IPKenya came across this viral “article” by a certain Field Ruwe titled: “You Lazy (Intellectual) African Scum!”.
In case you haven’t already read it, please do. It is annoyingly true for the most part and perhaps what is being described in the “article” about Zambia could be applied to lots of other African countries.
However, IPKenya does not fully agree with this “article” in so far as it terms African intellectuals as “lazy” for their failure to innovate and create.
“Poor and uneducated Africans are the most hardworking people on earth. I saw them in the Lusaka markets and on the street selling merchandise. I saw them in villages toiling away. I saw women on Kafue Road crushing stones for sell and I wept. I said to myself where are the Zambian intellectuals? Are the Zambian engineers so imperceptive they cannot invent a simple stone crusher, or a simple water filter to purify well water for those poor villagers? Are you telling me that after thirty-seven years of independence your university school of engineering has not produced a scientist or an engineer who can make simple small machines for mass use? What is the school there for?”
First of all, not all intellectuals are inventors, creators and innovators. Most intellectuals are simply that, intellectuals. They’ve published, written and done studies on their native countries, for instance critically acclaimed Zambian-born and bred Dr. Dambisa Moyo.
Is this “article” suggesting that her and others like her are lazy?
However, the main flaw in the reasoning in this “article” is that it grossly understates the role of the government and other public bodies in creating and fostering a suitable atmosphere for creativity, invention and innovation.
Last year, IPKenya highlighted WIPO’s annual world intellectual property report titled: “The Changing Face of Innovation” which notes, inter alia, that most African countries had not taken legislative steps to promote and finance research and development at public universities and Public Research Organisations (PROs). In South Africa, for instance, universities are the highest patent filers and are responsible for 75% of basic R&D spent.
Such lessons on nurturing of ideas through IP protection and technology commercialisation are slowly becoming a reality throughout Africa. With the success of the Innovation Hub, mLab and science parks in South Africa, Kenya opened its very own Innovation Hub (*i_Hub) with little if not any government funding or support. Recently a creativity hub has also been established PAWA254 to cater for copyright-related works including literary, artistic and music works.
Anyways, returning back to the Zambian context, IPKenya found the case of Zambikes as just one in many examples of the creativity and innnovation in Zambia. A local company that makes bicycles from bamboo.
Below is an informational video:
The long and short of it is that innovation, creativity and inventiveness of a nation doesnt exist in a vacuum. Skills and talents must be nurtured, ideas must be incubated, and the resultant works, technologies, designs, brands, organizational know-how and business models must be adequately protected and commercialised. All this requires an enabling and conducive environment which is the primary responsibility of the government through enacting relevant legislations as well as putting in place focussed policies that will translate into innovation-driven economic growth so as to remain competitive in the global economy. Therefore although intellectuals also have their part to play in the knowledge-based economy of today, they require the support and facilitation of the State within which they live and work.
Therefore, the mere fact that we can still point out examples of creativity and innovation in the midst of mismanaged and corrupt governments ought to be a sign of hope that with the proper governance in place, Africa will see more positive developmental growth and make more lasting contributions to global knowledge.