C A N S C I E N C E S A V E A F R I C A ? Science: What Africa Needs. can SCIENCE SAVE AFR
an idea for the future...
Let’s be honest, the image many of us have of ‘Africa’ is not a very pleasant one. We don’t see a buzzing, capitalist city with people with briefcases strolling through the streets making their way to work. We don’t see a happy, healthy family with a picturesque home up on a hill, with the children playing fetch with the dog in the back garden. Instead we see a starving child with a common case of Kwashiorkor, or, we see the vastest, driest, and reddest of all deserts disappearing into the distance. Drought, famine, disease and civil war are typical scenes of Africa in the eyes of the Westerner. The truth is, these African clichés presented to us by the media, are real. And they do represent a troubling reality, one that shouldn’t be allowed to happen in these modern times - times where we as humans achieve so much.
Humans have sent space probes to distant planets, looked back to the start of the observable universe, and even created the first synthetic bacterial cell. These are tremendous achievements, and they clearly demonstrate human potential. But why then, is poverty still a major issue all over the world. We have the technology, we have the recourses, what may be lacking is a bit of motivation.
So what exactly does Africa need? A fat charity donation from the West? I don’t think so. Around 50 years ago, the world noticed the tremendous struggle against poverty in African countries, and so they started pumping money into the African governments to try and aid the situation. It has been estimated that around 500 billion US$ has been donated to Africa from 1960 to present. But is this a good thing? Statistics have shown that Africa was better off when no money was sent in the form of charitable donation. This money has been poorly managed, and is being shared amongst certain corrupt individuals within the countries governmental systems. Africa has been pushed in the ditch, and it’s time to dig them out. a
I have shied away from presenting medical science, sustainable farming technology, genetically modified food or bio-gas as an answer for Africa. Although I am certain all of these things help, and in some cases a tremendous deal, but I do feel there is a better, less expensive alternative. The answer? Knowledge. Providing knowledge to Africa through the technology that everybody else is already using. Africa is 30 years behind the rest of the world, and it’s been left in the dust by globalization. Africa doesn’t need aid, or charity to lift it out of the ground – it needs technology, more than any other country, Africa needs it’s very own technological revolution.
I remember as a child of about 10, moving over from our excruciatingly slow dial-up connection to our first very own ADSL modem. It may not have been the fastest in the area – it was actually very modest – but we had internet, and we had it at all hours of the day, every day. It was as if someone had lifted the constraints, and let us free. No longer did we wait a few minutes for a page on Google to appear, or wait all week until Sunday when data was cheap. Now, six years later, I can honestly say that access to the internet has benefited me a great deal. Having access to this extraordinary network of information has opened my mind up to knowledge I would never have otherwise acquired. Some look at the internet as something used to send email, or for playing online games, or for social networking. And these are hardly significant examples when you look at how versatile it actually is. I see the Internet as an enormous sea of knowledge, and I dip my head in it every day just to get a little taste.
I have been paying more attention to the things that I learn on a day to day basis, and I have come to the conclusion that I learn more things browsing the internet – be it reading articles, or watching videos – in just two hours than I do from a whole day of school. I’m not saying that school is not educating me, it is, but not in ways that self education is. And using the vast sea of information that is the internet, I am able to educate myself in ways that schools cannot – because I learn the things I want to learn, the things that make me motivated and inspired, the things that keep me hungry for more. Maybe we need to re-invent the education system, but that is a whole different essay in itself. My point is clear; the Internet is an extremely useful tool. But where is it found? Almost everywhere, but lacking enormously in Africa.
- I have found many statistics on IP addresses per person per country, and not surprisingly, Africa is not doing so well. From the source below, it is the continent with the most number of red areas (red: 1 IP per 1000 or more people). With South Africa (my country of living) being the only country in the whole of Africa marked in yellow (yellow: 1 IP per 10 people).
African poverty is very persistent, and this could be explained, in part, by aid. Charity has distorted the incentive structure and has turned the brightest of Africans to work for the corrupt governments. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, I say we encourage African entrepreneurs to start African businesses and be funded by Investors outside of Africa. "When has a person ever become rich by begging?", that is the kind of mentality I think should be discouraged. Africa will get nowhere until it starts to do things itself. Getting rid of corrupt government officials is where they may need to start.
J U S T A T H O U G H T
Let me stray a little from the main line to share an idea. It maybe a little ambitious, but here it is: We as humans need more energy, and clean, renewable energy is what the Earth needs. A renewable form of energy that we can count on to be around every day, without fault, is the sun. Yes the skies may be clouded up, but the sun is still there and we’re assuming it’ll be shining for a long time. So you need solar panels, and for that you’ll need a lot of large uninhabited land mass with year round sunlight. Care to join the dots? Instead of throwing money at Africa, let the people in Africa build and maintain these solar panel farms. Global investments in this project would hugely benefit Africa’s economy, thus, ultimately increasing their quality of life.It’s a bold idea, but maybe one day we’ll all look back at Mother Africa, and thank her for saving the planet.
I think Africa needs to look at successful corporations as role models. They know how to become sustainable. And Africa as a whole needs to achieve sustainability – and they can do it, because they have the resources, they just need the knowledge. Knowledge is power, and knowledge can be accessed from anywhere in the world – so long as you have a PC and internet connection. But of course there is not one solution, as there is not one problem.
Currently, the western world is like the Babbler bird species; it sits on top of a pedestal and expresses it's dominance by feeding the subordinate countries. It is time for a new generation of leaders to arise in Africa. Leaders who are enthusiastic, who can be trusted, and who are able to think analytically - and ultimately drive forward the main goal of the country.
Using Africa’s natural resources, using human capital, and using effective infrastructure and building new infrastructure, Africa can alleviate poverty.. all by themselves.
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