African Rulers Like to Copy – Do They Know How to Paste?
In 1963, 32 African countries established the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). Twenty eight years later, in 1991, the OAU created the African Economic Community (AEC). Conceptually, the idea of an economic community was good. However, African decision-makers simply copied the name of an institution that already existed: the European Economic Community which was created in 1957. What they did was to drop the word “European” and replace it with the word “African”. They copied and pasted a name, but not necessarily an economic and industrial structure equivalent to that of the European Economic Community. As a result, without strong underpinnings, the African Economic Community was a mere flop, unlike the European Economic Community whose objective, among others, was to create a European Union with a single European currency.
Still convinced that they could copy and paste innovations developed by European leaders, African decision-makers decided to create, ex-nihilo, the African Union (AU) in 2001. Here too, the “template” came from the European Union (EU) which was created in 1993. Yet, the European Union was the result of a long and well thought process, whereas the creation of the African Union did not rest on solid underpinnings.
Undeterred to keep on showing their limits, innovation wise, African rulers looked again at what Europe did in 1998 with the creation of the European Central Bank (ECB) which was the result of hard work and patience driven by a clear vision. Now, the African Union is planning to have the African Central Bank (ACB) operational in 2018, instead of 2028 which was the original schedule. Is the African Central Bank going to oversee a basket of multiple currencies? How will the African Central Bank handle inflation and monetary policies if there is not yet a single African currency? It seems, once again, that African decision-makers want to put the cart before the horse! The existence of an African Central Bank should be contingent on the existence of a single currency.
The Euro (€), the currency of the Eurozone, came into effect in 1999 or almost one year after the European Central Bank (ECB) was established. Now, debates have started in Africa regarding the name of Africa’s future single currency. We should not be surprised if, at the end of the day, the name is “inspired”, once more, by Europe. Indeed, the Afro has been suggested. Africans will copy and paste an idea, but not get the same results because their level of preparation and maturity cannot be compared with that of European decision-makers! Indeed, one strong snag to Africa’s future single currency, no matter the name that will be chosen, is the CFA Franc which is the currency shared by Francophone countries, but controlled by France’s Ministry of Finance.
Last, but not least, African decision-makers would like to establish the United States of Africa (USA)! The “template”, this time, is coming from the United States of America (USA), not from Europe. Are we, seriously, going to have two identical acronyms (USA) because African rulers are blatantly showing their incapacity to innovate; thus to come up with an original name? In the 1960s already, Cheikh Anta Diop, one of Africa’s brightest minds, suggested a Federation of African States. But if tomorrow Europe decides to move from a Union to a Federation, African decision-makers might also choose to become a Federation! What a pity!
The copy/paste attitude shown by a certain class of African decision-makers is the best illustration that the operating system that governs their mind is slow and not innovative. And if this operating system keeps on governing Africa, this continent will always lag behind leaders and innovators like the US, Europe, China, etc. How come, for instance, the remnants of colonization are still vivid like “European wigs” that judges and/or lawyers are still wearing in Africa? Not to mention the laws that are passed and often copied and pasted from the former colonizer’s legal system!
Nonetheless, Africa is full of exceptional talents who just need to be heard in order to show their inventiveness and creativity. They want to come up with solutions to Africa’s problems that truly correspond to the social, political and economic environment that they are facing every day. Their operating system is faster and more efficient than that of the older generation. When that younger generation leads Africa, they will be game changers and Africa will inevitably prosper.
By the way, the game is not about copying and pasting what has been developed by others, but it’s about developing genuine ideas, institutions, political and economic systems, etc. that will make Africans become innovators, not laggards.
By Rudy L. Massamba