In 2005 Robert Guest wrote an article in the Telegraph comparing South Korea and Kenya and the reason why South Korea overtook Kenya in terms of economic growth. The title of the article is in form of a question and a straight simple answer.
The main point was that the difference between the two countries can be traced to the politics of greed. Kenya’s rulers are parasitic or broad daylight robbers. They all enter politics to get rich and care little about the people. Compared to South Korean rulers, who are corrupt as well but has made economic growth their number one priority.
As a result South Koreans, who in 1960 were, on average, poorer than Kenyans, were by 2005 25 times richer than Kenyans. The same type of argument could be made about majority of African countries. Back in 2005 the analysts and experts were all concern on why there was no progress in Africa as compared to Asia. Even Tony Blair appointed a commission to find out the reason behind the glaring poverty in Africa.
But come 2012 the narratives have changed and now the phrases commonly used to describe Africa are: “Africa Booming”, “Africa rising”, “Land of opportunities”, “fastest growing economies”.
Almost every major news organization around the world have one way or another quoted the International Monetary Fund forecasts that Africa will have the world’s fastest-growing economy during the next five years of any continent. And that the seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies will be from Africa. Top among them being Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria
When one look at that, you may stop to ask what happened, why it took so long for African countries to get to the right path towards prosperity? Why did it take damn over 40 years for the good news to start emerging from Africa? I think there are a number of reasons to explain this below:
The Role of Education in Africa.
Back to the Telegraph article, Robert Guest gave an example of a South Korean kid being forced to go school and learn Engineer, while Kenyan Masai kid is forced to go to the field and look at the cattle. While I agree that there are still such cases, the reality is that Kenya is complex country with 42 tribes.
The famous Masai tribe which every tourist coming to Kenya usually go to visit is just one tribe among forty two tribes. The other tribes realized the benefits of education quite early and the literacy rate in Kenya is among the highest in the continent. As Kenyan population increases the land to graze the cattle became and less and less every year and now even the Masai tribe takes education seriously.
The main point about education is that in the early 60’s when a country like Kenya got independence, the number of educated Kenyans ware countable. It is at that point that a number of Kenyan students got scholarships to go and study abroad, especially in the US and Europe. The people who took over to run the country were basically semi-illiterate while those being led were totally illiterate. There were very few schools and kids had to travel long distances by foot attend the classes.
At that point you had to be of a certain age to even dream of going to school. My dad told me that during their time, for one to be admitted to a nursery class, one had to put his/her hand around his/her head and touch the opposite ear. Meaning people started to go to school when they were old enough to travel the long distance every day walking.
With that kind of hardship not many people managed to go to school or completed their education in the 60s and even 70s. So regardless on how the country was being run those days, nobody questioned the Government. The looting was being done openly and people did not know or even others thought it was just okay.
The proper education expansion in Kenya took place in late 80s and 90s. The impact of education started to be seen when those who got Scholarship to study abroad came back in 80s they started to question how the country was being run and that how the struggle for multi-party democracy instead of the country being a single party state began. What many in Kenya call second liberation.
Despite the fact that Kenya became a multi-party state in 1992, it took another ten years for the country to get rid of those who came to power in the late 70s and usher in a new highly educated President, Mwai Kibaki. It is also true to say that the majority of people who benefited from expanded education facilities came into the job market around 2000.
From that point it was not only that country was being ruled by educated men and women, the people themselves by then were well educated and were not ready to take any nonsense. This is not to say that there is no mismanagement and corruption in Kenya, it is still very high but like Koreans, economic growth is becoming the top priority for Kenyans and those in power.
To illustrate this, when Kibaki took office, Kenyan GDP was at $13.1 billion, nine years later, the Kenyan GDP was at $33.6billion in 2011. So from the independence in 1964 to 2001 Kenyan GDP grew from $998.7 million to $13.1 billion compared to the growth being from 13.1 billion in 2002 to 33.6 billion in 2011.
The same parallel can be drawn with many Africa countries although some had to go through bloody path to get rid of the first class of rulers. Look at Kenyan neighbour Uganda, it is unbelievable that idiot like Idi Amin became the President of the country.
A country like Zimbabwe still has the same problem, because Mugabe is still around. I bet the day they will be able to get rid of him and his henchmen, the country will not take long before taking the right direction.