The time is now for Africans to realize that change is not going to come from the leaders waiting in line or those elected because they promise the most benefits. We have all been guilty of the waiting syndrome that indeed a miracle will eventually happen. That a leader will emerge with a ladder for people to climb from the deep roots of poverty onto the fruit filled branches of prosperity. This is the moment to wave the white flag of surrender and accept the predicament that great achievements and innovative ideas will likely come from ordinary Africans and not the government. We are better off forgetting our governments and taking full responsibility of our communities.
This is not an endorsement of autocratic regimes and life presidents but rather a reality that power change is often a process of shuffling one parasite for another. We should therefore spend our efforts on causes that will transform our communities and local economies to improve the quality of life of our people. We spend election cycles and resources losing sleep over corrupt leaders with a mentality of ‘it’s our turn to eat” once they assume power. One doesn’t have to look further than Egypt where the Tahrir square demonstrations captivated the whole world. Blood was shed and lives were lost but the Egyptians with all the good intentions and hope for light at the end of the tunnel are simply being slaughtered at a different butchery and rotting in a stagnant economy.
Some will point at the rare success stories around Africa as cause for optimism but it’s time to start baking loaves rather than settle for crumbs. Leaders have strategically sliced and diced our societies along tribal, religious and social class lines to consolidate power while milking national resources. Sudanese thought two separate flags and national anthems could help overcome the destructive nature of religious politics and before the dust settled they contracted the bug of tribal politics. Tribalism can be dangerous because of the natural tendency to side with collectivism without any rationalization for our actions. We stick to the group we share language, culture and traditions while building walls of mistrust for outsiders. This weakness is conveniently exploited by politicians to turn people against each other with dire consequences.
Calling for Africans to take charge of their communities is not a means to overlook the responsibilities of our governments. It is rather a wake-up call for people to feel empowered and shape the future of their nations. Africa cannot compete and prosper with a public sector as the primary engine for the economy. There is a need for individuals to aggressively engage in the private sector and take advantage of the abundant resources and human capital. The most critical challenge facing Africa today besides healthcare is economic stagnation particularly unemployment. The government alone cannot solve this problem and hence the need for innovative means to unlock these challenges through social entrepreneurship. Africa needs more social entrepreneurs to create meaningful social change. People have to believe that they can be vessels of change.
“The world has a vast, under-utilized asset that is not being leveraged to its best advantage: idealistic people who want to make the world a better place. For most of a century, idealistic people have been encouraged to use anger, protest, lobbying, and legal action in order to make the world a better place. While most certainly some of these behaviors and activities were necessary, we have reached the point at which the social benefit of such behaviors is decreasing. We have reached the point at which creation, rather than attack, ought to be the first obligation of reformers. The social entrepreneurship movement is the first tip of this iceberg. We want to create a world in which all idealists realize that the creation of new enterprises is the most powerful way to make positive change in the world. If all the energy that is currently invested in zero-sum political conflict was gradually transferred to the committed creation of sustainable enterprises, the cumulative impact on behalf of the good would be extraordinary.”– Michael Strong