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A philanthropic spirit encompassed with an entrepreneurial mind, I am passionate about technology and the things technology can help people to achieve.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Africa! It's Time for Radical Change or Perish


Reading news about Africa at this juncture takes a lot of effort if you add emotions to it. You have to dig deep to find news about The Girls who were never brought back despite the much publicized #BringBackOurGirls campaign on social media, closer to home I see screaming headlines of an economic decline that is about to reach the ground like an asteroid fallen out of space. Before I could put that together I come across one of my friends planning to import salt into Nigeria, as I look closer I find it’s about Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Apparently salt cures the virus if one uses it to bath, the propaganda machinery is at full throttle with potential to encourage further spread of the disease. Another queries why Ebola is aptly named “Ebola sounds like a West African name” he quips. He is clearly oblivious of the origins of this ghastly disease which has caused panic elsewhere before the recent record breaking outbreak in West Africa. There is always a new crisis on this continent to put the past in the shadow, the Girls of Chibok have been forgotten, and Ebola is the new talk.

I will not elaborate on the problems Africans face; they are all in our faces. What Africa needs are radical solutions. Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over whilst expecting different results each time. I believe the following will guide this populous continent in the right direction.

Redefine Qualification for Political Office

According to GeoHive, Africa’s population is concentrated in the age groups 0 – 44 years with 45.2% of the population between age 15 & 44. However a look at the heads of state one will find that the average age of African presidents is hovering over the age of 65. It is worthy of note that the people in this age group make up just 3.6% of the population. The picture would become dire when we add the Ministers and heads of public corporations to the equation. Maybe the problem can be traced to African tradition where the elderly always assumed leadership but the world is bigger than a clan or village. They are no longer presiding over cases of farmland boundaries but world matters. In this regard we need radical transformation. Africans must stand up and enact laws to prevent those over the age of 55 years assuming political office. This might sound harsh but it ensures that the leadership is concentrated in the age group which is dominant and still fit to govern. The age of 55 is also the early retirement age for most countries for a reason. Africans must no longer entrust their future in these old men, think of Robert Mugabe’s constant travel to Singapore for medical care or his Commissioner of Police fainting at a parade, how about Michael Sata whose whereabouts are unknown for some time reportedly unable to work then there is Bingu Wa Mutharika who died while in office. Time is up for the old men of Africa, there is need for young blood who is representative of the population.

Stamp Out Endemic Corruption

Africa is the bedrock of wheeling and dealing under the table. Those who have a penchant for shady business find their way to Africa where the laws are lax in terms of getting offenders to justice. A search for African corruption will bring a flurry of cases where those in political office were found with hands in the cookie jar. These are rarely brought to book, often the scandals get swept under the carpet & life goes on. There is no deterrent to this corruption and it is high time Africa sets up strong justice system collectively and encourages a culture of accountability. As it is money that goes into government coffers via tax does not find its way to the masses, it’s a case of the poor being robbed to finance the opulence of the office bearers. Corruption has grown roots so much that it permeates the justice systems of most if not all the nations. Change is desperately needed, the people must also shun being part of the gravy train, few can stand and decline a bribe but the truth is those who benefit immensely are those at the top, those at the lower level fight for crumbs enough to feed oneself for a day and tomorrow they starve.

As The Sun Rises, So Must Africa Awaken


Remove Exploitative Terms of Trade

Africa for a long time has been its own enemy, we seek friendships in business. Most African leaders grew up during the cold war era, countries huddled themselves into blocs between capitalism, communism and socialism. This gave the leaders the idea that you can have other nations who care about you hence can do business on friendly terms. Any business person who does business that way knows the end is poverty, the same obtains for nations. China especially is beneficiary of this blind loyalty and in return they get resources for a pittance. They smile, shake hands and chant a few lines of solidarity but behind the scenes they are laughing at our ignorance while they squeeze our motherland of precious resources to sustain their huge appetite. We are left with nothing except for the few top leaders who help themselves to the meager payments. The worst part is China plays a good friend; they approach nations like Zimbabwe who might be banned from procuring weapons of war in the western world. We all know that in desperation, China offers arms in exchange for resources and our fearful leaders with dictatorial tendencies will give anything to save their lives. China is exploiting Africa and its time we look at how trade with them is giving us a return or else we must revise the terms.

Make Begging a Crime

African leaders are known for begging at meetings of world leaders. Recently they met the US president who promised some money for Africa, the West African leaders also took time to beg for the serum believed to cure Ebola. I am not sure if Goodluck Jonathan remembered to ask for more help in finding the girls taken by Boko Haram or he has also forgotten about them. I love the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” which can be translated to mean difficult situations force solutions out of us. In Africa we replaced these situations with a begging bowl effectively killing the little chance of innovating. When US, UK or Germany are confronted with a problem, who do they run to for help? Obviously they don’t go to anyone but look within themselves for solutions. Once we get rid of the begging bowl we will have to be on our toes, we will have to think how best with can combine what we have into something meaningful. We have to finance our own hunger with our own meals; if begging is deplorable for the people we meet in streets, why should we endorse it at the highest level?

Invest in Ourselves Wisely

Africans are looked down upon in many places; Africans even look down upon themselves. Some people believe that Africans are lesser humans. We are not responsible for what other races think of us but we are responsible for confirming those thoughts as holding true by our actions. Take the Ebola case as an example, the disease first surfaced in 1976 almost 4 decades ago. But in Africa none has done any research on the virus or possible vaccine. I pointed this out to a friend who looked at me in disbelief & said, “Do you know how much it costs to setup something like the Centers for Disease Control in America?” I responded and said yes, it’s quite cheap evoking further disbelief. The CDC was formed to study and combat malaria and soon grew. Currently it has a budget of $11 billion which looks quite substantial. But divide this by the number of nations in Africa you get $200 million but since CDC deals with every disease. Africa can set a budget for Ebola at $50 million per nation and set up a state of the art centre in a place like South Africa or Mauritius, then continue pouring money into it before 2030 Africa will be able to look to themselves for solutions. We desperately need something like that because there will come mutations of virus diseases like the drug resistant TB already cropping up. Of course people will grumble that there is no money but truth is the money is there but it is being invested stupidly. Think on this, South Africa spent $4.8 billion on buying arms of war when there is no visible threat. Zimbabwe spent $15 million on luxury vehicles for members of parliament only; Bingu Wa Mutharika spent $12 million on private jet. How much more is being spent carelessly that can go towards a worthy cause? We cannot use the financial poverty excuse, no; we are just poor in our thought faculties.

Conclusion

I can go on but if we are to embark on the above, we can turn around this continent. A rising and prosperous Africa is not a dream some million years into the future. One friend of mine said we need 1000 years to improve, but I told him those are excuses we make to defeat ourselves. When I was a child Japanese & Chinese product were considered cheap quality but in less than 2 decades of innovation they are the leading products, gone are the Philips, Volvo & Technics replaced by Samsung, Kia and other brands. When I was doing Cambridge A Level I remember checking the statistics of students passing, Singapore was having students getting 100% in subjects like Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Accounting and Economics. I cannot say the rise of Singapore was out of the blue, we saw it coming in the brilliance of their students. We have what it takes to change this continent from a dark continent to a lush green place. It’s time to pack our excuses and limitations we have erected on our own and think differently because all things are possible.

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