THIS IS A CRITICAL TIME FOR African people. We are at a unique place in our journey to claim our place in the sun, as equals, as God created us all. In South America, African peoples are dealing with the disparities defined by race in ways they never have before. In Europe, you see the same. In the United States, African-Americans have reached a status unimaginable 50 years ago.
In Africa, we are moving beyond the days of despair and deprivation, and embracing dreams we will no longer be content to defer. For my generation - from Martin Luther King Jr to Mandela - the challenge was to redefine the political landscape of our time. For this generation, the challenge is to build on our efforts and fashion new vistas of economic hope and opportunity.
Africa has been central to the global economy of the last 400 years. Black gold, in the form of our ancestors torn from the motherland, helped build the agrarian economies and industrial foundations of the New World and Old Europe.
The colonisation of Africa provided the raw materials and minerals that literally fuelled the expansion of Western economic pre-eminence. The high-tech economies of the present would not exist without coltan from DRCongo, so essential to making computer chips. The most highly educated immigrant group in America, which add to the talent pool, essential to running modern economies, are Africans.
A new generation of corporate leaders like Ken Chenault, Stanley O'Neal and Dick Parsons represents infusions of new blood and ideas that keep America's economic engine humming.
Africa and African peoples have been, and are, essential to the vitality and growth of the global economy. The only issue is, will we benefit from what we bring to the table? The central question of our time is: What do we need to do to ensure that we take our place as equals - as God made us - with the other peoples of the world?
First, the mission starts with how you understand yourselves as African people. Several months ago, my young brother, Rev Ambassador Stith, preached a sermon at Harvard. He said: "Black people in America need to appreciate that you come from a place worth remembering."
He was talking about Africa. You come from a place worth remembering! At one level, this is a black thing. At another level, it is more than a black thing. There is much about Africa's past that none of us remember or have recorded. But, having said that, what we do know about Africa is significant.
We do know that it is the birthplace of the human race. We do know that [Ancient] Egypt, which some try to deny is in Africa, provided the foundation upon which the Greeks built what we now call Western civilisation. You come from a place worth remembering.
If we move from past times to the present, we know that Africa is a place of unbelievable beauty. In my country, Zambia, there is Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. My God, it is beautiful! I really would like to take you there. In one of our local dialects, we call it Most 0 tunya, meaning "the smoke that thunders". During the rainy season, the sound of the water falling 457 metres (1,500 feet) is unbelievably enormous, with the rising vapour creating beautiful patterns of rainbows during the day.
Africa is a beautiful place. But, beyond its beauty, it is also a place where some of the world's most promising young democracies are taking root in places like Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Tanzania, Senegal and South Africa. In a nutshell, Africa is more than the sum of its problems! Why is this important to understand? It is important to understand because validating Africa and its place in the development of human culture is important if we, as the human race, are going to create a world community that is truly human.
This is important for our white brothers and sisters to understand, but it is profoundly important for us of African descent to understand. …