Are African cities bound to be dirty? Asks Sandra Idossou

I visited a friend’s Facebook page recently and her status made me ponder over one of the stereotypes many people and unfortunately, Africans, have on Africa. “But… Why are people always shocked that Kigali is clean. Are African cities bound to being dirty,” it read.

This question generated an interesting debate on why and how many African cities are dirty and the fact that this has become like a normaccepted by citizens.

Well, Kigali is an exception in terms of clean streets, but this debate somehow made me ask myself why good things, excellence and quality are not often used to describe us or describe things that are done or come from Africa?

During my training in France to become a trainer on quality for the Accor Hotels in Africa, I once had an interesting chat with a Portuguese colleague. Probably based on stereotypes she had on Africa, she asked me if quality measurements, standards, systems and procedures used for other Accor hotels worldwide was a need in Africa.

Her argument was that if Africa has so many priorities in terms of electricity, water, health, security etc, training people to offer a five star service was probably not a necessity.

She argued that people visiting the continent are probably not very demanding and not expecting to receive a world-class service in hotels in Africa “because they know they are in Africa”.

Rather than blaming people with these types of stereotypes on Africa, maybe it is time we, Africans pause for a while and ask ourselves if excellence or quality can be used to describe us?

It is true our continent has many challenges, but the good news is that we have great potentials. We are intelligent, creative and resilient.

Sadly, the downside of these challenges is that the majority of us accept everything of poor or average quality.

Because of poverty, Africans are made to believe that nothing good can come out from the continent. And this is exactly what I call “mental slavery” because we can and should aim at excellence.

Excellence is a state of mind that needs to be inculcated right from childhood. If we want future generations to be excellent in whatever they do, it’s important we persistently push them to do well in whichever field they chose to be. Whether as a mechanic, carpenter, doctor, farmer, driver, cook, etc, it is essential that the youth strive to be the best at whatever they do.

The day a tailor or a photographer understands that respecting timelines and deadlines is important for his job and for his customers, that is the day excellence can be reached. Who said we do not like good things? Who said we should be content with the average?

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Edition 69July 2014

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