Traditional theories of development continue to come up short in Africa, and it's time to explore different models to achieve success.
Author Musaba D. Chailunga, a Zambian living in Canada, calls upon his expertise as a software developer to seek better solutions to Africa's problems. He says Africans must do the following:
Capitalize and/or formalize transactions to legally document existing infrastructure and normalize processes.
Encourage a free trade in which the emphasis is put on the quality of trade rather than the value, and profits are created out of mass exchange rather than exorbitant unit prices.
Recognize there are no random events.
Every player at every level in a given community has to recognize that actions matter, and everything is connected.
Object-Oriented Development in Africa leaves us no time to wish, little time to hope, and all the time to create and build. It is an unconventional model of development for rural communities, but the basis for it is not new, and for Africa it might just work.
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OBJECT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA
By Musaba D. Chailunga
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Musaba D. Chailunga
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAfrican Challenges and Opportunities at a Personal and National Level
Somewhat New Answers to Very Familiar Questions
In my quest to create a practical methodology—almost a do-it-yourself tool kit for African communities—I have looked mainly at two books whose authors offer interesting and fresh ideas on poverty elimination models. Like me the two authors come from developing countries, one from Peru the other from India. The two books are The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else by Hernando de Soto (2000) and The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits by C. K. Prahalad from India (2009). Hernando de Soto is the president of the Institute of Liberty and Democracy, headquartered in Lima, Peru. He does a lot of work around the world and has spent a lot of time in the United States of America. C. K. Prahalad was a professor of strategy at Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and was regarded as one of leading management strategist. Unfortunately he passed away in the fall of 2010 after a short illness and related complications. I will forever be indebted to both men for their contribution to knowledge in this field of poverty alleviation, using what many would consider unconventional means, and more important, for providing me with a better understanding of the practical application of some of these solutions.
It is understandable that both Peru and India are ahead of Zambia on the development scale, but nevertheless they are still developing countries. If you are from the developing world and have received a good education and have travelled around the world and you pay attention to things, even simple things, you get bothered by the seeming inequality that exists between the haves and have-nots. As this feeling grows, you develop an awareness that keeps bothering you to do something and find solutions to the nagging problems in a way that is different to a casual observer. I have met countless Africans who have been bothered by this, sometimes even more than I have, but we are all hopeless and helpless. We have no means to help because the only thing that we can use to help appears sinful, and we are scared to touch it—that thing is wealth. We can spend sleepless nights and write reports about how we can solve problems of poverty, but if we have no wealth, it will be a pipe dream. We therefore need to do everything within our moral beings to find ways of creating wealth for individuals and groups.
The majority of people in developing countries and especially Africans think capitalism is evil; they believe it corrupts and leads to the exploitation of man by man. There is, however, another group of people like de Soto and Prahalad who are from the developing countries and have come to the conclusion that wealth creation is the answer. As I speak to people about looking for solutions, I am finding there are Africans too with the same awareness. They are not many, but they are there.
This awareness has allowed de Soto, Prahalad, and even me to look at people and circumstances in developing countries much differently than most people from developed countries. I am not trying to compare myself to these gentlemen. I am not an expert in their fields, nor do my current accomplishments approach theirs, even though we all have wanted to achieve similar things.
I am not a rich person, but I think if we had social classes in Zambia, I would be in the upper class of people, those who meet and have had a chance to speak to decision makers. This includes not just heads of state and ministers, but also ambassadors and high commissioners and aid agency representatives from different countries. When I hear from these people and encounter what they say or write, I find that some are somewhat inaccurate, unaware of what the solution really is, or they are prone to attempts to be politically correct. Sometimes, even though they know what the problems are and what needs to be done, they seem not to really know how it needs to be fixed, or they deliberately dodge the real medicine. To make matters worse, some don't even know why the problem is there because they think they have it figured out. Others, to be honest, just don't want the problems to go away simply because of the multibillion-dollar aid industry, which gets propped up and distorted so that it continues to run and benefit only the few. Graham Hancock (2009), Bambisa Moyo (2010), and Paul Collier (2008) all touch this issue of "But what about my career?" a question that comes up if the problem is solved. There are many publications on this issue that show that aid as we know it is an industry and the elimination of poverty will send certain agencies into "bankruptcy" and put a few officers out of work.
To some people, African problems all come down to one thing: race! This sadly includes many Africans. They extend this to cover culture, corruption, and greed; and to explain the causes of those three, they point back to race and go through the cycle again. Therefore to many, being African has given us this culture of being greedy, which in turn breeds corruption, and that is part of the reason why billions are spent to try to fight corruption in Africa. I am not saying corruption is not a problem, just that it is only a symptom, one which would become less prevalent as soon as the actual disease is cured. Corruption is very personal, and each and every one of us is capable of finding ourselves on either end of the corruption stick. Some believe that if we can just identify the corrupt or put all corrupt people in prison, things will be reasonable. To that I say, "Good luck building those prisons!" You will have more of them than schools and hospitals. Meanwhile focusing on eliminating poverty and creating efficiencies in systems will itself eradicate at least 50 percent of some corruption. While the corrupt will still exist, corrupting and being corrupted should be made expensive. Better still, there should be no need for someone to want to corrupt anyone if they can get what they want fairly and on time.
Bear in mind that, like others, I am facing the obstacles not just of identifying what the real problems are but also of convincing my fellow Africans and others that the answers might lie in free markets and entrepreneurship. The discussions have not been easy because for every two people who might agree, more than ten disagree. It especially does not help that the current conversation comes on the heels of the attempts made to privatise public companies and the "bad" agreements our governments may have been entered into in the past. In most African countries, as the gap between rich and poor widens, it does not take much for any discussion that starts on this subject to end with a laundry list of who has stolen what and how much of it. People can see that some Africans now have some wealth and others have nothing. To them that is not fair. They would prefer a situation in which all Africans have nothing, as it has been for the last five hundred years when we did not hear of anyone complaining or a situation in which everyone had something but only in equal measure. But this is impossible; it cannot be done. Many fail to live with the fact that when some Africans actually get more than others, the entire African population has been lifted off the floor; it might not seem or appear that way, but on average we have all moved up.
The idea of using free markets to eliminate poverty is a very difficult case to make, and you can only be helped by actual results. But even then the debate will not end because the poor will always be here. While Africans want their countries to be like Canada, Norway, and the United States, citizens of those countries still see inequalities in their own populations and still claim that the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow. In spite of that, every African and every European and every North American agree that Africa is at the bottom, so to move up, I believe we have to do what they have done and put their "unique" characteristics into our systems. You might question yourself when the majority disagrees with this route, but seeing what is said by de Soto (2000) can provide some supporting data and in the process offer confidence and direction to anyone proposing this model.
This book is being written from the point of view of a designer and developer, and I hope that with this, a system will emerge by which lives in Africa can be changed. I am doing this to help achieve only one thing: economic growth that emerges from designing a system based on free markets measured by the quality of goods and not necessarily their quantities. In addition I am also hoping I will put enough background and motivational information into the book to encourage individuals and communities, especially those that have lost the most hope, to adopt this model. More important, people just have to look at things differently. I acknowledge that this is not for everyone.
Everything Has a Price but Doing Nothing Costs More
Object-oriented development with free markets can help us get there. It requires money and, more so, individual creativity and a commitment to personal goals. Even with some cost attached to it, however, I believe it is also the cheapest method ever conceived to alleviate poverty among the African poor or even beyond. This is not a donor project. It is an investment project where people can invest as little or as much as they can. Investments can be made directly or indirectly. As we go through the following pages we will find objects that we can invest in and that communities can use. In the end we should be able to see how pennies can do wonders and how committed entrepreneurs can look at brainstormed ideas, refine them, and make them their own. We should lobby governments at every level for good regulations, support for property rights, and respect for contracts.
I want Africans to go into partnerships with each other and with others from outside and create corporations. Nothing starts big, hence the importance of even our smallest sums of money. We want foreign investors to acknowledge the value of African land and its people and to do business with Africans as equal partners. I do not want Africans to look at themselves as poor souls. Regardless of what they have or do not, they need to know that French, English, and Portuguese are only languages, just like our own. Not being able to speak any of them is not a measure of one's intelligence or breadth or depth of knowledge. We should stand together in our quest even as we pursue our individual goals of self-interest. Our main objective is to contribute to the greater good. This will create the African Renaissance and can be the African Marshall Plan, a plan dedicated to African development and engineered from within.
It saddens me—and I am not alone here—that Africa continues to lag behind, despite having some of the most unused fertile land and some of the most talented people. It seems like along the way someone stopped telling the truth about what Africans are capable of. The last four hundred years were designed by those who saw fit to remove Africans from all development process and stop them from pursuing their own.
Due to slavery, colonialism, and other forms of discrimination based on race, a new culture was born among Africans, a culture in which many of us embarked on migrations to start afresh as we ran away from the slave traders and one in which millions of us lost our names and language. In short we lost who we were. Others would call this an excuse, but others have never lost four centuries of their past. History tells us of African kingdoms that had wealth and smelted metals and baked pottery. Today everyone asks, "What can Africans do anyway?"
Some of the earliest tools and written words and art, be they schematic or naturalistic, are found on the African continent. These date from thousands of years ago, but then it all stopped. The invention of tools stopped, the smelting of metals and polishing of Jewels all stopped in ways that seem unexplainable. What happened? Well, I am not going down that path because this is not the intention of this book. My intention here is to remind you that Africa is a cradle of civilisation, as others would put it; but no one can live on that declaration alone. We need to do something to reclaim our heritage, or else we will remain a footnote in histories to come. This is not to prove anything to anyone but to correct our own course. Therefore my goal is to remind people that anything can be created or made. We have the capacity to change thoughts and feelings and human behaviour. We can mould individuals, communities, and even countries to behave in certain ways. We should do something at whatever cost. As the cost of aid to Africa shows, we are reminded that most of the time doing nothing about a problem actually costs more.
With this in mind we can now jump-start the process that will help people to start believing in themselves again and have them building villages and cities and nations the way they need them to be. This time it is not about trying to blame who caused the stagnation in the first place. That debate is easy to start but difficult to end. The world is now different too. No one can claim a land the way they used to a hundred years ago. Everyone is everywhere. Africa is not just for Africans anymore, and Europe not just for Europeans; the same is true for the Americas and Asia.
We are now in what many have been calling a global village, with global markets and global consequences. The downgrading of the US credit rating from AAA to AA+ in the summer of 2011 sent ripple effects into world markets just as people and nations mobilised resources to stave off famine in Somalia. It does not matter how isolated the situation seems; effects are becoming global. It is costing everyone something to try to save sinking nations in economic matters, but such costs can be avoided. Africa, believed by many to be bottomless pit of foreign aid, needs to change direction by building its own markets with global partners.
A lot more things can be done in unity, with the hope of giving everyone a chance at a good life. This concept joins others, all working on similar projects. In fact, I am counting on applications and systems that have already been made in villages and global metropolises that have solved issues of hunger and poverty for the benefit of mankind—not just in Africa but everywhere. I am confident; I believe that with good support and encouragement this will succeed, and many of us, if we start today, will begin to see progress tomorrow.
There is a large African constituency that needs to be talked to about the need to create wealth in Africa by Africans. A considerable amount of production has to be in the hands of Africans or at least driven by Africans. If you look at most people who argue that poor people in Africa cannot do anything to uplift themselves, you will notice that their whole argument is based on the assumption that the poor have no means whatsoever to get themselves up and moving; however, the issue is really just the lack of correct information. The poor mainly lack the correct information, and the critics themselves lack knowledge and information of how wealth ought to be created and distributed. The notion that, as long as there is something, it has to be shared equally is just incorrect. Reward has to be based on the effort put into the work, and for the most part hard workers should be rewarded handsomely. This is not to say that everyone at the bottom of the wealth paradigm does not work hard, but the correlation exists to support the premise that working hard gives you results. It must be noted that effort and hard work have to be directed and focused on things that are going to give you maximum results. You have to apply efficiencies in the system to allow for profit. Contrary to socialist beliefs, profit is not always a consequence of exploitation. We need to relax and get to work; the more we do most of these things ourselves, the less exploitative they will seem. Africa needs its own genuine capitalists.
As an illustration, capitalism to a lot of people in developing countries and especially in Africa may as well be like a fruit-bearing tree at the centre of the Garden of Eden. Instructions have been given—this time not by a deity but by us—that we dare not eat the fruit. Even with this decree, there have been some people who have defied that diktat and have actually eaten from the tree and their lives have become better; everyone can see they have more food and property because they have eaten from the tree. As a result they have become the enemy, not because they are bad people, but because they appear to have more than the rest of the people in the garden. To make matters worse, there are gangs in the garden who now control access to the tree and only give out pieces of the fruit to a select few, making the perception about the tree even worse. There are also those who stop people from pursuing the fruit since they are in the business of "helping" poor garden people, and as more garden people get more independent through the fruit, then jobs and incomes will disappear from those who supposedly help them.
Some garden people have gained knowledge, power and wealth just by eating from the tree. Within the garden, there are groups that actually try to educate others about the benefits of the tree, but they are condemned by those who believe eating from the tree is sinful and leads to the exploitation of other garden people. There is also another group that has the right information about the tree and its fruits, but that group's status in the garden is directly linked to keeping the majority of Garden people in the dark. They haven't allowed the others to access the tree freely, as it is to their benefit to maintain the status quo. Other groups of people in the garden are just ignorant.
As Africans we are already in the garden, and we have access to the fruit. Africa is endowed with numerous minerals and gifted people with boundless potential to transform what we have. We just have to reach out for it. Some people in Africa are already doing what they need to do to make capitalism work for them while others have been kept in the dark. A few are already running free market enterprises in their own small way, only they do not know it and no one seems to acknowledge them. They have ended up doing most of their business underground. They work, build homes, farm, and drive people around in taxis and mini buses. Many do this for other people even when they can do it themselves. There is nothing wrong with doing things for others or getting employed, but our nations should start identifying and training individuals who are going to own businesses and employ people. This will lead to a natural distribution of wealth among nations and between people within nations.
Excerpted from OBJECT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA by Musaba D. Chailunga Copyright © 2012 by Musaba D. Chailunga. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Part I: African Challenges and Opportunities at a Personal and National Level....................1
Part II: Global Issues, Interdependence, and Its Effects and Advantages....................29
Part III: Creating Ideas and Approaching Dreams....................55
Part IV: Technically Speaking and Being Objective....................91
Part V: Working with Small Ideas and Realising Big Dreams....................133
Part VI: How to Be Practical and Facing Reality....................211