LIVE WITHOUT FOREIGN EXCHANGE OR DIE CRAVING
It is generally agreed that the wealthiest continent in the world is Africa but the same continent harbors the poorest people that have to beg for sustenance with their children on television. The irony lays with the wealth Africa gives away in exchange for finished products and services coming from outside. That is, trading gold for mirrors.
So 6% of Nigerians own 94% of banks deposits - Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation. It shows you who and who can afford foreign currencies. As long as our politicians enjoy unlimited access to foreign exchange, corruption will never stop in Nigeria. There is nothing else the filthy rich Nigerians do with their loot than purchase foreign currencies. Unfortunately, if foreign currencies are banned, you will be surprised at the amount of poor people coming out against it, even when it has no direct effect on them. Poor people cannot afford Nigerian goods not to mention foreign goods.
We need to compare what progress we made when we had foreign exchange control and what rotten goods we buy since it was lifted. It cannot all be the fault of our leaders alone since they are a manifestation of the greed and corruption in our communities. But all we do is passing blame to leaders as if they are not pandering to our praises, accommodations and indulgence. No matter what we say at beer parlors, they have not change. It is what we practice and hold them up to. We all look up to foreign currencies, but only a few can afford them.
There are people that will tell you the poor will suffer at the market place because most of our food is imported. Why? When you can grow food anywhere in Africa with the best weather throughout the year other continents do not enjoy. Others will tell us that transportation will come to a standstill. Why? When Nigeria produces oil but we have to sabotage refineries so that they can import fuel. They will tell us that machineries and spare parts shortage will drive factories out of business. Why? Provision of energy and power are the most important factors for invention and development, Africa depends on outside source for its provision like everything else. We pay more than we earn.
It was Mwalimu Nyerere that asked how harder Africans can work if we export one ton of cocoa to buy one tractor five years ago, two tons of cocoa to buy one tractor two years ago and three tons of cocoa to buy the same tractor this year. You get the point? So if similar home grown technology is generated in Nigeria or Ghana, would the rest of Africa even patronized us or appreciate our discovery? Many of our best students never made it up to university level and some even dropped out before the end of high school but their god-given talents remained with them and most of the time wasted.
What foreign gadgets are we willing to give up, to conserve and encourage inter Africa trade? Instead of blaming everything on our leaders, some have to be blamed on our taste buds. If we can only create an avenue by which these talents can be channeled and realized after being polished and refined. But we have to define what is meant by home grown technology. Home grown technology for the purpose of this article is any way of doing our everyday task better.
Africa will never get what it deserves, it can only get what it negotiates. The amount of talents and wealth we have in a continent or a country is not what makes us rich, it is what is exchanged for that wealth and talents. There are people that would blame the imbalance of poverty compared to our wealth on the intelligence or meager talents of Africans thereby absolving themselves of the poor exchange rate we get compared to what is paid back. As long as the buyer dictates how much he pays for Africa goods and services, and also dictates the selling price of its goods, the imbalance will never close.
There are those that say, since you cannot afford a computer, you must be an illiterate. Unfortunately, it goes beyond that. There is modern infrastructure like transportation, road, energy, and many others that if made with home substitutes, native intelligence or inventions will be derided as substandard. It is fine though if we go to the Scandinavian countries or Canada to buy second hand cars, buses and trains. As long as it is not made in Africa, we may be satisfied. Little Cuba was forced to develop home ingenuity to keep antic transportations running while its educational standard is one of the best sending professionals to African and other continents.
There is nothing more irritating to Africans than being told by anyone how to live within their means. Even Diaspora Africans cannot afford the standard of living in many African cities. To illustrate this point simply, in an internet argument by African qualified graduates that cannot imagine other graduates without the “basic” knowledge of how to operate an iPod. So there are home graduates that have the same mentality as some Diaspora African graduates. Since one called the other an illiterate, a neutral graduate asked if Steve Job or Bill Gate were university graduates.
Diaspora Africans live with basic luxury abroad and can only relocate if they have the means to provide most of those luxuries at home. In many cases, they have to provide their own water, electricity and reliable transportation. Once Africans at home develop insatiable crave for modern technologies not made in Africa that makes life easier, they want it whether they have the money or not. And when they do not have it, they steal it to live up to others. A few of us even live better in Africa than we did abroad.
What are in names without action as if we do not have enough technology departments in the ministry, university and private companies? Well, if the blind men cannot agree on which part of the elephant they held on to, we certainly need some coordination and skillful management. We spend a great deal of our income and resources importing technologies without adaptation to our need. There are so many Okrika, Ijebu and Kano made products in Nigeria that only needs polishing and refinement from our school of technologies to justify their allocations.
So my proposal would be home grown technology unit in every department to be coordinated at a chosen existing university. The input would come from anyone that thinks he has a discovery on how we could, for example, fly a plane without petrol or dwindling energy. If we had improved on those rudimentary technologies then, we would be smiling now. We cannot wait, we want the latest technologies at any cost that we know cannot be paid for indefinitely. No matter how much American or British currency Central Bank of Nigeria makes available, sooner or later it will dry up without oil.