This is a big week for humanity–once again we are breaking a population record (according to the statisticians).They say that we are 7 billion and rising. No reason to think differently. Last I saw, there seemed to be a lot of people everywhere. At least we are doing good on one of the four big fronts: procreation, peace, food production and environmental protection.
Or are we? And since sub-Saharan Africa is the most prolific place on the planet for people, and yet the most destitute, what hope can lie there?
And the latest breaking news says there is a new cholera outbreak, just to add an extra bit of ugly. There is a line of hope that just might work. But it is tricky and depends on a whole lot of good things coming together at the same time. But it just could work. And we are talking a decade or two here, if lucky.
Over the next couple of decades there will be a surplus of people who will be willing and able to work in sub-Sahara Africa. Ya, I know, right now there are immediate needs that must deal with crime reduction, disease prevention, water, food. But if some or all of those start moving in the direction of helping people, then phase two of creating life can start.
I am no expert, but seems to me that a child with food, some safety and no immediate diseases needs more. That is where phase two kicks in (and where Adnan Nevic starts to be important).Phase two is the stage of hope: where people start to live without fear and then start developing dreams. And their dreams depend, in part, on having some stability in their life.
Adnan Nevic is 12 years old and was the symbolic choice of the United Nations as the 6th billionth living person. That was in 1999, just after all the war and chaos in what people often refer to as “the former Yugoslavia.”There was extreme violence and despair in the 1990's. Yet, through all sorts of people stepping in, things have become more stable. Now those newly-formed countries are wanting to join the European Union and will do so: stability and hope often work together. They see a chance: whatever they choose those chances to be. And so Adnan has his dreams to be a pilot and to travel the world. Which is not a surprise for a young person who has been handed the burden of being the 6th billionth.
So then–when I try to relate that to the young people of Africa, what can I say? There is the same hope, but the numbers of people, and the history of trauma are much bigger. But that does not mean that the job cannot be done. Let's assume, just to get to my point, that stability and food and water are supplied to some extent. Then what next?
That is where my job ends, but where real needs will exist: there will be the need to create an environment where people will be able to work and chase their dreams. Don't get me wrong–I would prefer not to work and so I do not dictate that to anyone. But it seems a necessity of life (when there is hope). So work we shall. All of us who are not fortunate enough to be born kings or emperors must work.
So how could the people of the DR Congo find work? There is great hope there because of the great natural resources. So that will be a next and troubling puzzle. Will the past ghosts of colonialism and despotism create the same environment where the people got little for their efforts? Or will something different emerge where people actually get some pay for their work? That is one step.
Education is an even more important step that really makes a difference. That is where each person increases her and his ability to make dreams come true and earn a living that meets the bills. A trained work force means an ability to compete in the international marketplace. So what?If people of sub-Saharan Africa can get ready–if their governments help them get ready, then they can and will march forward into control in their day to day life.
What I mean by get ready is this: a twist in population dynamics puts sub-Saharan Africa in the best position to contribute to a world work force in the next thirty years.
What has happened is that all of the countries that are doing all of the manufacturing of profit have also lessened their birthrates: by a lot. So that means in ten and twenty years countries such as China, Japan–most of the European countries–will all be “tapping out” on their ability to produce workers and, ultimately, what the workers produce. In short, the world continues to demand products (I do not agree with this concept of keeping demand high, but that is just me).
So with this demand for products comes the need to produce those products. Hence, there is an opportunity for Africa to do what it has always done–produce products. Sadly, under the colonialist regimes, Africa produced huge amounts of ivory, rubber, and even chocolate. But did not get the rewards. Now there is oil, and gold and coltan in the offing.
Just recently, Ghana cut a deal to process the cashews it had been growing (but not processing–thus loosing jobs) so that the processing jobs will be done by the people of Ghana.
My point is this: there is great potential in Africa. There is great suffering in Africa. There is a long history of suffering in Africa. There is a chance that there can be a change. More importantly–there has to be a change. The state of affairs there is not acceptable. We need to wake up