Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Kufuor diagnoses Africa’s Entrepreneurial Challenges
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor has identified consequences of slavery, geography and colonialism; lack of self-confidence among African entrepreneurs and risk-averse managers as major factors militating against the development of entrepreneurs on the continent.
Kufuor, who on Monday delivered a Special Legatum Lecture on entrepreneurship, government and development in Africa at the MIT in Cambridge, MA, also threw a challenge at African businessmen and women to re-examine the African development agenda bearing in mind the relevance and potentials of private sector business contributions to social and economic development in the continent.“It is time for the many notable names in politics and governance, for the development of the nations and continent of Africa to be matched by equally impactful achievers in business on the continent of Africa,” he told his audience comprising students, officials of MIT, Cambridge and Harvard.
The former president noted that countries such as the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, India, Singapore, Brazil and South Korea could not be what they are today in terms of development if not for the initiatives of their individual businessmen and women.
Delving into the historical antecedents of Africa’s socio-economic stagnation, J.A. Kufuor attributed the view that Africa lags behind other continents in terms of socio-economic development to two additional causes.The first, he said, was that Africa remained outside the routes of “the ancient trading, cultural and imperial hegemonistic interactions that engendered and evolved the various Asian and European civilizations”.
The other, he said, was that the “forbidden Sahara Desert” effectively cut most of the continent off, till about the 10th century.Kufuor added that by the 14th century, the rest of the continent, Africa south of the Sahara, came under the “long onslaught of debilitating slave trade and later colonialism” lasting almost 600 years.
“The intercourse Africa, south of the Sahara, was forced into with the marauding Europeans, was more or less, a one-sided institutionalised gang rape and highly exploitative,” he said. “For almost 600 years,” Kufuor continued, “the African ego, the personality was assailed and trampled upon.”
He noted that most of the national boundaries in the continent were imposed by the European countries without due regard for the indigenous cultures, languages and tribes, hence the endless conflicts and drawbacks bedeviling the continent since independence such as mis-governance, corruption, social instability and underdevelopment.Also not sparing what he termed “highly educated African managers”, the former president said: “the numerous technocratic managers, many of whom carry MBA degrees from very reputable universities internationally, often behave like regular civil servants on security of tenure.
“They tended to show a lack of sense and spirit of economic rationality and risk taking for profit. Proverbially, these highly educated managers have often behaved like the cat that would want to eat fish without wetting the paw.”Despite the low sides, however, Kufuor said the good thing is that Africa of today is fast awakening and determined to put itself in the mainstream of globalization process, “through the advent of a new breed of leaders democratically elected over the past two decades. Their ingredients for success are also being identified and refined both at the individual national levels and also at the continental level”.From Mustapha Shehu in Cambridge, MA.
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