Pan African Connection
Bringing Literacy, Education and Development to disadvantaged communities across Africa
subtitled: Development Paradigm
One major motivator in my desire to help rural Africa, was an early acceptance from personal studies
over time, that Africa no longer had access to the development curve of industrialized nations.
The argument that we need to leapfrog into the requirements of the information based economy of the
21st century is based on a critical examination of the usual development paradigm. This all too brief
review, shows that: agrarian economies began to mechanize, increasing output and reducing
manpower requirements. After a further phase of economic gains and consolidation the world birthed
the concept of industrialization, which is primarily based on mass production; the ability to produce fairly
identical pieces, parts and entire machines, increasing productivity and output as well.
These processes began to gain momentum as we moved into the use of hydrocarbon fuels, making
increased output possible, while at the same time reducing manpower requirements, your typical
"increased productivity" curve. A further push in productivity gains was the process of increasing
electronics use and data management that gave eventual rise to microelectronics, automation and
robotics. All along these increases in productivity came at the expense of the number of jobs lost to
machinery and automated processes.
For the developed world it meant readjustments in the labor force, moving in the historical context, from
the time honored ways of beast power all the way to the current best practices of big farming in a 300hp
behemoth equipped with satellite navigation, laser leveling equipment, two-way communications and
air-conditioned, stereo powered surroundings. The displaced workers finding other jobs in the growing
economies of their time; the cycles of growth and recession notwithstanding.
To think that an underdeveloped conglomerate of nations, such as Africa represents, will go through the
same development curve is simply not rational. All along the history of development of the industrial
nations we saw tremendous displacement of workers, industries and populations.
Part of the heritage of past deeds are ghost towns, (heavy population loss due to jobs running scarce)
the rust belt that ensued in centers of heavy industry as plants consolidated, became unprofitable,
unproductive, consolidated out of existence or simply outmoded. But whatever the case in a very real
sense economically unsustainable.
The largess of manpower and massive direct investments in heavy industry of yesteryear, coupled with
the traditional heavy pollution, is a model that will not be replicated here in Africa. During the peak of
industrialization, 49% of the labor force work in industry related jobs. Today in many parts this is closer
to 10 to 15% of the labor force.
Globalization and free trade have made it effectively impossible to place the old paradigm of
development as a jig that Africa can use to develop itself.
The current and future realities of economic globalism and free trade zones, make it imperative to attain
the following realization: unless one is competitive in whatever industry one endeavors to be in; you will
have a limited market and little to no profit. This is what we have learned from the behemoths of State
run enterprises of yesteryear, it is also the lesson replicated in today's global economy.
This is the stage over which Africa needs to leapfrog. So what will take the place of this paradigm of
We can find the answer in the requirements of the information age of the industrialized nations, where
we find that they are knowledge based economies, meaning that they are composed of:
1) Educated labor force
2) Innovation driven
3) Adaptable marketplace
4) Adaptable labor force
5) Properly capitalized
6) Proper governance of economic conditions
What this means for the nations of Africa is the need to educate their populations on a par to world
standards in the hard sciences, governance issues and entrepreneurial activity. These goals can more
easily be attained by the use, dependence and uptake of information technology. Not where technology
is the object but merely the means to attain a furtherance of the stated intentions, as well as the use of
sound knowledge based practices.