Without Our African Dream, We Have Nothing

Author, Thabiso Ntlole: Consultant @ Innolead Consulting 

Africa is a continent carved out of glory. It’s a glorious diversified group of people with resources so abundant they will sustain hundreds of generations to come. The story of Africa is so vast that it is hard to tell disaster from opportunity. It’s a story told by many women & men on different stages worldwide. Some tell a story of failure and despair; I believe it’s a story of a raw deal and a dream. In Botswana the heartbeat of the African dream is barely audible, with its meaning distorted in translation over the years. The evidence of this loss of meaning has bred strong catastrophic outcomes we still can’t come to terms with. Failed stadiums and glass projects, power plants only efficient at bleeding us countless pulas, a very strong and profound lack of belief in the local people by their own Government. Who are the sources of these failures? they are us, the brothers and sisters divided in dreams. Is this what the tale of an African warrior’s heroic journey has become? What happened to the dream of being an African development phenomenal? What else happened to our African dream, the dream of progress and enriching the people, exactly what we should live for. How when a people have resources can’t implement better than when they had nothing?

Where we are now is more like a dream turned to a nightmare. There is no true Africanism virtue that when followed would take the people to this place, the devil only knows of this place so dark and so cold. This place of failed health systems contracted to foreign multinationals who undermine the very people they are supposed to build such systems for. So dark and oh so cold at this place where billions of pulas are a quick easy cheque for foreign companies with the hope of a small percentage drizzling down to citizen owned companies, with imposed discounts that at times we are better off with a rejection. In this place, it seems no one is responsible for economic development, even governments; while they collect taxes and tariffs from the people. In this darkness where we are grieving the loss of a dream, government is not responsible for job creation because it has a new job of “facilitating” employment in a private sector led economy. For an African warrior type of dream, a Shaka Zulu, Bobo Shanti kind of dream we work hard we do not facilitate, we boldly decide to give our people the legs, ribs and chest of a beast.

The very best leaders change hearts and minds and seem as revelatory several decades or centuries long after destination heaven as when they were first seen or heard on earth. No capacity for building up material prosperity such as malls and dealerships must possibly atone for the lack of the great virile virtues that drive construction of pertinent economic assets. We are taught these virtues straight out of the Kgotla, where our peace and tranquillity which reigns so supreme was negotiated. The same kgotlas where marriages were initiated, and families were built. How come we succeed so much at the most important fabric of our existence without any external “expertise”? without paying any external establishments a few hundred million or a billion? Maybe there is an unwritten but dominant law that dictates we only believe in each other only where money is not involved.

Our African dream, the belief in ourselves and those born to these fertile soils with mineral rich rock beds, is a dream of warriors. We must believe in ourselves. No successful country was built on infrastructure constructed by foreign men. Name one and I will perish. It’s the women and men of the land who grind to raise the funds or repay the national debt. Foreign establishments do not bring expertise and jobs, No, they bring invoices while the people of the land have to beg their own Government, voted into power by the people themselves, to give them at least what’s left of the buffet paid for by the very people with taxes and tariffs collected by Government. That’s no criticism of government, it’s the cry of a dying African dream, the sound of a growling lazy stomach from years of hunger. The sons of the land must chase foreign contractors for piece – jobs. How is this acceptable when this so well-known land, and its good old known stories are ours, the diamonds and gold from Mama Africa, diverse flora and fauna, it all belongs here.

With that said I remain ever hopeful because I have an African dream, I dream of a prosperous Botswana with a local thriving private sector that boasts a citizen participation second to none. I dream and hope that our Government starts signing us the citizenry some multi – billion-pula contracts, trusting that we will plough it back into the economy in different forms. The powerful economies of this world were build in a simple manner: by all means, consolidated funds are channelled to infrastructure projects led by citizens who would later plough the money back into the local economy in the form of production assets (agro – processing plants, oil refineries, meat plants, automobile assembly plants, clothing production shops e.t.c).

The reason why our dream has not worked out yet is because large cheques are exported in exchange for importation of the things we need for mere survival. We import bread and butter literally, because we checked out so many large cheques. To build a bullish economy, the cheque value chain has got to benefit local companies first. We must be given multi – billion pula deals by our government in order that we channel profits from projects towards establishment of secondary industry asserts. Production plants, refineries, tailors, processing workshops: all these are the abdominal of an economy. To build them needs no Foreign Direct Investment, it only takes signing large cheques to the right people, the citizens.

To think an economy needs “FDI” is to admit there has been perennial misappropriation of empowerment. It simply means we have sent out large sums of money and we believe to get it back is to attract “FDI”. Spend it all in here, and we will have Local Driven Investment (LDI). What’s the need for us to give anybody our money such that to get it back we have got to give them land, water and cheap labour? A dream turns into a nightmare when we make it come true for the wrong people. Profound leadership desire mixed with unassailable implementation capability breeds execution excellence: a nation uprising. Only if we have a will so big to give it all to our people then we would get to know how Abu Dhabi felt when they did it, Dubai, Singapore, Japan and how China felt. In the far – far east a certain country took 500 million people out of poverty in a period of a little over a decade, we need only take a few hundreds of thousands in the next three years. It takes only a strong mentality, massive will and Government starting to write large cheques to the right people and never looking back: Batswana ba sekei, ourselves, children of the blue, black and white stripes.

Implementation of this will guarantee us our long overdue prosperity. Only when we implement this, we shall redefine the rules of national prosperity. We are too hungry for success we can’t take mediocrity anymore. If we can’t do it for ourselves let’s do it for our unsung fallen heroes and the ones who will come after we are gone. This alone can be our experiment to re – discover hope for a new culture, a culture of will and belief. New successful acts of empowerment enlighten the whole place, the whole country indeed. The amount of pride we feel when a citizen owned company gets a meaningful opportunity is next to the world’s sweetest joys. We want success, with all that’s great and good with it.

Fellow brothers and sisters, it’s time to swim waters with great whites, to hustle with vultures in late nights. We have spent rivers of money for years to no breakthrough progress. If the Most High we pray to is on his way here, I bet he wont be proud to see this being what we have made out of our resource wealth. Escape from despair and desperation has become more urgent. Let’s start to brave these obstacles together, I say to you the same thing that a great poet once said, “Nothing changes if nothing changes”.

Thabiso Ntlole is a Consultant at InnoLead Consulting offering Management Consultancy and Corporate Training Solutions. He is reachable at www.innolead.co.bw, f: Innolead Consulting, : @InnoleadConsult, innolead@innolead.co.bw, +267 3909102,