The rate and path of development taking place in Africa continues to puzzle many scholars. Home to the first traces of civilisation in the world, Africa finds itself behind the rest of the world in the development race, this, despite the millions of African scholars that have received the highest levels of training from the best institutions across the globe.
Despite the well trained experts resident in Africa, in all sectors, Africa continues to rely heavily on external development policies originating from western-based multi-lateral and bi-lateral institutions.
The African scholars have been reduced to “critics” – waiting to point out the shortcomings of foreign policies being pursued by their African governments. They seem to be doing little to generate viable and sustainable development policy options, based on the African context and acceptable internationally, that can trigger development on the continent.
Almost no African institutions, of international acclaim, have been established on the continent as “points of call” for sound development strategies and policies. The situation gets worst when R&D funding is analysed. Most funding for R&D in Africa is external. National governments are doing very little in terms of research for strategic development.
Having been overtaken by over 200 years by western civilisation, post-independence African scholars and development practioners have resorted to copy-cat development – that has trapped Africa into a “catch-up” race – a rat-race trying to look like the west – yet so different in terms of culture and values. The west has, thus, dictated a new culture, value system and pace that Africa may have to keep chasing for decades to come – since western civilisation is built on the principle of “change”. By the time Africa is catching up in one aspect, the west “changes” direction to a new subject. Africa is caught up in rat-race that it will never win.
This reality presents a unique dilemma to African leaders, scholars, and development practitioners: Does Africa need to re-invent the “wheel”, or should it just import the already invented “wheel”? How about values – should Africa bow to the glitter of western values – or can it nurture and grow its own value-system? Can the west allow Africa catch up and why should they? Is there any hope for an Africa without aid? Why have regional and economic integration, that have made other continents so powerful, eluded Africa? What has held Africa back from development in this age of knowledge and technology? Why can’t Africa tap into the wealth of brains and talents – that its sons and daughters have so ably displayed? Why have Africa’s leaders and well-educated elite not transformed the continent? Why is there not a single institution of international acclaim, on the African continent, that is source for African development policy and advice? What, in effect, will it take to transform Africa?
These questions constitute the motivation for the establishment of IDPRC – an African centre of excellence for innovation and adaptation – that will transform the minds of Africans and African scholars – into revolutionaries – that will challenge themselves into a new breed of development leaders and facilitators. IDPRC will bring together all corporate and individual innovations and innovators that already exist across Africa – and brand them – into a “community of practice” that will become the “think-tank” for African development. The underlying principles in IDPRC are “transformation and innovation” – transforming mindsets and stereotypes – and creating new innovations based on African realities.
Africa does not have to look like the west. Africa can be Africa, but this will take a careful identification and definition of the impulses, core values and principles that constitute the African fabric. IDPRC is the centre that will define “Africa”, and define an agenda to reach this “Africa”. Africa must recast the dark images that have been used to portray it – and identify and nurture the impulses that that portray it as a tower of strength. African scholars must differentiate between “richness and materialism”, development and dependency, trade and aid. African scholars must contest current development concepts like the “cash-crop syndrome” and undo the structural design that has placed Africa at the bottom of the value chain. African economists must help governments – revisit public expenditure, as well as, recast spending choices and priorities. African social scientists must retrace the African values of collective self-reliance and stewardship. African doctors must undertake preventive research. African engineers must adapt rather adopt technology wholesale. African agriculturalists must rediscover the “cultural” component of agriculture. The African environmentalists must turn Africa’s gift on nature into a global enterprise. All African scholars and entrepreneurs must re-align their world views. Innovation, re-alignment and transformation must become the living principles in Africa.