Interview Ayo Johnson: Africa Specialist Analysit
The Promota was honoured to interview one of the world’s leading speakers and a specialist in African Affairs. He is the owner, founder and Director of Viewpoint Africa media house that deals with news from the continent. Viewpoint Africa sells Breaking news content from Africa to media outlets around the world. He went to South Bank University where he gained a Masters Degree in International Development. He is a consultant who has taught, trained and is imparting his experiences to 100’s of NGO on the ground in Africa.Ayo was born in Kono in Sierra Leone; an area best known as the country’s diamond hub and a major rebel stronghold during that nation’s 10-year civil war which ended in 2002.
Promota: Where does your interest in Africa come from and how would you describe the focal point of your work? Ayo: My interest in Africa comes from a deep seated passion in wanting to see a better and progressive Africa. As a teenager I saw the negativity and poor analysis of Africa from some of the world’s major TV networks. It was this frustration as an armchair analyst back in my early days that propelled me to pursue the work and role I play today in addressing pressing issues that face the continent of Africa.
Promota: What is your position on African leaders extending their presidential terms as they do in Uganda, Zimbabwe and others? Ayo: It is always a sign of weakness when a leader refuses to relinquish power and instead retains it by stealth or changing the constitution in their favour. International isolation, public ridicule and shaming is the only way that civil society can foster change. I believe that most African leaders are far wiser and far more aware of their roles and level of expectation from their citizens. The African populace are also learning to use their vote during elections and are now choosing leaders that can address their immediate needs.
Promota: Rwanda had been praised for good governance after the genocide. Do you think the iron approach of President Kagame might destroy all the good things he has done and will he will be classified as a dictator? Ayo: Rwanda is a great country and clearly President Kagame’s rule has had an impact with varying degrees of success. Most positive has been addressing gender inequality issues. Rwanda is the only country in the world where female Members of parliament outnumber their male counterparts. The negative side is when opposition and civil society are victimised and intimidated. That is wrong and cannot be condoned.
Promota: Do you think Africa will ever get rid of corruption? Ayo: One could say that it has to. Corruption has been a major contributor to Africa’s damaged image, both domestically and internationally. The continent has to rid itself of this cancer. And, there are signs that it is doing so. Some leaders are taking bold steps to combat corruption and express it publicly; not just talking the talk, but walking the walk – a step in the right direction in repairing Africa’s battered reputation. It also sends a clear message that corruption is dangerous and should not be condoned. It puts on notice those who are corrupt that the full weight of the law will be applied, ensuring that they are brought to justice. Most important is that African governments strengthen civil society, to monitor and question those officials who have been entrusted with the public purse to. For example, we must acknowlege Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma becoming the first Head of State to declare his assets to the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia went a step further, offering financial incentives for whistle blowers to expose corrupt officials. The Ghanaian President John Atta-Mills refused to accept gifts and presents from anyone, fearful that the acceptance of such gifts might lead to the expectation of favours in return; and President Joseph Kabila of the Congo fired hundreds of people accused of corruption from State Ministries and other government departments. There are others, all showing a low level of tolerance for corruption.
Promota: Some people think Africa has developed threefold, compared to 10 years ago. What is your take on development in Africa? Ayo: African development must mean a provision of education and health care to all citizens; an enhancement of Basic Human Rights that have eluded the vast majority of the continent’s inhabitants. Africa must use its size, large population, precious mineral deposits and vast lands for agriculture to negotiate hard with the rest of the world for terms that can benefit all. African development is a call for Africans to regain control of their own destinies, for the continent to be governed by Africans with a vision and a rallying call for greater participation from the general Africans at home and abroad. Sometimes, we are too slow to acknowledge the positive interventions made by Africans to the development of our continent. There has been the significant impact of remittances and developmental work initaited and undertaken by Africans across the continent. We must not fall into the trap of seeing the continent as a single entity; development varies across countries and regions, some doing much better than others.
Promota: How do you think our black teenagers can be inspired to stay out of trouble and develop into good citizens? Ayo:
- Understand that we are all different with unique gifted talents
- A talent is whatever you do so well above and beyond what other struggle to achieve.
- Identify your talent, nurture that talent, maximise your talents with your passion,
- You passion is what you love doing, what you think about first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
- Remember your success is in the talent you have channelled within the passion you care about.
- Stay focused; your reward is only around the corner
- Finally, understand the law, stay within it and recognize the consequences of the choices you make.
Promota: The Promota was the proud official media outlet covering the Oxford University conference.
You were one of many speakers: tell us about it? Ayo: It was a pleasure to have shared a platform with so many distinguished speakers from across the world. The theme – Is Africa Next? a fitting question that confirms Africa’s arrival, strategic importance and growing degree of influence.
Promota: Thank you for your time and sharing words of wisdom and expertise. Ayo: It has been a pleasure. Thanks for speaking to me
Promota: How do you want to be remembered? Ayo: As a simple man with a big heart, full of energy, very focused, committed for a better and progressive Africa. Promota: Do you have any word of wisdom to The Promota readers? Ayo: Anything is possible in this life. Follow your heart and live your dreams.