PRIDE & HOPE IN AN AFRICA THAT IS UPRIGHT & PROSPEROUS
Report from Evelyne and Marie-Judith as they approach the end of their formation at the Songhaï Centre in Benin
SONGHAÏ, our long awaited dream, finally came true when we arrived there on 13 January 2018 at 4 pm in PORTO NOVO.
But what is Songhaï?
It is a formation centre which takes its name from the once powerful and flourishing 15th century West African Empire. To the members of the Songhaï Centre, this prestigious name represents the pride and hope of a worthy and prosperous Africa. It seeks to restore to Africans the values, attitudes and skills which once were the jewel of this brilliant civilisation. The Songhaï Empire shone through its power of conviction and dialogue.
The idea for this Centre came from Dominican priest GODFREY NZAMUJO, a Nigerian, who pursued all his studies in California. Dissatisfied with the situation of his African brothers, Fr Godfrey Nzamujo decided to change things. He dreamed of an ideal, and created a vision coupled with strong belief. He convinced others to be part of this vision and from this was born an innovative project (cf. his book: “Songhaï – When Africa lifts up its head”, published by CERF Paris 2006).
When it was created in the Republic of Benin in 1985, the Songhaï Centre opened its doors with just a handful of young Beninese school drop-outs (6) and the support of a group of African friends who were both angered by the low standard of development on the African continent and determined to restore to Africa its dignity.
Today, Songhaï has become an amazing initiative in local development: training centres, credit unions, cooperatives, assembly lines and chains of restaurants, recycling workshops, production of renewable energies, food processing, etc. Nothing can stop Songhaï!
We ourselves have benefited from a special programme – "SONGHAÏ LEADERSHIP ACADEMY” (SLA) – created by the director and staff. This course aims to form “ambassadors” to recreate the Songhaï model in their African countries to help their local populations take complete control of their situations and work out of poverty and food dependence.
What was our experience?
When we first set foot in the Songhaï Centre and saw the panel showing the integrated system being applied using the chemist Lavoisier’s famous formula “Nothing is lost, nothing created, everything is transformed”, we felt joy at seeing the result of great efforts by an African priest; but we were also afraid that we might not be able to apply all this back in our own country.
As our formation progressed, we told ourselves that our dream too would soon be realised. For this we would need an “activator” who could suggest strategies. When we thought about the areas of land we had not yet made use of at NDL, MUKULA KULU, and at other sites under development, we asked ourselves: how can we increase their value so as to benefit the Vicariate and the Congolese population?
Our projects were chosen in connection with our local concerns:
- Project I : “Producing juice from local fruit and biscuits made from taro”
- Project II : “Formation Centre for Agro-Ecological Business YES WE CAN" in K’zi
As we conclude this report, we must express our gratitude to you, our Sisters of the Generalate and of the Congo Vicariate, for having given us the opportunity to enjoy this rich and fruitful experience. We would also like to thank Fr Lavigne who recommended us to the “SLA 5th promotion” and to the whole management team for looking after us.
Evelyne ANAKEKA et Marie Judith MUJING