Jul 14, 2011

Investing in AFRICA

Countless times, I have been asked by Americans and even some fellow Africans what I thought would be the best way to bring about development to the continent. To dodge long and unpleasant potential ideological debates, I usually say that the best catalyst would be changing the mindset of the population, which is very difficult (voire impossible) and it is not something an external third-party can achieve; I also mention that making a significant impact would require dealing with local government officials: good luck with that! And then we switch straight to the weather...:)).
In all seriousness, I thought about the areas in which members of the diaspora like myself or even foreigners can give back to the mother continent, not to change the face of the world overnight, but to make those little actions that could impact the life of a few key people every year. Here they are with some concrete examples of what someone can realize:

1) Infrastructure: 
This is a huge pool of possibilities. Most African countries suffer the lack in infrastructures: Limited means of transportation (roads, trains, effective public commute either urban and inter-urban), buildings (like schools, hospitals, etc...) or access to basic resources like water or electricity. A successful member of the diaspora could organize a fundraising to build a well or a building that could be used as school or hospital in a rural area.
2) Tourism: 
The perception of Africa from most foreigners is that of a gigantic zoo/jungle (i.e. a huge land of natural environment where animals and Man cohabit in harmony), but the guides and guards of the "Park" just happen to die of hunger, malaria and AIDS while constantly fighting each other.Okay I admit, this is little exaggerated; a friend of mine makes my point better and funnier, check out her blog post. Working on preserving our landmarks as well as our fauna would definitely attract tourists and then we would be able to show our wonderful our community-based lifestyle can be.
3) Education and Health Care:
For a more effective, yet slower and long term impact, there is always actions towards educating the youngsters and provide with ways to fight against the not so deadly (avoidable and curable) sicknesses that are killing them. A good and simple idea could be to provide tuition scholarships to the smartest kids in a school or help them become the teachers, the doctors or engineers that will tomorrow work in the infrastructure built in 1).
4) Artistry and Values:
I have heard so many times that the African population is loosing its identity. Apparently, we want so much to integrate the globalization that we tend to loose those values that make us who we are. So I believe that anything that could be done to golden our identity is highly welcomed. Examples include art galleries, cinema promotions and why not book and music publishing provided the contents focus on African cultural heritage.
5) Technology and Telecommunications:
This is probably the area where I will personally try to work some magic. It is a definite win in terms of business: the adoption of cell phones skyrocketed in a few years, more than 33% of the population in Cameroon (from CIA papers) now own a phone compared to the less than 5 out of 100 households in 2000. The venue of the Internet is also a big game changer (just think about the impact that social media had in the recent government overthrow in Egypt). If only we could make the hardware less expensive and bring forth faster and cheaper internet..... Education in technology would also be a big plus.

There you have it. There is a lot more that can be done, and I might actually be wrong in many aspects, this a is just what I feel is best.
In the comments section you can debate specific subtopics or propose your own solutions.

1 comment:

  1. I like that you included number 4 in there. it scares me the way we are embracing the values and way of the west and completely forgetting about our cultures.In a few years time if this goes on, most children will not have a sense of what it means to be African.....how sad. I am proud of my heritage:)


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