Month: June 2014

Importance of Women in Africa’s Culture and Tourism Ministries

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It’s not often you’ll see a male blogger write about the value of women within the Culture and Tourism Industry. Well I might as well give it a try! When it comes to Culture and Fashion; many onlookers will asses women’s role as central and crucial. As a result (maybe); even in its cultural and political sphere (on the African Continent at least); another interesting thing is happening. I don’t think I would receive much criticism if I say there certainly seems to be a positive uprising of women within West African Politics; especially when it comes to the Ministries of Culture, Arts and Tourism.

 

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Ms. Guillermina Mekuy Mba Obono (Equatorial Guinea Secretary of State, Head of Culture and Tourism)

 

Even from the top of my head; when I look across the political spectrum of ECOWAS and the general Culture and Tourismsectors; I think of Mrs. Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare of Ghana, Mrs. Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie of Gambia, Mrs Sally Mbanefo of Nigeria and Mrs. Yahaya Baaré Aoua Abdou of Niger. These are currently some of the prominent female Ministers of Culture and Tourism within their respective states; Mrs. Sally Uwechue-Mbanefoor isthe popular Director of the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation.This is without mentioning the Female Ministersof Mamata Bako Djaouga (of Benin), Guillermina Mekuy Mba Obono (of Guinea) and Sengalese Prime Minister Aminata Toure and you get my point.

 

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Mrs. Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare, (Ghana Minister for Tourism, Culture & Creative Arts)

 

Sub Saharan Africa’s tourism industry is set to spur more economic growth for the continent and directly employ 6.7 million people by 2021, according to a new World Bank report released in October last year. The report ‘Tourism in Africa: Harnessing Tourism for Growth and Improved Livelihoods’ states that tourism accounted directly or indirectly for one in every 20 jobs in Sub Saharan Africa in 2011, and is one of the few industries on the continent in which women are well represented as employees and managers. Sub Saharan Africa is outpacing other regions in tourism growth.

 

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Mrs. Sally Mbanefo (Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation NTDC)  with H.E. Chief Edem Duke (Nigeria’s Honourable Minister of Culture and Tourism)

Aside from the mention of female appointments to ministerial departments; the significance of African women in generalwithin the cultural sectors cannot be underestimated. Many African governments promote ethnic tourism using glamorous images of women in traditional dress. Many women are also involved in the ethnic handicrafts and marketing of them in nearby towns and cities. I am familiar with the Hausa culture and the beautiful ‘aike hannu’ (Hand crafted items) that dominate tourism expos in Niger, Northern Nigeria and abroad. Growing research highlights the different roles men and women of the global south play in selling their traditions. In Southern Africa, the famous traditional dances sold to tourists seem to be dominated by the men whilst in West Africa; it is the women.

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Mrs. Yahaya Baaré Aoua Abdou (Niger Minister of Tourism and Handcrafts)

 

According to a well known Chinese proverb, women hold up half the sky. In the tourism industry, women hold up more than their fair share, as hosts, as workers, as images of touristic adventures. Whilst this may strike intriguing debates amongst African feminists and academics; Erve Chambers (Professor of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park) narrates how women are siginicant and treated within domestic and eco-tourism initiatives:

“In my general overview of cross-cultural touristic literature, women as hosts and folks provide a multiplier impact on tourism: they supply usually poorly domestic service and other forms of wage labour; they supply artistry; they supply avertising images; they supply entrepreneurial skills to the economic sector and they supply their sexuality for sale. A change of scenery for visitor has multiple meanings when women as hosts, native girls, and folks are concerned.”  Erve Chambers, (Anthropology Professor)

 

 

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Mrs. Mamata Bako Djaouga (Benin Minister of Handicraft and Tourism)

 

‘Karifi’n mata sai yawa’n magana’is a Hausa proverb meaning ‘the strength of a woman is in her tongue’. What a woman says and doesn’t say is important; especially if they hold a key position within their nation’s political future. In Rwanda, women have often citied their maternal nature as having gifted them with the skills of peace-building and reconciliation after the genocide crisis. Within West Africa, more women are coming out voicing how the cultural sector is not only dominated by women but important for women.

 

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Mrs. Fatou mass jobe njie (Gambian Minister of Tourism and Culture)

 

 

“It is better for Liberian [women] to engage in arts and crafts to help them become self reliant and strengthen the cultural sector in Liberia by promoting tourism.”
Mrs. Fatu Gbedema, (CEO of Game Changers on the left with Petroleum Guru, Jacqueline Khoury Director on NOCAL Board)

 

Liberia represents a country where women are no longer dependent on men to support. They no longer sit in their homes waiting for their husbands. ‘They have risen to the occasion and decided to use their hands to become self-employed them’ according to Gloria T. Tamba (Daily Observer, Liberia). I think her view would be shared by many within the region if not on the continent. Tourism has been recognised as a force within Africa’s development and role of women as producers has certainly been identified.

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Aminata Touré (Current Prime Minister of Senegal)

However, with the appointments of women as ministers of Culture and Tourism within their respective home states illustrates how the future certainly looks bright with regards to the opportunities the cultural sector presents them. It is clear that tourism provides African women with employment opportunities that, although in the informal sector, are significant because of the autonomy and independence they provide for women.

 

Voila =)

Returning Home: The Diaspora’s Fears

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In continuation with a previous account that touched me to write concerning young people within Africa’s Diaspora and some of the troubles they face growing up abroad and staying in touch with their cultural heritage; the number of the Diaspora’s adults interested in returning home has recently drawn attention from CNN, BBC and other western platforms. It is clear there is a vast of pool of talent, experience and potential residing in the African repatriate community which remains largely untapped by the African continent itself. When this potential is recognised, it produces huge benefits for the economy at large with many of the Diaspora more open to returning home. But is this always the case?

“I’d say that there’s a large percentage of diaspora interested in going back to the continent, but aren’t interested in working for anyone. Most of the connected Diaspora that I engage with knows that there aren’t many career opportunities available to them. Instead, they key in on the opportunity to create their own career path. Most of us [Africans in the Diaspora] active and engaged members of the diaspora are working on something “on the side” aimed at Africa while we fulfil our 40-hour-week career requirements.” (TMS Ruge)

 

“You can’t fool all the people all of the time. But if you fool the right ones, then the rest will fall behind. Tell me who’s got control of your mind? your world view? Is it the news or the movie you‘re taking your girl to?”

 

These are the words of the U.S. hip hop duo; Dead Prez in a song called Propaganda. Whilst these lines may be act as a window into some of the thoughts of Africa’s diaspora towards the continent; one thing that is true is the fact there are both good and bad perceptions – and many would like to travel to or return to Africa but have fears. In the US, at least, the dominant story that’s told is that immigrants see what is great in America, and therefore they want to come to America and be American. They are going to show up eager to melt into that “Melting Pot,” and, while of course they will keep some of their amusing and curious folkways. In the UK; much of the current immigration talk is dominated by Eastern Europe as the commonwealth and post-colonial migrants have made way for the emerging European Union dilemmas. Whilst in Belgium, Spain and Italy; it is the North African communities that grab the immigration headlines; the ‘African youth trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to the rich West to wash dishes in restaurants, clean toilets and look after our elderly’ that many of the country residents are familiar with.

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However, this cannot be exaggerated. There are certainly notable and distinguished personalities making a good life and name for themselves and respected abroad. The recent medias’ drumbeat about “Africa is Rising” is making the them as well the rest of the Diaspora restless and hopeful because most of them have quite a good life in the West; which is contrary to the ‘petty life’ opinion of Mawuna R. Koutonin (Founder of the media buying platform GoodBuzz). They [the Diaspora] are constantly harassed by the state police according to Koutonin, crushed by daily racism from their neighbours and strangers, economically and politically isolated, and with very little hope for a near-future improvement. Unfortunately the dream of the Diaspora to return home is painfully held back by deep fears and unanswered questions such as comforts associated with being overseas, out of touch with their mother countries, lack of infrastructure and the political climate.

Here are the top 10 fears of the African diaspora about Africa, and also the top 10 questions most of them are confronted with. (You can see full questions list at Return2Africa.com)

 

Top 10 Fears

1. I know few people who have returned but failed, and had to come back to Europe.

2. I’m not successful here. I don’t have money. I’ll be ashamed to return just with my suitcase.

3. I don’t know how I’ll face all the social pressure and people asking me money.

4. I want to start a business back home, but everything is political in Africa. If you don’t have connections, your business could be crushed and closed at any time by officials.

5. How to explain my decision to my parents, my family, my friends? I’m afraid of their reaction.

6. How can I be sure that my professional experience will translate into something useful when I return to Africa? The work conditions are not good there.

7. I’m afraid of political instability. Every election is a matter of life and death with widespread of violence and fear.

8. There is no health insurance in Africa like I have here. The health system in my country has completely collapsed, what will I do if me or my family would get sick? How to find a good health insurance company?

9. I don’t have local connections anymore. My friends are now here. I’ll feel alone and isolated there. How to rebuild my social network locally before moving back?

10. I don’t have a place where to live. I don’t want to return to my parents house. Where will I live and host my family when I don’t have that much money?

 

Top 10 Questions

1. Is there any local association or group of Returned Africans that I can join or get support from?

2. How to deal will the feeling of failure of returning back without lot of money?

3. What to do if I don’t have any money to return with?

4. Is there any organization or support group that help people who want to return to Africa?

5. How to find a job when you are not yet in Africa?

6. I want to start a business back home. Where can I find accurate and non-biased information?

7. How to find a house or an apartment to rent? What risks to avoid?

8. Which Banks or Financial organizations give loans to people in the diaspora to buy or build their house?

9. I’m married to a European, how can I convince him/her to move back to Africa with me?

10. How to find the best hospitals/Good Doctors for my family, and the best school and kindergarten for our kids?