Success in many African cultures is defined as a way of defeating the expectations an individual has had of a successful person. We have probably heard many beautiful stories of how people became successful by defeating their enemies.
Many African successful people would narrate how their teachers told them that they will never complete school, that they would not become someone important in life, and that some government officials have denied them study loans, etc. Some would narrate that their own family members were against their dreams, and had tried everything to sabotage them.
Some would claim to have succeeded to obtain a degree just because there was an aunt or uncle who told them that they would never attain a tertiary qualification.
In other words, success in many African cultures is not achieving what you wanted to become, but actually a celebration of achieving what they said you cannot achieve.
So, it is very important in an African culture to have an enemy, for the enemy serves as a great motivation to ‘make it in life’. The presence of an enemy is so important that, if one for example is leaving the house to work or school and bumps their foot on a stone or accidentally steps on a sharp object, it is perceived that the enemy is trying to prevent them from succeeding in their daily work.
They would therefore try by all means to work hard to shame the enemy. I can go on and on about the African enemy theories. Therefore, to be considered an ally by many African people, you must position yourself as if you are fighting their enemy, a position many con artists and oppressors have used successfully to their advantage.
Many Pentecostal churches, for example, are mushrooming in many African countries, and their prime aim is ‘to fight their church members’ enemies’, those being witchcraft, jealousy and many other related evil spirits. These Christian movements are embraced and prospering very well in Africa. They use the weapons of hope and fear to control and get almost everything they want from their members.
Today, the presuppositions of having an enemy out there could also be attributed to the many conspiracy theories about Covid-19, and the high resistance against Covid-19 vaccines in many African countries. Many Africans still feel, understandably so, that the rest of the world comprises their enemies, and that they want to wipe them off in order to ‘depopulate the world’.
The majority of Africans and so-called Global South are thus siding with those creating these conspiracy theories, for they appear to be their ally in fighting their enemy, i.e. the rest of the world, or the so-called Global North.
It is very interesting to read in the media that many people from many African countries and the so-called Global South are rejecting the Covid-19 vaccines made for humans by the Global North countries, instead wanting to take some medicine meant for animals made by the same people.
Well, let the Covid-19 conspiracy theories and vaccines be a discussion for another day.
The lesson I would like us to take today is that the value of an enemy is very important in Africa, and whatever assistance you want to offer must be positioned as a weapon to fight their enemy.