A recent blog post by Bill Gates reviewing Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works, asked the question, ‘Can the Asian Miracle Happen in Africa? It is a question that many Africans have asked themselves.
The Ugandan Diaspora News website in it’s post on Lee Kuan Yew & Singapore – What Africa Can Learn, relates the occasion when in 1964 and 1966, the transformational leader of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, visited Africa and met with a number of leaders. In a review of his memoirs “From Third World to First: The Singapore story” He revealed his impressions about those leaders, with particular emphasis on Nigeria and Ghana. Comparing what he saw with the level of puritanical discipline he had enforced in his own country, he concluded [about African leaders] that “these were a set of people dancing to a different tune”
In a number of comments on Africa, Lee Kuan Yew also made a few remarks that should resonate with every member of the African diaspora. For instance he recalled: “If their brightest and best gave up the fight and sought refuge in a monastery, not in Africa but in California, the road to recovery would be long and difficult.” He was talking about Ghana’s 30 year old vice chancellor, William Abraham who retreated to a monastery in California after the coup which removed Kwame Nkrumah from office in 1966.
To Lee Kuan Yew, there were fundamental flaws in African leadership but not only that, he insinuated that many of the most motivated and capable individuals left the continent for a better life on the one hand but unwittingly to build and strengthen the aspirations of other nations leaving Africa to develop very slowly as a result. Africa’s diaspora by not investing their intellectual resources, training, technical know-how and education in the continent is harming African countries, particularly as they move towards greater stability.
Studwell’s book, does not focus on the diaspora but simply clearly articulates the formula to create an African miracle based on the Asian model. He suggests:
- Creating the conditions for small farmers to thrive
- Using the proceeds from agricultural surpluses to build a manufacturing base, set up from the start for exporting.
- Nurturing small farming and export-oriented manufacturing with financial institutions closely controlled by the government.
Singapore, is truly one of the miracles of the east. A country with little or no natural resources, food requirements which are almost entirely imported, no fresh water and a population of approximately 5 million people which started life as an independent country on almost the same level as many African countries. It saw its natural resources as superior intelligence, discipline and ingenuity as a substitute. Within a generation, it was to become one of the wealthiest nations on earth.
Read the full review here.
Image credit: Willaim Cho, Singapore River-Update, CC BY NC-SA