Today’s discourse is about our dear continent Africa and it is also for those who love her. It’s for those who live in, work in, come from and have some ties with or interest in the continent.
Africa today enjoys the privilege of being on the front burner of global discourse for many reasons. Some of which are trivial – like the contention over whether Africa is a ‘country’ or a continent or whether she is underdeveloped or developing to weightier issues like Africa’s burgeoning population which is estimated to become over a billion in a short time from now.
Although, globalization has attempted to level things up a bit, but as we know, we still have a very long way to go. I need not start to mention the plethora of problems we face as a people, and I am of the opinion that the problem is infact not for political office holders alone to solve but also that of every responsible citizen of the continent, wherever they may be across the world.
For leaders on the continent, it is very tempting to join the band wagon and fall into the trap of trying to join the catch-up race. Very tempting. I said that because every time one gets into the game of ‘copy and paste’, there is a big chance that he imitates alongside the errors of the model and by-pass their ingenuity. It is almost a fact. We often forget that the road to freedom of any form is always a long walk and not a walk in the park. Every time, we try to bypass developmental processes, we get our fingers burnt.
A case in point: across most discussion fora, people often point at Infrastructural and Technological depravity as the root problem of the continent and I beg to differ. For me, we don’t need new software as much as we need new mind-sets. It is very easy to point at factors that are tangible and measureable a lot of time. Yes, because it is easy. But methinks that infrastructural challenges are not the cause but infact a result of this dysfunctionality, and trying to tackle that will be like adopting an outside-in approach. And it doesn’t work. Our problems are more intangible – more about the unseen. What we see are manifestations of the true problem. The thing is, you can plant new gardens and beautify our space all you want…but if the minds of the people are still ‘dirty’ then it is not sustainable. Software cannot solve our problems…all the tech/tech/tech talk must go with reformed minds. We must build right by constructing the requisite cultural and social infrastructure that will carry the physical infrastructure – in a way that it is built to last. We must not enter into a rush competition with the west – or we may soon come crashing.
There is the story of the former Prime minister of Singapore – Lee Kwan Yew, who had a strategy of instilling discipline and sanity on the society as part of his way of rebuilding his country – all government officials (including MPs) were constrained to only one wife….and adultery was considered a serious crime…such that if a wife accuses a spouse who is a serving cabinet member or MP of seeing another woman, he will be forced to resign. Even up till today, People are not allowed to chew gums in Singapore…you may say, ‘what has that got to do with governance or national development?’. Everything. Because it is always first about the little things before the grande issues. Discipline here and discipline there. And that’s what Africa needs. If we are going to get on the path of sustainable success then, it must first be about social & cultural transformation…before the pedestrian strategy of economic transformation that is often bandied around.
Today Singapore is one of the wealthiest nations in the world with the third highest per-capital income. What is true is that, ‘uprightness will exalt a nation’, anytime, any day and we can take a cue also.
Let’s build right. Let’s make the right diagnosis of our problems so we can tackle them with the right solutions (some of which will be homegrown).
Peculiar problems must be tackled with peculiar solutions.
By all means, Africa must for strive for development on all fronts, but we must do it right. And do it in a sustainable way.