Opinions Mon, 2 Feb 2015

Africa's Development: Building Roofs Before Laying Foundations

Angelina K. Morrison

Development swings in when intense frustration breaks upon an age-long languor.

Until Africans really tire of dwelling in the misty levels of backwardness, and start harnessing force of character, unbreakable tenacity of purpose, and sheer strength of will, supported by dint of hard work, she will never espy the sunlit peaks of true development and advancement.

This continent is replete with untapped potential and resources necessary for us, as a people, to bathe ourselves in glory, so posterity will chant our achievements with ever-increasing accents of gratitude. However, such will only translate from being vats of velleity into crystallised results, when we closely examine our situation, and adopt a radical approach to our issues.

The beauty of civil discourse lends itself to agreement and disagreement. In view of such fragrant truth, while I accept differences in other suggestions offered, I remain firmly persuaded that the solution I have proposed, and will continue to propose is the scintillating lodestar that will guide us out of our present misery.

Here is an applicable truth: we are not pushing ourselves in the thinking department. Yes, we have failed to stretch our elastic brains to innovate practical answers to our manifold challenges. But how will we innovate anything of sterling significance, when we have an inferiority complex, and are used to producing poor-quality goods? How will our creative juices flow, when it has been encased in frozen negative thinking? How will our blazing lights of potential shine, when it is enshrouded in the garbs of inactivity? Do we really believe we can actually solve our problems? Do we truly aspire to get into vital contact with our neighbours by whose products we are incessantly enamoured?

When I propose Jesus' teaching as a solution; some think I am going round the bend. Nonetheless, they forget that until the nature of those at the helm is changed, they will rather divert valuable funds and resources for personal and family use. Perhaps, even a part will find its way to offshore accounts.

Why is there a rancid presumption that any reference to religion as a vital path to development must be made by someone who has unhinged their reason, or is away with the fairies? What about the pantheon of Christians who transformed the world? People like Newton, Copernicus, Wilberforce, Bach and several others. Were they mad to trust Christianity, for example, and draw strength from it?

The pristine sense this piece seeks to distil is a rallying cry for us to lay a solid foundation before we attempt to start roofing.

Comparisons are sometimes inappropriate. The African, without doubt is a very different kind of species. This is the truth, and we know it! We are a unique people. And while we may have similarities with other continents, our differences—thinking, state, way of live etc.—are ever before us.

Channelling our best efforts to solve our challenges through the agency of innovating workable solutions to our issues will surely make a huge difference. Nevertheless, we need to pause and examine a few truths. While innovation is good, and I am one to champion that; however, other thoughts rush to the fore which assert a pleasant order. It calls us to deal with certain root issues before we can hope to advance. For instance, we may cry for aid to establish research and development centres so we can innovate; but knowing the sort of people we are, an important question rears its lump of a head: Where will most of the aid end up? In the stated projects, or somewhere else?

We display our enlarging ignorance, if we act as though we are not aware that resources are siphoned for personal gratification. That only is possible because of our nature as a people. We are inherently corrupt, and we feel no sense of duty to our people and for the common weal.

As an emergency, we must use the resources that we have as a continent to solve the problems of the continent. Why are our leaders unable to do so? Why do they find it easy to embezzle funds? Is it true that Africa does not have the money to solve her problems? No, we do! It is our nature, and the way we live that has to change. Thus, I shall continue hitting on my previous points, and drumming up my suggestion of Jesus and His teachings. It is a potent proposition to a prevailing problem.

We have called for good governance and written copiously on ideas that have been unable to solve our issues. Rather, in some of our countries, there is an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor.

In truth, life always presents us with conflicting options for our examination. Personally, I have seen people who did not feel a sense of duty to their own family. However, when they experienced a transformation in a lifelong relationship with Jesus, without any external force, they amended their ways, and started embracing their responsibility.

If even a few people in power will experience a similar transformation, these leaders will demand a greater level of accountability of themselves, and ensure that a country's resources—particularly financial—that has been bilked, and perhaps kept in local or foreign accounts are rightly channelled to the development of our continent.

I personally reject the idea that Africa is broke. It is our leadership and management failures that amplify our problems.

My proposed solution stands firm. With urgent intent, we must work on solidifying our foundation before attempting to build, let alone, roofing. A transparent change of the heart of our leaders will see them manning up to the responsibilities entrusted to them by the electorate, which they continue to shirk with insouciant impunity.

Still focusing on our terrain; why is politics such a big issue? Why will people kill to get into power? Is it not a gold mine? Is politics not seen as being a guaranteed route to wealth—a passepartout of sorts? Is it actually a way to serve people? Now, what example should our leaders follow? Shall I offer them Machiavelli? Or, you see the sense in offering them the Messiah as an example?

All nations have a moral problem. It is not Africa's preserve. Nonetheless, ask yourself: Are those nations as backward as we are? When, for instance, a government in the West is corrupt; will they come and invest their country's money in a place like Ghana or Togo? Yet, where do our corrupt governments take our money?

We must sit down and think carefully. The sort of foundation we decide to build upon will prove pertinent to our pace of progress. And a foundation that fails to adequately address our inherent moral problem will leave us high and dry.

As you will see from later articles, I will stress other parts of the building process. A student has to master basic arithmetic before tackling advanced calculus, or attempting Fermat–Catalan conjecture. In that sense, solving our moral problem or calling for a realistic improvement is the sensible place to start. Once that message has received due attention, other relevant and important suggestions will follow. Shouting for good governance, without a corresponding change in the hearts of those who will enforce or maintain it is synonymous to announcing a house warming, when you are yet to lay a foundation for a house.

My titanic belief and resolute position is that Africa has what it takes to develop. Unfortunately, our expected development has yet to make a resistless appeal for us to cease our fellowship with our backward ways of living. Indeed, the veritable dream for development must overwhelm and shatter our disposition to maintain the status quo. A strong passion for progress must fill us with supreme enthusiasm, concerted effort, and an overriding willingness to squarely confront our issues. If we fail in this respect, we shall continue to be lost in a contemplative reverie without enjoying the tantalising fruits of progress and development.

The call is clear: we must put our own house in order—no one is willing to bear such responsibility. And a practical step to ameliorate our tardy development is to work urgently on our foundations before building roofs.

Angelina K. Morrison

Columnist: Morrison, Angelina K.