The Black Panther movie, a portrayal of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, untouched by war or colonialism, is a vision of grandeur during a challenging time for Wakanda’s leadership. The movie’s expression of powerful Afro-centric imagery has won the praise of movie fans around the world. A cult following has been born. But as the movie’s buzz and fan hysteria begins to fade, the time has come to pause and face reality. African countries are far from perfect, much too fragile and highly vulnerable. In real Africa, government leaders’ mismanagement of resources is common, leaving the average citizen to live in a perpetual state of poverty. It is time for a new era of leadership.

As one who has lived and worked in sub-Saharan Africa more than a decade after marrying a Nigerian, led policy initiatives as a strategist in the United States, and served as Commissioner of International Trade for the City of Oakland, California, I know it doesn’t take a supernatural force like Wakanda’s vibranium to fix the problems in vulnerable African countries. Common sense governance and sincerity of purpose can be just as powerful. While it may take years, maybe decades, before affluent Africans consistently seek robust partnerships with their counterparts in other world regions to finance up and coming leaders of integrity, like Wakanda’s King T’Challa, I urge black philanthropists to act now. Invest in young people. Develop a new generation of strategists capable of partnering with, or working for tomorrow’s African leaders who seek input when problem-solving.

The urgency is real.

In recent months, two African leaders, Jacob Zuma in South Africa and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, have been forced out of office. Uhuru Kenyatta in Kenya has been challenged by an opposition leader attempting to form a rival government. Chief among the accusations against these veteran leaders is the misappropriation of government funds. 

Reuters reports that Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country and one of the world’s biggest oil producers, has lost $20 billion due to mismanagement and leakages of cash in the industry. Ghana and Mali together account for 5.8 percent of total world gold production, says the World Bank. Yet, access to education in countries like Ghana reveals a level of inequality not seen in other parts of the world. “Children from the richest 20 percent of households in Ghana average six more years in school than those from the poorest households,” according to the Brookings Institute.

This is not the Wakanda way.   

If only Black Panther’s lasting impression could lead to action like charitable giving for youth development. Start by exposing young people to real Africa.

I think about the possibilities if movie villain, Erik Kilmonger who is a human killing machine, had traveled to Wakanda as a child. Maybe he would have had a different fate. Instead of allowing the childhood angst to fester later fueling his ambition to start a war, he could have had an opportunity to cultivate the spirit of peacekeeping and nation-building envisioned by his paternal ancestors.

Like Erik, young people in the diaspora need to see black kingdoms. Help make that happen by engaging in targeted gift giving to high school and college study abroad programs so the next generation of strategists from the diaspora, gain international competence enabling them to become equal partners with enormously talented African professionals.

Share your African travel experience with young people; educate them about the pervasive problems in Africa. Acknowledge that the problems are in some ways similar to those facing any community, anywhere in the world, lacking sound leadership and responsible use of resources, both of which are needed to improve the quality of life for the average citizen. And in your act of charity please remember future professionals from the diaspora receive, while in Africa, as much as or even more than they give in work-skills. They return with a mighty jolt of self-esteem, in-depth industry experience and lessons learned from having had a front-row seat to witness the challenges and temptations leaders face when nation building.

Now that is attainable.     

I say, let the fantastical power of Black Panther become legacy inspiring new leadership in real Africa.