Apr 16, 2009, 6:06 AM
Africa's world position is both unique and ironic. Traversed by the main parallels of latitude Equator, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, it embodies all climates. As a result of this all the main economic and subsistence crops - cocoa, maize, millet, groundnuts, to name a few can be grown in its soils. Another plus is that it has ready markets by virtue of its vast population.
In addition to all these, the most vital mineral resources: coal, gold, diamonds, petroleum, uranium and many more abound in Africa. It can therefore be said, and indeed it is often said, that Africa is the richest continent on earth in terms of natural resources. Realistically speaking, though, the richness is, to a certain extent, potential, simply because Africa has not yet effectively exploited these abundant natural resources to bring appreciable benefit to her peoples.
There are several factors, the mishandling of which impinges seriously on Africa's developmental efforts. Chief among these are: 'Time', 'Patriotism' and 'Resources.' Of the three factors 'time' and 'patriotism' stand out pre-eminent.
Generally speaking, Africans do not seem to value time much. The inability to respect and manage 'time' is sadly observable throughout Africa. We seem to be naively complacent and comfortable about our lack of respect for and strict observance of 'time.' We tend to trivialize 'time' much to our detriment; and offhand justify out lack of punctuality buy nonchalantly saying "it is African time." How absurd! There is no such thing as African, Anglo Saxon, American, Asian, or for that matter Eskimo time. The expression should be killed off! It is wreaking havoc on our development, and we seem not to realize this. Time is universal, simple! Call up a meeting for, say, 5.00 pm. and all the relevant information circulated in good time; and you will count yourself very lucky if you have a quorum at 5.30 pm. This eats into the scheduled time for the meeting; and the agenda may conceivably not be completed. The only option is to defer some items for a subsequent meeting, thus depending on borrowed time. That makes for slow progress.
In this regard we will do well to copy the example of the Anglo Saxons and the Romans, both being great sticklers for time. Their deep and unflinching respect for time has made them pronounce binding statements about 'time.' The Anglo - Saxons say: "Time flies" and the Romans (Latin) say: "Tempus fugit." In Anglo Saxon we have: "Do not put off for tomorrow what you can do today; Latin has: Carpe diem (seize the day!) quam nemini credula postero" (and pin not your hopes on tomorrow). Anglo Saxon has also: "Time and tide wait for no man" and "make hay while the sun shines." All these expressions emphasize the importance and fleeting nature of 'time.' We Africans should be fully awake to this. We seem not to realize the great negative impact our disrespect for time has on our efforts to progress.
Regarding 'patriotism, there is a most troubling factor that, sadly, Africa lacks true patriots. Most Africans are highly subjective in thinking and this hinders the development of altruism and sincere nationalistic feelings. They tend, always, to project the 'self' to such a degree that they become totally bereft of patriotism.
Once again, it is helpful to turn to the Romans. They regarded patriotism as extremely important and essential. Thus they pronounced: "Dulce et decorum est propatria mori," which translates: "It is sweet and fitting to die for the fatherland."
Reverence for the fatherland was considered of such paramount significance, that the Roman Senate saw to it that it was instilled into the psyche of the citizenry. When, therefore, a Roman says "Sum Romauns" (I am a Roman), he is not only making a simple statement confirming his citizenship, he is also emphatically implying that he is ready to die for the Roman nation.
As the above has shown the Romans were highly patriotic. Africans need to increase their patriotism and cultivate a more decent attitude towards work, and regulate in a disciplined manner their day-to-day public intercourse.
Being strictly patriotic helps to ward off tribalism, nepotism, corruption and many such ills; and makes one unshakeably conscious of the national good.
Many African leaders, we must admit, are not patriotic enough. A lack of this binding patriotism is what enables them to indulge in such disgraceful practices as diverting public funds to foreign banks, manipulating constitutions to perpetuate their stay in power beyond their constitutional term limit, all to the detriment of the nations they have sworn to lead. How then do we expect Africa to be a developed continent?
Both these factors - time mismanagement and the lack of many true patriots make it virtually impossible for Africa to utilize to the maximum the vast resources, both human and material, at her disposal. Some African governments have unfortunately failed to maintain a healthy balance between infrastructural development and the development of Agriculture to feed Africa's teeming populations. Thus the Gambian President Sheikh, Professor, Alhaji, Doctor, Yaya A.J.J. Jammeh's "Back to the Land" call is very pertinent. Africa must necessarily feed her peoples, and reduce or entirely eliminate hunger, malnutrition and the heavy dependence on imported food stuff. It is therefore imperative that all African nations in their developmental plans provide adequately for food production.
The trouble with Africa's development is that it is not well prioritized and it is to a great extent haphazard; and all the concomitant problems we now encounter have taken root at independence, when Africans rushed to develop infrastructural in the shortest possible time with little regard for food sufficiency.
However, important infrastructural development in it is not more important than food sufficiency. The two must be developed pan passu. The neglect of either will have serious repercussions for Africa's development.
We have a daunting task! It is therefore incumbent on every African to cultivate the virtues of patriotism, dedication and discipline to enable us to work diligently, in our various fields, to ensure the development of our respective nations, thereby collectively paving the way for Africa's political, economic and social advancement. This is the only option.