THE ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS OF SOCIAL ATTITUDES IN AFRICA
echnology has transformed our lives in ways our ancestors never dreamed possible, and will be continuously created, discovered and effectively deployed to improve lives. But the world in which humans and technology are intertwined is far from reality for billions of people in Africa and Asia. This lag in technology is not only due to underdevelopment and poverty, but also social attitudes towards technological advances. This may be hard to process given the impressive rate of penetration of wireless communication technology to remote parts of Africa and Asia. But despite the rapid adoption of information technology, residual resistance to technology remains.
The story of Mr. Nwapuda illustrates underlying cultural and social attitudes that impede development. Mr. Nwapuda of south eastern Nigeria as the story goes was strongly opposed the construction of a railway track on his inherited land. He swore trains will only go through his land over his dead body. Mr. Nwapuda insisted that no train would go over his land even after government exercised eminent domain authority. After the rail line was completed, Mr. Nwapuda, heard a train approaching, and stretched himself across the rail rack; tragically, he was crushed to death.
Though Mr. Nwanuda's story sounds outlandish, a real and present dilemma for African entrepreneurs is the dysfunctional attitude toward modern paid work. The failure of workers to see the connection between the work they are required to do and the potential long-term benefit to their own economic wellbeing, can be devastating to African economies. It is particularly devastating for individuals who try to make the leap from paid employment to small business ownership.
Many Africans still view paid employment, in the modern sense, as something foreign and unconnected with their experience; therefore they develop no sense of ownership for their work or the means by which they earn their living. Instead, they may perpetuate systems of dependency that place unsustainable financial burdens on a few breadwinners, who thereby become trapped in financial sinkholes. Martin Meredith noted in The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence, that: "During the colonial era, many Nigerians regarded government institutions as 'olu oyibo' - Whiteman's business, an alien system that could be plundered when necessary.
Others in remote villages may view modernization as alien, and they mistrust and disapprove of the processes involved in the transformation of natural resources such as oil, iron ore, gold and other precious minerals into material wealth.
African social attitude toward time is also a drag on productivity. A fluid conception of time, untrammeled by any emphasis on punctuality or efficiency of effort lowers productivity. This culturally based tendency has serious implications for productivity in the highly competitive and rapidly changing global economy. In today's integrated worldwide market, time is of the essence, as production and delivery of goods depend on precisely choreographed supply chain management systems. A system of production based on an attitude toward time in flux is likely to produce disastrous results for businesses.
To unload the burdens of poverty, low productivity and underdevelopment, Africa's people must overcome the social attitudes that stifled progress. They must strive to transform some of their traditional social attitudes, and combat ignorance that results from inadequate preparation during the early schooling years.
The classroom is a laboratory for the development of the most precious resource-the ingenuity and intellectual energy of young people. Africa must provide opportunities for young Africans in their formative years to nurture productive habits and build the complex webs of relationship that bring social change.
Join the movement to shed black Africa's burden. Black Africa must prove itself capable of advancing its own development plans to lift themselves out of poverty and disadvantage.
Get involved; become vested in building a brighter future for the children of Africa.
The past cannot hold you, opportunities for a better future abound.
Learn to carry the riches of the past into the future without letting the burden weigh you down.
Africa's sense of harmony is a powerful engine for positive change.
Take great pride in our communal traditions and pull from our collective energy to lift us up.
For more, get your copy of Africa Rising: Shedding Black Africa's Burden.