Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lending Africa a Helping Hand

Do you care about Africa? If so, what have you done to help the continent?

The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation has developed concept of the “Afripolitan” to describe the swelling ranks of those who care about Africa and are engaged in efforts to advance the continent and its people in joining the global economy of the 21st century. The term is a melding of “Africa” and “metropolitan.” Africa, of course, centers this concept on those who see the continent’s importance to the world at large. The metropolitan aspect conveys the sense of worldliness that understands the interconnectedness of all societies and the need to ensure that no society is left to languish. But the Afripolitan does more than see Africa; he or she makes an effort to help in whatever way they can.

In short, Afripolitans act, while others merely watch.

Now that we have established what an Afripolitan is, who is an Afripolitan? Certainly members of the African Diaspora who realize the importance of their motherland and take the next step to help would be Afripolitans. However, the young person who volunteers for the Peace Corps or the Teachers for Africa Program of the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH), no matter what their ethnic heritage, also is an Afripolitan. Current and former government officials whose work in Africa has led them to make an enduring tangible connection with the continent and its people would be Afripolitans. Those who have donated to and who continue to sustain humanitarian efforts and church missions would be Afripolitans. Students who learn about the world and want to make it better are Afripolitans.

Two notable Afripolitans are the late Reverend Leon H. Sullivan, who established the African-African American Summits (now the Leon H. Sullivan Summits) to build a bridge between Africa and America, and organizations such as Opportunities Industrializations Centers International and IFESH, which have helped tens of thousands of Africans to achieve self-sufficiency. Ambassador Andrew Young, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. Congressman, is another Afripolitan whose interventions on America’s Africa policy are still felt in countries such as Angola.

There are many other notable Afripolitans – from Ron Dellums, the former U.S. Congressman who fought apartheid and then waged a campaign to help victims of HIV-AIDS on the continent that led to programs such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), to Oprah Winfrey, who built a model school for exceptional girls in South Africa, to Bono, the U2 lead singer who has had such a significant impact on developed world policies on African debt and development to Angelina Jolie, whose work as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has brought much-needed attention and assistance to people worldwide, including victims of genocide in Darfur.

Afripolitans are not just people of African descent. They are not just the rich and famous who make public contributions to Africa’s wellbeing. They comprise millions worldwide who care about the present and future of Africa and are willing to give of their time, talent and treasure to help Africans in their ongoing effort to reach their great potential.

The Peace Corps, an independent federal agency established in 1961, is an example of a mechanism by which Americans can provide tangible help for African people. Tens of thousands of Peace Corps volunteers have participated in programs to help African governments, schools, civil society organizations and entrepreneurs in areas ranging from education to health to business to agriculture. The Peace Corps currently operates in 25 African countries – from Benin to Zambia.

Church missions and individual evangelical organizations have sent thousands of people to African countries to provide food and medical supplies to those in need. From Pentecostals to Lutherans to Presbyterians to Catholics, men and women of all races in America have contributed to giving from their resources to make life better for African people – be it establishing feeding programs to building schools.

Dozens of people contributed to the US$50,000 the Sullivan Foundation sent last year to Manyatta School outside Arusha, Tanzania. Many more have contributed to the millions of dollars worth of books and school supplies the Sullivan Summits provided to various African nations through Books for Africa and the millions in medical supplies sent through MedShare. Future projects are being planned through these organizations and others.

The ranks of the Afripolitan grow each day. Are you ready to join them?

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