PHDs: Is Higher Learning Helping Africa?

Published on 6th February 2012

University graduands                       Photo courtesy
Economic empowerment is about ownership and control, as opposed to a plethora of degrees and certificates that often end up costing more to obtain than the spill-over benefits to the greater community in the form of job creation and sustainable employment base. This is a debatable proposition though.

There are examples of some highly educated people impacting the greater community by doing what they have passion for, doing the heavy lifting - hard work and dedication  and applying entrepreneurial efforts, rather than regurgitated knowledge/lessons acquired because one was patient to have gone through the attendance requirements, paid the fees and scored minimum grades to earn a paper.

PHD - Permanent Head Damage
PHD - Passion Hard-work Dedication
MBA - Minor Bank Account
MBA - Major Bank Account

The above is satirical to denote that education has mostly not delivered for the black race. Of the 5,000 major influential world global corporations for example, hardly any has roots in Africa. In a recent survey and ranking of world universities and colleges, only a few universities in two African countries made the list. Another notable challenge: many black institutions in US and Africa hardly have any endowment, and basically run on thin resources.

"In 2007, there were over 1.9 million black owned businesses in the United States. That number is growing rapidly. According to the US Census, the average black owned business grosses about $72,000 per year. This is below the national average for other minority businesses which gross an average of $179,000. In addition, non-minority firms gross an average of $490,000 per year."

No Nigerian university has any endowment to speak of, and of all the clamor and glamour of wealthy Nigerians, none of them has stepped up to endow any faculty or school in a Nigerian university. Rather, they will give millions to build or support churches and mosques, just like black folks do in US; build mega churches but create no jobs.

Unemployment is highest in African-American communities, and despite many that claim to be rich even enjoying the rare rank of billionaires, the trickle-down effect is marginal. Rich African-Americans have no significant workforce economic impact as can be seen with entertainers and athletes, the highest earners in the African-American clan, but a group whose collateral impact is often imagined than quantified. Of all business enterprises/companies formed in Texas by African-Americans, more than 70% are for non-profits. This begs the question:  whose profit are they looking for before they make theirs? Small businesses, the largest employer in US; convenience stores, restaurants, handy-man services, construction services, African-Americans are least represented. In Dallas for example, there is no African-American 3-5 star owned restaurants. Of all gas stations and conveniences in black neighborhoods, less than 5 are owned by African-Americans. Majority are owned by immigrants.

Without a bank in US owned by African-Americans worth a billion dollars, even with an annual consumption value approaching a $1 trillion, and many communities lack community banks or viable credit unions, playing in US competitive economic arena becomes like one pulling a tooth with a toothpick.

Access to capital is a limiting factor, and one is further limited if they own no financial institution to provide credit. According to US Department of Commerce, ethnic minorities have on the average less credit access than Caucasians.

Credit/capital is the juice for labor to make goods. And when Africans-Americans are lent capital/credit, they are most likely to end up with higher interest rate payment than most; a stifling and choking proposition. Therefore, to be considered a significant player in the world global economic order with domestic presence, prayers will not cut it. One must own their own financial institutions and extend credit to their community and constituents. Africans/Blacks must quit being seen as players and migrate to Referees, in which role, they call the game fair or foul.

It does appear folks will work for others' establishments Monday-Friday to devote their man-hours, Saturday they rest and on Sunday, they pray for strength to continue again M-F. Blacks would rather go work for the government or non-black owned company than theirs, just like Africans will prefer working for multinational corporations than nurture theirs into a multinational company. In today's Nigeria/Africa, many multinational corporations do not allow Nigerians/Africans access to the same set of amenities!! You got the gist!

Here are some stats - Blacks in US are the most to graduate with PhD, but often create the least economic impact and benefits for their community. Most blacks with MBA, rather go work for someone or corporation than actually own a business. Most blacks end up teaching others how to graduate with business education but never muster the courage to go out and own one for themselves.

So the question is, if education is seen as an enabler not necessarily an equalizer, how come for blacks or Africans, the outcome of their education appears less than? Does this stretch the notion that equal opportunity as in education, does not mean equal outcome?

Since labor [skilled and unskilled] is seen and considered the most viable/critical of all factors of production, and blacks and Africans rather give others their labor, can this be the reason for the less than outcome?

Until certain fundamental approaches/attitudes/culture in the manner Africans/blacks conduct their affairs are structurally altered for positive outcome with unapologetic stride and drive to elevate and depart from the squalor and door mat situations, the dance and song in the square about educational titles, are just that - clamor/glamour with little substance.

Now go take on the day: Shelve the degrees and cultivate PHD - Passion Hard work and Dedication.

By Ejike Okpa II
Dallas, Texas.

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