RE: “Desperate journeys: Prepare for the worst” (The New Times, December 19).
I try hard to be optimistic about the future of Africa, but I can’t. Huge population growth in Africa will be a disaster if African leaders don’t change how they do things. In some blind optimism, African leaders seem to believe that they can/will change things with their governments alone.
“Citizens sit down, we got you covered,” they seem to say. Even for the countries that have been making some progress, it seems to be more or less so. Where people’s well-being has improved, it was done for them by their governments. That’s psychologically detrimental. It ingrains a mindset that some higher entity than an individual will always do the job. But we all very well know that growth, like in big bureaucratic corporations, comes to a halt at some point when it’s led by public sector. At this point, governments can’t do much, and since people are used to being spoon-fed and can’t take over immediately, everything falls apart.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russians had not been told that they have responsibility as citizens to drive the economy through business. The economy had become too large for Moscow to manage and things started going downhill. Perhaps African economies will not be too big for governments to manage. Perhaps they will even stop growing, if they will have ever started that is, at some point without having reached desirable development.
African leaders should take a moment and think about empowering their people. Africa’s best way to prepare for the future is to invest in people of the future. For Africa, the best investment in people is education.
So far, most of what has been done in education sector is improving quantity. But in doing so, the quality suffered terribly. Thousands of people are graduating but very few could read a news article and comprehend it. Those thousands desperately want jobs, mostly from public sector, since private sector is nearly non-existent. Very few, if any at all, start meaningful businesses. Why would anyone be surprised that unemployment is horrible? Or that it will get worse with labor force getting bigger?
One way I see that African countries can make use of the expected population increase is to empower people through education. Let Africans know that they own their destiny. Let them be able to read books and free their minds and be inspired.
A person is fully born when they actualise their potential. African leaders should provide an intellectual space that allows Africans to actualise their potentials. People cannot realise their potentials if government tells them, “Citizens sit down, we got you covered.”