Africa Straight Up

Most people don't realize how very large Africa is.  This map gives a better understanding.

My husband was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, which is on the continent of Africa.  He and most of his family left due to unrest and war that began in the late 80s/early 90s.  Luckily for him, he was able to attend school here in Milwaukee and got a civil engineering degree from Marquette university.  He chose to stay here because the situation in Somalia still isn't peaceful, although recently there are some big changes occurring.  He and his brother have been trying to find ways that they can create jobs and improve quality of life in Somalia.  His older sister recently moved to Kenya to provide medical treatment for women in a clinic.  She said she's working 12-14 hours a day.  There is such a great need for doctors.  

Before I married him, my knowledge of Africa was somewhat limited to what I had learned in 7th grade textbooks and National Geographic magazine stories about men in skirts wielding spears.  I had a lot to learn.  Of course, our lives have been vastly different.  He grew up with a life of privilege- nannies, drivers, cooks, boarding school.  I grew up in a single parent household where money was tight and most clothing was hand me downs from friends or cousins.  Even our pets were different.  He had a chimpanzee and a cheetah.  I had dogs and cats.  I thought all Africans were poor and needed our Unicef donations we collected on Halloween.  Well, stereotypes change and we change with them if we are smart and hope to move forward.

We were lucky enough to travel through South Africa and Uganda a few years ago, so I got to see the lifestyles first hand.  We saw the slums with tin roofs and cardboard walls outside of Johannesburg, but we also saw the luxury hotels and homes of business owners in the city.  It's a place of contrasts like anywhere else.  By traveling through a small part of the continent, it has made me more open to ideas about what is possible there.  I no longer think of it as a place where we should be sending unlimited aid or helping those poor souls.  

Modern city of Johannesburg
Slums outside of Johannesburg, South Africa

My husband sitting in a luxury hotel in Uganda

There is a new video I'd recommend to anyone interested in what is really happening in Africa.  It's available on youtube and is under a half hour long.  It will change the way you think about Africa.  They don't want our handouts.  They want to be successful.  Some of the richest people in the world live in Africa now.  Some very entrepreneurial folks talk about how Africa will become successful only by Africans doing the work.  And it's said that no country ever achieved super power status by receiving unlimited aid.  What most surprised me is how much further advanced they are with regard to cell phone use for EVERYTHING.  You don't need a wallet for cash or credit cards.  Kenya has a Silicon valley of their own where they developing some amazing technology.  I'd love to see some of that technology come to the US.  Check it out here.


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