I once had this conversation with an Australian friend of mine. It was after I’d met the Australian founder of a company whose South African division was a client of ours.
He was so cool, calm and attentive. Above all else, he was incredibly sure of himself. His opinion and what he said. Even if you corrected him on a matter, he did not shudder or seem less certain of himself. He took it in his stride.
I mentioned this Australian genius to my Australian mate and highlighted to him that he reminded me a lot of him. My friend is also someone who is very sure of himself and who knows a lot. I remember asking him what it was that made Australians so confident and sure of themselves?
It reminded me of how Americans know everything. They have a well of information from whence you have no idea where it started and where it would end. I’m not talking about the ignorant Americans – I’m talking about the well-educated and travelled kind. I’ve met a couple and had long conversations and they always just seem to know a lot.
They too, in conversation, never seem to doubt themselves. Sometimes arrogant, but they have that undeniable certainty in themselves. The certainty that often left me questioning if I really did know what I thought I did and whether I really was convicted of my opinions on matters.
During this conversation with my friend, it came to light that this probably stems from the inferiority complex of Africans. We are, after all, a continent that was colonised. We are a people who were told that our ways were wrong. We were told that Western civilisation was the way to go.
Within that creates an ever-present sense of doubt. Though sometimes minute, it is undeniably present. No matter how much you know, how much you study or how much you have been exposed to, you’re not sure if you know enough or if your knowledge is adequate.
So I find myself constantly searching for more information. More knowledge. More more more. Because maybe one day I will know enough.
But my prayer is that we as Africans get past that and believe in ourselves. That our knowledge and experiences are valid too. That we may not always have the words or the global praise that comes with being seemingly superior, but that should not make us any lesser as people. We are a kind and accommodating people – that is something of value, but should not mean we count less or can be easily trampled on.
After all, we ought to remember that we inhabit the motherland from whence civilisation all began.