The path to progress in Africa lies in the surprising and innovative solutions Africans are finding for themselves
Africa is a continent on the move. It’s often hard to notice, though–the Western focus on governance and foreign aid obscures the individual dynamism and informal social adaptation driving the past decade of African development. Dayo Olopade set out across sub-Saharan Africa to find out how ordinary people are dealing with the challenges they face every day. She discovered an unexpected Africa: resilient, joyful, and innovative, a continent of DIY changemakers and impassioned community leaders.
Everywhere Olopade went, she witnessed the specific creativity born from African difficulty–a trait she began calling kanju. It’s embodied by bootstrapping innovators like Kenneth Nnebue, who turned his low-budget, straight-to-VHS movies into a multimillion-dollar film industry known as Nollywood. Or Soyapi Mumba, who helped transform cast-off American computers into touchscreen databases that allow hospitals across Malawi to process patients in seconds. Or Ushahidi, the Kenyan technology collective that crowdsources citizen activism and disaster relief.
The Bright Continent calls for a necessary shift in our thinking about Africa. Olopade shows us that the increasingly globalized challenges Africa faces can and must be addressed with the tools Africans are already using to solve these problems themselves. Africa’s ability to do more with less–to transform bad government and bad aid into an opportunity to innovate–is a clear ray of hope amidst the dire headlines and a powerful model for the rest of the world.
Adeyo (Dayo) Okunlola was born in Nigeria in 1956.
His parents were both academics and he grew up on the campus of Ife University. He went to a Baptist and then a Catholic boarding school. He studied for a B Sc in Nigeria, then a PhD in Soil Physics from Reading University (UK). He lectured in soil science in Nigeria between 1986-89 and was active in the Academic staff union in the University of Ife. During this period of IMF imposed structural adjustment (austerity measures imposed on the poor) and the loss of democratic freedoms in Nigeria, he contributed satirical articles to daily newspapers.
In the early 1990s he came to London where he has subsequently worked as a teacher of science in secondary schools. He teaches Yoruba at the Africa Centre and worked occasionally as a DJ playing Afro-Latin music. He lived for a time in Barbados, where he became aware of the strong connections between Nigerian ‘pidgins’ and Caribbean nation language.