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SSOUTH AFRICA, Durban – Thursday, 2 May, 2019: Founder of Brand Africa and South African Tourism board member, Thebe Ikalafeng, has done something that few have ever done – visited all 55 countries on the African continent.
Ikalafeng’s inspiring presentation at Africa’s Travel Indaba Business Talks in Durban, on Thursday, 2nd May 2019, showcased the humanity of the continent’s people, which ties in with Indaba’s theme of Africa’s Stories, Your Success re-emphasises the importance of telling our own stories and showcasing our successes.
His motivation to do so came when the CEO of Samsung, JJ Park, said that one of the reasons the Korean company was so successful in Africa is because he has visited every country on the continent. “He said they didn't look at problems but rather opportunities for creating products that respond to the challenges and conditions of the continent. I was rather embarrassed a foreigner knew more about our Africa than I did.”
Ikalafeng’s talk covered all aspects of Africa, from its vibrant clothing and architecture, to its ingenuity and entrepreneurial drive. He also learnt that the debate over which west African country – between Senegal, Ghana, the Gambia and Nigeria – makes the Joloff rice can start a war. He seemed to find the answer, in a woman named Madame Ida who reminded him that Joloff was a region between Senegal and Gambia, and that she won the contest for the best Joloff recipe in Africa. “To keep peace, everywhere I ate a similar recipe I gave the highest compliments to the chef. Everywhere.”
After all the travelling was done, he learnt that no country was better than the other. “I don’t compare countries because I know that each country is different and I’ve learned that each has something different and often better than what I’m used to that enriches my life further.”
Instead, he went in search of what was beautiful and unique about each country. “Along the way I discovered our common humanity, resilience and hopes for the better… there’s one undeniable commonality among the over 1,2 billion Africans, their humanity and hospitality. Where else would you have total strangers take you in or invite you to their homes for meal? I’ve experienced the best of African brotherhood, hospitality and through them I go to understand their culture and our commonality.”
Ethiopia, he believes, had the biggest impact on him, particularly his visit to the Lalibela underground churches. “My spiritual journey to Ethiopia’s Lalibela underground churches marked an important moment for me accepting and preparing for my mortality. As James Russell once said ‘a wise man travels to discover himself.’ In these travels across our continent, I found us in each other. I found me. I found Africa.”