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KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER TO AFRICA – SOME THOUGHTS

 

In the article “ The Nexus between Knowledge and Competence”, I inferred that the African system of education is ill suited and unfitting to instill in the psyche of our young people, the knowledge, the capacity and the character necessary to build a better and modern country for our children, let alone to close the increasingly widening chasm between the modern world and Africa. The outdated educational system has left the sub-Saharan African people –especially those living in Africa-- unfit to meet the challenges of this very fast paced 21st century. 

 

Our people simply do not have the knowledge, the capacity, nor the required skills set to compete in the world stage. It comes as no surprise that the African continent had very little to no impact at the Olympics –last summer in England—where the world gets to see the capacity and the discipline of the people of every country and continent in the world. It also comes as no surprise that the African continent and its people are the least respected in the world, and are perceived as the least competent and least competitive in every discipline and on all counts. At the last Olympics, our beloved Cameroon was only mentioned –in the news cycle-- as the unique country whose athletes vanished in the wilderness of the London suburbs, while the Cameroonian Olympic delegation was overcome with guilt and shame when asked to account for its athletes.

 

This empirical evidence –of lack of discipline and incapacity to compete-- is very conspicuous when looking at the way the Governments and the people of Africa conduct the affairs of their countries. It becomes evidently clear that our people, for the most part do not possess the right set of skills to be competent at what they are asked to do. The knowledge we acquire from Colleges and Universities, the degrees we worked so hard to achieve, simply do not translate to competence in the profession and careers we choose. The knowledge we acquire does not reflect in the health of our society and the --social and economic-- condition of our country. What we see in Africa is knowledge without competence. It’s very learned people with degrees and no results to show for it. It’s all hat and no cattle.

That’s how we wind up with hospitals without syringes, alcohol and other basic medical supplies. Worse, the people working at these medical facilities do not understand nor do they follow any guidelines of best practices, due diligence and due care to operate these basic indispensable structures of society. That’s how we end up with a Government that does not know how many civil servants it employs, or a Government that only relies on personalities instead of well defined processes. A Government that relies on ad hoc and improvised actions from its officials instead of a clear and precise Standard Operating Procedures. A Government whose only Modus Operandi is corruption, cronyism and is incapable of providing services, or responding to the needs of its people in a dignified way. That’s how we wind up with companies like Camair, Sonel, Sotuc, SCB --just to name a few—raided to bankruptcy and embezzled out of existence. That’s how we end up with Ministers –many with PhD degrees--, yet demonstrably incapable of defining a comprehensive set of policies, processes and procedures to deliver public service to the citizens they are supposed to serve. That’s how we end up with a Government, run by octogenarians “Grand Paps Gerontocracy” who may have never turned on a laptop, let alone use one and may not understand the need to invest in computer technology and computerize our systems. That’s how we end up with Engineers from “Ecole Polytechnic”, graduates from ENAM and Universities, who have no idea what to do with the knowledge they have sacrificed so many years of their lives to acquire. That’s how we end up with law enforcement officers asking one individual for an ID and Passport –even though both can serve the same purpose of identification--, while asking yet another for a proof of taxation and a birth certificate, not being aware that unequal handling is discriminatory and violates the very law they seek to enforce. And we can go on and on…

 

The pervasive corruption we see in Africa –and other third world countries--, is truly a manifestation of chronic incompetence and lack of proper skills set at the job. Knowledge and competence are not the same thing. Knowledge, whether it be conceptual or experiential is primarily acquired through education and life experiences. Competence on the other hand refers to the possession of the correct skills set and the ability to perform a duty or a job with a measurable and acceptable result. So, someone with a PhD in history, --while being very learned--, may not be competent to run a Ministry. Because, the skills set required to run a Ministry –which is Managerial, Administrative and Governance in nature—fall out of the scope of the History lessons. So, for the dude with a PhD in History –or any discipline for that matter-- to be a competent Minister of “anything”, he will have to expand his knowledge and skills set beyond the history curriculum. Additional targeted training and field experience are required in order for the PhD holder to attain the proper skills set required to be a competent Minister.

 

Knowledge and competence are quintessential in developing any country. An updated educational system will equip our people with the knowledge to conceptualize, imagine and build the institutions of society and Government. Competence is the much needed subsidiarity that compliments knowledge. Competence will seek to give our people the proper skills set to manage and operate the structures and infrastructures of society and Government. Building an infrastructure is important, but managing and maintaining it are essential.

 

So knowledge, whether it be conceptual or experiential is indispensable for the development of our country. That’s why I urge this generation of Cameroonians to engage in incremental self-study even after leaving school. The process of acquiring knowledge does not end when you graduate from College or University with that vanilla brand new degree. In fact, that’s when it begins. That’s why I am making the case to this generation of Africans to engage in problem solving reading. Challenge yourself to learn something new. Challenge yourself to look for a solution to a problem around you. Challenge yourself to correct something that has the potential to make life better for the people around you. Challenge yourself to learn something new and different from what you already know. Challenge yourself to think beyond conventional wisdom. Challenge yourself to look at the world as it’s never been and ask the question, why not. Challenge yourself to wake up from the trans we have been trapped for so long. Don’t spend all of your time drinking beer, dancing, and night-clubbing. Spend some time at the library, buy a book of psychology, marketing, spirituality or what have you. Read and study topics that complement your area of study. If you have a degree in History, read something on the Economy and Finance. If you graduated with a degree in Biology, read something about Psychology and Spirituality. That’s how you expand the scope your knowledge. That’s how you expand your mind and intellect. That’s how you grow intellectually and spiritually. The Universe around you is a space waiting to be filled with the imagination of your mind. It’s through the power of your imagination that the people in that remote village in Nkambe, Kousseri or Kumba will too, someday have a decent house with clean water and electricity or even air conditioning and broad band internet. It’s by the power of the human mind and intellect that everything you see around you came to materialization. The house you live in, the car you drive or ride in, the roads, the laptop, the cell phone, the television; everything you see around you began as an idea or a thought in some mind. The thoughts were then acted upon through concrete actions in order to bring the idea to materialization. That's how the world around you came to be. 

The power of your mind, the power of your intellect has the capacity to re-invent the world and transform the Universe. But it’s only possible if you nurture it, if you train it, if you build it by expanding its capacity through reading, hearing, seeing and experiencing. Reading has the advantage that it does not require you to be at the proximity of the subject being observed or studied. Whereas, hearing, seeing and experiencing do require that you be present at the time and place of the subject being studied. So reading should be the way to go for most people. Someone in Ntarikon or Nkongsamba may not have the opportunity to attend President Obama’s inaugural speech. But he can read, understand and study the speech without leaving his living room. Reading is a powerful channel by which you are allowed to eavesdrop into –and share-- someone else’s mind. It’s perhaps the most powerful tool to expand the human mind and intellect. Use it to your advantage.

 

When our people will have acquired the quantity and quality of knowledge sufficient enough, their imagination will necessarily lead them to conceive and build the modern institutions of good Governance of society. And they will understand that building a competent citizenry is the subsidiarity that compliments knowledge. We will then need to train our people and make them competent to carry on the actions and activities required to maintain a functional society and country that dignifies our humanity and citizenry as a people. That’s how we will build a country worthy of this 21st century.

Developing our country will also require a great deal of knowledge transfer. Knowledge transfer was never the center piece of colonization nor should we have expected it to be. The colonial master’s goal was to exploit the resources and never to transfer critical knowledge to sub-Saharan Africans. To be fair, some knowledge was transferred through educational exchanges and scholarships to study in foreign universities. We must acknowledge that. But the Master’s ultimate goal was never to have the colonies to become independent in managing their own country on an equal footing with the Master. So it’s now up to this generation of Africans, generation –unlike the previous—which have travelled, studied and lived in virtually all parts of the modern world, to bring home the much needed knowledge and competence.

 

When our Government signs contracts with the Chinese or other foreign entities to build an infrastructure of any kind, we must see to it that there are strings and clauses in the contract for knowledge transfer. Foreign companies who build our infrastructure must hire and train our people at all level. –Engineers, Administrators, Technicians--. It must be part of the agreement. It must be a clause that is inseparable from the statement of contract. “Teach us how to fish and not just give us fish” should be the slogan to the Foreigners who build our Infrastructure. We don’t want your fishes any more. We want the tools, the knowledge and the skills set to fish for ourselves.

We the people of Africa must be relentless in the search for knowledge as we seek to build a new generation of competent citizens. The power of our imagination is the greatest gift we have been given by the creator. It’s up to us to nurture it, to expand it, and to use it to the service of our people and country. And to harness your imagination, you must expand your mind and your intellect and that means spending time reading and studying new subjects, and building the skills set necessary to jolt our country into the 21st century.

 

But first, we must retire the current octogenarian, oligarchic gerontocracy –that is currently running our Country--. We must work to pave the way for new ideas so that a new generation of our people, full of hope, exuberance and capabilities, but more importantly, a generation better equipped with the knowledge, tools and skills set to move our country forward.

Retirement should not be perceived as a punishment or a fall from grace of some sort, but rather it’s a reward, a coronation of a life time’s work. And more importantly it’s the necessary transition that must occur for one generation to allow opportunity to the next. It’s the mean by which we pass the baton to our children and bestow upon them the responsibility and give them  the opportunity to participate in their country's future. When one generation retires, it invites the next generation to become stakeholder of their country. It’s the way by which we allow the ingenuity of the new generation to be expressed in our country’s future. Retirement is essential for new ideas to take birth and materialize in any society. When the old is replaced by the new, the modern and the exuberant, society as a whole benefits from the evolutionary shift and the positive transformation inherent to any theory of evolution.

 

The octogenarian oligarchic gerontocracy –that is currently running our Country --must go on retirement to pave the way for this the new generation of our people --full of hope and exuberance, but more importantly better equipped with the knowledge, tools and capacity to move our country forward in this 21st century. –ANST—

 

Retirement should not be perceived as a punishment or a fall from grace of some sort, but rather it’s a reward, a coronation of a life time’s work. –ANST—

 

When the old is replaced by the new, the modern and the exuberant, society as a whole benefits from the evolutionary shift and the positive transformation inherent to any theory of evolution. --ANST—

 

 

 

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