Part II: Why Africa Does Not Develop
Once upon a time, while Africa was overwhelmingly mired in bad news and lots and lots of incompetence, The Large Observant Eye noted that the very same lackadaisical traits crawled in the streets and board rooms of the U.S. Capital. People came late. People did not mean what they said. People looked out for their own interests. People did not work together. People did not see the big picture. People were corrupt. People messed up good things. This was not peculiar to any particular race or creed; but was, especially, heightened amongst the African corps simply because the despondency festering on the African continent, inadvertently, affected everyone by association. And it even spread to those that were guilty by skin tone and color.
To explain, Washington, DC has a large number of African Americans. They are everywhere. Black people sit atop management organizations and board rooms. There’s one in the White House and he brought his whole family of black beautiful people with him. Another sits in and runs the Attorney General’s Office. The Mayor’s Office is run by another Black Person and a few others are the oil that makes Congress function. And then there are The Others: infesting every rut in the land. They are on the streets – waiting for the bus in their plastic chairs [when its hot] and then those on the street corner, weaving in and out of traffic. They look at you through your rolled up windows and even if you want to connect with people that look like you, you are afraid. You do not know what to expect because you, like I am, are an out of towner. You are overwhelmed and cannot wait to escape to the safety of your office.
At the office, you note that despite the few that give the continent’s ‘Office Diaspora’ a bad name, a groundswell of the African professional body continuously, exhibits competence – despite the mean things we’ve written about in the past. They have ideas and plans. They hold meetings and shows and try to pull fellow Africans up with them. Many of them send money to the continent to support their people and work their impassioned fingers to the bone to bring development to the continent. But somehow, their efforts, many a time, come to naught because, as everyone knows, you cannot push or dance with one who is squatting.
Relatively speaking, many Africans on the African continent [read: leaders and the cognoscenti] are squatting, albeit intentionally, unintentionally, ignorantly or arrogantly. Many are in a holding pattern preferring not to change the status quo because of how this might affect their individual abilities to make a living. This can be seen from many a top ranking minister or civil servant who takes bribes to get their job done, down to the nurse in the national hospital who’d watch another woman die in the throes of child birth simply because the laboring cow cannot afford to pay an individual facilitation fee. Others are squatting simply because the system cannot allow them to progress: Their business plans cannot pass the sniffer test. Their projects are not viable because there is no effective demand. They squander opportunities to have an effective infrastructure and this means that the forward and backward linkages any investor looks for are missing. If the electricity supply of a particular country is not enough to feed the industrial base, that particular country is squatting and is not doing all it can to join the investment dance going on in the world today.
For the record, there is lots and lots and LOTS of money in this world. Everyone is looking for a place to park their good money. Business people and investment organizations are sitting on billions [and I mean billions of dollars] looking for the next best thing. And they ALL want to invest in Africa. Just as an example, it costs about $ 20,000 to get platinum or top tier membership into one Africa Investment Club or organization that has ‘access’ to viable African projects. $ 20,000 just to attend meetings and know of opportunities! With such amounts of money being thrown about, it’s no wonder that ‘experts’ on Africa are a dime and a dozen, are invaluable to these groups and also, allow anyone with a modicum of Africa in them to join their ‘exclusive’ ranks (or as a friend in the industry explained: ‘If you want anyone to listen to you, show people your recent visa to an African country)! Augmented by a persuasive demeanor and ability, the title of ‘expert’ will be bestowed on a person. These are the kind of people representing Africa. Many of their plans are harebrained, only half baked, and they will represent the continent as incompetently as only they can. The point, here, is that there is money, there is opportunity and there is willingness to get things done.
And last month, a wealthy acquaintance decided that he was not going to sit on his laurels any more. He was going to go to Africa and find something he could put his money into, come rain or shine! With his more than a billion dollars in assets, he was willing to throw down at least $ 10,000,000 in the fast rising country he had heard so much about. He wanted to help. With his influence, he squirreled an appointment with the president and flew down. I did not hear from him for a couple of weeks. Then I did. He described driving through the capital city from the airport. He was bowled over by the sheer amount of poverty. He saw huts and slums and half naked children. Through the air conditioning of the car he still felt the heat. At the hotel, the shady electricity afforded him some cool but did not shield him from the sights and sounds of the sheer chaos downstairs. But most of all, nothing prepared him for the meeting with the president. He could not believe that the leader of the country lived such an opulent life while the rest of his people were in their state of apparent paucity! And then he told me about the president’s watch: It was gold and must have cost more than $ 25,000!
While I cannot say this with utmost certainty, there’s a high chance that this country will not see this man’s investment. Yes … He is still an entrepreneur seeking opportunities to make money and thus, he may entertain a few business plans and throw them a bone or so. However, the image of an expensive watch in the middle of such dire straits is seared in this man’s memory. His impression is that if one can afford such a good of ostentation, surely they can afford to fix their roads, their hospitals, their people’s standards of living. If the African leaders cannot fix their own infrastructure and yet do what Louis XIV did, then they and their people are, ultimately, doomed indeed!
But my friend, surely, does not understand Africa. There, ‘The Big Man’ is expected to live a certain lifestyle. It is expected that he will eat as a result of his position. That is what Africans dream of: One day, when they are in office, they will also eat. But in the meantime, the nurses are supposed to be mean and deserve a bribe simply because they know how to bring a child into the world. The civil servants will find ways of filtering their ill begotten wealth to the people in the rural areas. The potholes and their roads allow people to become more innovative because this is Africa, after all and Africans are used to such things.
To be continued …
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