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Foreign Public Private Partnerships Kill Local Initiatives

We always blame Tsunami, Europe, others but ourselves for our own false starts in economic initiative and conduct of democratic elections leading to chaos. If a contract is not involved in mega foreign purchase order of goods and services, only those feeding on crumbs from the masters’ table would go into it. While local contractors bribe their way or die waiting to collect money for their services, foreign contractors get paid promptly and fail us. The only game in town after 60s independence is still African partners using government resources, not individual money to establish Public Private Partnerships. Diversions of income to private pocket of state mega projects passed on to private cronies are easier to control by the same vultures. 

African countries need infusion of technical and foreign investment to compete and grow in the international market if they will only accept us into trading partners’ club as countries or regional partners. As attractive as this logic is, most school of thoughts will argue that as a continent or as individual countries, we have not moved appreciably ahead since our independence because we are still economically dependent. So far only individual Africans that are willing to serve as conduit or partners in luring out profit for foreign corporations while enriching themselves are encouraged.

Some of it has to do with the culture of individual liberty to pursue happiness. Even then excessive profit can turn into greed. Only about ten percent of the population in these countries we emulate holds more than fifty percent of the income and much worse in African countries. Most of the countries that are serious about development to generate economic activities will encourage foreign investment but not at the expense of meager foreign reserve based on dwindling natural resources. Be it diamond, oil or gold. Nobody pays you more than what they are getting from you, so Africa is always shortchanged.

One area that we can boast of progress, despite recent decay of our institution, is the number of educated Africans. No matter how we look at it, education is no more an exclusive pedigree of the children of colonial exposure, luck or the exceptional gifted. Poor children have penetrated the barrier of the educated class. While Ghana and Nigeria had made scholarships available to the children of freedom fighters in Southern Africa, the children of Western, Northern Nigeria or Ghana were also able to attend school compulsorily or by encouragement. Education is not enough, we need local markets.

Biafran technologies have gone to sleep after the war and acceptance of monthly allocation from Abuja. What we need in Africa to boost our infrastructure in engineering and technology is the introduction of barefoot technicians whose knowledge is specific to the needs of Africa’s stage of development. It is share hypocrisy to think that we can jump into the 21st century ahead of innovation in Europe and America when we do not have the basis to support large scale development that is not uniquely perfected for our environment. Instead of improving on local technologies we discard them. African Arts and Science of past centuries have been exploited by those that appreciate them more.

 Azikiwe, Nkrumah and Kenyatta encouraged black scholars from United States and Europe to come back home, enjoy independence and contribute to the development of Africa. It is true that most of those educated in those days were administrators, lawyers, doctors and nurses; a few of them were engineers, technologist and technicians. Comparatively, there were so many lawyers, doctors and nurses from Nigeria and Ghana that some of them were sent to South and East African countries after their independence. 

Yet we stifle African thinkers like philosophers, historians and social scientist that could have directed and encourage our scientists to our unique abilities for development.  If we had to do it all over again, it might have been wiser to produce more technologists or technicians than lawyers and doctors. The amount of money and time saved to train the professionals to international standard could have produced more engineers and technicians of health, legal aides, physician assistant or health officers but more important, greater numbers of technicians for nation builders of infrastructures.  Isaac Asimov wrote in fictions to encourage real American science.

There are no shortcuts to the training of teachers for our school and colleges and they had more respect in those days than they do now. Whatever it takes to train a teacher, we get it back in multiples of students. If our lawyers and doctors were trainers in rural clinics and colleges we would have got students back in multiples. In short, highly skilled students were trained as professionals to go into individual career instead of encouraging them as trainers of trainers for infrastructure and nation building. Infrastructure and rural development should have been our priority. Art and science working together, left brain helping right brain fought for independence for all. Without enemies to fight, individual pursuit of greed took over.

Eager to be proud Africans and second to none, we went for international standard. As a result brain drain becomes easier and our professionals have no depth of knowledge in local practice. Apart from Drs. Kuti and Lambo in Nigerian medicine, we have to credit our legal scholars because they came to grips with introduction of local cases instead of English cases.  We cannot say that much about their silly looking wigs. American lawyers and doctors did not fair well in those days as they were considered British inferior.

If we want health for all in Africa by certain time or year, the way to do it is not to wait until we produce enough doctors and nurses because we will never have enough of them, not even in the USA or Britain whose ratio to patients cannot be compared to ours. The way countries like Cuba, China and India got close to some reasonable ratio is with bare foot doctors. Many of us want the best in Africa but even then we refuse to patronize them. If we have the money we go outside for medical treatment.

Can anyone in China imagine a doctor that knows little about acupuncture? It is the best way to illustrate the point about African professionals. Our “experts” were way ahead of our development resulting in the production of theorists that could not get down and hit the floor running with local materials. In other words, we had many over educated professionals in highly respectable fields without enough midlevel technicians. Modern innovation does not mean civilized or better. The latest innovation is nuclear power but people are having second thought about nuclear power in view of Japan Tsunami.

This is why we have looters fooling us with Public Private Partnership only geared to foreign contracts in favor of their foreign accounts. As long as we lack technicians and hands-on engineer, we will continue to source them from outside. The only problem is that we will never have enough foreign exchange to buy them since they trade only in their local money, not ours. Their local money can be spent at home to generate business and jobs. Ours cannot be spent anywhere beyond our shores. 


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