Engineering Africa ONE Bridge at a Time

We got a chance to konnekt with Post-Revolutionary Leader, Markay Berhane. Who is also a  Civil Engineer based in the Western Cape. Don’t be fooled by his present locale, Markay is a global citizen with afropolitan tendencies.

What is your name?

Markay Berhane

Where were you born? 

Moscow, Russia. My parents, both from Eritrea, met while studying medicine in Russia (USSR back then) and thats when I came about. I have alot of admiration for them having the drive and determination to go all the way from Eritrea which was in the midst of a war for liberation, to moscow, learn russian for a year and go on to study medicine for another six years in what must have been a very strange country for them. One decision that I’m really grateful for is the fact they came back to Africa soon after my birth, as I spent my formative years first in Nairobi, Kenya and then Francistown, Botswana which was truly a blessing. I have nothing but great memories of Botswana, a true beacon of light in Africa.

Where do you call home?

Being such a nomad means that this question has no straight forward answer for me. In my perspective, as long as i’m in Africa, I’m home. The roots of my being though, are in Eritrea.

What does it mean to be African for you?

It’s something that’s at the core of my existence. Everything about who I am is intertwined with Africa and i’m just grateful for being so deeply rooted here.

Is being African different at this point in our history than any other? If yes, how so? 

I believe every generation has a unique place in history. It’s important to always pay homage to the sacrifices and victories of the previous generations. Having said that, we must also acknowledge some of the shortcomings and failures and understand that it is our responsibility to take these challenges on as a continuation of the struggle to build and create societies and a people that are self-empowered and flourishing.

What is your profession?

I’m a civil engineer and I’m currently involved in the design and construction of bridges.

How did you go into engineering, how does it fit in with your ideals? 

It was a decision based on what I believed in my younger days to be what Africa needed most. Infrastructure development. While infrastructure development is a key factor in facilitating wealth creation, I have come to understand that it will only lead to wealth creation when an enterprising, productive, creative capacity is developed in the societies. The ability to look at the resources we have all around us and use our intellect, skills and abilities to create and manufacture from them all that we need to meet our goals.

The Bridge that Markay built.
The Bridge that Markay built.

Where should Africa be going in this crucial juncture?

There needs to be undercurrent within our societies that is driven to build, develop and empower ourselves. An ideology and a set of beliefs that are centered around the notion of an inherit right, ability and need to transform our societies into self sufficient and productive entities. A healthy and empowered socio-political belief system that fosters a positive self image and calls for a drive to use our personal abilities in synergy with those around us to take Africa and Africans to a higher level.

Who should be leading? Where are the leaders?

Leadership is required on every level of society from our families to our schools to even our own social circles. But in order to develop the kind of mass movement required to give life to an Ideology that fosters belief in our innate ability and the drive towards self driven development, a strong political leadership is required. There would be a strong resistance to this type of development as there are many external powers with a vested interest in ensuring Africa does not develop policies and capacities that would enable us to take ownership and the ability to develop our resources. The only way to ensure that such ideals aren’t derailed by foreign manipulation would be if it were more akin to a mass movement, a part of the very essence of how we view ourselves and the world around us.

In the long term, more than looking for leadership from inspiring individuals, we need to all be faithful followers of the right principles and ideals. It is these shared ideals and principles that should lead us all, ideals that are well thought through and that will lead to the development of our societies and our people. The ideals of African self-determination, political integrity, development of innovative manufacturing/productive sectors and so on. Once the foundation of these ideals on which we wish to base our societies is created, these ideals must then be put in the hearts and minds of the people.We must then build institutions whose purpose is to serve these ideals. It’s important that these ideals are deeply ingrained within the society as it is the only way to ensure whenever anything that transgresses this, from corrupt political leaders to parasitic companies, society quickly identifies and pushes against such activities.

While such an ideology is necessary it is important that pragmatism is still maintained as we live in an interconnected world with many factors that are not in our control. It is important to recognize existing power structures and have the political nous to co-opt and maneuver through the current structures to ensure the success of the primary goal of African development. This is were good individual leadership is required to navigate the intricacies of implementing such ideals.

Tell us more about the human spirit?

The human spirit is the foundation of development. A driven and well guided individual human spirit in synergy with that of those around them is what is ultimately key in fueling that developmental drive that will put African societies on a higher level. The belief in our own abilities and the desire to work with those around us to build something beautiful, innovative, original and ultimately positive. An idea that is embraced by the masses that will motivate the human spirit and spark the imagination of the people into being part of a movement towards development and enlightenment. To the point were it becomes a part of the culture and self-identity of every African.