When I was offered the chance to guest edit The Globe and Mail's online world page on Monday, I immediately said 'yes' before I think the person had finished what she was saying.
For me it was a rare opportunity to expose the readers of The Globe and Mail to an Africa that they do not see very often: one of promise, of diversity, of art, of complexity, of humour, of intellectuals. While I am a huge proponent of us as Africans telling our own stories and countering the negative stereotypes out there since no one else will, I am also cognizant of the power that the mainstream Western media still has on shaping perceptions of the continent.
Also in the back of my mind, was the fact that Bono and Bob Geldof will edit the paper edition of The Globe and Mail. I am on record of having criticized the fact that we as Africans often find ourselves being spoken for by celebrities and non-Africans in institutions like the G20 and G8, and was concerned that the paper edition, while focused on Africa, might reflect a one-sided view.
I'm sure they have the best of intentions, but the role of the African voice both in addressing our problems and the solutions to those problems is one that needs to remain at centre stage if the continent is to make progress. So while the paper edition might focus on what the world can do for Africa, my role as the guest editor will be to return to the question of what can Africans do for Africa and what are we doing for Africa (and indeed for the rest of the world) by highlighting different voices and stories from around the continent.
I agree that this is a momentous time for the continent. In fact, as a young African, the sense of opportunity that fills my head on a daily basis is, I suspect, reminiscent of how young Africans felt at the cusp of independence. It is, however, also a momentous time for the rest of the world. Countries in Europe are finding themselves wading into territory that was previously considered the domain of the Third World, from being highly indebted, to being subject to IMF austerity measures, to grappling with high unemployment, to dealing with flawed elections.
And so I hope this will not just be an opportunity to learn about Africa, but also to learn from Africa.
Ory Okolloh is the co-founder and executive director of Ushahidi. She also writes one of the most popular blogs in the Kenyan sphere at Kenyan Pundit and is the co-founder of Mzalendo, a website that tracks the performance of Kenyan Members of Parliament. She frequently Tweets and has large followings at @kenyanpundit and @ushahidi
ORY OKOLLOH'S RECOMMEDED LINKS
Wangechi Mutu exhibiting now in Ontario.
The Africa Trilogy (Volcano Theatre / Productions)
World Cup: Three African football sites to follow for the World Cup