There has been so much talk over the years about the mineral wealth and the vast tracts of natural resources endowed to Africa. Yet, having watched a video a friend of mine Okay-Farayi Chinyanga of The Formation shared about coffee, I came to the conclusion that one of the most important treasures in Africa is its people.
If we are to make any strides in development and economic growth then it is important to finally acknowledge and invest in a critical resources that will achieve sustaining economic growth. This should not merely be a conversation about improving the education system but rather a systematic view of the African; especially the mind set. There has been a lot of negative perception and talk about the African.
Sadly, it only tells one side of the story and the least significant as a matter of fact. As important as it is to highlight problems and weaknesses it is of greater value to unravel and uncover the strengths and positive attributes of Africa’s people. Importantly, Africa’s greatest treasure has many dimensions that can create value such as:
Often this has been touted as the reason why Africa is still far behind, the fact that it has no unified voice. I watched the video and noticed the range of coffees available on the continent based on country of origin. Not only are there different brands but they have different tastes, aromas and texture. What is negative about that? Diversity can be something negative if it is mixed with ignorance and bigotry. But, if it is mixed with love and passion it is a beautiful thing. Just think of the different coffee beans the world drinks everyday from Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, Ethiopia or Zimbabwe.
There has been a lot of talk about Africa’s ignorance and very little mentioned about Africa’s rich deposits of knowledge. Africa has ancient repositories of knowledge and wisdom. Coffee was discovered and invented in Africa in Ethiopia. It diffused as an innovation and spread across the world. This is a significant contribution to the world that has spanned centuries.
It is often easier to talk about a person’s ignorance if we are myopic; it takes great dignity and honour to ascribe and affirm goodness in another person. This is the case with Africa. We speak less of the goodness in Africa and spend more time focusing on the negative things. To truly uncover the untold the rich tapestry of knowledge and wisdom locked in the minds of Africa’s people, we must find it in the people we meet everyday on Africa’s streets. The knowledge in Africa’s citizens plays a central role in the economic development of the continent.
Despite the hardship and often challenging environments, Africa can still produce inventors and innovators. It may pale in comparison to more conducive and open economies in the developed world; but the fact remains Africa’s people can innovate. This is important to not only affirm but to also engender. Ideas are the ‘DNA’ for transformation and innovation is the process of converting the code into functional and relevant solutions.
Much of the knowledge required to solve Africa’s problems is locked up in the human minds in Africa. We cannot look to inanimate natural resources to develop new products, process or concepts for the future. Rather, we can invest and tap into a billion minds to inevitably unlock real sustainable value. Not only do we then get to drink different types of coffee, we also then have the express opportunity to uncover new ways of thinking and technology.
The Treasure Hunt Begins
As easy as it is to shift blame and point to another, there is a significant mining project that needs to begin in the coming years. Governments in Africa shoulder a lot of blame for Africa’s troubles and so they should for all the mismanagement and corruption that has become entrenched and synonymous with the continent’s troubles. Yet, the real challenge is for people all over Africa to recognize something
“It doesn’t matter what is happening to the economy , government or your industry . It matters what is going on in your imagination if you have a rich imagination then you are going to have rich experiences.” Mark Victor Hansen
Governments will take years to change and we can not stake the future of the continent in the hands of a few men and women. Economies will shift as noted by the boons across the continent, therefore we cannot pin our hopes and ambitions solely on macro economic fundamentals though they are critically important. Industries will evolve. Thus we cannot simply, rely on say agriculture or mining to shape our continents future.
As Mark Victor Hansen says, we must invest and mine the rich imaginations that lie untapped across the continent. If we are to be truly wealthy, a systematic approach to extracting and formalizing the vast and deep veins of knowledge, diversity and innovation laden in Africa’s people. A goat herder discovered coffee and it became a revolutionary and world changing innovation. Imagine, what will happen when 1 billion minds are unleashed!