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Lessons for Africa from Achebe's literary success

Chinua Achebe will be really missed not because of Things Fall Apart or Anthill of Savanna, but his literary success. There were many words of wisdom he wrote during his illustrious career that should not be forgotten.

He was the one who wrote: "If you want to plunder your neighbour’s house, first hire a good storyteller". He was right. What does the storyteller do? He diligently spreads false narratives. We have seen it happen several times with colonialism, apartheid, imperialism and now neo-colonialism. Kwame Nkrumah was supposed to be an evil dictator. Nelson Mandela was dubbed a terrorist.

We all know what happened to Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. And we all know what happened to Muammar Gaddafi, who was before his demise feted in European capitals. There are many lessons we can still learn.

Lesson one: For Africa to succeed we need our own storyteller, lest we are plundered over and over again. It looks the African story will continue to be distorted until it develops its own media resources strong enough to be heard - both broadcast and print.

Most of us are familiar with the hilarious anecdote of the Snake and the Toad: A toad basking by the roadside saw a snake riding a horse, coiled up in the saddle. That is not how to ride a horse, the toad berated the snake. Let me show you how to do it remarked the toad.

The snake dutifully slithered out of the saddle while the toad climbed astride the horse, took the reigns and majestically rode the horse, prancing proudly up and down. “This is how to ride a horse," the toad said triumphantly. “Well done,’’ the snake said," Now you may come down’’ The snake crawled back into the saddle, and rode away in its usual manner. On its way it looked back and advised the toad, "...to have is better than to know. What is the value of fine horsemanship without a horse?"

The second lesson: Africa’s big brains should roll up their sleeves and get onto the factory floor. It is only by making, creating and innovating that Africa will succeed. Meetings to plan meetings, endless conferences, summits, workshops, talk shows and retreats have a limited use in 21st century. They generally do not put food on the table. Spend more time converting ideas into conglomerates that produce world-class goods and services, sold to the whole world at the right price.

Lesson three: To have a real impact one has to be in Africa with Africans. The Developed World where we seek comfort is as such because they have had no choice to seek refuge but to stay and fix their societies when things went awry.

-The writer consults for Gravio