“Africans are not smart enough to manage their own affairs”: True or False?

Sun, 23 Mar 2014 Source: Peter Osei-Adjei

For the past few months, I’ve had sleepless nights thinking whether Africans don’t really have a comparable level of thinking acumen that our colleagues in other continents possess. I just asked myself, why will some foreign renowned writers be so proud to make this kind of immature conclusion? My worries are basically due to two main reasons:

First, I personally feel that this is a very controversial issue to talk about in the first place. While, my intention is to be very objective and avoid any kind of subjective discussion, this still remains a very sensitive topic that could generate some form of public anger and antipathy.

Second, I find it very difficult to get realistic evidence to support my argument when it comes to our development plans, specifically, how we Ghanaians manage our own affairs. The evidence is so glaring that you might jump to conclusion that we really don’t have what it takes to manage the country to have access to 24/7 electricity or a superior water system.

As a Ghanaian by birth, I’m aware sub-Saharan African countries including Ghana, have been struggling since the post-colonial era to manage their resources to the best of our abilities to derive the much needed benefits for their citizens. For that matter, the evidence is so dimming to challenge the theory that we are not capable of putting our stuffs together. I mean the facts are simply not there to totally throw that argument out. Perhaps, because of my training in Business Intelligence and Analytics, I always find it extremely difficult to draw a conclusion to any issues without a credible statistics (facts and figures).

I believe in numbers and I think numbers don’t lie. I finally gathered the courage to come up with this piece because, I know that; in the absence of information, people gossip!

The analysis or any conclusion that I draw below are based on my personal thoughts; what I’ve observed and experienced over the years, and what I perceived to be the issues and challenges with the average African Leader. I have decided to avoid historical events and trace those events and blame it on our current situation or where we are today. I’ll leave that for the political analysts to do that job because, that is not my goal and intention for this article.

However, my goal is to respond to the theory that the average “African mind” is not smart enough to compete with the rest of the world in term of economic development. In other words, we do not possess the necessary thinking capabilities to move the African continent towards the 21st century Technology world. All the current theories point to the fact that Africans do not have what it takes to develop the continent even though it’s blessed with all the necessary resources needed to step it up!

Together with a couple of other friends, we did a research and gathered data on all the six continents about the available natural resources on population, flora and fauna resources, water resources, minerals and energy resources ( withholding data for now). To our remotest surprise, with the exception of population which Africa ranked second to Asia, our continent came first among the other resources. But guess what? You might not want to hear this, but the fact is; Africa is ranked as the most economically poorest continent on earth (not in terms of resources). How possible, was my first reaction and rhetoric question. So we really don’t have smart leaders? Or what’s going on? For real? Are we dummies? As I was rhetorically asking all these questions, one of my friends, tapped my shoulder and whispered to me, Peter; “our leaders are dummies! For real. If you don’t know this, please, find out about the leader in Gambia and what he stands for, then give me a call tonight. That’s your homework for the week”.

Initially, I took it as one of his usual jokes, but he repeatedly told me to really take it serious and find out who Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh of Gambia is. Why will a Ghanaian who never visited Gambia be so much concern about this dictator and sight him as a dummy leader? I did not show any sign that I know this irrational dictator more than he does, but only told him, ‘I’ll definitely find out who he is’. My question is simple: Is this 48 year old Gambian dictator and many others on the continent smart enough to move Africa forward to compete with the rest of our counterparts? Please, keep your answer for now, because, there’s more to this than Yahya Jammeh and his vicious vice president, Isatou Njie-Saidy.

This is why some people think that we are not smart enough to step up the game. My fellow Ghanaians, I’m talking about the game to reduce poverty; the game to have access to uninterrupted good drinking water; the game to stop begging our colleagues in the other continents for money only to share it among our greedy leaders; the game to design and plan for 24/7 electric energy without “dumso dumso”; the game to have access to staple food on our table; the game to have access to good roads, the game to fight against looting of the nation’s resources by those on the government payroll; the game to fight against low productivity because of the fact that the average government employee works only 4 hours a day instead of 8 hours; the game to fight against the nonperformance of our political leaders, the game to end chieftaincy disputes that are slowly crippling development; the game to redesign, plan and restructure our education system from the scratch, not just building 50 structures; the game to make sure our fifth and sixth graders can read and write in Ghana just as anywhere in the world; the game to pay our teachers immediately they accept their appointments, not two and half years of battling with their pay checks while the Accountant General sits comfortably in the office and works only four hours a day with no productivity at all; a game to stop the indiscipline and carnage on our poor roads; and the game to reform and amend our constitution and elect all political leaders especially the district mayors (DCEs); the game to save our kids from dying of curable diseases; and finally the game to prove to the world that we are capable of managing our affairs in a humane manner.

Why will a continent blessed with all these rich resources continues to lag behind in development? With the exception of our greedy and visionless leaders and their cronies, why do the rest of us continue to languish in abject poverty even though we are the richest continent in terms of resources that I mentioned earlier? Why? Why should it be like that? I may never understand or get the right answers, but there’s one thing that I know! We are smart and capable of managing our affairs. The issue is all about our acquisitive and covetous leaders who just don’t care about our welfare!

Africa has no great shortage of the usual resources that everyone knows is necessary for growth. There's land, water, people, minerals, and numerous other natural resources. What’s missing is the structure that allows these to be molded together into the creation of ever greater value. The “first-generation literature” has argued that the major source of growth failures in Africa was the intervention of African rulers in their countries’ economies for largely political purposes.

Indeed, one of the main purposes of the many structural adjustment reform programs implemented in the 1980s and 1990s was to limit the capacity of African rulers and ruling parties to interfere in their economies in order to capture rents with which to reward supporters. Unfortunately, these structural adjustments have woefully failed us.

I'm not saying that the average person in the other continents is more intelligent than every African living in Africa or in Ghana. What I’m trying to say is that I personally feel; the average person in the other continents is blessed with more intellectual gifts than the average African leader living in Africa or in Ghana.

Don’t get me wrong, because what you do with your gifts is completely another matter. But the question I’m trying to get an answer to is this; does the average person in the other continents has more natural innate intelligence than the average black person in Africa or Ghana? That is the bone of contention of this endless debate. It is the core of the arguments that we are not smart enough to take care of our own affairs even though we have all the necessary resources available.

Believe it or not but the smartest person I've ever met is a black and African classmate of mine in the University of North Texas (UNT) in US. He’s a Ghanaian and majored in a Software Engineering degree. He won all the different categories of the merit awards during our graduation. As a matter of fact, he has now advanced to a proud profession as a Software Developer here in Texas, amazing, right? When I say smart, I'm talking about his innate natural intelligence.

He has the ability to think on his feet and can deal with complex concepts very quickly and grasps new ideas quickly and can apply those ideas. He also has the ability to adapt to changing environments very quickly. He doesn't need to spend a long time studying something before he grasps it. These are all signs of great natural intelligence that Africans possess. How come that we are the poorest in economic terms? I really need answers, because it doesn’t make sense to me.

Unfortunately, most other African leaders that I know, for the past three decades exhibit low innate intelligence. Some of them work hard and have great attitude, but they just don't seem very bright at all and show no analytical skills and certainly can't grasp complex concepts quickly if at all. I don’t want to mention names here……..? The worst case scenario is the fact that they have no vision, very greedy and corrupt and can’t think beyond a year or two. Surprisingly, all the other exceptionally bright leaders in the world that I’ve had the chance to meet personally are whites and Asians. Why? Where are the smart African leaders? It’s very simple! Africans are equally and comparably smart just like our counterparts in the other continents.

There’s no argument about that fact. Unfortunately, our leaders are very greedy and extremely materialistic, don’t like to think about the future generation’s welfare, they just don’t care about the masses except their own immediate families, and they are corrupt! Our leaders just simply can’t figure it out and put it together. I challenge you that African leaders can’t do this job at least, not in the next three decades. As a result of all these challenges that the ordinary citizens are facing, it makes it very difficult for outsiders to imagine if we can really manage our own affairs as said by our Statesman, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah fifty seven years ago.

I’m yet to see just one leader emerge in Africa in this 21st technology world who can prove that we are capable of providing an uninterrupted 24/7 electricity and a regular good drinking water in Ghana or anywhere in the sub-Saharan Africa, accessible to at least 95 percent of the population. And I promise you, I’ll definitely put my pen down and will never write about developmental issues in Africa again! Until African leaders and rulers prove everybody wrong, trust me, the argument will continue unabated: “Are Africans smart enough to manage their own affairs effectively?”

I don’t know the answer and may never ever know in this millennium. However, I believe it’s because of their Greediness, Corruption, sheer wickedness and voracious materialistic needs, as well as avid love of entrenched political power! Perhaps, my little ones who are just six and five may be able to answer this question perfectly in their era. I believe so, because as such a tender age, they are so smart and are relatively inclined to computer agility and tech gadgets than I do. Thanks.

Peter Osei-Adjei

Coordinator- Web Communications

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