Africa is often presented in the media as a nuisance, a place of stress, deception and ultimately disappointment. Yet the truth is that many Africans are alive in the moment, entirely present, partly because of the legacy of culture and partly because the conditions of their lives demand they pay a great deal of attention to the present. This present-ness pervades ordinary life in Africa and the African capacity for being present, whether in city or countryside, is one reason why Westerners are attracted to the diverse people of the region.
Giles Foden, author of the great novel, “Last King of Scotland,” about Idi Amin’s Uganda, gave a clever interview last Saturday to the Financial Times in which he confessed that he “often” visited “Africa in order to relax. Indeed, he did not say which countries he visited, perhaps wanting to maintain a sense of mystery around his special locations. Surely Foden can find relaxation galore in any number of African cities. My favorites for “relaxing” are Accra in the West and Kampala in the East. Both are very safe, happy, interesting places that have grown surprisingly cosmopolitan in this decade and yet remain relatively inexpensive and “user friendly.”