“You my friend and all your kind are lazy,” he said. “When you rest your head on the pillow you don’t dream big. You and other so-called African intellectuals are damn lazy, each one of you. It is you, and not those poor starving people, who is the reason Africa is in such a deplorable state.”

“That’s not a nice thing to say,” I protested.

He was implacable. “Oh yes it is and I will say it again, you are lazy. Poor and uneducated Africans are the most hardworking people on earth. I saw them in the Lusaka markets and on the street selling merchandise. I saw them in villages toiling away. I saw women crushing stones for sell and I wept. I said to myself where are the African intellectuals? Are the African engineers so imperceptive they cannot invent a simple stone crusher, or a simple water filter to purify well water for those poor villagers? Are you telling me that after thirty-seven years of independence your university school of engineering has not produced a scientist or an engineer who can make simple small machines for mass use? What is the school there for?”

I held my breath..

This is quoted from an article by Field Ruwe, a US-based Zambian author narrating  a conversation he had with a white American on a flight to Boston. The article is titled

You Lazy (Intellectual) African Scum! If you consider yourself smart, please read this

Thought provoking yes, but unfair for various reasons.

If you live in Africa you might agree to a certain extent. Potholed streets, power cuts, corruption, no health care and too many newborns dying is still the daily grind in most countries. So is the author right, has the African intelligentsia failed to innovate and come up with some sustainable solutions for their dilemmas. But can we blame the young and educated Afropolitans for Africa’s misery?

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“You have to be really well tempered to put up with the things that happen here. It’s not good men but supermen that are needed.”

“In reality, the thought of remaining in the Congo continued to haunt me long into the night, and perhaps I did not so much take the decision as become one fugitive more.”

Che Guevarra to Fidel Castro in 1965.

Streets of Kinshasa
Streets of Kinshasa

 2013 did not end well for Congo Kinshasa. A group of armed youth attacked the airport. They were quickly overpowered by the Congolese army, but the incident left a bitter taste in the country that otherwise had a relatively good year.

On November 5th Congo defeated the M23 rebel group, one of the main rebel groups in the East that murdered its way across the Kivus, drove 800,000 people from their homes and continued to destabilize the region. During my last visit in Congo the mood was upbeat.  

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After years of delays, Guinea’s first legislative elections since the 2008 coup have gone relatively smoothly. But the hardest task is yet to come. This Saturday, an estimated five million Guineans cast their ballots to choose a new parliament in the nation’s first legislative elections since a 2008 coup. There were reports of missing voting cards, shortages of indelible ink, and polling stations opening late. Many waited for hours to vote, but amidst high security, proceedings remained calm. The independent national electoral commission (CENI by its French acronym) congratulated Guineans for the peaceful conduct of the process, while the Economic Community of West African States observer mission said they believed the elections “were held in acceptable conditions of freedom and transparency”. Read More

The difficulties for SMEs in Africa and the rest of the world in accessing finance have been well documented. The causes are equally well known: First, traditional bank financing (secured or cash-flow based) is often not available due to the lack of adequate collateral or the opaque modus operandi of many SMEs as well as access barriers due to the often rural base of SMEs. Furthermore, African financial markets are not sufficiently well developed to facilitate traditional private equity (PE) financing of SMEs. If those constraints can be overcome, Private Equity can offer a much needed stimulus to SME finance. Private Equity targets established high-end small to medium sized companies and are believed to offer trickle down effects to a much larger sector of the economy and create employment.

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A long commute to work and a surgery that temporarily bound me to the couch have had the positive effect that I read several eye and mind-opening books in the past weeks. Three lessons stood out:

  • We live in the most peaceful of times
  • All is not lost in international peacebuilding and
  • Trust your guts when making a decision.

1. We live in the most peaceful times ever

Steven Pinker: The better angels of our nature. A history of violence and humanity.

Pinker - Better Angels of our Nature Image: www.BookDepository.co.uk

Pinker – Better Angels of our Nature Image: http://www.BookDepository.co.uk

In 1000 odd pages Steven Pinker has managed to answer every single question I ever had about violence and war. Would the world be more peaceful if it is ruled by women? Is the War on Terror justified? Were the dark ages really that dark?

First, Pinker  sets out to convince the reader of his main point: Violence is and has been in steady decline. The rest of the book is dedicated to identify, proof and refute several explanations for why that is. Homo universalis Pinker delves deep into history, politics, sociology, psychology and biology to seek explanations. We learn that through the Flynn-effect humankind becomes gradually more intelligent. The literary revolution and globalisation has brought us closer together and made us more empathetic and thus less inclined to hurt each other.

And more Americans condone violence to reach political goals than Pakistanis. His source base is a joy for every researcher: surveys, quantitative data sets, literature from Kant to Nabokov, secondary studies, archival documents and art.

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