Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Ignorance Costing Africa Heavily

Jane Goodall is a renowned naturalist. Her work,at Gombe Baboons’ National Park, Kigoma, Tanzania, gave her a unique credit. She spent all of her youth there researching on apes.

The other day, I came across her book Wildebeest Family at one hospital here in Canada. The book has all rights reserved. No copying, photocopying, recording and all that goes with one’s rights to his or her work. I don’t know the number of such books by Goodall and other swindlers. Goodall has a series of books about African animals.

Goodhall is selling the pictures of our beasts the world over, making a fortune and name from our natural resources. Are the authorities in Tanzania or Kenya aware of this theft of her resources?

I know Godall personally. I met her at Kinondoni secondary school when she was giving us a lecture on preserving apes. I know her as an ape specialist but not a specialist on other wild beasts like Jacko and the little calf from the hibernating beasts of the Serengeti I saw in her book. Even Dr. Louis Leakey who conducted his research in Olduvai Gorge did not do this macabre business.

After perusing the said book, I start thinking. When did Godall become an expert and a photojournalist in the first place? When did she take the photos; she is strictly selling the world over? Did she obtain our consent or just took the snaps and disguised under her renowned title of a naturalist to rob us of our resources? One may wonder where I am driving to. But it should be underscored: our resources are our heritage meant to be used for our benefit not Goodall’s.

Sadly, many foreign countries send their emissaries to Africa where they take photos which they sell the world over and make billions of dollars. What does Africa get from this lucrative business? Why are our authorities getting cold feet when it comes to thwart this illegal business by the so called expatriates and researchers such as Goodall?

What aggrieves even much is the fact that Goodall does not offer any attribution- even a word of thanks to the place or country she stole those photos from! How many likes of Goodall are in the world? How much money are we losing thanks to this machination?

Africa has been losing a lot thanks to this naivety and ignorance. Many thieves are coming in the name of promoting our attractions. We are welcoming them little knowing they are after looting- not advertising or making our attractions known as they sully us! Some have teamed up with ‘investors’ and have turned our national parks into theirs! Kenya knows this too well. How many so-called investors are running Kenya’s national parks? How much do they pay to the government? Why should they pay if at all they are well connected with some corrupt officials in the upper echelons of power?

This, since colonial times, has been the practice. In Tanzania, even the skull of the Hehe Chief, Mkwawa and the longest lizard ever discovered were detained in Germany and England respectively! When the authorities agitated, I did not hear of the redress for being used and spent for such a long time! How many Africa’s symbols are still in Europe since pre-independence era? How much does Europe make out of these items? The answer partly, can be found in Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Think twice Africa and Africans!

By Nkwazi Mhango
Mhango is a Tanzanian living in Canada. He is a Journalist, Teacher, Poet, Human Rights activist and member of the Writers' Alliance of New Foundland and Labrador (WANL)

Source: The African Executive Magazine No 153

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