When you think of Africa, what comes to mind?
The 2010 Tour d'Afrique is complete and I would like to thank you all for your contributions to SELF, for helping to spread the word, and for following my progress. Your involvement has touched me deeply.
I would like to say that in the past four months, I experienced an intimate discovery of African culture. I did experience an intimate view of some African roads, traffic and majestic landscapes; but the tour dynamic was my focal point, which seemed to leave little time to immerse myself in the African cultures. However, I did get a lot closer to Africa's vibe than my usual perch which can usually only see the likes of the New York Times or the BBC.
So what does the word "Africa" bring to mind? I'm guessing - poverty/war/corrupt dictators/lions and elephants. While I saw some lion and elephant, I saw no poverty I haven't seen in New York City, I didn't see any fighting, and I didn't meet any dictators(that I know of). This doesn't mean Africa does not have any of the above, it's just that those images should not define this large complex continent.
I chose to raise money for SELF - an NGO whose mission is to help developing countries improve their infrastructure. After my journey, I am even more optimistic that SELF's model will be more productive - then simply giving money - for Africa's future. As I experienced first hand, if you give a person some cash, they spend it to satiate an immediate desire, which is soon forgotten, but yet the expectation for a handout is even stronger. However, if you give someone the opportunity to make something for you, they might drive a hard bargain, but they take pride in the work they have done. Instead of exploiting Africa's resources, what if the developed world helped Africa learn how capitalize its own natural and intellectual resources?
Africa is the 2nd largest continent (bigger then North America and Europe) and it has 54 countries, where 2000 different languages are spoken by a billion people - this is what I found on wikipedia. What I found on our bike ride, is the people are proud, friendly, hospitable and willing to work for their future....IF left to their own devices.
Thank you again for your support.
P.S. I will close down the SELF fundraising at the end of this week, but will continue to update my blog with my observations of Southern Africa during the World Cup.