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Building An Informed Africa: A Time to Act

Imagine how the western world prides itself in discovering the Victoria Falls when in essence there were already people in Africa knowing about it all along.

“Information technology has created avenues for development which are not affected by distance or geography. Africa rise and show the world that you are worth it. Speak out loud AFRICA, silence is betrayal.”

In any set-up the most informed individuals remain the most dominant and powerful over their counter parts. Being more informed gives them a mandate to dictate terms to the less informed, to the extent of undermining their abilities in all aspects of life. That’s where Africa today is pegged, we have been called third world countries, underdeveloped and we appreciate that naming. Would not there be anything superior coming from Africa and telling the world that we are equal.

Because we are less informed and we do not even give a damn about that condition I fear we might remain like that forever. We have been so brainwashed by the most informed and got to an unguided understanding that prosperity depends on where you are other than on who you are and what you can do in which ever environment you are.

Africans we have come to the belief that our countries are dry lands infested with poverty, HIV/AIDS, unemployment and all the inhuman forms that we can imagine. Imagine an African leaving his country for the western world assuming he is going for greener pastures. After having acquired a decent education in Africa on government loans and grants, the African child still feels the government investment was done for the western world.

The key issue here is: there is a gap that needs to be closed in Africa. The opening is so big that it needs many forces to conquer it. Since dynamite comes in small packages I still believe a few inspired hands will make a difference. I hope and believe that since Africans in Diaspora have access to information they will also play a pivotal role in closing the information gap. The story line here is not to be fussy about ICTs, computers and all that follows it. The ICT initiatives have just come at the right time as Africa’s savior.

There is talk all over the NGO network in the western world about setting up ICT initiatives in Africa. African governments are also talking about the same phenomena, e-commerce, e-government, legislation, etc. Though I salute those who are making efforts to establish telecenters, cyber cafes, business centers, internet connections and other supporting services, I have a strong feeling that this will not be the overall solution to Africa’s problems.

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What is important here which we are keeping a blind eye on is the I in ICT and IT. The naming of this technology has been branded again and again but the one word that has remained is INFORMATION.

Now what is information and why should it matter at the moment, why all this hype about ICT projects? For the past few years I have seen more ICT centered business proposals than any other business ventures. Along the way I have also written my ICT business proposal that has worked fine. All the Internet cafes I have worked for were new hubs and still more and more are being opened.

From my introduction above you can see how information is a very important part of our sustenance. The reason why Africans are leaving their roots in droves is they have HEARD (they are well informed of course) of greener pastures. That same voice which delivered the greener pastures message should also have preached to Africans that these pastures are in our heads not anywhere outside that.

As Africans we seem to lack inspiration on what ever we do. That is why when a family member becomes rich we try to link his fortune to some long dead grandpa who was a landlord of some sort.

Take a look how information inspires people, oral tradition told along the Shona people about a spirit medium’s predictions inspired Zimbabweans to go to war against the Rhodesian regime.

Now because in the western world there is lots of information on inventors, innovators and explorers, people there have lots of information to inspire them. You would obviously venture into something because you have seen or heard it from somewhere else. So today our Africa needs to be inspired and motivated, the only way is to feed them with the befitting information.

For inspiration we also have our brothers and sisters who have made it here and some abroad, and such information should reach the minds of the African child now. If you want to see how information is a key factor look at how many countries survive without information ministries. Information is power and should be respected as such. A well-informed generation is the generation needed to usher Africa into this emerging knowledge economy.

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I believe with Internet access getting across the whole plains of Sub-Saharan Africa and the whole continent, this is the right time for African intellectuals to start building online content/information banks for Africa. The challenge is both to Africans in Diaspora (who by now know that we can not live without information) and those geniuses around to aggressively pioneer information dissemination over the Internet.

The more people are informed, the more they become confident on whatever they are doing. Being well informed breeds confidence and thereby knowledge, and obviously knowledge is power as we are all aware (the few informed know this). Those who have knowledge have power and that number is very small really.

African people let us be cultured, believe in ourselves and dominate the knowledge-driven economy. Our natural resources have not yet been exhausted by the multimedia and we need to showcase that to the world. We need to show the world that we can improve the world other than die trying to impress anyone. Its high time Africa we realize that we can no longer feed from the floor but we take our position on the table.

How are we going to control our destiny at world conferences when all we can do is go begging for the reduction of our debts and even crying for more help out there? Why can we not use the advantage of these ICT initiatives to develop our own products and stop fattening western pockets? One writer concluded that there were more Mercedes-Benz cars in Africa than in Germany itself. Imagine every minister in an African government is supposed to have the latest model of a Mercedes-Benz.

It seems Africa we are the market for the western world when in effect the same donor money we use on their goods is the same they give to us for poverty and HIV/AIDS driven initiatives. By the way have you ever tried to check on what cars our NGO brothers drive? They just plough back donor money to the western powers.

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In other words the most lucrative business to own and run in Africa today is an NGO. We have the scapegoat to use for that matter to drain money from western well wishers. Tell them about our politics, HIV/AIDS, poverty and obviously you will siphon a lot of money and resources that side.

Africa how long are we going to survive on other people’s pockets? How long are we going to be dumping grounds for used western clothes, dumping grounds for used cars? Information technology creates a way for us to develop and license our intellectual rights and Africa this is your chance.

Look at what all the well-cultured nations are doing. Maybe Africa it is because we have allowed ourselves to be a religious dumping ground? Malaysians believe in themselves and are so devoted to their religions and that has ushered them well into building a large knowledge-based economy base. The same applies also to India and other Asian states who are making it.

Be informed Africa, be informed sons and daughters of Africa. Arise and shine Africa for thy light is come, arise with one voice and tell the world that it is your turn now. Imagine how the western world prides itself in discovering the Victoria Falls when in essence there were already people in Africa knowing about it all along.

It is good that we are realizing we need information. So the ball is in our court whether to remain servants or to create hubs of information consumable online for our fellow Africans. I advise you that when you find time to chat away on a western chat room why can you not make that time conducive for indexing information on Africa over the internet.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”