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The President, the Tour d’Afrique and a place called Shithole
The 16th edition of Tour d’Afrique bicycle tour from Cairo passing through ten African countries and finishing four months later in Cape Town started last Sunday January 7th. This tour, like all the fifteen before it, is not reality television, nobody will get fired, no one plays to the camera, and nobody cares about ratings. Nevertheless for the participants it will be without any doubt a life changing experience.
Having worked in Africa in the 1980s and 1990s I often lamented to my family, friends and anyone who I met and who showed even a modicum of interest in Africa, that this vast continent – which is more than three times the size of USA – is much more than the pictures portrayed in the media; the pictures of wars, famines, poverty and wildlife safaris.
So when in 2002 Michael de Jong and I decided to establish a bicycle expedition and race which we called the Tour d’Afrique, one of the goals of the event was to bring individuals to Africa and to showcase the other Africa, the Africa of joy and optimism, of hard work, development, of communities working together to create a better future for themselves, of people no different than any other place in the world, whose main objective in life is to have a safe and better future for themselves, their kids and their families.
Over the last 16 years Tour d’Afrique has brought over a thousand of individuals from around the world to Africa for the first time and these individuals without any doubt have been marked by the continent and as result have a completely different perception of the continent.
For me the most striking example of the change started on the first Tour d’Afrique. One individual was a very successful businessman who, among many other talents, was uninhibited and had the ability to express himself not dissimilar to the current President of United States. As this individual cycled from one country to another, he would loudly and often announce that if the continent would be nuked he would not miss it for a second.
It was then to my surprise when I met the individual four years later, he spontaneously started apologizing to me and told me (and I’m paraphrasing here, it’s been many years) “what an idiot I was. Months after coming back from Africa and digesting what I had just experienced I realized that I really knew nothing about Africa, its colonial history, exploitation, its struggles and its ambitions. So I decided to educate myself and started reading one book after another, keeping in mind my own experience while being there. Henry, I am so sorry.”
So when I woke up yesterday to the news that the President of United States – possibly the most influential individual in the world and certainly one of the preeminent leaders today – makes a comment that is so completely based on lack of real experience that I thought to myself: Mr. President what you really need is to take a break and join the Tour d’Afrique. Two weeks on a bike will be enough for you to start changing your mind. Two weeks of exposure to real life as compared to the life you have lived until now, could change your life. Two weeks and you could make a difference to millions. What do you say Mr. President?
15 Comments for "The President, the Tour d’Afrique and a place called Shithole"
Excellent idea Henry!
Excellent idea Henry! Send him an invitation signed by all those that participated over the 16 years!
I am afraid that no petition of any kind will make a difference on his unfortunate approach to leadership. But I do think that a significant action such as having half million cyclists in front of the White House would make an impact. The problem is to organize this.
Thank you Henry for your comment. I think that Mr President Trump would need more than two weeks to catch a glimpse of our challenging yet beautifully diverse continent. The strange thing is that every time I venture into Africa thinking I can show or help the local people, I come back learning so much more about myself and life.
Well said Henry! So very true. I think it would be in the interest of the whole world if this man would get himself out of the way for 4 months, and in the meantime try to understand what is happening in various parts of the world. I would advide him to start in Africa.
Well said! May The Wind be Always At Your back 🙂
What I find so ironic is the fact that those lily-livered sons of Trump travel to and stay in our S###holes and slaughter our precious animals so they can have trophies. So, I guess they like to spend time in S###holes.
There should be a Ban on any Trump setting foot on our Continent.
I love you.
I dream of someday joining a TDA trip, so I’m working hard to save my money to be able to do so. Most hardworking people can’t afford your trips, or even a 2 week section of them. How fortunate we all are to have increased employment, received tax cuts, and for many, received $1000 bonuses under President Trump. You can be wealthy and democratic, but then why aren’t you giving your money away, sharing it with those who have less? Using it for a vacation are you? How hypocritical! I’m a moderate Republican. I work hard, save my money, donate to causes important to me, and put my money where my mouth is: family and Americans first. Trump may have said Shithole if you believe the mainstream media, but he may not have if you look deeper. He’s honest and bombastic, but I prefer that to a lying subversive arrogant president who brought our country down. TDA, you should be happy there are people who can afford to take a month or more off to take your amazing trips. They probably saved up all their hard earned vacation time and sacrificed elsewhere.
That ‘ramble’ is judgemental, conveniently biased and an incorrectly oversimplified point of view.
Allison, thank you for your reply to the reaction to President Trump’s alleged comment. I lived and worked in West and Central Africa for 8 years, riding my bike at least once a week in the rural areas where I lived. I love Africa and have travelled extensively on this great continent. Like you, riding the TDA has always been a dream of mine. This dream and my love for Africa, however, does not alter my opinion of the way most African countries are governed. Those of us who have lived there have a developed wariness of anyone in a uniform as more often than not, encounters with these people involve some sort of shakedown due to the governmental corruption which extends top to bottom. There are few opportunities for most, and the best seem only to want them and their families in Europe or North America. I never tried to inflate my role in Africa as being able to change this system, and nor should TDA, but did try every day to impart the values and principles that made America a great place to live.
Ahhh, such a fantastic idea but unlikely he’ll ever consider biking anywhere or being proven he’s wrong….about anything. They’re all an embarrassment for so many reasons.
Following this epic and beautiful ride and hope to join you on one this year! Jo
What an incredible article. After biking the 4 months, I didn’t know what poverty was, who really kind people are….giving you food when they have none…and it goes on. I did the ride in 2014 and there isn’t A SINGLE DAY that I don’t think about my ride. Thank you for starting the TDA
When I did my Tour in 2018, I thought if I could get everyone this experience, the world would be a better place,
I agree 1000%. Henry