Africans tend to migrate to Western countries and to look West for financial aid because we see the West as “rich” and Africa as “poor.”
We fail to appreciate our abundant natural resources and look to others to always help us.
This reminds me of Uncle Tom’s story. Uncle Tom was a lazy fellow who would idle around in the marketplace all day. Every evening without fail, he would show up in his relatives’ home for supper.
Naturally, Uncle Tom’s relatives got fed up with the man’s parasitic character. One evening they solemnly informed Tom that they did not have any food and they were all going to bed hungry. Uncle Tom smiled broadly, “don’t worry, I’ll make you stone soup.”
“Stone soup?”Uncle Tom nodded. He carefully removed two small stones from his pocket and dropped them into the pot of boiling water and stirred. The curious relatives soon asked him if the soup was ready.
“Soon. I wonder where we can get an onion. Stone soup is never quite complete without at least one onion.”
The family said they could get just one onion. Uncle Tom then tasted the soup and exclaimed, “it’s almost perfect, if only… there was a tomato.” One relative dashed off for a tomato, then some herbs, salt, spices, a couple of carrots and a chunk of cabbage. Soon the stone soup was ready and the family enjoyed it, thanking Uncle Tom indeed for his delicacy.
Which brings us to the point; Africa cannot negotiate with the world from a point of nothingness. Uncle Tom used his stones to bargain for a meal.
Africa too should use whatever resources it has to bargain for a better life for its people. Even God at the burning bush asked Moses what he was holding in his hand.
What we call poverty in Africa is just a matter of wrong perception. We fail to see our resources as wealth and we see money as the only indicator of wealth.
In our search for “wealth” we leave our farms and flock to urban centers. We trade our abundant resources cheaply just to get money.
The worst outcome of this attitude is that money is seen as an end not as a means. When someone gets money, he is presumed to have “arrived” and does not use the money to invest and increase productivity.
We need to consider how to monetize our many resources, including even time. Suppose we attached monetary value to our time, would we waste less time? Probably.
Through ICT technology, we can sell to the world our music, art, proverbs, riddles and medicinal herbs. We can generate power from sun and wind, enough for our needs and surplus to export.
Today, Africa has a golden chance to earn billions from her forests by trading in carbon credits. This will only happen by changing our mindset, and making use of what we have – to make stone soup if necessary.
Edwin Maina is a social commentator