Why East Africa remains poor

Why East Africa remains poor

Yet this continent has more than its fair share of Harvard and other Ivy Colleges educated elite, besides graduates of world famous Makerere and Univerisites of Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. Yet, the same age-old problems of 60 years ago prevail. We have yet to build an inch of the railway line and our agricultural output remains rain-fed and hand-hoe driven thus ensuring that our production does not meet our food needs.

In short, Africa remains a basket case in terms of food and nutritional needs. The bank that should be a bank of last resort, the Bretton Woods Institutions, remains our first port of call, the World Bank and IMF. Our debt portfolio continues to ensure that our great, great,  grandchildren will still be repaying what we borrowed to feed our consumer habits.

We have yet to find ways and means to produce sustainably, cheap sufficient food for our population, manage post-harvest losses and our failure to prioritize technology over social sciences have ensured Africa remains the backwaters of development. To imagine that from  Congo DRC  to the Republic of South Sudan, through Tanzania, the teaming wealth of Africa continues to oil the glittering capitals of Western World through lopsided contracts put in place by ur very own intellectual and political scum.

In this encounter between a US-based media practitioner, Mr Field Ruwe and an American, Mr Ruwe, records a part of the conversation recently thus: “You my friend flying with me and all your kind are lazy,” he said. “When you rest your head on the pillow you don’t dream big. You and other so-called African intellectuals are damn lazy, each one of you. It is you, and not those poor starving people, who is the reason Africa is in such a deplorable state.”

“That’s not a nice thing to say,” I protested. He was implacable. “Oh yes, it is and I will say it again, you are lazy. Poor and uneducated Africans are the most hardworking people on earth. I saw them in the Lusaka markets and on the street selling merchandise. I saw them in villages toiling away. I saw women on Kafue Road crushing stones for sell and I wept. I said to myself where are the Zambian intellectuals? Are the Zambian engineers so imperceptive they cannot invent a simple stone crusher, or a simple water filter to purify well water for those poor villagers?

Are you telling me that after thirty-seven years of independence your university school of engineering has not produced a scientist or an engineer who can make simple small machines for mass use? What is the school there for?” I held my breath. “Do you know where I found your intellectuals? They were in bars quaffing. They were at the Lusaka Golf Club, Lusaka Central Club, Lusaka Playhouse, and Lusaka Flying Club. I saw with my own eyes a bunch of alcoholic graduates. Zambian intellectuals work from eight to five and spend the evening drinking. We don’t. We reserve the evening for brainstorming.”

He looked me in the eye. “And you flying to Boston and all of you Zambians in the Diaspora are just as lazy and apathetic to your country. You don’t care about your country and yet your very own parents, brothers and sisters are in Mtendere, Chawama, and in villages, all of them living in squalor. Many have died or are dying of neglect by you. They are dying of AIDS because you cannot come up with your own cure.

You are here calling yourselves graduates, researchers and scientists and are fast at articulating your credentials once asked — oh, I have a PhD in this and that— PhD my foot!” I was deflated. The story of Zambia’s PhDs as told by the American to Mr Ruwe remains the bane of Africa’s PhD and could be related and does relate to our own in East Africa. In Morogoro, PhDs are great bar and lodge owners. That is where the money earned from research funding has gone.

What is the problem with African researchers and educated elite? Why are they part of the problem? How come they have not used expensively sought education to resolve Africa’s problems. We shall tackle this part in our column next Saturday.   *The writer, a Media consultant, is the founder of  Media Development Rights Agenda.

This column also appears on http//itineranteastafrican.blogspot.com.  Oyoo.nick@gmail.com

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