A fascinating article in the New York Times examines the Technology, Education, and Design Global 2007 conference that was recently held in Tanzania, in which attendees delved into the age-old argument of what Africa needs to succeed. As before, the argument basically came down to two perspective: one camp says that Africa’s success depends on “better” international aid, while the other group said Africa’s success lies in entrepreneurialism and technology. I tend to agree with the latter argument even though I strongly believe that good governance is the key to entrepreneurial success.
One attendee (Andrew Mwenda) interviewed nicely summed up Africa’s lack of success in one sentence: “What man has ever become rich by holding out a begging bowl?” (An Ugandan journalist and social worker) Indeed none!
An excerpt from the article:
“Mr. Mwenda argued that $500 billion in international aid over 50 years had achieved nothing in Africa and that the persistence of African poverty could be explained, in part, by aid. Charity, he said, had “distorted the incentive structure” and had persuaded the brightest Africans to work for corrupt governments. He called upon African entrepreneurs to build African businesses and the American investors in TED’s audience to finance them.
Echoing Mr. Mwenda, Russell Southwood, the publisher of Balancing Act, a newsletter about technology in Africa, implored African entrepreneurs and Western business leaders to “invest in shortages.” Africa, he said, could “leapfrog” the industrial technologies that Westerners use and build truly 21st-century technology systems and networks.“
Read the whole article at the Time’s website. I promise, it is worth your time.