We (Africans ) do not understand the business.
- The Chinese who are coming to do business in Africa get rich in 5–10 years.
- The only industrialized nation we have in Africa is South Africa. Would South Africa be as developed as they are today without 8–10% of White and Indian South Africans? I don’t know. No need to start another race war or give white supremacy folks another platform. But, let’s look at the facts here.
- My friends from Ivory Coast tell me that the Lebanese people are some of the wealthiest groups in Abidjan. They tell me: “ They run everything”.
- Mauritius, another country doing quite well in the Indian Ocean. Who are they? Indians. How about in Kenya and Tanzania? Who owns the biggest business in those countries? The youngest billionaire is Tanzanian ( Indian heritage).
- The truth hurts, but we have to be honest with ourselves.
To develop, we need to learn how to do business and do it right. There is no shortcut to economic success. There is no other way but trade, business, investment, innovation, and tourism. The principle of a free market enterprise.
We have to admit that we black Africans have a very complex of inferiority that we need to get rid of if we want to make real economic progress in our countries. What is wrong with us? Colonization cannot be used as an excuse. Ethiopia and Liberia were left alone way earlier than other countries. Liberia in 1865 and Ethiopia in 1941. Are they developed now? What about Haiti in the Caribbeans?
As much as it hurts, we black people seem to have some issues. Our mentality and way of doing things. As Africans, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves. “ What is wrong with ourselves”? Analyze all the mistakes we have made after our so-called “independence” and change our way of doing things.
This black South African Entrepreneur ( Vusi Thembekwayo) explains what we need to do in this Ted Talk. Working together, helping one another, both on the micro and macroeconomic level. The educated helping those who are uneducated, the rich helping those who are poor, teaching them skills and giving them the knowledge to be productive members of society, etc.
We keep playing the “victimhood” card too much. How long can we use it?
Other countries were colonized. We are not the only one. Many of those have managed to get out of poverty and are called Asian tigers and what not. Who are the African tigers? We keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
Without economic freedom, there is never going to be any political freedom.
I was watching some videos about the history of Uganda. I have many friends from Uganda and we were discussing what is going on there these days. It got me curious and wanted to find out “ how did Uganda get here”? The pearl of Africa.
Upon my research, I came across an Interview of a British reporter who was interviewing an Indian businessman in the 70’s. This is when the dictator Idi Amini had chased out all Indians in Uganda. The Indians were involved in every business in the country. Importation and Exportation. They were the bedrock of the Ugandan economy.
They exported Ugandan coffee and tea to global markets and imported goods from India and other places to Uganda. The interview went like this. The interviewee had lost 100% of his businesses and had given 48 hours to leave Uganda. His hotels, business, houses, all of them were rooted and he had lost it all. At some point in the interview, the reporter asked the question.
Reporter ( R): Are you going to miss Uganda?
Indian ( I): Yes, of course. My whole life was here. My children were born here.
Reporter ( R): How was the business in Uganda?
Indian (I): It was great! Life and business were good here. No competition. He continued; We were making some good profit margins here. Sometimes, 30 to 50% on some goods.
Reporter ( R): Why do you think business was good here? What made Uganda a great place to do business?
Indian ( I). Looks at the reporter straight in the face, glanced at the plane, getting ready to go to England. And he says: “ Africans don’t understand the business”.
The Indian goes on to tell the reporter that Ugandans won’t be able to manage on their own. He said they just don’t have the knowledge and expertise. That was in the 70’s. Four decades later, as I was talking to my Ugandan friends on Whatsapp discussing issues facing their country. I found myself asking the same question.
Do I understand the business?
Do my fellow Rwandans understand the business? To my fellow Africans out there, I ask you. Do you understand the business? Let’s be honest with ourselves.
Today, how come our countries have failed to develop a well-trained and skilled human resource to develop our countries? How come we have failed to use our resources for the benefit of our countries?
Countries like UAE, Kuwait, South Korea, and others. The United Arab Emirates was a poor country in the 70’s. Upon discovering the oil, they came up with a plan to develop their country. Today, Africans want to go to Dubai, and other places, looking for work.
Do we really understand the business?
In education, are our universities producing graduates who understand our local issues?
- Are we they doing research to solve our challenges?
- Do we have doctors and nurses to look after the sick in our countries? Do we have enough hospitals to take care of our people?
- Do we have enough schools for our children? What is our literacy rates?
- The Chinese are building our roads and other key infrastructure. After 20 years, are we going to be able to build those infrastructures to ourselves without their support?
- Are we thinking long term to cope with the issues and challenges of tomorrow?
Do we really understand the business?
A few months ago, there was a big forum in my city ( Kigali) on how to improve Agriculture in Africa. The African Green Revolution Forum.
In one of the panel discussion, there were four presidents ( Gabon, Ghana, Rwanda, and Kenya). Tony Blair ( former prime minister of UK) was the moderator of the panel asking questions to the panelists.
In Gabon, the minister mentioned that Gabon had been focusing on the oil industry that they were importing 90% of their food. Keep in mind, Gabon has a good equatorial climate to facilitate 2 harvests in a year. Nobody was using some 60–70% of its arable land. Subsistence farmers in Gabon could not handle the massive land. He mentioned that Gabon was “ working” to fix that.
Why is Gabon importing that much food when they could be getting produced at home? Gabon is such a rich country and they can afford it. Their GDP per capita ( PPP) is about $ 20,000. They have a very small population compared to the size of their whole country.
France (red) is only twice as big as Gabon ( Blue) in area size. However, Gabon has about 2 million people. France has about 65 million people. Can you guess how much unproductive land Gabon has? Simply, way too much.
In Ghana, the president of Ghana very much said the same thing. He said that many subsistence farmers were not efficient. So, the agriculture is not a profession that people want to pursue. With lack of modern technology, the agriculture sector was not producing what they needed to survive as a country. In rural areas, especially.
In Rwanda, the president talked about the challenges they faced as a small landlocked country. He talked about how it was hard to convince subsistence farmers to consolidate their farms so that they could introduce mechanization, irrigation, and other modern farming technology in Rwanda. However, He ended up saying that even for a small country. Majority of the arable land was not all cultivated yet.
In Kenya, William Ruto very much illustrated the same challenges. He talked steps they have taken to modernize the sector by doing surveying and making sure that each region was getting the appropriate fertilizers for their land to maximize the efficiency.
They talk about lots of issues. Many of which I have already summarized below.
I. Aid dependency and poverty mentality.
- Aid recycling through multinational aid project.
- NGOs don’t help Africans but shaming through poverty porn is the only thing they are good at.
- The current aid model is not sustainable and it is meant to keep people in poverty.
- How do NGOs stay in business? By making sure that poverty is rampant.
- How do they collect money? By marketing their needs to be the “ savior” of Africans.
- The damage that NGO’s have done cannot be measured in loss of monetary funds from tourism, to investment, and all.
II. Worshipping the West ( EU and US).
- Prefer to trade with the West instead trading within themselves.
- Limited Africa Intra-trade. Too much reliance on importation rather creating local industries and companies.
III. Lack of planning and foresight.
- Myopic on short-term goals instead of long-term goals.
- Long-term views are inexistent in many countries.
- Politicians are too focused on scoring political points every 3 to 5 years, but nothing long term at all.
IV. Mediocre Education Systems.
- A colonial education system that does not encourage critical thinking.
- Originally designed to create civil servants in the 70’s, but has not changed and improved to adapt to current times. Designed to create lots of job seekers instead of job creators and innovators.
- Failure to invest heavily in post-secondary education where higher institutions of learning are centers of technological research and scientific breakthroughs.
V. Corrupt and unpatriotic leaders.
- Leaders who don’t care. Pursuing their own self-interests instead of their people.
- They are not “servants” to the people. They are the “bosses”. There are so many inefficiencies goes into taking care of the bosses.
- With aid, they are okay enriching themselves in exchange of lack of dignity, respect, and integrity from the so-called “donors”.
VI. Failure to develop manufacturing and industry.
- Transforming raw materials into finished products ( Cocoa industry, oil and gas industry, minerals from gold, diamond, copper, uranium, plutonium, cobalt, and many others).
- Develop these industries at home. Create local jobs, pride, collect more taxes and increase GDPs.
- Reliable Infrastructure ( roads, bridges, connecting cities and countries).
VII. Africans need to take charge of the narrative that they want to push out.“ Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will glorify the hunter”. Chinua Achebe, Nigerian Author, and Poet.
- Speak for themselves instead of waiting for Westerners to speak for them.
- African need to tell their own stories. Refer to one of the Chinua Achebe’s greatest quotes below. Every African child needs to read his books before finishing high school.
- Until the lions learn to speak for themselves, their story will always glorify the hunter.
- Until Africans learn to tell and share their history, they will always be misrepresented.
- We live in a world of branding and marketing today. Africa is the most misrepresented continent in the world today. Why? Because many people around the world don’t know the real Africa besides the images of animals in the jungle, hunger, wars, etc. These narratives do not represent Africa at all. They represent Africa of 20–30 years ago. They do not represent Africa today.
VIII. Religion: The mother of 50% of the problems ( Christianity).
- Lack of critical thinking and analysis that Religion brings with.
- False hope with miracle pastors who promise wealth out of nowhere.
- Money in exchange for blessings. All hopeless and desperate people finish off their properties in churches. Just like the migrants going to Europe in boats hoping for a better life, they do believe blessings will come out of nowhere.
IX. Focus on the mineral resources instead of training the people.
Minerals are nothing if you don’t put them to good use. If you don’t have a well-trained and skilled people, those minerals will benefit the outsiders.
Whoever is transforming those resources into finished products makes the most money. They benefit the most. You can be an oil-rich country all you want. However, if you don’t have refineries within your borders, you lose lots of money.
- Nigeria is a good example of their Oil and gas industry.
- DRC is another example ( $ 24 trillion, worth of minerals, but nothing to show for it).
- Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana is a good example ( produce cocoa beans, but not chocolate factories).
- Niger is a good example ( their Uranium).
The list can go on and on, but you get the idea. Rich raw materials are nothing if you don’t have a local human resource to manage them effectively and efficiently. Nigeria fuel crisis: Why is Africa’s largest oil producer short of petrol?
X. Access to capital and global markets.
How many things can you afford without financing? Without credit cards, short-term and long-term loans, could you have gotten a mortgage for your house, or a car loan, start a business venture, and other essential things to improve your lifestyle.
Access to capital is one of the main issues that developing countries struggle with. Try to get a mortgage or a car loan at the bank is just nearly impossible.
These luxuries are only affordable to the already rich and well-connected rich people.
This means that banks only loan money to the already rich people. The microfinance institutions, they only loan money to those at the bottom. Usually subsidized and given incentives by the governments.
In developed nations, more than 50% of jobs come from medium-sized businesses. However, in developing nations, there is little or no capital to assist entrepreneurs. Getting bank loans, you are required to have so much collateral that you don’t have in the first place. Interests can range from 20 to 30% over 5 to 10 years periods. This is nearly impossible to meet their obligations.
Developing nations have many issues ( corruption, etc). However, access to capital and being able to sell products outside the borders is what keeps them underdeveloped. See this map below and tell me that Latin America and Africa are not a dead given away for lack of access to Intra-continental trade ( global markets).
For my fellow Africans, I just want to say:
Until we understand the business, we will always lag behind economically.
We will always be disrespected. Told what to do. We will be sat down and told what we need to do. We will always go to summits, conferences to other continents to discuss our problems. Africa-China conference in China, Africa-India summit in India, Africa-EU conference in Brussels or Berlin, Africa-US conferences in America.
We have no choice but to understand the business. 🙂
Why are some African countries underdeveloped?
We simply do not understand the business. In politics, economics, global trades, trade blocs. In trade, tourism, innovation, infrastructure, and above all, empowering our people.
It is with a heavy heart, I say that we do not understand the business.
We have so much catch-up to do. Between the 60’s and the 90s, We wasted 4 decades on nonsense. The time is NOW or NEVER. Fight for our economic freedom by working together, doing business with one another and building and developing an educated and well-trained human resource to control our economies and countries.
Some countries have been doing relatively. Let’s make sure we don’t call countries such as Botswana, Mauritius, Seychelles, and similar countries “ underdeveloped”.
GDP per capita is not everything. Some oil-rich countries are actually underperforming given their potential.
For those who want to understand African economies, I will leave you with the link below to learn more about African economies.
Africa is a whole continent of 55 countries.
All the countries are very different. They have different economic strengths and systems of government. Let’s make sure we do not paint all countries with the same brush. Some countries have been doing well. Algeria, South Africa, Tunisia, etc. You can read more about them here.
HDI ( Africa), 2015