Sunday, 25 September 2011

One Track Everything

The most common reason put forward for Africa's stagnation is its inability to diversify, in its teaching, in its economy and where it derives revenue from. Take Nigeria for example (who's football away shirt I'm currently wearing). Oil accounts for 70% of its exports and 90% of its revenue. That means that 30% of it's exports account for less that 10% of the nation's finances. If there was a EUREKA moment that managed to replace oil with something else much cheaper than oil and more readily available, Nigeria would be a nobody country. And forget those who claim that Nigeria being as big as it is, is essential to the continent... no one is indispensable.

This is the story for many countries in the continent and across many sectors.. what's got me talking about it today? Well, Ghana has a Rugby Association but it's not part of the IRB because it doesn't have the financial stability to warrant being part of the IRB. This has been the case for years, whilst the government has thrown cash at the Ghana Black Stars football team for missing penalties and failing to meet expectations. Our Black Stars players have held the country to ransom because they haven't received bonuses, when they haven't won anything to be bonused (i'm aware this is not a word) with. They've been promised and delivered to cars, cash, parties and honours galore that anyone would have thought football was all the British brought and all the natives knew.

Over the past few years I've had to read of our athletics team paying for their own entry into the All Africa Games and other international sporting competitions. They train at the expense of their own pocket - when they could so easily transfer to other countries - all because they are proud of their country. It is a damn shame that their country isn't as proud of them. Yes, football boosts tourism, in that it makes people aware that there is a country in West Africa where the people are happy and amicable and smile when they're losing. And yes, the more money we pump into football the more Essiens and Muntaris and Ayews we shall find and the more Kevin Prince Boatengs, and Emmanuel Frimpongs we will attract. And perhaps that will influence a flow of Africans (by birth and by heritage) to keep ties with their home country and help it develop (although this is clutching at straws); but what about the others.

When we are focused solely on oil, cocoa, gold or football, or even doctors and nursing, aren't we neglecting those who have no interest in those areas. We're letting the next Zuckerberg, Kobe Bryant, Shah Rukh Khan or even Lee Kuan Yew (minus the whole, staying for a long time) slip through the net. If we don't leave room for options because we don't finance those who want to change their 419 habits into becoming computer scientists, or designers, or rugby players, or teachers (who in my view are abused by the inadequate implementation of the single-spine salary system) then we are left with very few happy, rich and talented people and far too many poor, under-appreciated, depressed and under-skilled strugglers.

Sometimes there isn't a problem being a jack of all trades, as a country you may be a jack of all trades because good governance FAIR GOVERNANCE allows little Kwesi or little Abena to become the Master of One.

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