About six months ago, while walking down a crowded street in Accra, the capital of Ghana, with my Ghanaian friend and business associate Henry, a radiant Ghanaian woman dressed in colorful native garb gave me a beautiful, flirtatious smile. Of course I smiled back, and then turned to Henry for some acknowledgement of what I thought was a fine moment in the life of an aging Lothario. Henry looked at me laughing and said:
“Richard, my friend, get real. What that lovely woman sees in you is a good dinner and an air-conditioned room.”
Until Nelson Mandela put a voice to the struggles of the black people of South Africa more than 25 years ago and lifted our spirits with a heroic victory over apartheid, our collective knowledge of Africa was based on Hollywood stereotypes in Tarzan movies, National Geographic documentaries and what we learned in school about slavery and the exploitation of this vast continent by European colonists.
More recent events have unfortunately brought us stories about thousands of Rwandans being slaughtered in tribal strife; lawlessness and murder in Somalia; the AIDS epidemic; civil war and famine in Sudan; bombings in Kenya, and the recent kidnapping of 300 young girls by a radical Islamic group in Nigeria.
As a result, many of us view Africa as a primitive place incapable of peacefully joining the community of modern nations. That is wrong. There are many countries in Africa, like Ghana, that are peaceful and progressive, and developing into modern, post-colonial nations filled with opportunity for its citizens and foreign investors.
I have traveled to Ghana for business five times in the past 18 months and have witnessed how this developing nation of 25 million people seeks and embraces the principles, lifestyle and opportunities that we in the West have enjoyed for over a hundred years.