Question: What is the West's responsibility to Africa?
Uzodinma Iweala: Well let me . . . let me start by first saying that, like, it’s not, you know . . . I’m not just solely blaming the west. I’m not at all. I mean we talked about colonialism just because that’s a very big thing in the history of all these countries. It’s not just the west’s fault. I mean like there’s a lot that has happened that just is also . . . that you know, that everyone bears responsibility for. But I just wanna put that out there and make sure that that’s understood. I’m not just one of those reactionary people. But I mean I think in terms of responsibility, I think the responsibility isn’t just an Africa-specific responsibility. I think it’s this idea . . . this . . . this . . . It’s striving the way that one, I think, goes about remedying the problem. And I think you see it, for example, in the way that Al Gore has tried to paint global warming; or is that look, we all have a responsibility to each other, right? So that your problem is not just your problem, and I can’t just say it exists over there, right? Nor can I just say I’m going to come here and take from you. Like whether it’s oil, you know, in the case of Nigeria; or if it’s gold where they mine gold in certain countries; you can’t just say, “I’m gonna take without striving to construct.” I think that’s an issue. But I think that as you see what . . . what Al Gore has been doing is like, look, this thing is gonna affect all of us, right? This is a problem for all of us. Therefore we need to work at how we can all, you know, provide inputs as to how to solve it. And I think what has happened is for the longest time, no one has been interested in . . . in Africa first. I think for a while people were just kind of like, “Whatever. It exists.” And you know like, “Oh, you mean there are people there, too? I thought there were just lions,” right? I think that was . . . that was an attitude for a while. But I think now, the way that . . . that one can look at that situation and work just to . . . to improve situations is how can we all work together? First let’s listen, right? Let’s listen to what issues are here. How do we see the issues maybe as “outsiders”? How do you see the issues? I don’t think that that dialogue happens enough. Like let’s talk about the different perspectives we have on the issues. And you know as a . . . as maybe like a 24 year old person who grew up in Lagos, right, you’re gonna see your interaction with your environment and your interaction with the wider . . . wider world in a particular fashion. As the person coming from, I don’t know, London or New York or whatever, that person is gonna have a particular take as well. And I think those . . . First of all if you’re dealing with . . . Whatever problems you’re trying to solve, you need to first understand how you perceive the problems . . . is the first . . . I don’t know that that dialogue happens enough. Next, everybody’s ideas have to be . . . has valid. You know you can’t just say well, you know, just because you come from this place, you don’t really know what’s going on here. You know the bottom line is like . . . You know like different problems have been . . . Similar problems exist in different places. And people have each had . . . you know have come up with solutions to dealing . . . or ways of dealing with those problems. And you can take from those solutions. You can listen to the way that, you know, someone from India, or someone in the United Kingdom solved their problems of economic disparity. And you can take that and say, okay well apply this. But wait, our society exists or operates in this way, so maybe we need to tweak it. But I think you know, again, that’s probably one of the ways.
Recorded on: 10/7/07