HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsAfrica 2012 When minds meet The economic minority

Africa 2012 When minds meet The economic minority


When African minds meet like many other minds, conversations are naturally focussed on the lives, exploits, choices and actions of those who hold the majority of positions of social power in society.

The colonial state had its own economic minority to suggest that the characterisation of the settler community as homogenous was a gross mischaracterisation of its true nature and character.

Indeed, there were rich and poor whites and more significantly what glued them together was a quest for a better life, in the knowledge that if the space for opportunity was democratised, they would not have enjoyed the kind of life they sought.

No sane and rational person would leave a place of birth for another that would condemn the person to a lesser standard of life.

At Independence, the rational expectation was that a better life would be possible through the facilitation of a responsible and responsive State. History has taught us otherwise.

It must be accepted that any form of human organisation and civilisation produces its own classes and at the top of the pyramid will be found a small minority whose influence can be far-reaching.

Instead of the people at the bottom of the pyramid being inspired by the minority at the pinnacle, what tends to happen is that political actors build their careers around attacking this class of citizens as if to suggest that the elimination of this group would automatically lead to a better and equal society.

Although we want to be equal, history has shown us that this is not only possible but undesirable. Even students would know that it is not desirable for the whole class to get the same grade.

What makes education interesting is the competition that it implies and the quest for excellence that then makes the effort worthwhile and rewarding.

Education has proved itself as a reliable instrument for human beings to climb the opportunity pyramid.

Efforts to pull those who have made it down undermine the human spirit and to the extent that the pull him/her down syndrome is prevalent in Africa, it becomes important that we begin a new conversation on the kind of societal pyramid that needs to be created to capture the imagination of all who are part of it.

No society can be stable if all its citizens are poor. The poor are as important as the rich for no rich person can acquire the wealth without the active involvement of willing contracting partners.

If wealth is acquired from service, it is self evident that poverty can also be eliminated by effort and service.

However, rules in the political market are somewhat different because it is easy to acquire power on the back of unsuspecting and generally apathetic citizens.

A bad politician is often difficult to remove whereas a businessman who supplies products and services that the market does not need or competitors are able to do better will be out of business sooner than later.

Africa has produced its own crop of career politicians, who normally are oblivious to the real impact of their choices and decisions.

The political elites often end up living in the ivory tower where they become exposed to their own voices and to the voices of praise singers.

The State can play a significant role in defining and shaping the character of the national pyramid. What then should the role of the State? To some, the State can and should be a reliable vehicle for reducing income and wealth inequalities and yet history has shown that State actors act in their self interest rather than in the public interest as they often purport.

The transfer of power from the colonial to the post-colonial state has not translated into the enlargement of the middle class. If anything, the middle class has shrunk and Africas brain thrust has either drained out or been intimidated into compliance and submission.

The notion that the economic minority is cohesive and motivated by evil and acts in a conspiratorial manner is not supported by any evidence, but the generality of the public has been made to believe that poverty is linked to the actions of others.

The truth is that the economic minority in post-colonial Africa is not connected. It is fragmented and operates in silos choosing to secure the future by not investing in the kind of morality that is required to inspire more to endure the climb.

Given the nature of the political economy in post-colonial Africa, it is often rewarding for the minority to remain obscure and elusive.

The sun shines on all of us and it must be accepted that the economically powerful have not found a mechanism of increasing the number of daylight hours only for them.

We are all compelled to work within the framework of the time God has generously given to all of us.
Some will use the time productively while others will use it to engage in conversations that seek to create a reality that does not exist.

The reality is that some will be at the top while others will be at the bottom, but the trick is to create a pyramid that allows people to move up and down with minimal effort on the part of the state and its actors.

The state can and should play a catalytic role in advancing the interests of citizens.

The moment you have a thinking state, as we have seen in many African states, then one must know that danger lies ahead.

Citizens should drive the agenda for a better life and at the individual and household level, people do know what they need to do to climb the opportunity mountain.

I have often wondered why it is the case that the majority end up resentful of the very people they need to pull them up the value chain.

The tone and language used by political actors would suggest that there is merit in attacking the economic minority as a means to inspire hope.
Faith is one of the biggest businesses globally.

It has produced its own superstars, legends and icons and yet politicians have failed to capture the human imagination that men and women of God have been able to generate with rewarding personal results.

State actors have to dip in the national till whereas men and women of God have found a mechanism of getting cash out of peoples pockets on a voluntary basis that suggests that more can be created out of faith and trust.

Do citizens trust their politicians? Political actors without the instrumentality of the state are dysfunctional.

The success of faith-based institutions in post-colonial Africa exposes the inherent problem in our political processes. Institutions have and continue to be built in the name of God and yet the trust between employers and workers will never improve to match the trust between pastors and their congregation.

Politicians need unorthodox methods to keep the governed in check and yet the congregation can respond to the word of God with amazing outcomes.

What is true is that the political, business, religious, sport etc icons, legends and superstars are not connected to each other, if anything, they despise one another and yet they share a common future.

Mutumwa Mawere is a businessman based in South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.

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