As we close the year 2021, I have been thinking of the most important aspect to talk about. It was a hard nut to crack, but I settled on one word “ATTITUDE”. We need an urgent imperative, which I call a change in attitude perspective—an attitude perspective on seeing things. We need to cultivate the “I can do it attitude”—seeing opportunities in challenges even when everyone doesn’t. If we miss this new perspective, the many complaints in 2021 will follow us to 2022. We can’t afford to allow this to happen. Listen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1PSC5iDPjM
Shifted ground- the need for urgent change in our Attitudes
While the urgency for remedial steps is unquestionable, the most important is the nature of the steps. Like a dancer responds to changing music, we urgently need to realize that the ground has long shifted. For example, some years back, graduating from college and university in Africa was a guaranteed ticket to a ready job. You stepped out of college into a ready entry-level position. Your future was set. But over time, this right to work turned into a privilege for a few, then to very few, and now to a select few, if any. Unemployment among Africa’s youth is now unbearable. Only one in six, a minority of about 16%, are in stable wage employment. While over 13 million youth enter the job markets each year, only 3 million get jobs. Leaving vast numbers – up to 10million unemployed. In a decade from now, Africa will have the most significant number of youths joining the labour market than the entire globe combined. If we say getting a job nowadays is hard, then with the current trends, in ten short years, it will be nightmarish. The thinking that it is up to the government to create these jobs needs to be replaced by the understanding that it is our individual responsibility to create these jobs.
Another example draws from Africa’s astronomical costs to implement the SDGs and climate action. It is estimated that the total direct financing needed to implement the SDGs and climate-proof Africa’s economies is equivalent to the continent’s entire GDP. When divided among all the countries in Africa, this cost translates to about $60 billion per country. Notwithstanding these exorbitant costs, Africa cannot rely on traditional public assistance alone – popularly referred to as official development assistance (ODA). ODA to the entire continent peaked at about $40billion – which is $20billion less than one country needs. Hence, the thinking that Africa’s development can be reduced to budgets and public financing is also no longer tenable.
The “how”: responding to shifted grounds - a personal responsibility of every citizen and resident
Despite grim economic statistics, a global study found that African entrepreneurs stand out as the most optimistic about their ideas with the lowest fear of failure in the world. While this display of faith is applaudable, we must be reminded that faith alone without positive, provable actions is meaningless. The biblical verse on “faith without actions is dead” says it all. While competitive enterprises converting Africa’s challenges into opportunities stand out as the most promising strategy to respond to shifting grounds, the most fundamental question to ask is what such enterprises should be founded on. These cannot be run-of-the-mill enterprises driven by profit maximization alone. Instead, they must be based on work attitudes geared towards problem-solving. We start appreciating the best people have to offer and giving our best in return, where we begin co-creating competitive solutions to the challenges we face. We must begin to understand society’s needs and work with them to address them. And above all, we must become selfless enough to focus on the quest for solutions, not only money. These realities become even more profound; in the context of the current political economy dispensation, we live in today. Therefore, we must check our attitudes against the realities we face and evaluate our characters and ask the question of what one is helpful for. This is because if you succeed alone, you have failed. Success is measured in terms of the number of lives one touches with every deed and act. Without this, we might mark time and think we are progressing while failing. Comfortability without handwork is a failed strategy and sometimes deceive many to wait for things to be done. Institutions are not building. Institutions are people, and if we cannot inspire the right work attitude, we might never get the best out of the things we do regardless of the institution. Hard work is genius, but passion and dedication are even better. We must fight against the logic that says sitting, waiting and complaining is a strategy as millions sleep hungry. Therefore, we must think out of the box and leverage a new approach to drive actions that touches lives. This called for what I call an Unborrowed Vision -where impactful actions that touch many lives and lift millions out of poverty and build a better planet are a core objective.
How to craft an Impactful Unborrowed Vision
First; A different kind of Work Attitude: Working hard is not necessarily about work attitude. Seizing opportunities and strategizing amid adversity while thinking beyond individual benefit constitute the kind of work attitude we need today. We cannot afford me, myself, and I syndrome in the current political economy. This has caused many to seize opportunities only when they benefit them and neglect those who directly help them. As a result, an entire populace is left at the mercy of deprivation. This means we must think beyond self and embrace kindness and nurture selflessness. To drive an unborrowed vision, our temperaments and individual actions must be sacrificial towards the collective benefit of all. Therefore, we must move away from the “what is in it for me” mindset and start putting in more hours in solutions thinking and doing something to benefit the many. This way, we would have succeeded. Anything less is called FAILURE.
Second, entrenching a narrative that values people, not materialism. Human capital is the most significant component of wealth globally, constituting 62% of the wealth. It is the basis of knowledge economies that have propelled the global north to the pinnacle of global competitiveness. Studies show that a skilled person capable of turning challenges into enterprise opportunities is four times the value of produced or manufactured capital and 15 times that of natural capital. This means that the quality of the people drives development and global competitiveness, not the natural resources or built infrastructure. Africa is the youngest continent – with 60% or up to a 720million of its people being young, is favoured by providence to be on track as the node for next-generation knowledge economies. The focus must be on harnessing the energy, creativity, talents, skills of these youth – not looking to discover the next mine. Let the inventions and innovations of our youth turn challenge into opportunities be the source of headlines, not materialism.
Third, entrepreneurship cannot be for “profit” alone. “Do not allow the belly to make you useless”. In context, this African proverb reminds us that while the traditional goal of entrepreneurship is “profiteering”, a lot more is called upon an entrepreneur in Africa at these times. In a region that risks not realizing the SDGs, our entrepreneurs cannot be driven by money-minting alone. They must primarily be driven by the solutions they develop in solving the pressing challenges facing the continent. And doing this calls for an “unborrowed vision”. Enterprise Ideas and visions need to be premised on devising intrinsic solutions equal to profit. A very recent example from the climate lens can illustrate this.
Fourth, skills retooling. “If a child washes his hands, he could eat with kings”. In context, this African proverb reminds us of the invincibility of adapting our skills to solve pertinent challenges and leverage current opportunities. For this, what we ought to ask is – where do you see the skills you have, fit in the broader agenda of developing Africa? Where do your skills fit in creating competitive enterprises in Africa? Where do your skills fit in solving foundational challenges in this continent – food insecurity, unemployment, declining economic productivity? Here value addition in Africa’s agro-value chains – projected with potential to inject up to $1trillion by 2030, and clean energy offer a potential shortest route to drive competitive economies that solve such foundational challenges. For instance, decentralizing solar dryers to cassava farmers – where Africa is the largest producer – can not only reverse postharvest losses running into billions of dollars – but can ensure value chain actors at the primary level earn up to 30 times more by being able to preserve their harvest and sell during the offseason when demand is highest. But such a trajectory requires that our skills, talents, initiatives – regardless of disciplinary background – be refined, improved and adapted to tap the multi-disciplinary opportunities that arise – not only making money.
Fifth, selflessness is irreplaceable. Going beyond traditional entrepreneurship towards being solutions providers requires going the extra mile. It calls for selflessness, where one realizes that it is not about themselves but urgent solutions for ailing economies and populations. It calls for diligence, humility in listening and learning - a realization that working with others for the success of the many is worth much more than succeeding alone.
Six developing an appreciative attitude. “Ingratitude is sooner or later fatal to its author”. This African proverb may explain part of the reason a mentorship culture has not taken root. While such a blanket allegation is not entirely unfounded, some potential mentors decry the unappreciative attitudes – especially among the millennial youth. It is worth knowing that while being appreciative is hardly taken as a serious consideration, it is the key that may enable one to enjoy the best vested in others. A mentorship culture may simply be waiting for an appreciative culture, especially among the youth.
Listen to my take on why we urgently need a change in our “attitudes” from the current state to a new perspective where we cultivate the needed attitude that can help us win the 2022 challenges we have faced before and now. To drive transformational #ClimateAction solutions, we need a change in perspective, which boils down to “attitude”.
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