By Kunle Adeyanju
A biker friend, Dan, took the odometer readings on Eagle today, and it reads 11, 301km, which represents the total distance I have travelled on eagle from London to Accra Ghana.
Of this figure, the total distance I covered in Europe was about 3,200km, while the remaining 8,101km has been in Africa.
Being opportuned to have travelled this huge distance across Africa from the North to the West of Africa is a uique opportunity, a great blessing which I am fortunate to experience.
The ride across Africa took me not only to the capital or big cities, but also through the hinterlands and some of the remotest part of this giant continent of ours.
I can tell you all from a first-hand experience that, Africa is beautiful, it is a land of diversity, a land of unique and interesting culture, a land where everywhere you step, there is always something to learn and something beautiful and exciting to experience.
This adventure afforded me the opportunity to discover the true Africa, and not the distorted facts usually propagated by western media. Africa is a land of beauty and culture, and on this trip, I fell in love with the real and true Africa I discovered.
While not everything is perfect in Africa, as with the same in every part of the world, I still fell in love with Africa, with its unique challenges, it is what makes us Africans, it is what defines the value in us as Africans, and I will NEVER TRADE THAT VALUE FOR ANYTHING ELSE…….. I AM PROUD TO BE AN AFRICAN …. AND I AM PROUD TO BE NIGERIAN! And I thank God for creating me an African!
I have been fortunate to have visited over 75 countries around the world, but I can tell you that none of the experiences in those countries I have visited compares with my discover and experience of the real and true African narrative which I have been experiencing on this adventure.
On the ride across Africa, this question keeps popping up in my mind, if Africa is really this beautiful and exciting, with friendly and nice people, why then do we all run to the West for our holidays? The simple answer to the fact is the distorted image being portrayed about Africa, as unsafe, bad, evil people, warlord etc in the western media.
I am not saying security is perfect in Africa, as it is also not perfect anywhere else in the world, after all, more murders and killings of people including innocent school children happens in the Western countries many time more than the killings in Africa, yet, that still didn’t make those western countries unsecured.
I rode alone through some of the remotest part of Africa, including some of the most desolate and uninhabitable places on earth, and I rode through some of the countries portrayed as red zones, like Burkina Faso and Mail, but amazingly these are among the countries I have had the most beautiful and welcoming experiences.
In almost all cases, experiencing these countries, its people and its diverse and unique culture were all “aha” moments for me! Oftentimes I kept saying to myself, this is not the report I read about this country, this is not what the news says they are!
We are blessed in Africa, but the painful part is, we do not appreciate what we have in Africa, and we have not realised that we are INDEED A BLESSED CONTINENT.
In my journey plan, I initially excluded both Mali and Burkina Faso, but later I included Mali but left out Burkina Faso, however when I was denied entry at first into Cote d’Ivorie, I decided to take a chance and see Burkina Faso against all the advice from people.
Leaving the border, I rode alone for about 100km before rendezvous with the Burkina Faso bikers who we continued the ride together, the 100km ride was through some of the remotest part of the country, and all I saw were nice people and lovely vegetations, and hard working people going about their daily lives.
While in Mali, I was also opportuned to meet with the Malian Prime Minister who sent for me after coming across some of my writeups on this adventure. I had quite an exciting time with the Malian Prime Minister, a man I find to be down to earth, honest, unassuming and a fine gentleman.
In the course of our discussion, he asked me haven travelled across Mali, what is my opinion of the country, and I told him my honest assessment. Malians are nice people; it is a great country and I LOVE MALI.
As a testament to this, sometimes during my ride I had a tire incident about 8pm in a remote part of Mali, I went to a nearby hamlet of 4 thatched houses in the dark of the night, despite I couldn’t speak the local language or French I was able to communicate with them with sign language, and they followed me to the scene of the incident, recovered my bike and kept it for me till the following day. To me that is hospitality, sincerity of people and regard/respect for co-human.
This experience was in spite the challenges and hardship the Malians are going through owing to the sanctions/ blockade by ECOWAS due to the military push. And also to me, the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS on Mali was not well thought through, it is not strategic, it is brute and a flawed action that is bound to yield nothing but failure.
The ECOWAS blockage barred the movement of people in and out of Mali into ECOWAS countries, and also barred all ECOWAS countries airlines from operating into Mali but they left the air space open for Western airlines to operate into Mali. Air France and others have increased their frequencies into Mali, as the ECOWAS countries airlines left the business…. So, who is losing?
Also, the blockage was designed to target the military junta that did the coup, yet the blockage was to restrict the masses that thrive on the daily cross border trade which they depend on to earn a decent living to provide for their families. How many of the top military junta they want to punish, does the cross border trade or will travel 800km by road to access the land border, they will just go to the airport and fly out, with any of the western airlines.
The businesses of the masses who depend on the daily cross-border trade is being destroyed and the masses being sent deeper into poverty. Think of it, of what use or strategic advantage is that? If I were one of those masses in Mali whose business was destroyed due to the sanctions, I can never see anything good in ECOWAS.
When the EU countries wanted to punish Putin in Russia, they targeted the Russian Oligarchs, they froze their account and their asset, and the EU in spite the pressure, continued to buy Russian gas because, if they should stop buying the Russian gas, their citizens will feel the hardship occasion by high gas prices. Yet ECOWAS in its own action was applying sanctions targeted to make life more difficult and hard for its people while the Juntas they intended to punish were relatively un-affected by the sanctions.
To this effect, I call on the ECOWAS heads of state to please re-think the blockade on Mali, as it is not strategic, it is empty and will not achieve anything positive. Rather it is uniting the people of Mali with the military rulers against ECOWAS…….. #EndBlockadeonMali
Furthermore, In spite all the difficult conditions occasioned by the blockade on Mali, the people were still friendly and willing to share the little they had. To me that is the spirit of humanity in Africa. And everywhere I have been in Africa, the story is the same. People are nice, friendly and full of positive vibes.
In this trip of travelling 11, 301km across Africa, I have enjoyed the spirit of African hospitality that I never knew existed, people are nice, I did not experience any insecurity issue as portrayed in the western media as Africa being a hot bed of evil, rather when I had a tire issue in the middle of the night people that I thought i was supposed to be afraid of as portrayed in the western media, came to my rescue, and in spite not being able to communicate in their local dialect, they did not make me feel unsafe, rather they warmly accepted and helped me. To me that is humanity in Africa!
I have also discovered that Africa is a land of culture, it is rich in diversity, and every step you take there is something positive to discover and learn.
Africa is not just about the safari’s, the jungle, and the animals as portrayed by the western media, rather, the people, the culture and the diversity of the African continent, tells a much more interesting and better stories that the safari’s and the jungle, there is so much more to Africa than safari and jungle.
I have decided to launch the hashtag #THINKAFRICA in my subsequent campaign. In your next vacation, THINKAFRICA, the people are nice, they are warm, friendly, vibrant, diverse, and full of energy. So much to learn, discover and experience in Africa.
In the west, what really do we see when we travel….? CONCERETE… it is time to experience the true African flavour and hospitality #THINKAFRICA .