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Opinion | Jun 11, 2016

Fixing Africa’s Laziness Problem

Fixing Africa’s Laziness Problem

Until we come clean about our true selves, our anticipated change will prove nothing but a mirage. Like a failing child, we may content ourselves with lame excuses of not having good teachers or teachers who never turn up in class, amidst a host of other convoluted and contrived explanations forgetting that such a reserved perimeter is the coveted habitual dwelling of non-achievers and ne'er-do-wells.

Our previous article posed the question: Are Africans Lazy? As with most such questions, ours elicited varying responses offering grist to the mill and essential pabulum for a healthy debate.

This article adopts a firm and strong stance that a significant number of people on the continent are perhaps lazy; and by making such a bold assertion, ours is not just to point fingers, but to proceed to suggest practical solutions to shake the domineering laxity that hangs over the continent.

Indeed, there is a time to bask in the glow of continental pride, and there is equally a time to come face to face with our nauseous problem and begin to fix the withering issues that hold us back. We may continue to join a certain disconcerting procession in chanting and exulting the emperor’s shiny new clothes when in actual fact we are only deceiving ourselves. Let’s confront the unbearable truth: the emperor is naked; and we are not impressed by his dangling bits!

If there is anything that should point out our rather indolent proclivities and legendary faineance, it is that when other continents are galloping in terms of advancement and development, we are still struggling to feed ourselves, and basic things like uninterrupted electricity supply etc. remain a luxury in many parts of the continent.

The pressing and daunting issues that we face on this continent must call our minds back to something at the heart of our problem. Rightly, this article, with sagacious intent, sidesteps what has and continues to be a staple of our problems: leadership.

Talk about any problem on the continent, and the first thing that comes up is that our leaders are not so good. In fact, it is not an erroneous statement, but how long are we going to keep talking about our leadership (or governments) as being the all-encompassing reason for our current failing state?

As writers, we sometimes make the mistake of placing one bad label on Africa or painting the whole continent with one brush as though Africa were a country. Now, while this kind of veritable synecdoche has some truth in it, it may not always befit the situation of the whole continent. However, considering the greater problems which the continent faces, even in those supposed parts where we may point to as being success stories, their underbellies reveal the same canker that is visible in great swathes of the continent. Thus, the intractable issue forces itself back up and demands to be given attention and consideration.

Without focusing overly on the issue of leadership and how our leaders have failed us, the lens zooms in on the typical African and his way of life. Like the earlier analogy, even in a class with bad teachers or teachers who fail to turn up, there are studious students who find a way to excel in their studies. They do it by rejecting the view that a rather errant and arrant impostor of a tutor should decide their precious fate. And this happens to be a big factor missing in many lives dwelling on the continent.

Fear of Success
Underneath the garbled hoard of excuses is the uncovered truth of the typical African’s fear of success. Perhaps, this is a contentious statement at first sight, and one that some would be in haste to discard or to pooh-pooh before even considering its merit. A relevant statement that could lead the thought process is this: Do we really value, honour and reward success?

On the day that success is restored to its rightful place and position and celebrated for what it is, that is the day that many who have increasingly held onto their quilts with clenched fists as they turn like the hinge of a door on their mats will fling aside their languid temperament and begin to aspire to barrier-breaking greatness.

This fear of success has never been fully discerned, and likewise never fully dealt with to ensure that more people become inspired to work harder. Even among close friends, this fear of success which stilts and stifles people, leads them to act in a counterproductive manner. Increasingly people who are truly successful, who would be more open to share their success to inspire others, are nevertheless driven back into their shells and never step forward to attempt greater heights. Over time, these people rest on their laurels and begin to slide backwards.

Another observed manifestation is that people believe that when they are hard working and achieve much, they would become the target of envy and attack. Yes, there are people in Africa who will never work to be rich as it will make them rather feel endangered. In such a draining culture, how many will be prepared to push themselves to rise to the beckoning uncrowded summit?

The Extended Family System
True to form, human nature corrupts what should be brilliant systems. Out there in the West, there are people who have become lazier and are unwilling to give their best because work does not pay. In fact, for some, there is no point in returning to work (because of benefits), and increasingly their leaders are furiously probing their brains to find ways and means to solve this recurrent issue.

Right on our shores, a big factor that has and continues to make more Africans lazy is the extended family system. How sad. Believe it or not, for a significant number, this is what lies at the root of their laziness. It is the case of the many learning to rely on the few. And if they are in a family with someone overseas, the motivation to do very little cannot be greater.

As a truth, some will continue to live off the generosity of the few, almost as a lifestyle, and as long as they can receive handouts and pittance will never fling aside their garbs of otiosity. It is not hard to surmise that this issue on a wider scale is still at the heart of why a continent blessed with valuable resources still cannot stop its unquenchable desire for aid. When will we be weaned off our aid? If a vast number of our people are not as lazy as we are, then we should be able to feed ourselves and help feed others in not-so-rich natural resource continents. Here again, our contrived excuses are many. But when will the light dawn that our numerous excuses will not ferry us to our stately and sterling dreams?

The General Conditioning
Like begets like!
A visit to Europe and an observation of some Africans reveals that it’s our conditioning right here on the continent that has made us who we are. After all, there are some who today rightly labelled as lazy, but then tomorrow, they find themselves overseas, and all of a sudden they are different people. A welter of factors account for such marked transformation, and for some it is a mixture of being unable to receive state handouts and the desire to survive which leaves them with little choice but to get off their backs and commit themselves to serious work. Moreover, in some of these countries, hard work pays, and it’s rightly rewarded which emboldens their resolve to work harder.

Talking about this conditioning, it may merit a brief mention of what for some must be the source and cause of all our issues. Indeed, their main morsel of factors being the leadership on the continent must equally receive a mention. In that regard, African governments must create the environment conducive for a reconditioning of the general temper of her citizens.

The ideas above are true and coupled with the previous article’s view that we exhibit the signs of laziness i.e. giving excuses and loving sleep, we may now proceed to consider how we may fix the laziness that may be witnessed on the continent.

Reward Genuine Success
Africans must change their views about success. Right here, the instantaneous finger pointing has to stop. The notion that when a person is successful it means they must have cut corners must stop; and this calls for us to alter our thinking!

People who achieve success should not be brought low and humiliated; instead they should be feted and celebrated. A shift in how success is treated and handled is a major and practical step that we can take which will begin to influence the youth in particular and teach them the value and reward of hard work. After all, if most of the people who enjoy wealth are corrupt politicians, drug dealers, and internet fraudsters; how many more young people will value work?

Overhaul Educational Systems
Sometimes it is hard to admit that this may be a failed generation. If such a premise holds, then we may have to concentrate more on the youth to shape a better future for the continent.

We must re-evaluate how and what we are teaching and training students on the continent. Our goal should be to produce students with the best possible start who can step up and fully fulfil their potentials.

We must teach the youth in particular to believe in themselves. Yes, they must not bask or dwell in vacuous pride about being Africans but rather as people endowed by the Creator with innate gifts and relevant talents waiting to be tapped for the benefit of Africa and the world at large. Indeed, they must know that their true value and potential may provide a better avenue for them to become the outliers rather than being part of the prevailing statistic.

In the changing face of globalisation and advancement, our students need to learn that being idle is largely a choice. To bestead a rational cause of action, our curricula must include the vital element of entrepreneurship that should equip our students to think outside the box and find opportunity where they would have seen and complained about problems. With such motivation and drive to be change agents and solution finders, being jobless and waiting for some corrupt governments to think and create unavailable jobs for them will not arise, and thus the case of unemployment and idleness will be significantly reduced.

A Call to Autarky
It is a known truth that Africa has vast arable land begging to be put to good use. In fact, closely examined, the vital factors needed for autarky (economic independence or self-sufficiency) are present. Africa has a growing population, and with a determination to acquire and maximise the needed technology, her insatiable thirst for imported goods will be slaked. Accordingly, a consistent quest for autarky should result in a certain awakening where people who have given up hope and fallen into a general state of gloom about the continent’s problems and are just happy to do nothing and idle about will see and grasp the grand opportunity that will be presented as we gallantly march along that enchanted and enlightened track.

As a suggestion, if in our quest to feed ourselves, the incentive to go into farming, for example, suddenly becomes a desirable path for young people to pursue and forego fleeing our shores as they offer themselves to the malignant and unforgiving mercies of the scorching desert or the unstable temper of the raging seas; if instead, much incentive is provided for them to pursue agriculture as a viable and respectable means of survival, then by this singular act, we will not only feed ourselves and be self-sufficient, but a major problem of youth employment and idleness (together with its attendant challenges) will be greatly reduced and addressed.

The economic interplays and how they will help in fixing Africa’s laziness problem cannot be fully exhausted in this piece. However, what cannot go without mention is that although all the variables are not favourable to us, we cannot equally set up shop and continue blaming the indices.

If there are malevolent factors and adversarial forces that don’t augur well for us and will prove our undoing—as even this call for autarky will be undermined by contrary and partisan interests—that in itself should not discourage us.

As a continent, we must, if we are serious about fixing our laziness and idleness problem, do and put in place measures that will enable and engender economic growth, breathtaking development and boundless prosperity. Among others, policies pursued must make it conducive for businesses to flourish and create more rewarding employment. Power or electricity supply must be made available and at a cheap cost for industries to operate for increased industrialisation. Moreover, high taxes which make it difficult for businesses to expand and to employ more people must be identified and adjusted.

Having revolved in our minds the penetrating question of whether Africans are lazy, and consequently flung the charge, we are nevertheless convinced that the right step of admitting the African laziness problem should broach the subject and begin a vital and engaging discourse on tackling this menace head on.

Following this honest admission to its logical conclusion, and aided by clear heads and cogent reasoning, we should be further actuated to seek practicable and workable solutions including the few that have been highlighted above. If we resolve to do so, then from the dreary and dingy dungeon of false pride and empty contentment, we will step onto the lightened path that will lead to a significant change in the affairs of the continent. For, on the day that we fully expunge the binding label of being a lazy continent, we will surely be on track to believe more, do more, and ultimately achieve much more than we thought was humanly possible.

Angelina K. Morrison & Charles Anyomi
For correspondence, please write to [email protected]

Angelina K. Morrison
Angelina K. Morrison, © 2016

This author has authored 39 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: AngelinaKMorrison

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