Africa is full of entrepreneurs. We see that everywhere – people selling fruit and veg next to the road in South Africa, arts and craft in Zimbabwe, clothes and material in Mali, road mechanics in Zambia. In a continent where people struggle to find a regular job as defined by the world bank and mates, Africans have always been able to create their own little business. Informal yes, but it is in many countries the backbone of the economy.
And man can they create something from nothing. Have you seen some of the cars riding those rough roads? Held together by sticky-tape and bubblegum. But they go like hell. And if it breaks down? No problem, we’ll just knock a new wheel together from what was left over from the last car we reconditioned – and the same goes for the engine. I was eight when I helped put together my first tractor. Okay, I just held the spanner when they told me to hold and lifted when they said to lift. But the guy who taught me had no training whatsoever – nada. He taught himself. And we ‘merged’ two broken tractors into one working one. It all comes down to logic – and we make that work for us.
We started doing the same with computers. Easy – just like an engine. We take a bit from this one and some from that one, and a few broken computers magically turns into one operating the way we want it. Yes, it might not comply to the standards set by the European Commission, but what does? It’s not whether it complies. It’s whether it works for us. We make it work for us. Hey, no one is rushing out to give us stuff we can afford and use.
And I know, we create a lot of rubbish that way. It’s not always the safest things to weld an exhaust pipe to a car next to the road. At least not when your are welding that close to a leaky engine. But we take our chances and make it work. We argue that luck favours the brave. And the same for computers. Yes, we create loads of rubbish and maybe it isn’t the safest of environments. But we don’t have another choice. Who will give us new ones? And where will we create our businesses from the new ones? We’ll stay disconnected if we didn’t have this ability to make something from nothing. Or at least what other people see as useless and of no value – ‘nothing’. So it doesn’t help the poor when Nigeria starts banning unserviceable computers. What they define as unserviceable is bread and butter connectivity tomorrow. At least when we get our hands on it.
But there might be something more sinister behind all this. It seems as if the world now wants to keep computers out of our hands. Letting Africans have computers is a bad thing you see. Apparently world internet security will be at risk if we get our hands on enough computers. We will be corrupted by the power it will give us. Connectivity. A whole wide world to take from and take over. It didn’t cross their mind that maybe we will do what we always do. Make things work for us and create a little something for our effort. Like mobile phones. First they told us we won’t know what to do with it and we can’t afford it. And when we got our hand on it? We created a whole new world of opportunities. Bring on those computers. Yes, we’ll take over the world. But not the way you think. We’ll take it over through our ingenuity and tenacity. Creating new opportunities to create a better society. Hey, give us a few wires and a broken screen and we’ll build a bush wide web and stay connected.
That’s me, disconnecting for now.