The question was “what the best way was to get Zimbabwe back on its feet” by one Arthur Mugumisi. Most of the points that arose however resonated with the typical African scenario. It is for that reason that any development focused mind will find this installation very useful. And access to information seemed to be on top of everyone’s list. It does go without mention that the advent of the internet has ushered a new era of easy access to information. However developing nations have been slow to join the band wagon. It is for this reason that the rift in between the developing and developed world has widened. Students across Africa have been engaging themselves in researches that are now obsolete because trends in development have not been actively followed - information on global trends and information on regional and local trends. Local solutions to current local problems – food, water, energy shortages, waste production, sustainability- all can be solved by the click (ok maybe a few more clicks!) of a button. The developing world has been rather slow on this front of making sure information is accessed by everyone, and on giving information its due diligence.
One Trevor reiterated and focused on the need to concertize the Africans and African academics. Developing skills (i.e. engineering skills) that focus on individuals from a very early age is very important if development is to ignite. China was used as an example and I am even reminded of one UK parliamentarian in one of the previous ICHEME’s podcasts, who was bemoaning, the rift from practical engineering skills development to a more theoretical classroom setting that the UK education was slowly undergoing. Such an approach is what the developed world needs, a shift from classroom based academia to skills development.
Collaboration and cooperation amongst development minded youths is another catalyst for the much needed change. This is one I especially feel strong about. It is no secret that economic and political settings in the undeveloped nations are especially uninviting for startups. However collaborations and cooperation amongst the youths would be a more than welcome development. A computer engineer joining hands with a fashion designer can come up with the most innovative design to a particular problem, a chemical engineer and an accountant can start small startups that are designed from the onset to fit global standards. Most of the products that Africa has she imports from beyond her borders, and exports her already dwindled financial resource along the way. African startups require a little bit of innovation and a little bit of capital – amounts that dedicated groups of young engineers, accountants, fashion designers, doctors etc. can come up with – even by saving from their little allowances - if they set their minds to it. The major issue is neither market nor capital – its discipline and thirst to drive and achieve.
One Anesu added a very interesting bit to this issue of collaborative start-up – a need for redefinition of priority and quality along the way, a major psychological overhaul in the way we conduct business - business in all its forms. A redefinition of Ubuntu, Hunhu, humanity. And a deliberately focused drive on quality. African governments are not poised to offer subsidies and incentives. Ingenuity is what will drive Africa’s startups and firms. Quality.Innovation. Creativity. Diversity. Africa’s startups need not centralize – both on old ideas and in the same geographical locales. Most of the problems are not in the city centers anyways! Innovation and creativity out of the major congested areas is what Africa needs. Chemical engineers that go to solve water shortages in Binga or the most remote place of Nigeria. This has the ripple effect of igniting economic activity in those areas, thereby bettering Africa’s chances of progressing.
It is expedient for Africa to make use of her intellectual property. Ideas, thesis that afford their owners distinctions but do not translate, are nothing more than piled papers in “self-esteemed” institutions. Practical solutions out of those papers assist people and better lives. Chemical engineers that design biogas plants should set up biogas plants that mitigate the environmental effects of landfill gas (and save municipalities a few costs at that) and provide a sustainable means of energy generation for the Tinashes and Jabulanis of the developing world.
All these initiatives should be implemented in the framework of sustainability. Environmental sustainability, for the futures of the young Lisa’s out there. The developing world has seen the disastrous consequences of reckless capitalistic tendencies. Environmental degradation is real. Sustainable ideology and development is exactly what Africa requires for her development. It just might be time for Africa to set the example.