We are in 2020 and we cannot afford to keeping doing things the way they have been done before and expect different results. It is the time now to prioritise the silver bullet, that is Africa’s sovereign capital – its people – and the unique skills, talents, energy, aptitudes and interests they embody as this is long overdue. Africa’s population has been the silver bullet, all along, since the 60s. It has been the corner stone that has successively been shamed and ignored in favour of material. As I said in my book “Making Africa Work Through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism” “A people without the knowledge of their history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.” Simply implied in this quote is the understanding that we cannot progress without knowing where we have come from and without a comprehension of the stakes. In my discussions with pan-Africanists from diverse disciplines, nationalities, and creeds across the continent and globe, I have come to implicitly conclude that the open secret to development that our founding fathers failed to consider is that winning over self-determined rule was just but the tip of the iceberg. As leaders of countries on a continent that seemed by all accounts to be capable of self-sufficiency, hence the envy of many, they would have to overcome extreme odds to make anything significant out of their much-deserved independence and benefit from what their countries and continent offer. They could not do it alone but needed partners. And the most fundamental and critically important partner to this end was their citizenry. To make these partnerships count, they had to prioritise investing in developing the ordinary people in their countries and assign them to be guardians and custodians of development across the continent. This is the significant blunder of our founding fathers. They looked to develop material resources without prioritising the people. And the result till today has been a consistent trend of devaluation for the continent. A devaluation so chronic that a common person on the streets in any part of the globe – including in Africa – believes the continent to be a place of nothing but adversity.
Africa continues to wallow at the bottom of nearly every if not all industries across the globe. It remains unable to competitively trade in value added products, wallowing in commodity trade, exporting its wealth and importing poverty and unemployment. And why is this so? Because of strategic failures to add value to its areas of comparative advantage – clean energy and its agro-value chains being the most accessible and inclusive - with an express objective to build globally competitive enterprises. And why has it failed so? Because of failing to prioritise investing in its sovereign capital - its people and the multiplicity of their innate endowments. It is the genius of the human that drives development. Not material underneath the earth or sea or on land. We as a continent have instead perennially chosen the false allure of material resources. This is the single source of the great devaluation of the continent. Over time, this strategic mistake has continued to mutate into its worst forms. The worst I have seen, is the lack of confidence in her people’s own abilities to birth solutions. Locally born priorities, ideas, innovations, inventions, are quickly relegated and forgotten in favour of routines and experimental priorities that seem to carry the promise of immediate financial gain – even for a few. It is time to break this cycle of devaluation, before we run totally out of time as we see challenges perpetuating before our very own eyes.
Breaking the cycle to start tapping Africa’s uniqueness as an asset