The ‘Bennie Purrie’ is Nigeria’s first locally manufactured carbon fibre sports car. Photo credit: Follow Bennie Technologies Ltd/ @bennieagro/Twitter
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Africa – the dark continent – does it again

Africa is often referred to as “the dark continent” – which is foolish, really. This label is often attached to the Motherland by countries whose sky is permanently dark and sunless. Africa is a place of innovation.

I was eight when I heard my first horror story. It was a tale involving dead babies. I wish I could tell you that it was fiction.

In pre-colonial Zimbabwe, as was the custom in many parts of the continent, when a woman birthed twins, one of the elders had the unenviable task of choosing a baby. Not one twin to keep and raise as her own, not one to take on a road trip. Instead, what happened was that one twin would be taken into the forest – far from the wailing mother – and killed. How the newborn was killed, I do not know. I imagine the same rule would have applied for triplets; pick two and leave one. My mother – from whom I learned this startling bit of African history –  thankfully, spared me the grisly details. Perhaps they used a knobkerrie – one swing of a thick stick with a bulbous end, then crack, the baby lies with its fontanel split in two, like a watermelon dropped from a scotch-cart. Maybe they tossed it into a river, alive and crying, leaving it to face the boulders and swirling white waters of the raging Zambezi. If it survived the rapids, surely the crocodiles feasted downstream. Perhaps they strangled it with its own umbilical. Shoulder shrug.

Multiple births, in this bleak period of our history, were considered an abomination. That word we keep hearing on Nollywood dramas. ‘This is an abomi-ne-shun!’ 

Speaking of Naija, isn’t it wonderful – dear Africa – that good news has come out of the West African nation. 

Surely Goodness and Mercy will follow…

 One year old twins, Goodness and Mercy Martins, who were born conjoined at the chest and abdomen, were recently successfully separated by a team of 78 medical professionals, at National Hospital Abuja. To think that, a century ago, what would have been declared an abomination, is yet another African success story. Nigeria has successfully separated conjoined twins before. In fact, the same hospital has done it 11 times. But all previous twins were only joined at the hip – a no brainer operations, which is not as risky as when the patients are joined at the chest; one wrong scalpel movement can lead to a double booking at the funeral home.

Get off Nigeria’s back

Nigeria is a competitive place with 190 million inhabitants. In Lagos alone, there are 21 million pairs of feet rushing back and forth, making for a dog-eat-dog metropolis – as opposed to human-eat-dog, wassup China! It is no wonder that Africa’s most populous nation is often attached to crime and other scandals. But, in all fairness, if you put 190 million choirgirls inside an elevator – blond, yellow or black – they are going to scratch/knife/rob each other. But there is no crime in this beautiful story, I promise. 

The operation cost US$55,000 but the hospital did this life changing surgery pro bono. Michael Martins, the father, is a painter, whose income is nowhere near the king’s ransom it would have cost him to give the twins a more comfortable existence. Imagine what it must be like, being permanently attached to another human. As children, they can’t play high jump, as adolescents, the first kiss can never be a private moment and when one is pissed off, there is no “I need space”. So believe me when I say the separation of conjoined twins is life-altering.

After separation. Photo credit: National Hospital Abuja

Africa is not so backward

Growing up, there was always the rainy season joke about Africans being expert in orchestrating death by lightning – yes, Zimbabwe, the country of my birth, of famed +90 percent literacy rate, held the lightning strike record in 1987 – yet among the billion inhabitants of the continent, not one person can use their supernatural powers for good. While this was really funny, it was not entirely true. 

Did you know that conjoined twins have been successfully separated elsewhere in Africa? Let me do you a Favour and a Blessing. Here is an example from Kenya, where people drink cow blood and leap and leap and leap into the sky for the amusement of white tourists. Meet Blessing and Favour . Here is another conjoined twin separation from the land of nonstop power cuts and death by lightning, Zimbabwe. And when they are not doing the gwara gwara dance or hanging burning tyres around someone’s neck, in South Africa they also do conjoined twin surgeries. I saved the best for last. The most amazing conjoined twin story comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yes, that Kabila “sh*t hole”, the place of round-the-clock gunfire and conflict bling-stones. The twins were transported on the back of a motorcycle – a 15 hour ride on very bad roads – before being flown to Kinshasa.

Zimbabwe has inventors

The Swiss, those “neutral” people who don’t have the spine to take sides in any war, will fight you to the death if you told them that they did not invent the Chairless Chair which is patented by Noonee, a company in Switzerland. Did you know that the CEO of Noonee – the company that invented the Chairless Chair – is a Zimbabwean, Keith Gunura – and names don’t get more African than Gunura so I know what I am talking about! In an interview, Gunura reveals that he came up with the idea of an exoskeleton chair while working in a packaging factory. Wow! Just goes to show, your average factory box packer could be an inventor waiting to be “discovered” by white people.

Another victory for the dark continent

There is more good news coming out of Nigeria. At just 25, Jerry Mallo has produced the first ever Nigerian made fibre sports car. At this stage, the vehicle is only a prototype and has not yet gone into commercial production. We can’t wait for the car to hit the market so that we can chop his money!

Africans don’t steal, we repossess

Speaking of Nigeria, someone in the place of spineless neutrality – Switzerland, to the dim-witted – has been very careless and lost his $200,000 car. Imagine misplacing a whole Lamborghini Huracan Spyder. The Lambo was reportedly rented by Ghanaian Michael Mensah, before – poof – it vanished. African magic. You would think a car owner would be more careful. The Lamborghini later popped up in Accra, Ghana – Gold Coast during the age of Western thievery – with Nigerian number plates. Now wait a minute. Before you start passing around anti Nigerian sentiment, let’s all take a deep breath. How much ivory, gold, diamonds, platinum, oil, cotton – the list is endless – has been stolen from Africa, since that conference in Berlin when Europe chopped up our great continent into pieces like a large Hawaiian pizza? You cannot even begin to calculate the amount of wealth stolen from us. The way I see it, whichever African – Ghanaian or Nigerian – took the Lambo is only repossessing what is rightfully ours. If anything, all self-respecting Africans should repossess something; jewellery, farms, fabrics, petroleum products, anything that left Africa on a boat. So, I kept my promise. No crime in this story. Shoulder shrug.

More black magic – driverless vehicles

Speaking of reckless Europeans who let their car go – hehe – let me introduce you to Kar-Go – now do you see what I did there? Kar-Go, a driverless car, is the brainchild of Pasi William Sachiti, born in Zimbabwe and operating his business in England, you know, because those Brits need someone to show them what is what. The Kar-Go isn’t the biggest scientific invention by a Zimbabwean. The southern African country was smelting iron even before our land was stolen. So don’t ever let anyone refer to us as the dark continent.

My pen is capped.

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