By TIM AKANO*
We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us — Joseph Campbell
When the English scholar and prolific author, Thomas Fuller (1608–1661) argued that “the darkest hour is just before dawn”, he probably had other continents and races in mind, not Africa or Africans. In Africa, the dawn is never coming. For a period of 500 years down the line, the dawn is not dawning but has remained immobile, despite prolonged “dark hours”.
Putting Africa’s 500-year history holistically and contextually, one conclusion can be that Africa belongs to a parallel universe. Or it could be that the terrible experiences Africa considers as darkest hours in its mutable past, that is, the kidnapping of over 35 million ablest Africans by the Arabs and Western slave masters, the rapacious looting of its resources by the colonialists etc. are just a tip of the iceberg in comparison with the bumpy road that lies ahead of Africa. Or Africans do not feel perturbed by those humiliating experiences due to religious sentiments. After all, some Africans consider Arab slave masters as “our brothers and benefactors”, while some believe the colonialists brought civilisation.
Since nothing has shocked Africans yet into a holy rage about its sorry state, it is either (1) Africans are different; (2) Africans have been shocked far beyond the level of un-shockability or (3) Africa’s darkest hour has not yet come. It is a matter of picking your choice.
Let us go through the pages of history briefly in order to test the veracity of Fuller’s thesis. The Japanese darkest hour was when their two beautiful cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were reduced to rubble in 1945. The 4,000-year-old Japanese civilisation was shaken to its foundation with the possibility of total annihilation resulting from nuclear radiation. But with holy anger, Japanese rebuilt Japan and almost caught up with America in the 1980s, if not for the few missteps by its leaders leading to a “lost decade”. The Holocaust, also referred to as “The Final Solution”, was the darkest period in the Jewish recent history when the Nazis and their accomplices murdered six million Jews, reducing the population of European Jews from 9.5 million in 1939 on the eve of the Second World War to 3.8 million in 1945.
The Jews have since built the world’s strongest air force, cyber security technologies and MOSSAD, in addition to having the most innovative economy in the Middle East. Similarly, events of 1937 to 1945 woke up China from a marathon slumber lasting over a thousand years when the tiny Japan conquered and appropriated a part of China land, despite the fact that China is 25 per cent bigger than Japan. Both the Jews and Chinese were sprung into action and vowed “Never Again”. Germany also rose from the ashes of the Second World War to build the strongest economy in Europe after Hitler’s costly misadventure. A major dark hour in the American history was during the Great Depression lasting from 1929 to 1939 when the living became envious of the dead. Americans, like the Phoenix, rose from the ashes of the Great Depression to build the world’s sole superpower that won and brought the Second World War to a close.
South Korea’s darkest hour was during the Korean War (1950–1953) when thousands of South Koreans were hungry, malnourished, homeless and hopeless. But South Koreans witnessed a new dawn when it leveraged technology to build a global top 10 economy. After the messy divorce from Malaysia, Singapore too faced its darkest hour riddled with lack of food, shelter, land, infrastructure etc. and had to contend with a vicious enemy, Malaysia, next door. President Lee Kuan Yew converted their frustrations to production. Singapore emerged one of the world’s richest countries with a per capita income of $64, 000 in 2021 as against $472 in 1962.
Similarly, Europe’s 100-year war galvanised the transition of medieval Europe to a modern Europe after the December 1259 Treaty of Paris that brought an end to the war. The 100-year war (1337–1453) led to the rise of Greater Europe leveraging novel technologies that created boundless opportunities to meet its future imperial aspirations. Europe transited from the Darwinism state of “survival of the fittest” to “arrival of the fittest” on the world stage.
While Europe’s, America’s and Asia’s “darkest hours” begot new dawns, Africa remains enmeshed in unbreakable back-to-back darkness, despite several bitter and humiliating experiences. Is there a programme or script written sometime, somewhere by competing races frustrating the dawning? Secondly, what will stimulate Africans into action? Thirdly and most importantly, what is the “Holy Grail”, that is, the number-one building block for Africa’s modernisation? Is it leadership, political power, economic emancipation, democracy, black bomb or technological breakthrough?
The other four building blocks of transformation, that is, leadership, political power, democracy and economic breakthrough, though necessary, can only endure when planted and nurtured on a foundation of superior technology.
Leadership: As regards leadership, a school of thought says leadership is not just everything but the ONLY THING. It stresses that the problem of Africa is squarely and purely leadership. The school believes once Africa fixes the leadership lacuna, a new dawn will follow. If it is so, why are South Africa and Ghana still searching for the dawn after having been governed by three of Africa’s greatest leaders Mandela, Nkrumah and Rawlings? Africa has had other great leaders such as Patrice Lumumba of DRC, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, John Magufuli of Tanzania, Anwar Sadat of Egypt and now Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
Besides the fact that none of them was able to galvanise one Africa rebirth, the candles they lit up in their respective countries did not last the night. Why was it impossible for President Donald Trump to corrupt or truncate the American political superstructure, whereas presidents Jacob Zuma, Paul Biya and Muhammadu Buhari, among other African leaders, exploit their citizens with impunity? Africa’s ailments require more than the emergence of great leaders. Paul Kagame of Rwanda is a good leader (not a great leader) because he understands better how the world works. He is taking Rwanda on a technology excursion and, if Rwanda maintains the current tempo, it is destined to be at technology’s cutting edge within ten years. In addition, the technologically-empowered Rwandan youths are better equipped than their counterparts across Africa to enthrone and perpetuate good leadership devoid of violence.
Political power: When Dr Kwame Nkrumah said in the 1960s to Ghana and Africa “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all else shall be added unto you’’, “political kingdom” then signified a united Africa and “all else” was peace, prosperity and prestige. Sixty years later, Africa is still awaiting Nkrumah’s “kingdom” not to talk of “all else”! India was colonised by the British for almost 100 years. Japan colonised Taiwan for 50 years and South Korea for 35 years. Singapore was also once a British colony. With a combined population of about 80 million for South Korea (51 million), Taiwan (23 million) and Singapore (5.8 million people), the combined GDP of the three tiny countries is about $2.8 trillion.
Meanwhile, the GDP of the entire Africa having 1.3 billion people stood at $2.6 trillion in 2020 as compared to India’s $3 trillion. This means the three tiny technologically-driven countries which make up just 6 per cent of Africa’s population are economically stronger than the 54 African countries combined. Samsung, just one tech company, alone contributes up to 15 per cent of South Korea’s GDP. More striking is the fact that Israel, which is just about 0.6 per cent of Africa’s population, is far more powerful militarily than Africa, courtesy of its superior technology. Some African intellectuals have argued that Africa needs a nuclear parity, that is, a black bomb, to achieve total freedom!
Economic emancipation: Another school of thought argues strongly in favour of economic emancipation as the first building block. It suggests that, to achieve this, Africans must own the factors of production: land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship. For the past 60 years, African leftist intellectuals have been teaching their students how multinationals underdeveloped Africa and why Africa must nationalise them. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was a strong advocate of this theory. Consequently, he seized the land from the white settlers in Zimbabwe for redistribution to Africans. He also went on a reckless currency-printing exercise. The result was a regime of extraordinary and multi-dimensional chaos leading to hyper-inflation exceeding a staggering 89 sextillion per cent in 2008. Prices of commodities were doubling on the average every 24 hours. A time came when Zimbabweans needed each basketful of currency to buy a loaf of bread. While President Mugabe lived long enough to witness the impracticability of his economic model, Thomas Sankara, the former Burkina Faso President who had shared a similar ideology before him, got his life cut short by the gunshot of his friend Captain Blaise Compaore on October 15, 1987.
Democracy: Could this be the missing link? The fact that Nigeria has experimented with the two leading types of democratic systems of governance, parliamentary and American presidential system, and later came home in 2019 with a trophy as the new world’s poverty capital shows that the system of governance is not Africa’s main pain point. China created its own unique system of governance and is prospering. Ditto the Japanese and the Germans.
Africa: A case for technology and knowhow
Superior technology and technical knowhow separate races that excel in re-inventing themselves and building modern civilisations from those that do not. Dating back to the ancient Mesopotamia in the third millennium, when in ca3500, the Sumerians built the first civilisation — which was later conquered by King Sargon of Akkad who established the first world’s empire in 2330 B.C in Mesopotamia — technology has always been the “Holy Grail”.
The strongest 150 civilisations in human history — including the forgotten Irish Empire of Brian Boru, the Maya, the Azetec of Central Mexico, the Inca, the Qin and Han in China, the nomadic Mongols, Babylonian, Persian, the Egypt Middle Kingdom, Alexandra’s Empire, Roman Empire, British Empire and American civilization — all leveraged technology for military and commercial conquests. For instance, the Byzantine Empire which occupied the Eastern half of Roman Empire after the Western half had crumbled into several jejune feudal kingdoms survived for 1,000 years (395 CE–1453) as a result of its superior technical knowhow. The British Empire leveraged technology to build the world’s strongest navy and economy at a time. At the height of its imperial power, the UK built the largest empire in world’s history, controlling 25 per cent of the world’s population and 35,000,000 km2, representing 24 per cent of the earth’s total land area. America leveraged technology in 1945 to bring the Second World War to a close and in building the world’s most powerful nation militarily and economically.
Since the invention of wind vane by Greek Astronomer Andronicus in 48 BC to the period when Roman Empire pushed the Greeks off the world stage until today, Africa has remained an underdog simply because it has never developed superior indigenous technology of its own or made an attempt to acquire legally or steal like the Japanese and Chinese have done. China is leveraging technology to put the global supply chain under its armpit, producing everything for the world under the made-in-China 2025 label. Africa has been losing all its battles against external forces — invaders, slave masters, colonialists and exploiters — because it is technologically deficient. The African science and technology (AST) consisting of charms, arrows, hunters’ guns etc. has time and time again proven too impotent compared with the European technology. AST is not what Africa needs because of its limited application and doubtful potency. Some African scholars have pointed to the defeat suffered by the French military led by Napoleon in the hands of the Haiti Army led by Dessalines in 1803 which gave birth to the creation of the first Black republic on January 1, 1804, as an example of the potency of AST. But the Haitians benefitted enormously from the British sundry covert military support.
Pathway to technological parity or domination
The Universal Science and Technology (UST) tested and trusted in the past 1,000 years is the way to roll. This is what China is doing and it is close to achieving parity with the West. China has only one hurdle left to overcome: semi-conductor. Its pathway to achieving the goal is indisputable. Having lost $20 billion investment while trying to build an alternative semi-conductor factory in Mainland China to compete with America without success, China has its eyes on annexing Taiwan, the host of the world’s largest semi-conductor factory, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). If peaceful and brotherly negotiation fails, the gunboat diplomacy option is on China’s table, and if it succeeds in annexing Taiwan and gaining control of the semi-conductor technology, it is game over for the West’s technology domination.
What technology wants
Technology is the world’s most dynamic living force capable of expanding our individual and collective horizons, if we listen to what it wants. It is Africa’s most veritable pathway to transformation. While other building blocks require substantial government or group efforts to build, technology can be cheaply achieved 100 per cent by private citizens. Interestingly, there is a technology solution to most obstacles militating against Africa’s transformation. For instance, unicorn start-ups constitute the solution to chronic poverty and underdevelopment. A unicorn start-up is a private company with a valuation of over $1 billion, mostly technology-driven. There are over 700 unicorns globally: Airbnb, Facebook, Google etc. Intel bought the then five-year-old Mobile Eye Company for $15 billion while Facebook coughed out a huge amount of $16 billion to acquire WhatsApp in 2014.
Uber’s recent valuation puts the figure at a staggering $50 billion. These are start-ups whose founders are sometimes in their teens, using their fathers’ garages or their laptops as the head office! The number of unicorns in China reached 137 in May 2021, representing about 20 per cent of the world’s unicorns. In the last 12 months, India has produced 15 start-up unicorns. There are 97 million high-paying job openings between now and 2025, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). The beauty of this development is that African youths can work remotely, right inside their mothers’ bedrooms, provided they have robust internet services, powerful laptops, electricity and food.
The 97 million jobs identified by WEF open a window of unprecedented opportunities for Africans. About 70 per cent of the jobs are in the following 12 categories: Design Thinking, Internet of Everything (IoE), Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Architect, Cyber Security, Data Science, Full Stack Web Development, Blockchain, Software Engineering, Data Analytics, Big Data and Full Stack Developer. The salaries range from $50,000 for beginners to $100,000 for the intermediate to $150,000 on the average for experts per annum. With $5,000 training investment, a candidate is permanently cured of poverty. With $5 billion, one million Africans will be catapulted from poverty to prosperity within 12 months.
Within the next 10 years, Africa can produce 150 start-ups unicorns which can help to quadruple Africa’s GDP from $2.6 trillion to $10 trillion. Unicorns will also reduce unemployment drastically. Furthermore, with the new African billionaire technopreneurs who have different mentality from today’s thieving and divisive leaders, they will be able to build consensus to make politicians accountable, responsible and responsive, since they have access to limitless resources independent of governments. The same way the Big7 Non-State Actors are stronger than the American government is the same way the African youths will build Africa’s Big7 that will decide Africa’s fate.
What does it take to achieve this? One, through a group of Africa-focus individuals of means coming together to give scholarships to exceptional African youths. Two, parents need to encourage their children or grandchildren to pursue careers in any of those 12 categories. Three, people should endeavour to sponsor indigent youths in their communities or places of worship.
Africa lost out catastrophically in the last three major revolutions: the Agrarian Revolution of the 17th century, Industrial Revolution of the 18th century and the Information and Communications Revolution of the 20th century. The end is what the physicist Michio Kaku calls the “post-human age”, while Dan Brown, the author, calls it “obligate endosymbiosis”, the age of fusion of human and technology to create hybrid species. Technologies that will change what it means to be human already exist but they are not yet mainstream. Most of the critical mineral resources that Africa sees as blessings today will be created in abundance using synthetic intelligence technology. All the devices that exist outside of our bodies today like smart phones, reading glasses, computer chips etc. will reside inside of our bodies going forward. Every laptop today carries a small label “INTEL INSIDE” on the right-hand side. Tomorrow, people will carry the same label “INTEL+ INSIDE” on their foreheads. As human bodies become the “new data centres”, trans-humanism triumphs.
New technologies like CRISPR, a tool for editing the genome to create super-human beings, are here. Others like cybernetics, cryonics and molecular engineering (that will completely and permanently change who we are) are here. Homo sapiens, holding a one-way ticket, are embarking on an excursion into unchartered waters, perching on a strange cusp of history. The question is: how prepared is Africa for this mega transition? Will Africa still be holding the shorter end of the new stick as it did 500 years ago? All salvation comes at a price.
In dangerous times, no sin is greater than apathy — and the most dangerous people are those who hold their peace. The past decisions made by Africans who occupied this space centuries ago sowed the seed of our present fate. How will Africans in the next 500 years describe Africans of today? Is Africa aware that other races look at its numerous blessings with covetous eyes? Meanwhile, God has never signed any certificate of occupancy (C of O) in favour of any race for any geographical location. Think of what befell the Black-Irish. The Afro-Argentinean population constituted 50 per cent of the original Argentina’s population in 1700, but today the European ethnicity represents 97 per cent.
What happened to the Australian Aborigines and Native Americans? Besides physical possession, Africa’s title document for the geographical space we currently occupy is the unwritten, unsigned, undated moral document. Except Africa’s “Moral Title Document” is backed up with superior technology, nothing is sacrosanct. The world does not operate on morality but on agenda and goals! Those who cannot remember the past mistakes are condemned to repeat them with considerable pains. Those who remember but fail to take necessary and timely remedial actions are the “High Table Materials” in Dante’s hell. Can Africans, therefore, choose today to eradicate randomness and take deliberate actions in moulding today’s reality towards the desired agenda of self-preservation of their race? The mathematics of modernisation is technology.
Finally, the “Holy Grail” which Africa has been searching for these past 500 years, a sine qua non for a wholesale, inexpensive and sustainable transformation model is technology. It is not true that nothing in your past matters. Has history not taught us that true power stems not from securing political and material advantages because both are reversible? It was through gaining and maintaining an overwhelming competitive edge in technology that the 150 greatest empires in history built their respective empires. Interestingly, technology has no nationality, religion or race. Technology is the most global senior citizen that befriends only the smartest and most innovative nation or race. There is no shame in stealing or kidnapping technology when a nation or race has exhausted all other legal methods of acquisition. My thesis is, “Africa, seek ye first the kingdom of technology and all else — power, prosperity, prestige and peace — shall be added unto you.”
*Tim Akano is the president of One Africa Initiatives (OAI) (Timakano1@gmail.com)