“Reclaiming the African mind from defeatism”October 22nd, 2015
I was queuing for a public service in Yaoundé, waiting to be received, when I met a group of youths like me. Naturally, as it is always the case in such circumstances, a debate arose among us as a means to ease the atmosphere.
Soon, I heard: “ For me, Africans who are abroad should come back to the continent, because Africa is now the biggest market in the world.”
I felt thrilled to hear those words and said: “Of course it is the biggest market, and that’s why Africans must more and more thrive to innovate, for there are now a plethora of opportunities to do so.”
I didn’t anticipate the cold bucket of water that I was to receive, when one of the youths said: “No, we Sub-Saharan Africans are simply condemned not to innovate, because that’s the way colonization made us. We have not been used to managing our own affairs.”
Ironically, the young man who thought of Africa as the new biggest market is also the one who thought of Sub-Saharan Africa as “condemned not to innovate”! Unfortunately, as I came to realize, the opinion he expressed is a common one among our generation of youths.
As a Sub-Saharan African myself, I began to question the young man’s statement, and I finally understood something crucial: It is a problem of “collective or imaginary conscience”. Indeed, we have been collectively programmed to feel powerless and more inclined towards defeatism while facing difficulties and the unknown. As a result, youths no longer see themselves as able to dream about rising above hindrances such as the gap between academic programs and job market, scarcity of internships, poverty, corruption, or unemployment, to reach out to something better. They feel so trapped and ill-fated that they have come to question every success.
What was most revealing during this conversation was that those youths could cite several books that describe the way Africa is “fated”. It made me understand that many youths in Cameroon are now educated intellectuals. Secondly, I grasped that Cameroon’s youth enjoy social gatherings. With those facts in mind, I think policy efforts have to be deployed using intellectual means and sociocultural programs to positively reconstruct the conscience imagination of Cameroonians and Sub-Saharan Africans as a whole.
Napoleon Hill offers a model of how to positively reprogram collective minds towards progress. He was an American salesman who wrote best seller books of self-development in the 1900s, notably “The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons” and “Think and Grow Rich”.
Hill took 25 years to examine the lives and works of hundreds of men and women who were major successes in his time, including those who were born in poverty. To name just a few of those he studied: Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. He analysed their failures and successes, and the many traps they had to surmount before rising to prosperity.
Consequently, he designed a law to be followed when forging your path, which still guides countless people nowadays (both Americans and non-Americans). The law is mostly composed of: definiteness of purpose, specialised knowledge, imagination, organised planning, persistence, the power of cooperation, and overcoming the six biggest fears.
Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist, provides the second model. In his major book “Motivation and Personality” (1956), he has done a similar job, examining the lives and personalities of famous as well as ordinary people, who developed qualities needed to emerge from heredity to sociocultural environment and into exerting free will over one’s own life. He called those people “the accomplished”, and realized that emotional quotient was fundamental in their personalities.
What I suggest is that, we, the African nations, must take research applied to development to such an extent to that, like Napoleon Hill and Abraham Maslow, social scientists will be able to do years of scientific research to extract full stories of sons and daughters of Africa, their failures and successes, their personalities and paths as they managed to forge, innovate and prosper despite adversity.
The results will enable them to work with policy makers to create intellectual and sociocultural means to positively reconstruct our collective minds. The aim of it will be to emerge from surrendering to powerlessness to being able to confront adversity and develop environments of creativity, innovation, risk-taking and productivity.
About me: I am a student studying in Yaoundé, the political capital of the country. I am also a member of Cameroonian Student Achievers Club at the Yaoundé US Embassy, and wish to further my education in the United States.
I have always loved the media universe and its components of radio, television, newspapers and internet. However, my first professional encounter with this world came recently, when I began volunteering at Radio Maria Yaoundé.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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