I believe strongly that the margin that existed, if it ever did, between the unfortunate plane of ignorance and economic struggle in Africa and the glorified heights of enlightenment and prosperity in the West, has diminished substantially. Today we are exposed to tools and resources that if employed in the most optimal, value-oriented manner can spur a sustained wave of economic growth and development in Africa. As much as I appreciate the political and cultural challenges facing Africa, let's look at the following cases:
Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group founded his business in 1981. He is involved in the production and distribution of various consumables from spaghetti to cement. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest businessmen from Africa whose net worth of $13.8billion is definitely a head-turner*
Mark Zuckerberg, the twenty-something year old co-founder of Facebook Inc., on the other hand, started off in 2004. The social network has swelled exponentially to a 750-million user base and is currently valued at $82 billion**. Mark's net worth is standing tall at $17.5billion.***
That information is just enough to allow us compare. Yes, they operate in very different sectors and under very different circumstances, but a 23-year difference in the establishment of both corporations is a thing to ponder about. What becomes immediately apparent is the organic proliferation of tools and resources over the years that can cause a giant leap in the economic well being of any global citizen.
However, excluding a few Africans like Dangote, a vast majority, whose frequent exposure to these resources stuns the average westerner, have chosen (unconsciously or not) to merely increase their purchasing power. Such a venture is definitely not malign, but it is only when economic strength is exercised in the right direction that it becomes the extraordinary experiences we forever marvel at in the northern hemisphere.
The current global challenges-the US and Eurozone Sovereign Debt Crisis, the (almost) balancing effect of emerging markets (such as the BRICS), the Arab Spring and others-provide a unique opportunity for the explosive growth and development of the African mind. Every time a revolution occurred in history, that moment became, for those who understood the times, a point of inflexion in their mental orientation and they seized the opportunity to make great strides; the French Revolution of 1789, the Russian Revolution of 1917, the end of WWII and the events that followed all yield credence to my argument. A new world order will emerge from the current state of things. Lots will be divided - again. We must take the necessary aggressive steps to ensure that in the next decade of prosperity that follows the current global issues, Africa is not again treated as one with a begging bowl.
Let's drop the begging bowl and get to work.
*Forbes, March 2011.
**Bloomberg, September 2011.
***Forbes, September 2011.