Equality is a very elusive concept in Africa, in a continent whereby the majority live below the poverty line while the few elites have control over the rest of the wealth the word equality is very foreign. Economic inequalities are deeply rooted in society and it has become a challenge to rid them of ourselves. It is a man eat man society where the rule of survival for the fittest reigns supreme. Growing up in such an environment has shaped the way I perceive the world. To me the only way to make it in society is ensuring you have money; welcome to a society where the few men who have accumulated all the wealth in the society are worshipped like gods.
Money makes you have authority in the society, so all I have dreamt of is becoming a rich man no matter what! But what about others? Am I so excited to become part of a group of oppressors of the masses? If it was a few years ago I would say yes without even thinking about it. The main problem in our society is that the culture we have cultivated has always been the beginning of all of our problems. For our ancestors, a man could only be respected in the society if they had amassed a large portfolio of wealth; for other communities it was the number of livestock you had and also wives. In fact marriage could only happen if the parents of the woman were satisfied that you were rich enough, a logical take nonetheless because no one would like their daughter to be in an unstable situation and yet they have everything back at home. One could not become an elder if they were not considered to be wealthy. This kind of practices are the genesis of the discriminatory practices with regards to economic status when it comes to Africans.
But even as we move away from these traditions and embrace new technology and modernisation most of us are still holding on to the anachronisms that we should have been left in the past. Instead we continue to be stubborn and discriminate against each other. We have a population that is full of selfish individuals and who lack compassion, they will want to become rich and dominate others no matter the cost. We don’t care if our neighbours have eaten or not as long as we have eaten ourselves then that is none of our business. Where is our spirit of our motherland, of embracing everyone just as it has embraced us and blessed us with all these natural resources and good condition.
All my life I have been in spaces where I have experienced all kinds of discriminations based on economic standing; for instance in high school you will just see the kids from rich families secluding themselves from the rest of the crop, coming from humble beginnings ofcourse I couldn’t join this cool clique and this made me think less of myself. Such kinds of experience no matter how small they may seem are very damaging to a young mind; you will grow up feeling dejected and bitter and this will shape how you perceive the world. For me I just wanted to get money and become rich so that I can also exert revenge, but then it will be hurting a group of people who I once used to be part of. Doesn’t make any sense does it?
A society where the rich continue to become rich while the poor continue to drown in their poverty, who will be their saviour. Opportunities are only accorded to the prominent people in the society or those who have bought the way in! How then can the less fortunate climb up the ladder to equality if these opportunities keep going to the already fortunate individuals in the society? I can’t answer this but my prayer is that there is a need to promote a culture in the society that we are able to promote equality and we should keep this conversations going on so that we can thoroughly reassess our policies and also the cultures that we subscribe to because the answer is within us. Once we unlock it then maybe we can finally have a society whereby everyone is equal no matter their backgrounds, a society where we have compassion for each and we are ready to put the needs of others before our own needs.
Written by: Raymond Kigai
Photography credit: Johnny Miller