the poor, third world, developing continent. Here’s to hoping that in a generation or two, that version of Africa will be a distant memory.

TED Talk Tuesday: Finding the Next Einstein in Africa

 

Hat tip to Megan Roddie for bringing this talk to my attention.

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences is the product of a big dream by one man, physicist Neil Turok. He believes that within the people of Africa lies untapped potential to create significant change for Africa and for the world. I share Turok’s belief.

One visit with a group of Kenyan students was all it took for me to realize that there are brilliant young minds out there who are simply starving for opportunity. And what I have seen, (which Turok doesn’t mention) is that when these young students have their physical needs cared for, they often excel in school. Once they no longer have to spend their time, energy and mental resources trying to figure out where they are going to find shelter or food or clothing, suddenly, they are able to devote more time to their studies and more energy to thinking about their future.

One of the great lies that has been perpetrated by Africans and non-Africans alike is that the western world has, is or needs to fix Africa. As Turok says and a good Kenyan friend of mine also says, “If Africa is going to be fixed, it’s going to be fixed by Africans.”¬†Our greatest contributions, then, can be those of education, training, early intervention and a mentality that seeks not to help Africans survive, but seeks to give them the tools they need to excel no a global level.

Could the next Einstein come from Africa? Absolutely! Let’s do what we can to turn this dream into a reality.

TED Talk Tuesday: A Kenyan Boy Who Battles Lions

Wherever I go and whoever I talk to about my relationship with Kenya, one point I always try to make is that the relationship between the “developed” world and the “developing” world (in my case, between Americans and Kenyans) doesn’t have to be a one-way relationship. There is a myth that has been advanced by both “first world” and “third world” people that says that those from developing nations must always be on the receiving end of the transaction and those from developed nations must always be on the giving end.

One of the most profound moments I’ve had in Kenya was on my first trip there when I made a simple statement to the church where I was speaking – a statement attached to a request. “I know you want me to pray for you,” I said, “but I think you have something to offer as well. I would like you to pray for me.” The people of that small church were shocked at the idea that they had anything to offer. They had been convinced that they were supposed to always be recipients. The pastor of that church, with whom I am now friends, was moved to tears (very unusual in Kenyan culture). “Who knew,” he said, “that Africans had anything to offer an American.”

With that backdrop, I present to you Richard Turere, a Kenyan boy whose ingenuity not only got outside the box of traditional thinking within one of Africa’s oldest tribes, but whose invention could become a game-changer all over the world. If he had any doubt before, Richard now knows that Africans have a lot to offer the rest of us!

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