We the people of Zimbabwe are responsible for the success or failure of the Zimbabwean economy. Whether the policy framework is ZIMASSET or JUICE does not really matter. I will focus on ZIMASSET in this posting because it is the current national framework.
In my view the battle for the resuscitation of our economy is dependent on a change of our mindsets. We declare things publicly but do the opposite in real life. Let me demonstrate what I mean.
There has been considerable debate of late in social media and the streets after the wedding of the President’s daughter. Here is the gist of it: We espouse indigenisation but we had white South Africans and some say Singaporeans being the main service providers. Are there no local caterers or wedding planners? Or are we saying that local planners are not good enough for a Presidential wedding? What happened to indigenisation? This is the gist of the debate in social media circles.
But wait a minute: it touches us in different ways. For example leading politicians in cabinet and the opposition would not consider being hospitalised in public or even local private hospitals. Anywhere else in the world it would be viewed as a sign of disloyalty and lack of patriotism if a senior public figure was not treated in the premier government hospital. Recently honourable members of parliament almost chewed the former Minister of Finance for suggesting that they buy locally assembled vehicles. They preferred second hand Jap cars to brand new Willowvale assembled vehicles. In Europe or the USA if the President and/or Prime Minister was to be driven in a vehicle that is not a locally assembled it would be a scandal that could result in his/her resignation. But not in Africa. We do not support local industries. We actually prefer foreign products to local ones. They view this as a vote of no confidence in local economy and local products. The question we ask is: are our leaders leading by example in consuming and preferring local product? As a people we generally prefer imported products to local products even if the local products in some cases are of better quality.
I could not understand the problem until I read Rev Andrew Wutawunashe’s book, Dear Africa. In it he argues that in Africa we have a problem of being Afrophobic. We hate and despise our Africanness. I would rather be served by a Caucasian person than by an African person. A simple example is that when driving one can easily pass many African (read black) people waiving down for lifts and one would easily pass them by. However if there is one Caucasian person on the road its easy to have sympathy and stop to pick him/her up.
Those of African descent who fly a lot will be aware of the challenges that accompany being African. At every immigration control point around the world one is treated with suspicion even if served by another African person. Worse after passing through what one could consider racially conditioned European immigration ports of entry, imagine the shock when one enters an African country and they are treated even worse by fellow Africans. That is the definition of Afrophobia according to Rev Wutawunashe. A Nigerian brother supports this thesis who wrote Capitalist Niger.
Until we are proud of ourselves and our potential contribution, Africa will remain backward. A non-African consultant would be preferred in Africa even when there are more eminently qualified Africans.
When I was in University in Europe almost every professor had authored a book on his subject with local relevance. The question is how many of our own Professors have authored any book in their subject area which is used in their faculty. We seem to prefer non-local textbooks for our Universities. Or is it that our academics are too lazy to publish?
This kind of thinking is also evident when one surveys the many opinion shapers on economic matters. No one asks whose interest is the commentator serving? For example in most cases when government consults on economic policies they consult captains of multinational companies who are obviously going to tow the line of their HQ? Who speaks for the interest of locals and is heard? Do we ever stop to ask about the vested interests of various commentators? Can we speak boldly in the interest of the local economy without being branded political in one way or another? Part of being Afrophobic means that even successful local entrepreneurs or companies begin to speak in the interests of non- locals. Who is raising concerns about foreign control of the economy whether the foreigners are from the West or East? If we are not careful we will end up being a colony again despite our loud protestations to the contrary.
Let us view with pride our own contribution and respect the contribution of locals. It appears to me that black Zimbabweans are making more meaningful contribution in other countries with minimal interest in their own country? I know an inventor who approached the Zimbabwe government with the concept of solar powered street robots to reduce the electricity consumption. He did two samples in Harare but when the government then wanted to roll this system out it gave the contract to a company based in India. Now they are unable to service the non-working robots as it would be expensive to bring the Indian company over. And yet the brother who sold the concept is revered in the world for this kind of technology. We do not respect our own. I am sure there are many similar stories.
Many other nationalities will proudly invest in their motherland irrespective of where they currently stay in the Diaspora. Of course this also depends on the support from their government. We seem to have a problem supporting our own sons and daughters in the Diaspora when they come to reinvest in the national economy. What incentives are we giving them for them to be proud to be associated with the rebuilding of the Nation.
I believe we need all hands on deck both those who stayed and those who left should be encouraged to invest in the redevelopment of the Nation. Its time that we all move away from Afrophobia and begin to develop the nation according to the ZIMASSET. Unless we engage our available skills we will not succeed. Just thinking aloud!