Now We Fight FORWARD - It was a strange place to see the name of an African city. I felt an equally strange nostalgia for the milk of human kindness that appears to be running all over the world. The name of Mtwara in Tanzania, a port near the border with Mozambique, was on a signpost that nestled into a bushy roadside hedgerow on the way into Redditch in Worcestershire – one of England’s greenest, most pleasant, yet sleepiest counties. It declared proudly that Mtwara and Redditch were twin towns – it transported me back to brighter, lighter days. Town twinning was all the rage in the more hopeful and prosperous days of the post-war era. Town hall officials across Europe would scour the planet looking for another town to build tenuous links with; an exercise that was often derided as a waste of money and a mere excuse for council officials to take free foreign holidays.
We young journalists had to supress our cynicism to cover these twinning events, often conducted with the solemnity of a state occasion, with a straight face. It was often a hard story to write; most of the people in the twin towns knew little and cared less about the far off twin. Hence: Redditch, a dull, cold, grey dormitory town in middle England was thrown together with Mtwara, a sun drenched port on the warm Indian Ocean.
They have as much in common as Mars and Pluto. Yet, in hindsight, these twinnings – as laughable and irritating as many of them were to the tax payers of the day – shine with a new light. In these mean, dark times it is good to reflect that the twin town project was the child of better days when the world was reaching out; offering handshakes and help to our fellow man.
With these twinnings came visits, training, experience and friendship. The promotion of the idea that barriers can be broken down; that you can more likely love your neighbor if you know they go through the same trials and love their children the same way you do.
And boy does the world need a chink of light right now. Missiles fly from North Korea, bombs go off everywhere, in Britain they are comparing the country’s decline of Venice in the 16th century and the fall of the French empire in the 19th century.
Wherever the United States is heading is anyone’s guess. The once self-proclaimed Arsenal of Democracy is now becoming an arsenal of autocracy. In Africa you can see it, the concern, the fear, the desperation in people’s eyes. It takes a brave man to keep the faith and invest right now; we at FORBES AFRICA believe that those who do maintain investment in Africa will prosper in the years to come. The future often looks frightful; the other day, an old colleague was lamenting the state of the economy and how tough it was doing business.
“Well, now we fight,” say I. Forget about all the good times and days of plenty, I said, the days when we maybe threw away money that we would be glad of today. Now is the time to show what you are really made of. Those who survive these turbulent times are likely to emerge stronger and fitter and better for it.
It is this grit and determination, in the face of adversity, that has been the mother and father of FORBES AFRICA. It celebrated its sixth birthday on October 1. Few gave us much chance when we launched in the eye of a recession: many have been impressed not only with our survival, but also the resolute fight to tell the African business story without fear, nor favor. FORBES AFRICA belongs to the whole continent; it is written for those who believe in hard work and making money. I can pledge to you here that, like the entrepreneurs who read us, that this is a business that never sleeps. Complacency is our enemy. I am always looking for innovations and ways to work smarter, as well as harder. I am always thinking, often in the dead of night, how we can become more efficient.
One of the new trends you will see emerging in the magazine are more business stories around digital and technology; forward looking, universal, stories that capture the spirit of the new age. You will see more of them in the editions to come. We will still be reporting on the wrongs and failings of the continent, but we will have our eyes fixed firmly on the future. As for those of you who have bought the magazine, month-in month-out, for the last six years I thank you for putting your faith and hard-earned cash down for the progress of this project.
Every now and again I flick back through the bound copies of the magazine with a sense of pride as my eye traverses the billionaires, presidents and big names on the pages. With this pride, I feel the long days and nights and headaches that it took to bring them to you. It always gives me a tingle down the back of the neck to think we have written the first draft of history – that one day schoolchildren will dig out our publication to find out what people were saying in our time.
This is a huge responsibility that we at FORBES AFRICA relish more and more with every passing year.