SECTIONS

Why I find the call for investors to Africa strange

The legal profession is protected by cultural circumstances. [iStockphoto]

Africa is one of the world‘s best places to invest. You are treated like royalty for bringing in money and creating jobs. It’s a phenomenon that leaves my head spinning. 

Why do we want men and women to come and make money in Africa? Why can’t we make it ourselves? What’s even more fascinating is that the invitees do not go for small money, it’s big money.

We never invite investors to start kiosks. We want them to make billions. Do you recall the hullabaloo when a Chinese national was reportedly found selling mitumba in Gikomba market? 

This belief that outsiders are better at investing is one of our soft underbellies. Over time, we come to believe that such heavy investment is not for us. We come to accept that our role is supporting and being employed instead of being the employer.

It gets worse when we come to accept that outsiders are better than us in professions such as medicine or engineering. Luckily, the legal profession is protected by cultural circumstances. Rarely do foreign lawyers shine outside their homes, except, perhaps, in commercial law. 

The investors are allowed to operate in multiple countries and hedge against economic cycles, making even more money. 

How did we find ourselves in this rut? 

It starts with textbooks that make us believe our ideas (and even our names) are inferior. We are supposed to quote authors - called authorities. We assume they are unbiased. Rarely are they African, because we rarely write. There is no market  for our „inferior ideas.“

The media reinforces that. And the prestige associated with foreign firms closes the loop. 

With time we have come to accept that other people are better in innovation, manufacturing or even marketing. Add brand names and we feel guilty for using our own products. Easy credit and peer pressure break us. 

In the long run, it becomes part of our culture with each generation getting more deeply entrenched in the cycle and harder to escape. 

Unless we re-educate the next generation and empower them, they will remain to believe their work is to consume and show off. And there is nothing wrong with that. Will the next regime change that perception through bottom-up economics or its variant?