Africans have been formatted to believe that research and development occurs only in developed nations like the United States, Sweden, Germany, South Korea or Israel to name but a few. There are some arguments that tend to legitimize this belief. Indeed, the most advanced universities in the world are located in “developed nations” where researchers and inventors have access to state of the art facilities and equipment, unlike the majority of African scientists and inventors. Moreover, the quality of the premises found in the universities of the “developed world” are far better than those found in African universities that lack, for instance, quality equipment in their laboratories – when they exist.
The majority of the wealthiest and most competitive firms in science and technology have their headquarters, as well as their research and development centers or laboratories located in “developed nations”. In these nations, the academic system is “globally” in line with the needs and expectations expressed by science and technology firms that can directly employ the best students from the best universities. Unfortunately, in several African countries, the academic system at the university level, but not only, is far from being in line with the needs and expectations of local companies.
This sad reality stems from the intellectual and mental incapacity of the vast majority of African rulers to rethink the educational system inherited from the colonists in view of adapting it to the intrinsic realities faced by African economies and societies. And Africa has several challenges to deal with for which the remedies can be found locally. Yet, Africans tend to look down at innovations or inventions made by other fellow Africans. As a result, the general belief is that African students, scientists, inventors and innovators are not smart enough to help solve African problems and that the solutions should always come from … the former colonists!
As the founder of Kumatoo, I have researched intensely about African inventors over the past eight years. I have been fascinated by their creative capacities despite lack of support to find out that some of the best African researchers or inventors are school dropouts. Some of them drop out of school for financial reasons. Others, on the contrary, simply leave the academic system because they believe that “it is a waste of time”. The latter are generally very brilliant people who tend to perform poorly at school because what they learn does not bring them satisfaction. One of these dropouts affirmed that he didn’t like to study “to pass” because it would have made much more sense to study “to build something constructive”, especially if he is born with the capacity to invent and innovate. This is a commanding insight that should translate into the educational system adapting itself to meet the expectations of this category of students, and not always the other way around.
The only recourse left to African innovators and scientists, especially those who have been cast out indirectly or directly by the “system”, is to build their own shop or research center where they amass all kinds of scraps and recycled materials to manufacture equipment aimed at bringing household or industrial solutions to daily problems faced by Africans. And across Africa, there are several of these shops where the African genius is at work, although this talent is most of the time overlooked by local authorities.
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