Why can't we also dream BIG?
"The future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Anon
For some unfathomable reasons while I enjoy producing TV programmes, I seldom sit behind a television. Yesterday was different; I actually sat down and watch two TV programmes for close to five hours.
National Geographic is one of the channels available to Cable television subscribers in the Dutch city of Amsterdam, and the programmes were ‘Big, bigger, biggest,’ the other was ‘Building the future.’
The programmes show how human beings compete to build the tallest buildings, the largest dams, the biggest wheels and that sort of things. They were very engrossing and well-produced programmes – otherwise it won’t have consumed five hours of your truly.
What struck me the most was that none of the projects was in Africa; none of them was conceived by Africans.
From the Cape to Cairo, from Algeria to Zimbabwe, no African nation is thinking big; none is engaged in any big idea. In none of Africa’s 53 countries are the people mobilized to solve one of the myriads of problems confronting the people.
The pungent question that immediately agitated my mind was: why can’t we Africans also dream big? What exactly is it with us that our minds are not also agitated to build big things. Why are we no longer participating at the highest levels of science and engineering? Why do our cities lack eye-pleasing parks; fountains, swimming pools, libraries, monuments and other imprints of our passing through this life?
Our ancestors left their huge imprints in the sands of history. We have their Pyramids in Sudan and Egypt to attest that they did great things. What are we leaving behind?
If it’s true that the future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams, why are we Africans not also dreaming big? We are we not following our dreams? Why are we not agitated to leave behind solid legacies of achievements? Why are those leading us not mobilizing us to aim higher? Why our lives still consume by the mundane, the inanities, the senseless and mind-boggling pettiness.
Let’s get something straight: I am not in any way advocating that we copy European’s path of irrational development, or that we pursue the mindless rat race of the West, or turn our habitats into concrete jungles like they did in Europe. But there are some very basics things in our lives that our intellect should challenge us to improve.
Most part of Africa enjoy all-year round sunshine, why then do most Africans lack access to cheap solar energies. Why can't all the universities and polytechnics in Africa come up with dirt cheap solar lanterns for our people? Why can't any leader in Africa simply determine that enough is enough and give a challenge to African scientist to come up with a solution. Why are all the rich people in Africa uninterested in solving a single problem?
Mr. Mo Ibrahim generously give a grant to encourage good governance in Africa, why can't other African businessmen emulate him and start encouraging science and technology on our continent?
Over fifty years of self-government, there is no reason whatever why our folks still live in houses without water, light and, wait for this, bathroom and toilet.
It should be a national shame to us when we see families trooping to thick forest, braving snakes, in order to answer nature’s call. We should bury our heads in shame when we see our women folks squatting by the roadside to do their thing. And why do we not die of embarrassment when we see our beautiful beaches continue to be defaced by human faeces? What type of brain do we possess when people can still, in this age and time, build houses without toilet facility?
The sad part is that it wasn’t like this few years back. Then houses are supposed to be equipped with a toilet facility, however primitive. There are health inspectors in their khaki khaki and pilt helmets that goes around every week to ensure that the ordinances on health are complied with.
Sadly, we have jettisoned this very good idea.
There is also the question of our inability to feed ourselves. Our leaders, without a sense of shame or irony, keep telling us that we are spending about US$600 million to import rice.
Now, rice is really a very simple plant to grow and harvest. It takes between 3 to 6 months from planting to harvesting. And with modern methods, it can be grown virtually everywhere in our beautiful country. And what we have in some abundance is arable land, especially in the north and the Accra plains, where rice can easily be cultivated. We also happen to have another critical ingredient in abundance: dirt cheap labour.
Any intelligent leadership would have married these two together to make us a world leader in rice production.
But sadly, our elite, slaves to their masters at the IMF and the World Bank, continue to short-change us.
While our youth cry out for employment, we continue to use our hard-earned income to keep American and Asian rice farmers in business. We are doing the same for Italian and EU tomato farmers. We are doing it for Brazilian and Argentine beef and chicken farmers.
Our leaders, like mindless obedient children, continue to follow the instructions of their masters in London, Paris and Washington.
Just few years ago, the IMF admitted that three decades of their diktat ruined our economy, yet today our leaders are asking for more of the same.
It is sad really when we see that those who are today embracing the IMF were the same guys who just few years back (when they were in opposition) were loudly vociferating against the Bretton Woods institutions!
What is truly terribly galling is that western countries continue to pursue policies that are contrary to what their institutions are prescribing for us. Do our leaders follow the news and current affairs at all? When their own economies crashed, we saw all western countries frantically printing money or borrowing huge sums to keep their economies afloat and their people in work. Yet IMF and World Bank officials have the audacity to come and tell us to remove subsidy to our distressed economy, and our leaders are not putting a fatwa on them or calling upon us to lynch them!
From the Greece, through Portugal, through Spain, France, the UK, to the US, the whole capitalist economy is in tatters. Capitalism is truly discredited and western nations have intervened massively to shore up the casino economies that unbridled capitalism created, yet our leaders continue to listen to western officials giving us lectures!
Can’t we be original, for once? Can we think original thoughts?
Some time ago, it was announced that there were plans to create a Dry Dock port at Ghana’s second city, Kumasi. The question is why Dry Dock? The distance between Accra and Kumasi is 270 km or 168miles. Why cannot our minds conceive of a large canal to link the Garden City to the Atlantic?
If human beings were able to link the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal (a daunting engineering feat by any standard), why can’t we be able to build an ordinary water channel?
More than four hundred years ago, the Dutch people conquered their lands from the sea, and they successfully build large canals to enable them move up and down their below-the-sea-level country. They successfully connect many large rivers to the sea. And some few years back, they successfully created a brand new province, Flevoland, from the sea.
Again we have the human resources, but we lack the imagination. Those leading us are too pre-occupied with little silly things to think on grand scale. They lack the minds to dream big ideas and challenge us to accomplish them. They continue to think low scale, as though the creator forgot to adequately equip them in the brain department. They continue to operate as though rest of the world is still waiting for us. A president of our dear land, a former professor, happily commissioned public toilets and expect us to dance for joy!
Iran has successfully mastered nuclear and space technology; China will soon be sending a Chinese to the moon and the Indians are leading the world in software engineering, and our president is calling on us to pray and fast!
Our president is asking for a national day of prayer. He conveniently forgot to tell us what all our prayers all over the years have accomplished for us. He disingenuously forgot to tell us which country on earth has solved a single problem by praying.
Actually methinks that we should be affronted by that type of talk from anyone ruling us. No one campaigned on the premise that we would require heavenly intercessions to solve our basic problem.
Our parliamentarians each took US$50,000 as car load without bending their knees in supplication to a god. That is addition to generous salaries and allowances they are receiving.
Our ministers continue to enjoy good salaries, emoluments and other freebies without offering prayers. We do not see our officials offering prayers when they are looting our treasury or selling off our national assets to their friends in the West. Why on earth do they then need prayers to provide basic services for us?
Basics things like water and electricity are no longer considered hard-to-master Rocket Science, yet they continue to pose serious challenges to those ruling us.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are individual Africans brilliant enough to participate at the highest summit at NASA, the ESA and other hallowed institutions. So, we know that it has nothing to do with race or color.
What is easily noticeable is that whilst individually we might excel, collectively we continue to flounder. We can also easily see this wherever we go in this beautiful continent of us. We have individuals who are brilliant enough to perform well and run their own companies competently, but in our national life, everything is still topsy-turvy. We have the incredible situation recently whereby the company providing water for the our capital city had to go all the way to South Africa to look for an engineer who could help them fix a broken down plant.
The news has died down and we have forgotten it until next time when we encounter the same problem. This, sadly, continue to be the way we run our national affairs. No one was fired for the water corporation fiasco. No queried was issued to anyone over the national embarrassment. No effort was expended to ensure that the same thing will not happen again. Few days later, like little children, we have moved to other things.
Let’s take a look at the perennial flood causing havoc in our national capital, Accra. Like acting some macabre rituals, our leaders yearly troop to our Alajo and Asylum Down and Sahara and the other numerous ghettos sandwiched within our nation’s chief city. There, our leaders will look their grimiest, make the same sanctimonious, ritualistic promises and depart with their expensive motorcade (foreign made, of course). End of story.
I saw President Rawlings during his long years sympathizing with flood victims in Accra. President Kufuor followed exactly the same script and President Mills have also started doing the same thing. Nothing, absolutely nothing will be done to put proper structure in place to ensure that the same flood does not happen the following year. Maybe our leaders are afraid that it’d spoil the macabre fun they thought we are enjoying with their visits.
Our lives continue to be consume by politics, religion and gossip.
Thousands of years ago, our ancestors built high culture in Axum; they build pyramids in Sudan and in Egypt; they built the great Zimbabwean walls, yet today we cannot mobilize to feed and, clothe and decently house ourselves.
It is a crying shame.