Women: Cause of Africa’s Poverty?

Published on 3rd July 2007

“The African mother has failed to nurture entrepreneurial offspring!” in addition, “African culture reveres the past and has no sense for the future and hence there is no entrepreneurship in Africa!” These words were uttered by a prominent Economic Consultant in Nassau, Bahamas.


Fast forward. Boston, home of Harvard, MIT and other prominent schools. A student in my summer class pointed out to me, “… African people and their governments are incapable of feeding their own children. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for international activists such as Bono to raise funds to address this problem!”

In Bahamas, the consultant, well versed in Swahili language, went further to remind those of us who thought he was wrong that Kiswahili has no word for future! That we have no sense for the future? Tell it to the politicians! It’s only a politician who can look at one in the eye and promise water in the year 2000 (after all he will be dead). When the year 2000 knocks at the door (if the politician is still alive) he will set yet another tough one…Millennium Development Goal for 2015! Recall, African politicians simply “mouth”; they never set goals but wait for the Bonos and the G8 to help them save their children.


This is an election year in Kenya. Helicopters will traverse the country promising free goodies to the masses. The game plan for most, if not all, will be hinged on seeking external assistance to deliver the “promises” to the electorate. Politicians care less when they kill African talent and ingenuity in the name of creating illusions that they are working for the good of all.  


Permit a little generalisation. The African woman is at crossroads! She used to prepare oat and sorghum meal, yams, and African leafy vegetables among other foods until pressure started building on her to change the menu to suit “modern foods.” This pressure was exerted from her very children who had been educated in schools that never promoted “African foods.” Any value addition that one would have anticipated should the tangent have focused on what we popularly refer to as “traditional foods” disappeared in thin air. In developed countries however, one can purchase oats laced with honey chewing bars! In Kenya, our mama will be found with bottles of honey along Baringo – Nakuru and Mombasa – Nairobi highways, or in Mumias with stacks of oats because she has no market!


The African mama who was good in making “lubugo” cloth from “Mutuba” tree in Uganda was discouraged from manufacturing products that promote the kingdom of satan but embrace pure white cotton cloth if she was to see heaven! The Maasai mama, who would serve raw beef to the family, was asked to cook it well! In the Western world, one has a choice to eat well-done raw beef. City and municipal council askaris have particular dislike for the African mama trader. The African offspring has let their mama down by failing to integrate her daily chores into the modern economy. We have failed to adopt what we learn in modern schooling systems to our situation with a view of surfacing the hidden talents in our villages.


Even if we do not have a sense for the future, I am sure we can get started by getting the honey off the Baringo road and integrate it with the oats in Mumias to create a “BaMu chew-bar!” Will our policy makers make it easier for this to work? I guess not, not with the belief that we are incapable of feeding our own children, they will all rush to take dictation notes from the donor on whether this is viable or not!


This article was first published by Business Daily, a publication of Nation Media Group

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