Ask an African with Ejike Okoye
“Ask An African” is a new Mettle Consult (Mettle) initiative that seeks to gauge the perceptions of what Africans think about Africa. As a continent, Africa underperforms relative to other regions with regards to economic, social, and political development. At Mettle, one of our endeavors relates to understanding problems facing the African continent and finding solutions to them. In this quest, we realized how important changing the negative perception of Africa is to driving growth in and investments to the continent. Changing these negative perceptions is an uphill climb and will require strategic changes in our mentality as it relates to priority areas that include (but is not limited to) leadership, governance, accountability, security, education and responsible citizenship. As Africans, we need to take active roles in solving our problems. History shows that no one else will and waiting around for “someone” to do it produces zero results.
So in order to further understand the African continent, we sought and continue to seek African voices, as we have to tell our own stories. For far too long, others have told our stories. To this end, we created this segment because we belief it is time we saw and read about Africa, through the eyes and voices of Africans.
Today, we read from Ejike Okoye.
1) Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a Nigerian man of Igbo ethnicity, which is in the eastern part of Nigeria. I spent my childhood living in the Middle belt region of Nigeria where the predominant languages are Igala and Ebira. I moved to Norway in 2013 to further my studies. I majored in Mathematics at the University of Stavanger, (graduate level) after which I continued on to a second graduate degree in Data Science and Statistics at the University of Oslo. I currently live in Oslo and work as a data scientist with a biotechnology startup firm, BIO-ME. I communicate fluently in English and Igbo, and I speak Norwegian at an intermediate level.
2) What is your super power?
Well I am powerful at and passionate about all things data and innovation.
3) What is your impression about Africa?
My impression about Africa is that for far too long Africans have neglected it. Everyone wants to leave and just very few are committed to investing time and resource to make it a dream continent. Of course people leave because there is a lack of social security and employment opportunities. Africa is the continent with the least creative ideas and that’s because the youths have been left without proper skillsets, so those who should be developing the continent are the ones waiting for the development.
4) What do you think Africans think about Africa?
Probably, Africans think that Africa is just a home that cannot be salvaged from its current political and economic condition. We think Africa is a place we escape from and retire to at old age. Africa is not the only continent to have passed through difficult times but Africans are too comfortable in the difficult times that they have limited their understanding of and desire for what a working and livable society should look like.
5) What do you think non-Africans think about Africa?
Non-Africans probably see Africa as a place filled with abundant human and non-human resources, good weather, but impoverished, violent and criminally crippled societies.
6) What frustrates you about the African continent, and your country?
What frustrates me? I will love to say everything but actually, I think the issue of a decaying and backward society is what really frustrates me. People have become so religiously fooled that the development of the society is left in the hands of a few. There is also no unity among the people. With regards to Nigeria, it appears that Nigerians have no idea why they call themselves Nigerians. And in reality, I don’t blame them because I have no clue why I should be a proud Nigerian as well. But I am, and I would like to be even more proud.
7) What gives you hope about the African continent, and your country?
That which gives me hope about the African continent, I really cannot say. Africans do not appear ready for their own development and when they do, they always try to outsource the process. We have to build a society that allows for equal opportunity, an encouraging and thriving business and economic atmosphere, which is well structured in terms of governance. I am hopeful for a society that promotes peace and unity, and a continent where citizens are willing to contribute to its future.
8) If you could make a change in your country, what would you do?
Encourage development at the local level. That is where development and change must begin. At the local level, people have to start believing in their society and in the environment they live in. If growth and development is promoted at this level, every other thing will fall in place. But while doing this, the central structure cannot remain the way it is. It also needs a transformation.
Interviewed by Chisom Udeze