Nurturing Personal value: Let Us Make our Lives count

Nurturing Personal value: Let Us Make our Lives count

Dr. Richard MUNANG


Obstinacy does not redeem anyone”– take your time and imagine this – someone reaches out to you on social media and asks you for money or a job, that they are suffering. You sympathise with them and offer them what you have – a book so they may read and understand the approach to do something and the context we are in. You offer to guide and nurture them to become solutions providers. In your mind, the intention is to “teach them how to fish”. They insist that what they need is money and a job as they do not have time for stories, books and blablabla. When you tell them that the best you can give is guidance so they can learn how to fish, they proceed to malign you with all sorts of negative words and insults. This is obstinacy I encounter regularly on social media from some youth, that needs urgent remediation. While I understand the despair of deprivation because I grew up in despair myself, I know that the way out is not obstinacy, victimhood, or the benevolence of others as has been made to be unfortunately. Rather it is a simple four-lettered word – VALUE. Just as “every door has its own key”, demonstrating value is the key to unlocking opportunities. While benevolence and handouts seems to be the norm, especially in this age, and there is always limited money and jobs to dish out, there is no shortage of people and organisations that need allies to help them achieve certain objectives, to help them get ahead of competition. Demonstrating unique abilities – be it skills, talents, energy – that will contribute towards achievement of shared objectives, is the foundational premise of making a winning pitch from a vantage position of strength. Not banking on the benevolence of others. In the long run, when jobs are given out as favours, the task is compromised and failure in the long run, becomes inevitable. People often think of their own need for a job. "Give me a job because it will help me". The job exists because there's a need to get something done. The people who get those jobs should be those who can best perform those duties. Not favours that lead to failure.

Benevolence and handouts are a non-starter
When you befriend a chief remember that he sits on a rope”. This African proverb reminds us that in the world we live in, responsibilities and duties are inevitable. Jobs exist because there are certain duties that need to be fulfilled, because of a need to get something done. In most cases, the mistake done by most people looking for jobs and opportunities, is to look only at their predicament. They look at their own needs and expenses they believe the opportunities they are eyeing, will cater for. On the contrary, the winning formula is to totally forget one’s predicament and focus instead on the novelty they can bring on board to further the performance of said duties. When you engage anyone, never engage from a point of disadvantage. Do not start telling the person how poor or how much suffering you are enduring. Do not start off by begging for jobs and money. Sell yourself from a position of strength. Tell them and show them what you have done and can do if given an opportunity. This reality extends even to Africa’s development. It is argued that over the past 60 years, at least $1 trillion of foreign aid has been transferred to Africa. But real per capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s. Why?

Currently, Africa receives an estimated $133.7 billion annually from official aid, grants, loans, remittances, among other inflow sources. At the same time, an estimated $190 billion is extracted from the continent in the form of debt repayments, multinational company profits, illicit financial flows, brain drain, illegal logging and fishing among other outflows. Other estimates put these outflows much higher at over $218 billion. The implication therefore is that, Africa suffers a net loss of over $85 billion every year. It is without question, that dependency and benevolence is a non-starter even for the continent. It is only attracting profiteers out of the continent’s underdevelopment. The urgency to change tact is unquestionable. And it all starts with marshalling value, among individual citizens like you and me. A valuable citizenry take lead in converting country and continental challenges into opportunities and in the process, create livelihood opportunities for themselves. Just to give an example, if Africa were to prioritise on enhanced intra-Africa trade in its agro-value chains alone, leveraging full implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA) to consolidate a $150billion a year market, the continent can build a $1trillion economy in the next 10 years. This is equivalent to the amount received in aid over 60years, but in a fraction of the time and with the added benefit of creating jobs and enterprise opportunities locally and instilling a sense of continental pride. To make this transition, the value of each individual citizen must appreciate. We must offer value in converting Africa’s challenges into opportunities. And this calls for the following:
Relevance: in this era of global level competition, every organisation, every enterprise is looking for ways to get ahead of competition. Every country needs to get ahead of competition. The big question then becomes how. Human capital – which is people and the skills, talents, energy, creativity they embody, represents the most critical component of capital an organisation or country can ever need to get ahead of competition. However, building this capital is often an individual choice. It is up to individual citizens to make themselves relevant to prevailing challenges and opportunities. And am specifically referring to adults. As an adult, it is an individual decision to examine one’s self, and answer the question – “what am I useful for”, in the context of solving the challenges and seizing opportunities that come by. And most of this comes from retooling our skills – continuously improving, refining, and adapting one’s skills to the challenges and opportunities that confront this age. And this retooling most times calls for one being ready to innovatively volunteer to refine and perfect skills, to be guided in doing something that touches lives and is self-manifesting, to a point where someone can be willing to pay a premium for them. This is what Innovative Volunteerism is about and is how one becomes valuable and can negotiate their way from a vantage position of strength. Without value that you can bring, you are at a disadvantage and will be considered “troubled assets”. People are looking for value everywhere and we cannot afford to ignore this reality. 

Cultivating role models: the culture of self-seeking, materialism and dependency that took root in post-independence Africa, meant the continent had few role models to demonstrate real value in solving problems. In a short while, the culture of reaping without sowing, got entrenched, as people were rewarded based on patronage, not value in solving problems and seizing opportunities for taking the continent forward. So much that role models were and still are gauged on account of optics – the material they have, the big houses and big cars they wheel around in. Not the lives they have touched through offering practical competitive solutions to societal challenges. As a result, to this day, youth aspire to be materially rich, and neglect the real source of value which is being useful in turning challenges to opportunities. A study of African youth found that 50% of the surveyed believed that it didn’t matter how a person makes money, as long as they do not end up in jail. Implying they would steal to get wealth if they were sure the law would not catch up with them. 35% said directly that they would easily take or give a bribe. This clearly shows a misplacement of value. So, what do we do in remediation? In the words of an amusing African proverb – “the lizard that jumped from the high iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no one else did”. In context, where there is no benchmark, each of us as individuals are called to be the benchmark, to set the standards. So, let us take individual steps, and retool our skills, to offer solutions that touch many lives. This is how we will become role models for future generations, and ensure our continent builds a generation of valuable citizenry.  
Turning dreams to reality:even the best cooking pot will not produce food”. This African proverb reminds us that regardless of how rosy our dreams may be, their fulfilment is not guaranteed. Considering that we all dream, how do we actualise them? Answer is in having a plan of action. And the plan of action derives from being useful. The only way dreams will materialise is if they are tied to a relevant solution in today’s society. Africa and indeed the world are full of issues that need to be solved. Our dreams must be tied to solving an issue of interest around which, we can develop a plan of action that we can selflessly execute with others.

Rejecting emotional poverty: an enlightening scripture warns us that – “as a man thinketh, so is he”. We are what our thoughts dwell on. In most cases, we lack in self-belief. We do not believe that anything worthwhile can come from our continent, countries, or individual selves. This is why it is not hard to find that an innovative idea from the continent is frowned upon and ignored, unless validated by others. With this mentality, we play second fiddle. Just to give an example, as the COVID-19 rages, it is reported that Senegal biomedical research organization Pasteur Institute has developed $1 COVID-19 home diagnostic test kits that can give results in 10 minutes. In Ghana, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), has developed Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) for COVID-19 that can produce results in 15-20 minutes, instead of the 48 hours the country’s current testing method takes. In Uganda, auto firm Kiira Motors Corporation and the Makerere School of Public Health have developed a low-cost ventilator that can be used to support critically ill COVID-19 patients who need help to breathe. In Nigeria, health start-up Wellvis Health, has developed the COVID-19 Triage Tool, an online platform that allows users to self-assess their chances of having the coronavirus. In Kenya, 3D printing firm Ultra Red Technologies and other 3D printers have begun designing and printing relatively low-cost 3D personal protective equipment, plastic face shields and prototypes for ventilators. These are amongst many others across the continent but NONE of these solutions seems to have been given the seriousness of investigation by African institutions and presented as contextual solutions to the disease in the continent. I however tend to think the approach would have been different if these solutions were validated by mainstream institutions outside the continent. The sooner we realise that the responsibility for forging a positive narrative about the continent is solely ours, the better it will be for us. Otherwise, we will continue wallowing in emotional poverty – which is far worse than material poverty as it disables the inner self. Lack of self-belief is the worst form of poverty.

Finding purpose: a famous saying goes thus – that “if you do not know where you are going, then any road will take you there”. It is high time we all realise, that we are alive by virtue of the purposes we are meant to fulfil on this planet. And these purposes are usually tied to what we can do to touch others’ lives, even without money. They are aspects which get us excited to rise from bed every day and apply ourselves passionately and do excitedly to touch other people’s lives even when no money is involved. These are our life’s calling. Each of us must apply effort to realise what their life calling is and proceed to execute it without blinking. Passion to fulfil a purpose must be linked to an unborrowed vision. These three – passion, purpose and an unborrowed vision constitute the triple foundation that every one of us must nurture to be of value to society

One head alone does not go into council

”. I have shared my thoughts about very real, pertinent, and even critical issues we all face every day in Africa, that I believe must be tackled as a matter of urgency. Our youth are not getting any younger. While they represent Africa’s sovereign capital and an extraordinary global comparative advantage, we may miss the moment to reap on a demographic dividend if we do not structurally guide them to be solutions providers. Let this epistle, be the fuel that further fires this debate, of unlocking real value out of our people – and especially youth who form over 60% of our population. In all let us remember, that the decision to increase value, rests solely on each one

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