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Africa needs industrialisation, not entrepreneurs

By   Francis E. Ogbimi

The passage, Ecclesiastes 1: 9-11, 18:  said, ‘What has happened before will happen again. What has been done before will be done again. There is nothing new in the world. Look, they say, here is something new! But no, it has all happened before, long before we were born. No one remembers what has happened in the past, and no one in days to come will remember what happens between now and then. The wiser you are, the more worries you have; the more you know, the more it hurts. Europe had agricultural economies and experienced mass unemployment, low productivity, prevalent poverty, diseases and other unhappy situations for centuries. The inappropriate solutions proposed by governments and leaders then are the same being proposed by African governments and leaders, regional and world bodies for the same problems in Africa today. After the public service job positions and those of the sales force of multinational satellite companies became filled in the mid-1970s in Nigeria, governments have since been proposing self-employment in agricultureand entrepreneurship as solution to economic stagnation, mass unemployment and prevalent poverty and now insecurity.

All through the 1500s, the proportion of England’s population that was destitute rose dramatically; by the end of the 16th century, many thousands of common people were forced into begging, stealing and prostitution (Defleur, et al., 1977). A common belief in an agrarian economy, is that the real solution to unemployment and poverty, is to provide land for able-bodied people to farm and make a living themselves. This thinking probably influenced the actions taken by individuals and government concerning England poverty and unemployment problems during the early 1600s (Defleur, et al. , 1977). It was during the early 1600s that charters were first issued for establishing colonies in the New World – the Americas.  Such ventures were probably perceived as solutions to the problems of the English poor, but they were not. The healthy and able-bodied poor could be sent to the colonies where people were in short supply and there was uncultivated land. That was the beginning of how the English poor (area boys?) were exported to America (Defleur, et al., 1977). Sufferings and poverty continued in Britain for many more centuries. The general grievance, civil wars and military rule in England during the period 1640-1688 had a lot to do with unemployment and poverty. The British experience was typical of European nations. Britain achieved the first modern Industrial Revolution (IR) in the period 1770-1850 (Gregg, 1971). When Britain achieved the IR, adult males and females in the nation were not enough to fill available job openings. Consequently, employers of labour had to resort to employing children to work for many hours in the day. That was the scandalous child-labour experience in Britain during the early times of the European industrialization. History, therefore, demonstrates that industrialization is the solutions to mass unemployment and poverty.

Managing unemployment and poverty in American was not different from the European experience.  Virginia, the first colony set-up in the New World by British businessmen and the crown was in 1606 (Baldwin, 1969). By the 1770s, thirteen colonies had been set-up. The colonies revolted against the crown in 1775 and fought the War of Independence in the period 1775-1783. Assisted by many other European nations, the colonies won the war and the United States was born. The destitute of colonial America was faced by a system of relief that was similar to the one in Britain under the English poor law. During the early 1800s, America was a village-nation; over 90 per cent of America was made up of villages which had no contact with each other; the mother, father and children worked to provide food, shelter and clothing (Bartlett, et al., 1969). America achieved IR during the period 1850-1900.

Our research revealed that learning (education, training, employment and research) is the primary source of sustainable economic growth and industrialization. ALL human beings are born as crying-babies. The baby soon begins to babble (learns how to talk) and later talks.  The baby who could not babble grows up to be a dumb-adult. As the baby acquires the capabilities to talk through learning, so s/he acquires every other capability through learning. If a society possesses the capabilities to manufacture many scientific products, the citizens must have acquired the relevant knowledge, skills and capabilities (KSCs).  The learning-people appreciate in intrinsic values with learning-time and learning-intensity. Learning increases the capabilities for solving problems including production.

Industrialisation is achieved when the citizens of a nation have learnt for a period and accumulated/developed a critical quantity of scientific KSCs and experts. Our research results also suggest that the larger the population mobilized for learning the sooner a nation acquires the necessary KSC/experts and achieves industrialisation. That is, the rate of transformation of a society is determined by its learning rate.

European and Asian nations neglected learning for thousands of years. They acquired science through learning-on-the-job and entrepreneurship. Hence, the transformation of European and Asian economies from the agricultural status into the industrialized status was very slow, 2000-3000 years. Britain had no public educational systems when it achieved the first modern IR. Educational institutions promote high-intensity learning and rapid economic growth. America built educational systems early and became a world power in just about 300 years. Today, the United States alone has about 5000 universities, more than the number in many industrialized nations added together. Our research also showed that the more the people involved in entrepreneurship and self-employment in agriculture, the lower the national productivity (Ogbimi, 2007; and ILO, 1991). Entrepreneurship and self-employment are atomized production. They are survivalists’ activities in nations operating below the poverty line. Entrepreneurship and self-employment entail very low learning-intensity and slow growth rate, hence they do not create enough wealth to raise a nation above the poverty line, readily. Nations with many people in self-employment in agriculture and entrepreneurship are invariably poor.

Ogbimi writes from Lagos

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Posted by on May 24 2021. Filed under Africa & World Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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