Time to break Africa’s mental chains

Op4Samuel Koranteng-Pipim
AFRICA today finds itself in a very unenviable condition, despite its rich material resources and potential. Africa does not have a shortage of talent, too.Go to Texas in the USA, and you will see a large number of Nigerian doctors and engineers.

Visit Birmingham, England, and the other major cities of the UK, and you will find an impressive number of professionals from Zimbabwe.

Travel to South Africa and you will notice a lot of affluent black people driving Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs.  Call up any major university across the globe —Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Wellesley, and others — and you will find an impressive list of Ghanaian and other African students and professors in one field or another.

Take a casual look at the line of marathon runners and you will find the best to be Kenyans and Ethiopians.  The 2010 “Wealth Report” by The Africa Group (TAG), an Africa-focused consulting, research and advisory firm, for example has identified US$1.671 trillion of potential wealth and additional production potential in six key sectors (agriculture, water, fisheries, forestry, tourism and human capital).

This represents a combined market size today of US$909 billion and US$762,4 billion of additional potential production.  The report also estimates current proven stocks of extractable energy resources in Africa (oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium) to be worth between US$13 and 14,5 trillion.

It adds that there is nearly three times the average multiple growth potential in the agriculture sector, stemming from projects such as the US$780 million Zambezi Integrated Agricultural-Community Development Programme, forestry (to US$111 billion) and fisheries (to US$44 billion), and a doubling of the market for water to US$25 billion.

An additional US$217 billion may be spent on human capital inputs, in terms of wage return growth across the service, industrial and agricultural sectors.

On the other hand, an ongoing scramble for African resources is underway as the continent is regarded as the continent for the future.
Africa’s problem is not a lack of resources or ability: a reflection on the African condition reveals that, by and large, Africa’s minds are enslaved, and this mental slavery has created a twisted mindset among Africa’s people.

The African mindset is the result of mental chains that still bind the continent, despite Africa’s liberation from the metal chains of colonisation and slavery.

Scholars may legitimately talk about other chains that shackle Africans — chains of poverty, chains of neo-colonialism, chains of slavery, chains of racism, chains of exploitation, chains of dependence, chains of ignorance and superstition, and all kinds of other chains.

There is no doubt that these other specific chains of enslavement exist. However, it is instructive to get to the point where it is realised that these are only symptoms of a deeper problems; they are not the root cause.

Rather, it has to do with a serious shortage of people who have the will to use Africa’s human and capital resources to advance the good of Africa’s people.

The Bible describes it as Africa’s inherent bondage to selfishness. And, to use a word that is being expunged from Africa’s everyday vocabulary today, it is sin that lies at the root of Africa’s predicament.

The most malignant disease facing the continent of Africa is not HIV and Aids or malaria, but one called “the blindness of the heart”.
To put it differently, this simply means Africa’s minds are in chains. The Good Old Book describes this mental slavery as “futility of the mind”, “darkened understanding” and “ignorance” (Ephesians 4:17, 18).

If one interrogates why there is widespread corruption, why a lack of transparency and accountability in government, why senseless tribalism and wars, why mediocre leadership, why the whining and victim mentality, why we’ve developed a culture of begging for everything, etc., the answer simply is: “Africa’s minds are in chains.”

And Africa’s is not merely a need for more educated minds, but also for more transformed minds.  This transformation is a renewing of the mind, which renewal cannot be effected by a mere classroom education or a subscription to a religious creed.

One may think of Africans as elephants in the zoo.  The elephant may have the power to knock down a building and be free from its bondage but for a zoo elephant, it has been conditioned to believe it cannot break the chain or string, even if the chain or string exists only in its mind, it does not even try.

Such, too, is the condition of the African mind.  This kind of elephant-in-the-zoo thinking prevents Africa from achieving its full God-given potential and prevents us from seeing circumstances as opportunities and setbacks as stepping stones. It is these mental chains that need to be broken.
• Dr Samuel Koranteng-Pipim is a US-based Ghanaian author, inspirational speaker, leadership trainer, and an advocate for youth empowerment. www.samuelpipim.wordpress.com

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