NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 115

To this the hardened wit may shrug and point out that the average African intellectual prefers to think of solar power as something special to put on top of his house, so that while the whole neighborhood around him is steeped in powerlessness, he can bask in the glow of his exceptional prescience. Here we come face to face with a tough reality: the fact that the majority of those educated to fit snugly into the Berlin structures of division easily conceive of power in personal, not social, terms; that they are happy to be individuals rich in a poor society, delighted to have their island of uninterrupted solar power in an environment plunged into outage after shortage after brownout, and ecstatic at the prospect of having their daughters and sons educated at expensive foreign institutions while the educational system in the society around them rots. Whether it is a waste of time to address the well-adjusted African intellectual in this solipsistic heaven is a matter for debate at some later point. Right now, it is more useful to focus not on the self-satisfied elite graduate, but on those of us who are aware that there’s something inadequate in our perception of African time and space, but remain perplexed as to what we can do about it. Such persons need the courage to examine the basic premises of the Berlin system, if they are ever to put themselves in a position to shift, intellectually, from its divisive imperatives to a more accurate, more African perception of our realities. Some of the most notorious axioms of the Berlin system may easily be put to rest through a rational examination of reality. Take the assumption that ancient Egypt was not part of Africa. Look at any accurate map, look at the refugees near you, and use your intelligence. The separation of North Africa from the rest of Africa is a trick that requires a bit more information to see through. That information is available to anyone willing to go through the history of the continent, and to see when the present Asian and European occupants of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco arrived in Africa. There was a time when the divisive conceptualization of Africa required us to refer to ‘Africa south of the Sahara and north of the Limpopo.’ History has removed part of that silly formula, but the impression that there are naturally insuperable barriers between various parts of Africa persists, even though the continent’s population itself tries to flow naturally and logically over every artificial barrier. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE Cost is sometimes advanced as a disabling condition. Right now, we’re paying tremendous costs by leaving large parts of our society with no power at all, and forcing the remainder to make do with shabby supplies of electricity that come on and off, making rational planning in any productive field hard if not downright impossible. We are paying huge amounts for the use of dirty forms of energy that by their nature also involve us in the murderous geopolitics of fossil fuels. The cost of solar and wind energy systems has gone down steadily over the past twenty years. It’s still going down. It would go down faster if Africans became serious players in the solar industrial field. What would happen if an African group representing homeowners in different parts of the continent wished to order not a few dozen units, but millions of solar panels and hundreds of thousands of inverters, connecting relays and switches? The asking price would come down steeply. Savings could be passed on to homeowners, schools, and institutions. And we could negotiate with the manufacturers to site factories where we need them, so that from being simple buyers of solar equipment, we could become capable of designing it, making it and selling it, thus creating a durable energy base for our economic prosperity. 113 Let’s look at an industrial example. All over Africa, in households, businesses, public offices, hospitals and schools, there is a despairing complaint about inadequate electrical energy. Energy in the social body is blood and oxygen. Given sufficient supplies of electrical energy, schoolchildren could study more efficiently, carpenters could produce better furniture, constructors could build to higher standards, factories could operate where none exist today, hospitals and laboratories could save millions of lives, and households could better plan their nutrition, hygiene and leisure. Africa, taken as a unified field, possesses great quantities of solar energy. Owing to the way the continent lies athwart the equator, the quality of our sunlight and sunpower is ideal. We could generate large quantities of solar power, clean energy of a steady, even quality, enough to power the industrial flowering of the continent.