Nelson Mandela was born yesterday some 93 years ago, and at his advanced age, he will never know why truly his life is celebrated against a backdrop of a divided and unequal society. whose 17 years of democratic experience may have touched positively on so few of its citizens, contrary to expectations.
It is important that we attempt to locate the quest for human progress and prosperity in the framework of ideas that capture human imagination and not powerful men and women we often look up to as instruments to reduce the frontiers of poverty.
Successful countries like individuals are not manufactured; rather they are partially a consequence of good ideas.
The tragedy in the post-colonial experience is that the theatre available to debate ideas and engage in public conversation on what matters has been reduced by fear and the monopolisation of public discourse by those in authority.
I belong to a school that believes any society that restricts debate is ultimately condemned to a lower standard of living. It is for this reason that I have chosen to be a catalyst and provoker of thought about the challenges that confront us.
One of the challenges that confront Africa is how best the capital gap that was inherited and sustained in the post-colonial era can be bridged. In addressing this question, we have to keep our eyes on the price ie securing Africa’s future. How can this future be best secured? Bad ideas undermine the future in as much as ideas that have no connection with human aspirations.
As a tribute to the champions of freedom, democracy, justice and equality, I believe that we need to build new repositories of trust, confidence and security like a bank.
By choosing the title Banking on Africa’s future to address the issue of capital and its construction, it is my hope that this bank can accumulate all the unspoken and unwritten ideas that reside in each and every one of us, but in life we tend to deprive other people of our own ideas about what kind of society we want to see.
We have created a website www.bankingonafrica.com as a platform of ideas and inspiration. We often take for granted the effort it takes to climb the opportunity mountain to the extent that the majority of the people who find themselves in the valley see their progress in undermining those that have scaled the heights.
Now turning to the issue of capital and its construction, it is important that we address the question of how the capital gap can be bridged. We often associate holders of capital with capitalism and those who sell their labour with exploitation.
In the field of civil engineering and architecture, construction is a complex, multi-disciplinary and multi-tasking process that consists of the building or assembling of infrastructure. Equally the process of constructing capital is complex and not as easy as it may appear to a worker, for instance, working on the shop floor.
Human experience has shown that success in constructing capital is not inevitable.
What we do know is that any strategies that seeks to bridge the capital gap based on undermining those that have scaled the heights — as a means of uplifting those that find themselves in the valley — will inevitably fail.
What then is capital? Capital, capital goods or real capital refers to goods of a higher order or goods used to produce durable goods and that derive their value from them. Capital, unlike land or minerals, must itself be produced by human labour before it can be a factor of production.
We have often heard people remarking that Africans must be owners of their destinies and encouraging people to work for themselves instead of working for companies and other human beings.
How then can capital be produced if an investment is made in building a subsistence existence where people eat what they produce?
How can Africa build its capital stock? Capital consists of any produced thing that can enhance a person’s power to perform productive economic activities. It is, therefore, an input in the production function.
We may have unfettered access to land and less to minerals, but what is critical is the construction of capital in advancing human progress.
It would be naïve to premise human prosperity on land, water and minerals given that no human effort is expended in their creation.
Why then do human beings want to claim ownership of that which they are incapable of creating instead of deploying ideas in the creation of capital that can then be used to transform God’s creation into products and services?
Most post-colonial African countries adopted socialist ideas and to Karl Marx, capital only exists within the process of economic exchange and it is wealth that grows out of the process of circulation and forms the basis of the economic system of capitalism.
What is often ignored is that at each transaction point, there must exist two willing contracting parties.
It is from the multiple transactions that take place between buyers and sellers that wealth is created and yet much attention is often devoted to distributive economic justice and not in the creation of an idea that allows transactions to take place freely with less third-party and governmental action.
How best can Africa’s future be secured? The relationship between capital and the majority of African citizens is well known and established to permit me to make the proposition that it is important for us as Africans to invest in the right idea. This idea must start with defining what an African is.
After more than 55 years of Africa’s independence, we are still angry and looking back instead of investing in the future by making the right choices today.
Capital cannot be brought into existence by propaganda or rhetoric, but requires human effort.
Human beings respond better to market signals than to human dictates therefore we need to revisit the way we think about capital and its role in human development.
We all want to be free and there is no value that one can realistically place on freedom.
The gap that exists between human beings in relation to capital cannot, therefore, be bridged by ideology.
We have to invest in building the right foundation based on an understanding of the drivers that inspire human beings to scale the opportunity mountain.
We often look up to leaders for salvation forgetting that right ideas inspire and success is a more powerful instrument in informing individual choice.
As we search for a roadmap to Africa’s success, it is important that we invest in building a future that encourages human beings to make choices in their self-interest.
In so doing, there is no doubt that we will have contributed in banking on Africa’s future that hitherto is undermined less by the conspiracy of others, but more by our collective failure to conspire for good and progress.