Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Is lack of creativity holding back Africa?

If you listen to African (and black people generally) discussions on TV or in public places one of the things we love to pontificate about is the lack of opportunities and more popularly, our absence in history. In other communities, they are busy re-writing history by aggressively providing solutions and ideas to mankind problems. But are there any Africans trying to do so?

Finance Industry:
I can only think of James Mwangi who has at least broken the mould and has really turned over the banking sector in Kenya. Do we have contenders for investment banking innovator of the year from an African-owned investment bank? Where is the guy who is going to come up with the next Balck-Scholes model? Or that paradigm shifting finance engineering idea/product?
Which economy in Africa has gone against IMF/WB orthodoxy successfully? Which economy has been able to successfully deal with corruption using even IMF-prescriptions never mind home-made solutions? Which economy has been able to institute inclusive macro-economic growth on a sustainable basis? Apart from Andrew Mwenda's polemics against development economics, which other development economist has come up with ground-breaking ideas on how Africa can chart its economic path. Which homegrown African company is listed in London or New York? Which African country exports products manufactured from its raw materials?
Yes in Kenya we've experimented with a Grand Coalition, but it was forced on us and is a monster with budget-breaking expense. Which African country has been able to marry traditional forms of governance with democracy? Sierra Leone has copied our wealth declaration idea complete with the same faux pax. They are no public declarations and thus serve little or no purpose for the common mwananchi. In the UK, the register of MPs interests is freely accessible meaning very clean records.
With a myriad of tropical diseases unique to Africa, who has patented a cure for even the most prevalent of these i.e. malaria?
Look at Kenya, no natural mineral resources, but how many innovations in agriculture? We have a fairly well-funded and very talented KARI yet today we still grow maize, potatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, arrow roots they we have done for years come rain, come sunshine. With drought most likely problem for Africa from global warming, which country has successfully mastered food self-sufficiency or even patented drought-resistant crops?
We are the continent that has consistent sunshine so where are the patents for solar-based power generation products?
We have many programmers, but where are the mould-breaking operating systems, internet-browsers, search engines or even africapedia?


Ssembonge said...

Maina, the reward system in Kenya is broken. There is no incentive for being creative.

roo11 said...

Actually there is an Africapedia. It is in the early stages but already with some really good content. Check out http://africapedia.com.

Onosh said...

one item that bogs the african down is to have a sense of entitlement,while others realise that hard work yields dividends.Ssembonge,if you wait for a reward system to thrive before you engage in hard work,you shall be long gone and what shall you have left behind ?

MainaT said...

Ssem-risk & reward system being iffy is part of the problem but note that teachers the world over work for pittance.
In any case, this shouldn't have a bearing on having political systems that work for us.
The issues are African not just Kenyan...

MainaT said...

Roo11-Tx and I'll be looking out for it.
Onosh-Great sentiments. We must look beyond rewards, in any case if you look at Kenyan civil servants, they've been able allowed to operate businesses since the 70s and they clearly haven't driven the country.

Sageauk said...

Ubuntu/Kubuntu is south african. we are not that down