via The myth of African solutions to African problems from NewsDay by Vince Musewe September 19, 2013
This term denies Africa world class solutions to its social problems and creates an excuse for substandard leadership and solutions.
I am amazed at how a full Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tanzania, Bernard Membe, can keep his dignity after concluding that, despite the absence of a voter’s roll, a critical factor to transparent and fair elections, our recent elections were credible. How can a flawed process result in an output that is credible? Even engineers will tell you that an outcome not dependent on process or input is impossible.
The above continues to reflect how we, as Africans, tend to be selective in the application of logic especially when it comes to possible outcomes that may not be politically convenient.
We have had this problem in Zimbabwe since 2000, where a government acts and is surprised by quite obvious logical outcomes of its action, but then claims exogenous factors as the reasons for those outcomes and not their misinformed actions.
The reason why we face starvation today is because we have underutilised land “owned” by those with limited competence in growing food for the country. Most would rather grow tobacco and not food.
The reason why we had hyperinflation in 2008 was because Gideon Gono printed money like newspapers. The money he printed was not used to increase our productive capacity, but merely chased too few consumption goods; result was hyperinflation.
The reason why we face drinking water problems today is because our waterworks were built in 1956 for a population of 300 000 and not the 2 million people we have in Harare today.
The reason why we face a liquidity crunch today is because our elections were not credible and therefore, money will not flow into the system.
The list goes on and yet we continue to hide under the myth of “African solutions to African problems”.
The term “African Solutions to African problems” reflects the limited thinking of Africa’s leadership. It is a term that denies Africa the best solutions to its social problems and creates an excuse for substandard leadership and solutions.
We must reject this thinking and continually seek world class solutions if we are to accelerate the economic emancipation of African masses. We need new thinkers.
Zimbabwe today is faced by unnecessary socio-economic problems because our politicians have refused to think of the logical consequences of the lack of democracy and how this will continue to arrest our development as a country. For me, politics is indeed an overrated career.
The solutions to our water problems are quite obvious, we need to ensure that every second home in Zimbabwe has a borehole and we also need to ensure increasing water reserves through water harvesting and preserving our wetlands and not let the Chinese build on them.
Solutions to our energy problems are as simple as us using solar energy given that Zimbabwe has an average of 9 hours sunshine per day throughout the year. We really need not pay the exorbitant Zesa charges for energy. In addition a solar power industry would create millions of jobs on top of the cheap energy.
We should never experience food shortages in Zimbabwe, given the vast amount of underutilised fertile land.
We probably had some of the best framers in Africa who are now feeding other countries. If the issue is about land ownership for goodness sake, let us issue new land leases and allow our experienced farmers to grow food for the nation.
The “African solutions to African problems” mentality has clearly not provided us with the appropriate solutions that we require to accelerate our development. Instead, our so called African solutions continue to take us back.
Does it, therefore, mean that as Africans we are naturally backward? I don’t think so. I think that this term has been abused by Africa’s leaders to avoid scrutiny, to hide corruption and protect politically vested interests; as is the case in Zimbabwe.
Our education has taken us nowhere and today we have millions of smart Zimbabweans using their skills to build other countries. There is an African solution for you; spend millions in educating your people and then as soon as they are ready to contribute, create political conditions that attract them elsewhere so that they cease to be a threat to your hold on power. Import maize from farmers you expelled except this time, you pay 10 times more than if you had produced the maize yourself.
Hide the voters roll, so that the fairness of elections cannot be scrutinised.
At times I just have to pinch myself to check whether I am dreaming or not when I see what is happening in Zimbabwe. We are an embarrassment.
We must, therefore, create a new narrative that says we will adopt world class solutions to our problems because we are educated and informed. We really should not care where the solution comes from, especially in this information age. We can bridge the gap between the developed and developing countries quite quickly because information on solutions is freely available.
What frightens me is that slowly Zimbabwe is becoming backward compared to those other Africa countries that were behind us not so long ago. The world will not wait; progress and development will not stop as we dither and have to entertain political greed.
Action, action, action is the only solution. We cannot afford the continued application of African solutions that deliberately regress our society. The myth must now be destroyed.
Vince Musewe is an economist based in Harare. You may contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org