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Over importation of ‘used goods’ kills the African intellect

29.05.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Africa has in recent times embarked on a total transformation of the continent in all spheres, especially in the economic domain. Championed by the African Union’s development agenda that falls under Vision 2063; the leaders thrive to take the continent to a better position in the global economic sphere; thus promoting Africa’s industrialization. But many pundits have always questioned how attainable this project would be, given that most African nations rely on importation of second-handed goods.

Understanding the concept of importation or dumping site

Generally, importation refers to the Process where goods and services enter a particular nation from another for commercial purposes or domestic use. From textile to automobile, electronics, utensils and lot more are ferried aboard vessels on daily bases into different African countries.

Statistics in some countries indicate that 90% of the goods imported are seconded handed or used goods. This has therefore raised the question to know if Africa is a dumping ground for used goods from foreign countries! This question is however problematic as one can’t independently justify the assertion. That notwithstanding, several cases have shown that most people who deal in the importation of second handed materials have argued that the high taxes levied by custom officials deprived them of importing brand new goods.

 

Strides to boost the growth of local industries

Though a continent that is rich in both natural and human resources, importation has engulfed a bulk of the African continent, hampering the growth of local industries. According to them, the African intellect has been stifled by over-dependence on foreign goods. Notwithstanding, with the push to revive the African economies, leaders have made enormous efforts in reducing importation of used goods into the continent especially in the automobile and textile factories. In an effort to boost the consumption of home made goods, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has reinforced a tough restriction on the importation of used car parts, this comes a year after Rwanda and Tanzania rolled out the importation of used clothes. This has brought frustration to people who depend on such commercial activity for livelihood. But what are the impacts of used goods on African economies? It is no doubt that international trade is beneficial to both trading partners, but when it becomes advantageous to just one side, that is where a problem comes in. Some pundits have argued that over-dependence of imported goods especially in the automobile and textile industries have greatly stifled local industries.

Reacting to the issue of importation and how it has killed the African intellect, DR Nick NGWANYAM, MD, CEO ST LOUIS GROUP, Cameroon said, this is a very tricky and exciting exercise that has to be taken very seriously by all Africans and all governments if we are worth our salt. He adds ‘’while we might be looking at importation, the problem is much deeper than that. We have to understand what the root causes are otherwise the problem would never ever be solved’’. According to DR NGWANYAM, things Work on Principles, Discipline, Understanding and Actual Problem Solving. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. It is the needs that drive creativity and the markets. In trying to meet our needs, that is when ingenuity is cultivated. Solving problems or rather developing the capacity to solve problems is the key. Thus challenging African leaders, he urged them to adopt the D.I.Y or Do It Yourself policy. For any nation or people to grow, we must understand the principle of D.I.Y. This is the key to growth and development. You must learn to Do It Yourself. The critical pundit reiterated that changing governments and presidents and having all types of seminars will not solve the fundamental problems plaguing Africa.

‘As we learn the art of solving problems, we become better at it. The problems become more complex by the day. As we also develop a mind and a complex matrix for solving the problems; we become better. It is an ongoing exercise at which everybody and every nation keep flexing muscles. With this background, we can understand why Africa is in trouble. I still remember the first Toyota cars imported from Japan to Cameroon in 1970. They were not the best of cars but they started something and kept on perfecting their act. Today they are leaders in car manufacture and sales in the world. Yet here we are still laughing at the image in our minds of 1970 when we cannot make toothpicks in 2019.

So What Went Wrong With Africa?

Every other continent seems to have understood this and are putting their act together and getting better by the day. Africa seems to have gone to sleep for one reason or the other. We have looked for the easiest way out.

-Import stuff to meet our needs.

-Import rice and fish from the Chinese to feed our populations. Pay them off with oil money.

-Sell the tree trunks to pay for imported fresh water and champagne.

-Threw away your hard-earned foreign currency to other nations and help them create their industries and jobs at our expense.

As per DR Ngwanyam, all these have promoted wars, political problems and underdevelopment in Africa. Poor Educational System favours importation. This is the true bedrock of Africa’s myriad problems. Africa educational system does not promote innovation.  STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is relatively absent from our schools. We teach History, Philosophy, Logic, French, Literature and more of such. Then when we go to universities; half the students are studying law, modern letters, gender studies, curriculum development and many of these things that do not really help us to solve technical problems.

 

This critical expert DR Nick NGAWNYAM noted that even with the availability of schools of engineering, there is no enough training that permits students to be creative after all. He said ‘’we train engineers that cannot build our roads, we train agricultural officers who cannot grow rice nor keep chicken. We have doctors and nurses who cannot build our health systems to have a competitive edge and solving health problems. Then we train administrators who steal and tell lies, thus, the educational system does not help us lay the right foundations, explaining why Africa’s industrialization drive is slow. The only way to correct this ‘malady’ is to do a cross-pollination and bring in technology at all cost. It will take training in technology and engineering, problem-solving skills, character training, industrialization and the desire to live for the common good.

Efforts

It would be a gross exaggeration to say that Africa is not making strides to face out the importation of used good from the West. Even though industrialization is slow due to inadequate energy, African leaders have pushed to promote and uplift Africa’s textile industries.  Most countries in East Africa including Rwanda and Tanzania in 2017 prohibited the importation of ’’used goods’’ into their nations, giving a boost to local manufacturers. This was made with much resistance from the US. One step at a time.

In a nutshell, it is no doubt that importation kills African economies and kills our talent development. Yet the best way to fight it is to begin to reduce the importation of things we can grow or make ourselves. We should encourage local production by throwing in a lot of incentives. Youths should be guided and their training orientated to develop the right skill sets to tackle the problems at our doorsteps. Africans need to believe in themselves and defeat ignorance and irresponsibility to excel in the economic sphere.

Article from AFRIC editorial

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