Tween Talk with Eugenia Tachie-Menson: Staying Afropolitan…

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Eugenia Tachie-Menson

Is Africa a continent or a country?  How many parts of Africa are there? Is Ghana in Africa?  These are real questions asked me by many tweenagers in the years I have been engaging them.

I figured out Africa was a continent when I was in primary school; my mom worked for the European Union in Ghana.  With Europe’s established economic interest in Ghana and Africa, the EU agency in Ghana (then called EEC) created this fun, educational map of Africa that listed the countries, presidents, population, natural resources and currency of each of the 54 countries in Africa.  I got this map as a gift from my mother and this was how I ‘met’ many of the countries in Africa.

Another source of my knowledge of Africa was a TV show called, ‘What Do you Know?’ which aired on weekends.  I was now in secondary school by then and found it highly enlightening and engaging on world affairs competition (particularly the African continent); it usually featured well-known ‘brainiacs’ (aka sharp brains) from all over the country.  I learnt a lot through that TV show which was hosted by the highly dramatic and infectious, Daniel Afari.

Aside of the few African neighbour-friends I had during my primary school days, it dawned on me later in my life that I hadn’t met any other Africans.  I also realized that gradually, all the locally produced shows that promoted the continent, as well as books authored by Africans had been replaced by those from the West.

We were now reading and hearing about our neighbours via the BBCs & CNNs; and it was ‘strictly’ negative news in the 80s.  Apartheid in Soweto-South Africa, Ghanaians being returned from Lagos-Nigeria during the infamous Ghana-must-go era, conflicts in central Africa, famine in Somalia-East Africa; it was bad news all round. Africa didn’t look like an attractive continent.

Yet, those of us living in it were getting by, and by the 90s (yes, many of you were not yet born, lol!) the number of Western development agencies and Embassies in Ghana for instance, was burgeoning.  So, there must be something good about our continent after all, I figured.

My first trip to an African country was in my adult life in the 2000s, something I am not too proud of.  I should have visited earlier, I said to myself as I lugged my suitcase out of Houphet Boigny Airport in Abidjan.

Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa – Abidjan is the capital city of this French-speaking country which is less than an hour away from Ghana by air. The main attraction for me was in the city of Yamoussoukro, which houses the biggest tourist attraction – the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace.  Built between 1986 and 1989, it’s the world’s largest basilica! If you love chicken, then you must try Abidjan’s poulet fumé– wood-smoked chicken- which is pleasantly succulent, yum!

President: Alassane Ouattara

Official language: French

Currency: CFA (pronounced ‘say-fa’)

Kenya, East Africa – I found the capital, Nairobi much colder than it is in Ghana; Nairobi is home to beautiful national parks and wildlife. I intend to go on a safari next time I visit to see the big 5 animals- elephants, lions, rhinoceroses, buffaloes and leopards in their natural surroundings. The parks in Nairobi were my favourite thing to gawk at, lol!

President: Uhuru Kenyatta

Official languages: English and Swahili

Currency: Shilling

Morocco, North Africa – Marrakech is the fourth largest city in Morocco and I totally enjoyed my stay there.  I just love the culture and life of this old town – my favourite place was the Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle’s Garden).  It is such a luxuriant and colourful garden, standing majestic with its cobalt-blue and sunshine-yellow colour, and houses a quaint museum.

Head of State: King Mohammed VI

Prime Minister: Abdelilah Benikrane

Official language: Arabic

Currency: Dirham

South Africa, Southern Africa – I couldn’t get enough of the city, Capetown!  Very idyllic but comes to life during the day, Capetown is the kind of city that gives you that homely feel.  I love the V&A Waterfront for the vibrancy of life and nature, and then there’s this giant wheel called The Cape Wheel from which one can observe the spectacular 360-degree panoramic view of this beautiful city.  I also ‘climbed’ Table Mountain, which is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World!

President: Cyril Ramaphosa

Official languages: Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Venda, Southern Sotho, Tswana, Northern Sotho, Tsonga, Swati, Ndebele

Currency: Rand

Ours is a beautiful continent with so many cultures and fascinating things to explore!  When your parents do ask you where you would like to go for holidays next year, remember to keep it Afropolitan.

>>>The writer is a passionate educator who makes learning fun for children under 18 through co-curricular programmes. Through her charity organisation, Young Educators Foundation (YEF) in Ghana, the programmes portfolios have expanded to include literacy programmes in local languages as well as public speaking programmes for the youth.

Based on her work in education and with children, Eugenia is the recipient of many nomination and awards such as a presidential award for the contribution to education over the past decade in 2018. In 2019, she was named as one of the 74 individuals in Those who Inspire Ghana, a global programme that identifies nationals whose experiences are worth sharing.

Eugenia believes that children are not the ‘future’, but rather the ‘present’ and so the need to invest in their total development. She is a regular contributor on radio and television shows as well as various public fora on this and related topics.

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