We may readily harness our human capital, to exploit our collective genius. When this is done, we would have unleashed productivity
I recently had a conversation with a friend concerning the reasons for the state of the black world. Why Africa and other sovereign black nations fall short of achieving their economic potential? He repeated the familiar reasons: The lack of capital, and the need to select better leaders, et cetera. Those of you who have been following this column know that I suspect those reasons, not because they are meritless, but instead because they are possibly symptoms and not causes.
Yet my friend repeated those reasons perhaps through reflexive reasoning, if not because he truly believes them. In any case, if those reasons are true, how would we ever achieve economic independence and prosperity? After a few minutes of less than persuasive counter arguments, my friend appeared to have begun to see value in my opinion that the wealth of a nation is proportional to the state of the collective mind of that nation; formally schooled or otherwise.
Most people would agree that economic advancement rests on the ability of nations; ability to innovate, and to access and utilise information. A nation needs not be the smartest to be the most progressive or wealthy. It is a redundant fact, but nevertheless worth stating, that any nation can develop imaginative economic theories, or scientific methods. Such a nation merely needs to have such a will, and dedicate its talents towards that end.
Ideas are free - at least in economic terms - and the universe distributes them to everyone without regard to race or creed. They are given to those who seek them, earned with the basic currency of thought.
Everyone who desires knowledge, may freely access a million books on the internet. This availability allows for instantaneous knowledge. Consequently, we may apprise ourselves of almost all the collective knowledge of civilisation simply by clicking a mouse. Therefore, the difference between one man and another is merely the extent to which one strives, innovates, plans, and executes such plans in relation to what he wishes to accomplish; the same goes for nations.
Given those facts, we may readily harness our human capital, to exploit our collective genius. When this is done, we would have unleashed an unimaginable dynamo of productivity. According to Wikipedia, Tanzania’s GDP is about $150 billion (PPP), nominally it stands at about $45 billion. This places us 9th on the continent in terms of our economy. But the size of our economy is only 15 per cent of Nigeria’s, though we have a third of its population. Even so, I am quite confident that in the next decade the scenario will change as Tanzania’s economy is more diversified, among other factors.
The economic opportunities, which presently exist on the continent are unprecedented in its history. Yet, let us return to the reason for the slow progress of development. To understand the question, we may wish to consider it within the socio-historical context.
But that has been addressed ad infinitum. And moreover, other nations with similar history have grown above us, so perhaps there are other reasons beyond colonialism, lack of education, bad governance, weak financial infrastructure, low FDI, reliance upon commodities, energy issues, and insufficient infrastructure, et cetera. We appreciate those basic reasons, but they are not unique to the continent, and others have overcome similar circumstances, so they may be viewed with a measure of healthy skepticism.
Those who follow developmental issues are aware of how Ethiopia has grown to the seventh position on the continent in terms of its GDP. The country now stands ahead of Kenya and Tanzania on the list, both which are 8th and 9th respectively. But in the scope of things, these East African economies are underperforming, and are hardly what they will be in coming years, if present trends continue.
Nevertheless, when we consider that Wal-Mart Stores, a single US corporation, earns about the same as Tanzania on an annual basis, we can clearly imagine what we may achieve through innovative strategies.
In fact, we may exploit the available opportunities for business, and grow our economy even faster in coming years. Harnessing our rich resources, geographical position, and fully exploiting our human capital will serve to put us well along the way towards development.
The writer is the CEO of Grand Africa Literary Initiative Ltd