Rabbit holes of multinationalism

Alice discovers Wonderland after chasing a rabbit down a rabbit hole. The character, Alice, is based on a young girl, Alice Liddell. I found Lewis Carroll’s answers to her very many questions, I imagine, very intriguing. The curiosity built up in young children requires the kind of imagination in his book. His ability to blend the real with the imaginary makes a very good read.

The World Economic Forum on Africa (wef) ended on September 6th 2019. The theme led me down a rabbit hole, but unlike Alice, to a different kind of Wonderland.

#AF19 whose theme this year is “Shaping Inclusive Growth and Shared Futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. The agenda will cover four key areas: innovation, sustainable development, digitalization and governance.

Inclusive. shared. sustainable. digitalization.

These words like Alice’s characters sounded fascinating. There are so many fascinating scenes in the cartoon, I shall restrict my musings to the caterpillar scene.

Data from the African Development Bank (AFD) shows Africa’s GDP growth reached roughly 3.5% last year, about the same as a year earlier, and up 1.4 percentage points from the 2.1% in 2016.The continent’s growth this year is projected to accelerate to 4% and 4.1% in 2020. While higher than other emerging and developing countries, Africa’s growth remains insufficient to make a dent on unemployment and poverty. These challenges manifest amid an imperative for Africa’s growth to be shared by everyone, particularly by providing our growing populations with good jobs and social protection. What can be done to address these challenges? Let me underscore three priorities for South Africans, and for the continent as a whole: greater cooperation, policy injection and human capital development.

The caterpillar asks Alice who she is and she does not know. She has changed so many times.

Photo credit: Pinterest

It seems like Alice that we shall show up only three inches tall rather than what we were earlier. The caterpillar on the other hand, is three inches tall and happy about it! He has the ability to metamorphose. This he does right before Alice’s own eyes. His parting remarks as a butterfly are instructions on eating a mushroom.

Shall we eat the mushroom?

In March, the African Union launched the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This landmark agreement aims to create a single market expected to generate a combined GDP of more than $3.4 trillion and benefit over 1 billion people. Alex Liu

The free trade area creates a single market and and has similar laws governing goods and services and dispute settlement. The AfCFTA was signed by 54 out of 55 countries. By the time, it was operationalized in July 2019, only 27 countries had ratified it. The requirement was 22 countries. We are not the same as we were this morning.

While we may not metamorphose, there is a mushroom that we can eat, one side will make us taller. Another side will make us shorter.

4IR is going to be the fastest revolution because it builds on existing technologies and enhances their capabilities. Like transformers, the ability to change in seconds will be achieved for most of our technologies. Take the duration from 4G to 5G, some of us are still migrating from 3G to 4G.

The speed at which we adapt to change in Africa has to increase. The speed at which we or our governments adopt changes to laws and to policies needs to increase.

Overcoming the ‘xenophobic’ attacks and never ending wars requires a mindset change. It is one thing to open our countries for exchange of goods. Services come with people. Different people. Their cultures are different. Their language is different. They do not find your jokes funny.

The notion of open borders shall indeed shift in our metrics of success and growth. Our little and sometimes shallow thinking shall be stretched. Our imagination needs to grow beyond our little safety nets. Our identity will not be based on how strong our affiliation for our nation is but how agile we are at navigating the free trade area. Diversify or die.

If our collective growth is not sufficient to overcome poverty, the gap between the rich and the poor will widen. Will the rich barricade themselves in their wealth or will the poor in true Marxist style lead a revolution?Or shall we really begin to love our neighbor?

One side will make us taller and another side will make us shorter. Tradeoffs have to be made, big ones for certain nations and smaller ones for others.

One African sky. A single African passport. Border less continent. Shift from extractive to value addition.

We shall not be the same as we were this morning.

It is my hope that like Alice at the Hatter’s party we also celebrate, with the rest of the world, our happy unbirthday!

The Author of Wonder

“I don’t believe that the child has yet been born who didn’t look at the world around it with those fresh eyes and wonder.

“If you lose that first wonder, you’ve lost one of the most greatest sources of delight and pleasure and beauty in the whole of the universe. Caring for that brings a joy and enlightenment which is irreplaceable. That is one of the great pleasures of life.”

Sir David Attenborough

I shall begin my trail of thought with this quote from an adorable naturalist. His documentaries taught me so much about a world and allowed me to visit, unbothered by visa applications, these other worlds. I celebrate his work.

There are huge pipes by our road side and the children in my car, are always happy to stop and look at the huge diggers and caterpillars, lift and place pipes into the ground. They crowd around one window and all scream with glee at the diggers!! I, on the other hand, am miffed about the delay in traffic. I sit there wondering when this will all be over and hope none of the pipes falls on my car.

Two kinds of wonder, one full of hope and joy and the other despondent. Growing up, I always thought that hope and joy compounded. Adults, in my view, were the happiest people in the world because they got to do anything they wanted, when they wanted! I hear the loud echoes of laughter fading even as I write that last line.

Time stealers and irrational schemes attack and rob us of hope and joy. They force their way into our memory and cram their bile onto our neural paths. Our wonder is corrupted. It is no longer colorful and cheerful (Tigger) but rather gray and despondent.( Eeyore)

Those honor nature well, who teach she can speak on everything, even on theology.Blaise Pascal

Nature is our gift from God to bring the delight of wonder back. More importantly, to lead us to God.

When I take a moment to consider the different birds, insects and trees in my little village of Kiwanga, I am amazed at the diversity and how they coexist. I recall my biology and science lessons about the different veins in leaves. The different methods of propagation. The different sizes. The different shades of green. The smell of soil after the rain. Our God loves diversity. Our God is an Artist and a Scientist. Our God is beautiful.

One fine day, I found bees buzzing around ,what I thought as, not very impressive flowers. Flowers of one of my palm trees. The bees found these nondescript flowers attractive. Our God is mindful. Our God is the provider.

Bruna, one of our numerous dogs gave birth. The puppies were so different from each other, in appearance and character. Dogs have character. Imagine that. The day we gave away one of the puppies, the rest of the puppies huddled with Bruna, and suckled. Dogs feel. Our God is caring.

Nature will lead us back to God to wonder about Him and His awesomely good and great character. It will cause us to think like the Psalmist,

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
Psalms 8:3‭-‬4 NKJV

Slow down, like a child, smell the roses. Keep your wonder, it will lead you to God.

Purpose

For most people, maybe the larger majority, their key take home from Transform 2019 shall be momentum.

Mine will be purpose. The shuttle orbits and is able to break out of earth’s gravitational pull because it was designed for this. It was fitted for its purpose. My lungs are the size of the tennis court because of the amazing role that oxygen and its partner, water play in my metabolism. My DNA is 70 trips to the sun and back because I am complex and designed to dominate.

For each session, like gravity, I was pulled back to my purpose. Two years ago, I sat down to write my mission statement. The first time I had been asked to do it, I had drawn blanks in my mind. I knew the organization’s mission. I knew the mission of every Christian but I had never needed to think about my mission.

This time round was different. We were going through a two day session on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This was Habit 2, Begin with the End in Mind. I had written my end so many times but not like this.

Begin with the end in mind also means to determine our own life’s purpose. It ensures that as we’re climbing the ladder of success, it’s leaning against the right wall.

I did not want to reach my life’s end and find my ladder was against the wrong wall. I still did not know how neither what to write.

Thankfully, the Franklin Covey team had thought of me. Jesus, you love me too much oh, excess love oh. The app, and it was an app, had questions about my passions, my dislikes, my bucket list, my many things that I hope to do when I retire….At the end it put all of them together into one statement.

Creating a Legacy founded on our rich African heritage and built on the eternal rock, Jesus. All wrapped in the goodness and grace our Lord has lavished on us.

The statement looked like me. Even with certain things undone, it looked like me. Wow. Jesus, you love me too much oh, excess love oh

These two days, I have gone through the same epiphany. I have reflected on how all the people I spend time with are passionate about the things that I am passionate about.

The app sessions I walked into with Pastor Muriithi and Pastor Jumba, I might as well have gone through a tesseracts- a wrinkle in time. I could have been chatting with my dear friend Hannah or having breakfast with JoyLiz at a cafe. Or chatting with Stella or Noreen about the place of culture and history in the life of the 21st century child. In reality, I was at Transform 2019 discussing World views, failing forward, the church is the solution to all the pain in the world, culture alignment, discipleship, global perspectives – conversations that I have had over the last two years. Ongoing conversations that keep me awake at night, conversations that lead me down rabbit holes, conversations that I carry to my prayer room. Jesus, you love me too much oh, excess love oh.

Do you have your mission statement down? Write it down. I found a beautiful Japanese concept, ikigai Aka your purpose in life that is able to guide you.

Focus and intensity. As I reflected on this aspect, purpose popped up yet again. Focus and intensity are powered by Purpose. Like focusing light through a magnifying glass.

Your final success is the sum total of our successes and failures, Dr. Ian Clarke.

Purpose helped me to accurately reflect on this statement and to fail forward rather than wallow in the mire of failure. Jesus, you love me too much oh, excess love oh.

No ladders on wrong walls, all ducks in a row. Is this how I envisage my 65+ reflective years? Absolutely. Will my Legacy be my end in mind? Without a doubt.

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.
I Corinthians 4:1‭-‬2 NKJV

Xenophobia

It means the fear of foreign or strange.

I found myself wondering how the attacks in South Africa are being categorized as xenophobic and yet there was nothing strange or foreign. The attackers and those attacked were all African.

A further search on the meaning in South Africa yielded this definition.

Xenophobia is generally defined as ‘the deep dislike of non-nationals by nationals of a recipient state.’ This definition is also used by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). Xenophobia is also a manifestation of racism. Racism and xenophobia support each other and they share prejudiced discourses. They both operate on the same basis of profiling people and making negative assumptions. The profiling in the case of racism is on the basis of race, in the case of xenophobia on the basis of nationality.

This description was similar to the News images and video clips on social media.

A deeper look at this definition reveals that this is not only a South African phenomenon. The entire world has xenophobia- from building a wall along the Mexican border to Italy refusing to grant migrant ships docking privileges.

It is in Idi Amin evicting Asians from Uganda. It is in Hitler pursuing and annihilating Jews. It is in Japan’s war crimes against China in World War II.

It is Darfur, Myanmar, Rwanda, Syria.

It is Boko Haram, Taliban, Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab.

It is Nigeria retaliating. It is Hong Kong deporting. It is Brexit. It is the WindRush fiasco.

It is Sierra Leone. It is Biafra. It is Caledonia.

We live in a fractured society rather than a collaborative one. We deliberately choose ‘us’ against ‘them.’

James writing to Jews scattered all over the Roman Empire teaches them not to pander to these whims.

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
James 4:1 NKJV

He shows them the source of all conflict, ‘I’. The rifts, schisms, fractures are crafted by a lens that only allows you to see as you see.

Take this lens off for a moment. Put on the other person’s lens, walk a mile in their shoes. Do you see their colors? Do you see their hopes? Do you see their dashed dreams? Do you see their children?

Take off their lens. Where do we go from here? Will your lens work? Maybe. Will their lens work? Maybe.

If you both see ‘together’, through one lens, what would you see? The challenge of the 21st century.

To be more inclusive. To love more, to give more, to share more, to open up more.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 NKJV