I was at Mindspeak last Saturday. This was huge for me, being a young Kenyan that generally spends most of his time in the country side. I miss out on this seemingly small but invaluable opportunities that would generally improve my knowledge base. I for sure was not going to miss the first Mindspeak of the year for I was in town. Never mind the main speaker was the Nestle CEO Peter Troiahalt whose name I was really struggling to comprehend. Save for the slight out of sorts feeling, I was okay and was bubbling with energy; the sort that engulfs me when I am in a caucus of peers who either remotely or explicitly understand what we (Africans) need to do in order to achieve our development endeavors. There were umpteen highlights from Saturday 28, January 2012. Mindspeak held at The Hotel Intercontinental, Nairobi. I shall however elucidate the highlights and the captions that really caught my attention in as simple a language as possible;
#1 isn’t it amazing that foreigners (read non-Africans) understand our issues and problems better than ourselves? For God’s sake Mr. Troihat is French, he has been in the sub-Saharan Africa for a short period , but within that short time he has acquitted himself with institutional and infrastructural paralysis that is the characteristic norm in most African countries. Again the usual suspects of; corruption, poor transport and communication infrastructure, poor governance and over-bureaucratization are again mentioned as being the bane of Africa’s underdevelopment. Mr. Troihalt apparently understands this better than politicians and policy makers that have been sitting at the helm of Africa’s decision making for fifty + odd years.
#2 The Democratic Republic of Congo;
My God, what a colossal mess of lost potential. DR Congo, a country bigger than Western Europe and with a population of 85 million , abundantly blessed in rare, valuable minerals like gold, diamonds, titanium et al. You would think that all this equals; riches. No! wait a minute the DR Congo has decided to bless herself with endless bloodshed, rape and massive poverty. The infrastructure is so bad that citizens of the Eastern Congo know nothing about Western DR Congo, the people there, the Capital Kinshasa and Kabila’s enfeebled government that resides there. Would you imagine that in 2011 that the council of Ministers in the DRC met a record three times? Amazing, apparently the ministers were busy haggling the enormous mineral wealth to the highest bidders, merchants of death and rape they are.
#3 Nestle; What an astounding example of sustainable success. Established in 1905 the food and beverages company is worth $211 billion and has its footprint in 86 countries. What an example of how unbridled free market capitalism creates value. Over the years Nestle has created value linkages for millions of people; employees, rural farmers, and investors. Sub Saharan Africa has very few indigenous Multi-national corporations. Bureaucratic bottlenecks, crony capitalism, parochialism strangles the life out of indigenous African Businesses. That notwithstanding Nestle is putting $20million in its Nairobi factory.
#4 Finally, I would want all this change trotting young men and women on twitter, Facebook and myriads of other social media move away from the comfort of e-ranting and do something positive for their countries and society, let’s sweat our way to change rather than rant and wait for others to sweep the muck for us. Let us be the first to applaud ourselves for changing our societies rather than wait to applaud others for casting the ‘first stone of change’.
Alex Ndungu Njeru is @unbridledfreedm on twitter