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Top 100 Africans List is Jaded and Irrelevant

Sat, 11 Jun 2011 Source: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.




I just finished perusing the “Top 100 Africans List” and couldn’t stop myself from snorting with contempt (See “Mugabe, Tutu and Akon Make Top 100 Africans List” Modernghana.com 6/6/11). For starters, no critical thinker and/or keen observer of continental African affairs and key personalities who have shaped landmark events on the continent can take the list, which appears in the June edition of the New African magazine seriously. This is primarily because Mr. Baffuor Ankomah, the editor of the New African, does not tell his readers precisely how the selection for the various categories was done.


Ordinarily, the process should have taken the form of inviting the leading specialists and/or experts in the various fields of endeavor, preferably on a country-by country basis, and asking them to name a specific number of the most influential continental Africans in their respective fields. The next stage in the process would then have been for the editors of the New African to have collated these country-by-country responses and then rank their choices on the basis of frequency of appearance on the various lists. By so doing, a more up-to-date and objective results would have been obtained.


Consequently, editor Baffuor Ankomah vacuously stabs the air with a self-serving pretence to relevance when he makes the following rather vapid observation: “This is the first Top 100 Influential Africans issue of [the] New African. Our continent has produced, and continues to produce some impressive individuals from all walks of life who are having a profound impact not only on Africa but on the international community. The names on the list[,] I am sure[,] will be discussed [across] the length and breadth of the continent. And the list in itself is not necessarily an endorsement as such[,] but what it does show is the diversity of skills, talents and personalities amongst Northern and Sub-Saharan Africans in contemporary times, and [sic] who are driving change across the continent and beyond.”


If, in fact, other such “Top 100 Influential Africans List” are in the offing, then, the avid student and/or observer of continental African affairs can readily excuse Mr. Ankomah for rather facilely passing off a jaded and overly tired list of the usual suspects and cynically claiming to have struck a virgin pot of rare gem.

For instance, how could any serious editor/publisher present a continental African audience with a short list of the greatest achievers in the field of Science and Technology that does not include Professors F. K. A. Allotey (of Ghana) and Philip Emeagwali (of Nigeria)? It is as insulting as claiming, in dead-pan fashion that, most likely, Baffuor Ankomah just sat over a hurried lunch of plantains and spinach stew (or maybe rice-and-beans?) and cobbled his list over a period of half-an-hour.


Then also, how could any serious connoisseur of continental African affairs produce a list of our foremost contributors to the primeval continent’s political development and totally ignore the name of Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Djan, Ghana’s long-serving Electoral Commissioner and the leading expert and consultant on the organization of elections and democratic culture? Or is this simply just a proverbial matter of familiarity breeding contempt?


And then, again, how on God’s good Earth does an editor sit in his London office and put together a list of continental African movers and shakers in the glamorous world of Fashion and Design that is almost wholly composed of runway felines or apparel models? Whatever happened to the name of Ghana’s Oswald Boateng? I mean, what sort of attire does Baffuor Ankomah sport for work?


And Jack, it is all right to list politicians turned multi-millionaires like Cyril Ramaphosa and Mosima Gabriel Sexwale (or Tokyo Sexwale) and pretend as if the sun never set on a grassroots Ghanaian businessman called Apenten Appiah-Menka, whose Apino soap has bathed and disinfected more Ghanaians and West Africans than the Westminster-cocooned fat-cat editor of the New African cares to either dream or think about. And how about Alhaji Asoma Banda? Of course, there is nothing amiss with talking about Messrs. Fred Swaniker and Sam Jonah but, by all means, give me readily recognizable Black African names alongside all these good-natured and impeccably patriotic cultural mulattoes! This is what “Afrocentricity” is about, by the way, even in its multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-racial dimensions.


Nice try, as New Yorkers are wont to say. Still, I pretty much doubt that this embarrassingly namby-pamby list of the usual suspects would provoke any meaningful discussion anywhere on the African continent, except to serve as prime grist by way of a veritable laughing stock. Uh, what kind of Authors and Poets list that includes, as passé as this might come off to most observers and critics, Chinua Achebe; Ngugi wa Thiong’O who, by the way, is listed as an Ethiopian (!); and Wole Soyinka, but not Ayi Kwei Armah, the man described by Nigeria’s Professor Michael Echeruo as “continental Africa’s Jeremiah” and our moral conscience? Or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria) and Lebo Mashile (South Africa) but not Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria) and Amma Darko (Ghana)? Go figure!




*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and the author of “The Obama Serenades” (Lulu.com, 2011). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net.


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Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame