Making Africa Work through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism

If the rhythm of the drum beats changes, the dance steps must adapt” admonishes an African proverb;

We live in dynamic times never experienced before across Africa and the globe. Consider this - the global population is at its highest ever – having crossed 7.9 billion as of December 2021. Africa is the most youthful continent on this planet. The world is at its most enlightened with the rate of information exchange & explosion of new ideas at its highest. Climate change has become formidable – with the average global temperature rise hitting historical highs. Markets are increasingly converged more than ever before, with threats & opportunities now becoming globalized.

Colleagues, this is just a sample of a myriad of fundamental changes sweeping across the globe. The “rhythm of the drum” of global development has changed by all measures. The goodness is that this change has brought a myriad of opportunities to develop our countries, build our professions, for our youth to lead in enterprises that change country, continent & the globe and the list goes on. But to tap into these opportunities, just as the African proverb admonishes, we now must adapt. And this is the essence of my discussion with you. 

Tapping into the overlooked qualities latent in each one of us

Passion, dedication, determination, resilience, hopefulness, humility & readiness to learn – these are among critical, often overlooked qualities latent in each one of us. They are the foundation for progress in any venture of life. But the paradox is that while these qualities lie latent in us, they can never be unlocked with money & material things that society places the highest premium on. No salary, no amount of financial & material compensation, can ever unlock these most critical qualities in us. Qualities are fundamental if we are to tap into the opportunities that the current global dynamism presents. So, what will? You may ask. The answer is simple – finding purpose.

This book, "Making Africa Work through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism", is not about me. Instead, it is about inspiring all of us towards finding our purpose. And once we do, apply the energy, dedication, passion, resilience that will follow, to drive inclusive Climate Action and transformational development. This is the long and short of it. And I am encouraged that this is good news to our charge as a global community in pursuit of the SDGs. Because let’s face it – if we go down the materialistic path, meaningfully actualizing the SDGs will cost dizzying sums of money, an estimated $4.5trillion each year. The message is simple – an alternative route is needed. And that route is what I discuss in the book. If we are to tap into the talents, ongoing work, skills of passionate, purposeful people across the globe, we will have the enterprises that will drive the realization of the SDGs. This is the paradigm we will tap into the myriad of opportunities that today’s dynamic world presents.         

And this paradigm is what motivated me to write this book in the first place—unlocking Africa’s paradox of desperate lack amidst plenty. A scenario replicated in many deprived societies across the globe. How is it that a continent blessed with plentiful resources is not first in economic development, overtaken by countries not nearly as resourced?. Over time, I have realised that the most significant causative factor is that, in Africa, attention has always been on physical resources – the minerals, oil, monetized resources, etc. – as the most significant resource the continent has to offer. This is a big misconception. Attention has to be on the people and what they can do to drive the continent’s transformation. So, taking the spotlight away from minerals and directing it squarely onto the people as the sovereign capital and what they can, need to and must do to accelerate the continent’s transformation to erase this paradox is the inspiration behind my book.

To make the book readable, I weave in my own story – of finding a purpose that drives my pursuit of addressing Africa’s challenges and seizing the opportunities these challenges present. Because, while the enormity of the challenges Africa faces are humbling, yet more inspiring are the opportunities camouflaged in these challenges.

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As I elaborated in the first two chapters of this book, my birth and early growth circumstances were not glamorous. I was born forty-three years ago in a small village called Jinkfuin in the rural north-western part of Cameroon, and I grew up in a humble background by all accounts. Walking long distances to school without shoes, bearing the brunt of crop failures from time to time, studying under trees at times -  these were some of the challenges I faced growing up. But I was surrounded by loving people who disciplined and encouraged me to be better and a rich cultural heritage that taught me the importance of unity, hard work, respect of elders, diligence, passion, perseverance, humility from an early age. This is where I started.

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But more important was my moment of epiphany. What started as a simple search for answers to the dwindling yields in my mum’s small farm was as paradoxical as it is – my watershed moment. My moment of purpose. From when no distance was too far, no mountain too high, no subject too hard, no discouragement – I took all in stride—driven by passion, dedication, determination, resilience to actualize my purpose. These are the inherent, latent qualities that must be inspired in all of us if we are indeed to make this world we share a better place, as implied in the UN founding charter.

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Over time, I realised that millions of other men, women, mothers & fathers across Africa and the globe face the very predicament that confronted my mum. I realised that solving this challenge at a wide economic scale opens more extensive opportunities for accelerating socio-economic transformation and climate resilience in the most vulnerable region of the globe – Africa, where we are today. With such self-realization, my purpose was cemented. And I carry it with pride everywhere I go. It is my sincere hope that all of us prioritize establishing our purpose. We take it further by aligning our purpose with what we do here. That is how the passion, energy, determination, resilience that we need to achieve the SDGs and climate action will be unlocked – and see us meaningfully accomplish these goals for ourselves and those yet to be born. 

"even in extreme drought, the lion does not succumb to eat grass because that’s against its nature” – admonishes an African proverb.

As I transition in chapter 4 of the book towards the book's thrust in chapter 5 and beyond, I use this proverb to elaborate the resilient mindset we should all have as we move to seize opportunities inherent in Africa’s &, indeed, the global challenges. The logic is simple: even when we have our purposes aligned to what we do, it will still not be a walk in the park. We must take on the mindset of a lion to surmount obstacles that will come our way. I mentioned outstanding Africans who have demonstrated this resilience that we should emulate.

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In chapter 5, I elaborated how Africa’s core challenges are opportunities to accelerate socioeconomic development & build climate resilience towards unlocking the SDGs. As a typical example, I pointed out that in this era of global competition, African economies are up to 2000% less productive than competitors in developed regions. This is further exhibited by the fact that manufacturing has stagnated at an average of just 10% of GDP since the 1970s. Coupled to this is climate change, which threatens to constrict the continents economy by a massive 70%. While this is indeed humbling, the inherent economic prospects in reversing this dismal scenario are much more inspiring.

From basic economics, we all know that any business, any economy worth its salt, thrives first and foremost on turning its areas of comparative advantage into a competitive edge to pull ahead of the competition. Africa also holds the comparative advantage of being the global leader in Cassava production. This crop is not only climate-resilient, to stand out as strategic for climate-proofing our economies, but it also fuels one of the most lucrative food subsectors globally – the allergen-free foods subsector, which is projected to generate over $20 billion each year. While Africa holds a remarkable comparative advantage, having 65% of the global arable land, the region loses up to $48 billion annually as postharvest losses and spends up to $35 billion each year to import food. This is a monstrous $83 billion of income, enterprise & economic opportunities that can be tapped into each year. Cumulatively, we are talking of over $200 billion of opportunities each year.

Foundational economics dictates that a focused determination to turn such comparative advantage into a global competitive edge and maximize the productivity of agriculture will catapult Africa’s rise. Making this sector Africa’s development engine, as I elaborated in chapter 5, is an area that presents opportunities for all of us to tap. But tapping will require that we be driven by passion, determination, dedication, by resilience – all qualities that will be unlocked if we are driven by nothing but purpose. If we chose not to focus on physical & financial resources but ourselves, especially our youth, as this continent's most sovereign capital. And proceeding to fuse the diversity of purposes, expressed through our skills, talents, and ongoing initiatives across multiple complementary disciplines and sectors we engage in towards maximizing the productivity of this engine sector, Africa’s area of comparative advantage. This is the underpinning principle of Innovative Volunteerism, which I discuss in chapter 7.

Chapter 7 opens with an intriguing proverb – that “cross a river in a crowd and the crocodiles won’t eat you”. This proverb encapsulates the essence of innovative volunteerism. Which is that Africa’s & indeed the world sovereign capital, its people, us, & the purposes, skills, talents, ongoing initiatives we represent will only be optimally engaged if we divest from individualism to embrace collectivism. Innovative volunteerism is premised on a straightforward idea: engaging the entirety of human capital in Africa in its diversity towards a shared goal of maximizing the productivity of the continent’s catalytic sectors, as discussed in chapter 5. In this pursuit, this ideal calls for a paradigm shift well embedded in African culture and appreciated worldwide. That of divesting from individualism to embrace collectivism, banishing selfishness to take on selflessness, rejecting hopelessness for hopefulness. This is the philosophy and paradigm behind innovative volunteerism, where the skills, experiences, talents, networks, and initiatives of diverse complementary stakeholders (state and nonstate, individual, and institutional) are engaged in mutual partnerships that meet the respective business and organizational interests of these actors but converge towards a common goal: bridging policy and operational gaps to establish sustainable industrialization of the agriculture sector, powered by clean energy.

As Nelson Mandela would say, “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” Never in Africa have these words rung as true as they do presently. The urgency to solve Africa’s and indeed the globe developmental challenges have reached a fever pitch. We now need to yield and align what we do with our life purposes. And it is never too late because this is a life-long undertaking. Let us embrace this mindset.   And considering the wisdom of the proverb that opens chapter 8 – that “it is the young trees that make up the forest”, this will mainly be so when this mindset change is inculcated among youth across the continent & the globe. This chapter also moves further to place the responsibility of mindset change on us as individuals. As morally free agents, the bulk of the responsibility for mindset change rests purely upon every one of us as individuals. I admonish us to choose right.

 

More read

Life is about moving forward. The alternatives are deterioration and regression. 

An African perspective on the latest UNEP Adaptation Gap Report

Implications of the COP26 outcomes for Africa

How can Africa develop economically while at the same time keeping to the promises of their Climate Actions

Africa Climate Action Finance Gap- A Worrisome Trend

 

Time and opportunity happen to all of us; what makes the difference is executing a plan of action. True to the proverb, “Rain does not fall on one roof alone.” The thing that distinguishes is how one uses the rain. The ingenuity and potential in an individual only represent opportunity, which is not enough to achieve transformation and, if not harnessed, will remain a missed opportunity. Harnessing it calls for the application of passion, dedication, determination – qualities latent in everyone, but which will be unlocked when we stop working for material and instead start working to fulfil a purpose. This is what Innovative Volunteerism is about, and this is what this book sets out clearly. Let’s apply it together.

“In this book, I share what every one of us can do, using what they have, to build this shining city on the hill.” ‘Making Africa Work through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism’https://amazon.com/dp/1546292411/ref=cm_sw_r_wa_awdb_t1_XXT.Ab4XGQ7XZ…

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