There is a continuous need to redefine Africans and their continent. Whether it be such terms as the Afropolitan or ‘the New African’, they aim to define certain individuals within the continent as being more in touch with “global community”. Whether it is in their lifestyles, intellectual musings or business practices, such words seek to justify Africans as newly being able to participate on global platforms. Such seems as a reaction to the negative perceptions of African states and her people that fuel an ‘Afrophobic’ that would relegate a whole continent as being underdeveloped or riddled with ‘failed states’.
Yet hidden messages within such new terms is a need to distinguish certain individuals from their African peers. It separates Africans from those who identify themselves as coming from an Afrophobic understanding of their heritage. Yet this very past and discredited understanding that they seek to separate themselves from is the very heart of who they are as Africans.
The term that needs to be reinvigorated into our collective imaginations is that of the ‘African renaissance’. Coined by Cheikh Anta Diop during the 1940s and 1960s. It was then later discussed by Thabo Mbeki in 1996, which he would specifically apply to south Africa’s situation of being liberated from the apartheid state.
All this I know and know to be true because I am an African! … I am born of a people who would not tolerate oppression. I am of a nation that would not allow that fear of death, torture, imprisonment, exile or persecution should result in the perpetuation of injustice. … Whatever the circumstances they have lived through and because of that experience, they are determined to define for themselves who they are and who they should be. (Mbeki: 1996)
The African renaissance is not about rejecting the past and separating oneself from the African collective. It is about the embracement of our violent exploitation and colonial enforced economic stagnation; from here it is where one commitment to build ourselves from what has already been.
An African renaissance also means the disruption of such understandings of Africans as going through a new economic renewal. Words like “glocal” (the mixture of globalization and local) are used to suggest a people that have just entered into the economic sphere. This is an utter fallacy! Our history of rich Ancient civilizations from the continent interacting with those from other continents are proof that Africa has always been a part of a global economy. Even with the event of colonialism this interaction would only change in how the wealth of resources would be distributed away from the majority black to be controlled by the settler colonist.
Yet even these times of colonial policies that would make it near impossible for a black business to thrive there would still be economies acting outside the parameters of sate sanctions. Illegal liquor sales houses, colloquially referred to shebeens or taverns, show how black business has always been there and would continue to function even if under heavy unjust state pressure.
South Africa, after apartheid, is not experiencing “a global economy” for the first time nor is it being re-introduced to development processes. There is no New Africans or a new ‘black intelligencia’. They have always been there and Black entrepreneurs and thinkers have always been there and have now found new freedoms to operate but under a new series of restrictions: the middle with capital!
Ota Express is the website to follow. It cuts out the middle man and delivers its African made goods directly to the public. In South Africa where the biggest hamper to black small and medium business (otherwise known as SMEs) are their having to sell to well established business that give consumers access to their brand.
Not many SME’s are able to get their brand into areas with high amounts of visitors like the Sandton mall or The Zone in Rosebank. What this does is put the new entrepreneur at the mercy of the shop owner who would then inflate the price of the goods just to pay store costs, grossly inflating the price of a product.
Where African’s are taking their locally produced goods seriously find themselves having to buy them at very high costs and finding that they can only afford the cheap imported or mass made goods to fit their budget.
Ota express cuts out the middle man, getting the seller in touch with their consumer. Yet why this site specifically when we already have amazon.com or a takalot.com? Ota express focuses directly on African made goodies. Its focus is on selling clothing, accessories, fabric, bags, shoes, as well as various Arts and craft. This site can be best described as lifestyle retail digital space. It is for those in love with a bespoke “African style”.
Where these other sites sell next to everything bombarding you with products made internationally, these sites basically act as the middle men for consumers who do not want to go to a store directly and get the product for a few 100 Rands cheaper but with high delivery and import costs, especially If your procuring from the US or Europe.
The site describes itself as “Africa to the world!”. It is a platform that offers advertising to small business to a global market. (South) Africans have always been creating but it’s their access to consumers with excess income that has been limited. African sellers are still dealing with heavy inequality that is mostly reflected in a deep racial difference among income earnings. Yet many new entrepreneurs, artists and designers have the skills and are producing innovative pieces that are bringing the attention back to Africans as innovators and not dependants of international aid.
Ota express through its ability to sellers directly to the consumers is a part of an African renaissance. It is a site crafted to sellers of locally made goods and using the skill to show the rest of the world what has always been there, a deep and rich creative space. It is not about Africa’s re-emergence into the global economy but about allowing an increased access of African producers to direct access to their local and international buyers.
Ota express will be the site to follow as it will be one of the leading figures in equalizing the competition amongst the African bespoke playing field making the products that are of good quality and better value for money.
Now is the time to buy local and develop our on economies!