African Renaissance Monument

 African Renaissance MonumentThe controversial African Renaissance Monument to mark Senegal's 50 years of independence is pictured during its inauguration ceremony  on April 3, 2010 in Dakar. Former Nigerian president and African strongman Olusegun Obasanjo who cut a ribbon in the colours of the Senegalese flag, said the statue was 'a monument for black people all over the world.' Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade called for the creation of a United States of Africa, unveiling the controversial statue which he said marked the moment for the continent to 'take-off'. Addressing a large crowd and 19 African heads of state, Wade called for 'the exploration of new horizons' and the formation of a 'United States of Africa' modelled on 'large unions' such as the United States and European Union.

The African nation of Senegal has built a monument slightly larger than the Statute of Liberty to mark its 50th anniversary of independence from France at a cost of about $ 28 million.  In a way, the monument is intended as a call for a United States of Africa symbolizing the freedom of the motherland from what the Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade refers to as “centuries of ignorance, intolerance and racism” so all Africans in the the diaspora can have something to unify around.

That seems like a lofty and noble goal, except for two things:

  • The construction of the edifice was outsourced to North Koreans rather than to indigenous Senegalese or even other Africans.   I’m not suggesting that race need play a role in who one does business with, but if one is going to suggest that something is being built that’s reflective of African renaissance, what could exhibit that better than employing one’s own countrymen in building such a memorial?  In other words, why not create stakeholders in the project by creating broad participation either within your country or within the diaspora, especially since this is supposed to be a rallying point? As it is, President Wade is talking about pride of ownership while someone else is getting paid.  If you have truly have pride, then you’re going to build something like this “with your own hands” and if you need to develop the internal expertise to get it done, that’s what you do. 
  • President Wade has insisted that 35% of all tourism receipts come to him directly for “intellectual property rights” since doing this was his brainchild.  Basically, he wants to use his public office to enrich himself.  That isn’t all that unusual as even some American politicians operate in similar fashion; the difference here is that they at least have to wait until they’re out of office.

Based on the above, President Wade, and by extension, the Senegalese people look like fools and do not command respect vis a vis this project.  That’s unfortunate as the Senegalese people are a proud people; too bad their leadership is not.  

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