Avoiding Africa's Destruction

Avoiding Africa's Destruction

"To solve one problem in Africa, you end up solving seven along the way.” Takunda Chingonzoh, founder of The Tech Village

Are we getting smarter or dumber?

We're good at downloading apps. We're legends at finding new ways to solve old problems. We're geniuses when it comes to all the ways we can use social media. So what?

“A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.” —Albert Einstein

There's a lot of problem solving going on in Africa—hubs, labs, meet-ups and the like. Africa is quick at seeing a problem (probably because there are so many we have to overcome in a day), but is Africa good at avoiding problems?

The Somali famine could have been avoided.

Instead, over a billion dollars, a lot of energy and a ton of innovation has been spend on managing the crisis.

Zimbabwe's drug problem, electricity problem and currency problems could have been avoided. Instead it's affected millions of people and crippled a country.

South Africa's Water Problem could have been avoided. Instead the government didn't act soon enough and the problem was welcomed with open arms.

The Rwandan Genocide could have been avoided. Instead "U.S., French, and Belgian authorities, as well as those at the United Nations, received dozens of warnings in the months before the genocide but failed to act effectively." The result? 800,000 people were massacred. 

The Titanic disaster could have been avoided. Instead pride got in the way and a captain who was determined to disregard other sound advice. People died (and a movie was made about the disaster).

  • Are we on social media too much to avoid problems?
  • Are we innovating around dumb mistakes that shouldn't have been made by our leaders?
  • Are we getting smarter because of it?

While 4 hours a day is spent at a bank to get money (because of a problem that could have been avoided), young people in Beijing are coming up with world-changing ideas to capitlize on the work ethic of Zimbabweans to make China rich. 

Come on people! Avoid the problems that can be avoided, otherwise we'll spend all of our creativity fixing dumb issues and we won't be smarter for it.

Big or small problems should be avoided. I'm not talking about procrastination. That's the ignorance of a disaster.

What do we need to do to avoid problems, make it part of systems and keep our energies focused on things that are progressive?

  • Look for symptoms and pre-plan. There's always symptoms before the horse kick. A twitch, a negative attitude, a look in the eyes. Learn to diagnose better.
  • Maintain the excellence. This is hard and it's a beast, but a plane, a car, a building or company all need maintenance so that it doesn't eventually just implode. If it’s working, keep it working.
  • Don't ignore the warnings. A leak in a roof, an iceberg filled sea or a call about a disgruntled opposition.
  • Vividly consider the alternative. What’s the cost of allowing a famine, a disease outbreak or a war? What would it look like? The lives at stake, the jobs at stake the social state of a nation. Too often it comes as a surprise and by then it's too late. 

An app doesn't make us smart or effective, and neither does the ability to gain more followers. Pursuing a vision that gives hope and value to people does... And you can't do that when all you're doing is fixing problems that could have been avoided.

(photo via maldeno)