Mrs. Beatrice Fri Bime was in Douala recently where she launched a book entitled Two Cents for Africa. Previously known for her creative endeavours in the field of poetry and prose, she has taken bold strides into the field of economics and politics, highlighting the irony that even though Africa is the richest continent on earth, it remains the poorest. She tells Martin Jumbam what the book is all about.
Two Cents for Africa is a rather strange title for a book, isn’t it?
Not quite. ‘Two Cents for Africa’ is actually a play on words. On the one hand, it is my little contribution towards Africa’s development; on the other hand, it is warning signal that if Africa continues to open its doors indiscriminately to anyone who comes knocking, as we have been doing, we might wake up one morning and find that someone else is holding the title deed to the continent and it might have cost them just 2 cents. So this is my own little way of chiming the alarm bell. I hope someone is listening.
Why do you think Africa needs this book at this time?
You see, Africa is the richest continent in the world yet ironically it remains the poorest. That’s the sad story; we’re so rich yet we remain so poor and we often wonder why. Well, I believe that if we put our heads together, using the concepts I’ve developed in this book, then we’ll lift Africa up and propel it into the realm of economic, political and social development within a short span of time.
What are some of those concepts?
We still work in Africa as if we were working for someone else. We don’t work with the deep conviction that we’re working for our people, for our continent and for our selves. We seem to be working on someone else’s plantation, not ours. To regain that sense of self-esteem and self-worth, we need to reinstate some of the moral values we seem to have lost and work to develop Africa; our Africa, not someone else’s farm. For this to happen, we should be proud of ourselves, as Africans, and of Africa, our continent. If we become proud of who we are, we will then see the need to develop our continent ourselves.
I’ll imagine that for a book like yours to have any impact at all, it must hold the attention of those who make political decisions in Africa. Do you see that happening anytime soon?
That is why it’s a politico-economic book. It calls for the political will that can only come from a small group of determined Africans with a mindset that is geared towards promoting change for the good of all Africans. My interest is not on those running after charismatic leaders because once such leaders are off the political scene, his followers just dwindle away. But if these ideas make an inroad into the minds and habits of a determined development-oriented group of people, even if they happen to be in the minority, they will eventually bring the much needed change in Africa. That’s what counts.
Has there been any reaction from the political or business elite to your book?
Oh yes, those who’ve read the book have liked it. The preface is by Mr. Christopher Cheo, a Cameroonian-American, a member of President Obama’s Committee on Jobs and Competitiveness. Talents like his can be of enormous help to Africa. He is in an advisory position to the most powerful President in the world. There are many like him who, unfortunately are putting their talents elsewhere, not in Africa.
You‘ve been known so far for your literary creation (novels and poetry). Why this shift to the political and economic arena?
It’s difficult to pigeon-hole me in any specific genre. I write what I think, how I feel and I’m honest about what I write. I have many manuscripts of novels, poetry, short stories. So whatever I feel like writing, I just go ahead and write it. Sometimes I’m at the airport waiting to change planes and an idea pops into my mind and I jot it down; later it may mature into a poem, a short story or a novel. Sometimes it’s on a bus heading out of town, or sometimes it’s when I’m jogging. The inspiration grabs me just wherever I happen to be and I reach for a pen and paper. I’m always carrying one in my purse.
Douala, November 04, 2013