First, I need to make one thing clear:
It’s OK to be rich. We shouldn’t feel any guilt about it!
If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that life would feel a whole lot better if we didn’t have to ever worry about making the rent, paying our kids’ school fees, affording the best things in life, or taking a refreshing vacation to a beautiful foreign destination.
The real question is: what kind of rich do you want to be?
Across Africa, there is a strong trend among the youth to ‘make it’. Almost every young person on the continent, including the very poor, wants to be rich.
I love it!
I love the ambition of our youth. I love our overwhelming belief in the possibility of becoming rich in our lifetime. Of course, it’s human nature to dream and aspire for lofty ground. And like I said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
However, I have a very serious concern.
When it comes to prosperity and how wealth is acquired, it appears young people on our continent are subjected to wrong influences and ‘role models.’
Right now, Africa is transforming into a society that overwhelmingly embraces and celebrates greed, lucre (ill-gotten wealth), shady characters, and others like them.
In this article, I explore 3 very disturbing negative trends that are shifting the mindset of Africa’s young people toward the wrong side of ‘rich’. If we remain unaware of these trends, and do nothing about them, they could have very disastrous consequences for the future of our continent.
Why should we pay close attention?
Well, over 60 percent of Africans are below 35 years old. By 2050, Africa will have the world’s largest population of young people. These are the people who will decide the fate of our continent. The future and destiny of Africa is in the hands of its youth.
Will Africa continue in a vicious cycle of poverty, deprivation and conflict for the next 100 years?
Will we finally break out of the cycle and set on a path of incredible transformation that will launch Africa into first-world status?
How Africa’s young people think about prosperity and ‘getting rich’ will determine the answers to these questions and the future path of our continent.
So, let’s meet the ugly trends I told you about:
1| Irresponsible Political Leadership
Across Africa, the political class is the richest segment of society. And this absolutely makes no sense.
Sprawling estates, mansions, private jets and a fleet of exotic cars are common place, not just for many serving and former political officers, but their associates, favorites, family and friends.
How do they fund such a ‘rich’ lifestyle? Your guess is as good as mine. Since public servants should normally only earn a modest income, it’s logical to assume their lavish lifestyles are supported by stolen public funds and the proceeds of bribery and corruption.
A ‘warehouse’ of looted cash discovered in the home of a corrupt politician
The flamboyance and ‘lucrativeness’ of political office in Africa has made it a hot target for the continent’s younger generation who now look at politics, not as an opportunity to serve, but a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the table to grab a piece of the ‘national cake’.
Politics on the continent has become a grand investment opportunity as politicians now borrow huge sums from friends, family, ‘godfathers’ and commercial banks to fund their political campaigns.
And they will do anything to protect their ‘investment’, even if it demands the spilling of blood and loss of hundreds of lives. That’s why it’s hardly any surprise that elections on the continent are often marred by underhand tactics and violence.
With a ‘sponsored ticket’ to a political office and great expectations from patrons, family and friends, there’s always a huge motivation to steal from the public purse to compensate the ‘investors’ and ‘cheerleaders’.
In Africa, corruption is not a preserve for only political office holders. Their family, friends, partners and favorites are all in on it too.
2| Misleading Pop Culture
“Spend that money.”
“Fast cars, high-street designer fashion, lavish parties and ultra-expensive jewelry”
These are the themes that dominate popular culture in Africa today, especially among the youth. It’s on the radio, television, magazines and casual conversations. It’s difficult to escape it. It’s everywhere — especially in music and movies which are popular hits among the youth.
It’s funny how the prevailing pop culture in Africa favours spending. I hardly hear anything about production. With a pervasive spending mentality, it’s no surprise that Africa has regressed from the production powerhouse it used to be in the 60s and 70s, into the import-dependent economy that it is today. We import even the most basic products, including most of the food we eat.
Yes, pop culture always talks about making money, but it’s usually fast money. Nobody who actually toils and works very hard for their money would easily splurge it on senseless extravagance.
The narrative in pop culture hardly extols the hard work, creativity, dedication and grit that’s actually required to make legit money. They make it look very easy.
More like, “it’s OK if you have money. We don’t really care how you made it.”
As a result, money has become the ‘cool’ factor in African society. Not intelligence. Not character. And certainly not hard work.
If you don’t have money, you’re not cool. And you don’t deserve any attention. Period!
As long as you have money, no matter the source, you earn and deserve the spotlight.
The outcome is hardly surprising. More people are under pressure to keep up with the Kardashians. And more young people on the continent are adopting a “get rich quick or die trying” mentality.
The ultimate end result:
Rising rates and sophistication of crime – kidnapping for ransom, robbery, extortion, large-scale corruption, and fraud (especially internet scams), just to name a few.
3| Pervasive Money Worship in African Society
Photo credit: papamalo.wordpress.com
In early school, I learned in Social Studies class that the family (the “home”) and community are very influential in forming the character of a person. And that’s because the family and community are the first environments that interact with, and influence, childhood.
Sadly, morals and virtue – especially as it concerns acquiring wealth – have become negotiable in African society. These days, people don’t really scorn anymore at ‘questionable wealth’.
And everyone is in on it. Even the religious community that holds a sacred obligation to preserve moral virtue has become complicit in money worship.
When religious organisations accept, acknowledge and celebrate ‘gracious’ contributions and gifts from ‘questionable’ sources and individuals, our society is in big trouble.
When local chiefs, elders and leaders – who should preserve age-long traditional African values – betray our enviable heritage by accepting bribes and the proceeds of filthy lucre, then our society is in big trouble.
Whenever I discuss the disturbing trend of money worship in African society with friends and associates, poverty is commonly identified as the primary cause.
“It’s the poverty in the land that’s causing our morals to fall apart.”, they say.
I don’t agree!
In my opinion, poor people may lack the trappings of the good life, but they don’t necessarily lack dignity, morals and values. In essence, poverty and morality are not mutually exclusive qualities.
Can we reverse this appalling practice of money worship in Africa?
I think so.
Maybe if we go down to the root of society – the “home” – we could have a good chance of reversing this trend. Right now, parents in millions of homes across the continent are our best chance of repairing the tear in African values.
How To Become Rich The ‘Right’ Way In Africa
Is it really possible to become rich the ‘right’ way in Africa?
Our continent is blessed with amazing opportunities to create enduring wealth. In fact, Africa is one of very few places on earth with abundant natural, mineral and human resources that could make all of us rich.
The reason this hasn’t happened is greed, selfishness and shortsighted views on how wealth should be created and shared. This is why the gap between the rich and poor in Africa is one of the widest in the world.
Rather than focus solely on individual wealth, I think it’s more sustainable and safer for all of us to enrich our commonwealth.
After all, rich people can’t have much sleep in a society where poverty is forcing young people into desperation and crime. In a society where there’s a very wide gap between the rich and the poor, the rich inadvertently make themselves high-value targets for kidnapping, fraud and violent crimes.
Even though they may hide behind very high walls, exclusive estates, tinted cars and security details, for how long will they continue to hide?
Thankfully, there is a segment of Africa’s youth that is thinking differently. They are the ones solving some of Africa’s most serious problems. These entrepreneurs prove that it’s possible to do well by doing good. And in truth, success does not need to come at another person’s loss or expense.
From Top Left: Elizabeth Tilahun Alemu, SoleRebels (Ethiopia); Jason Njoku, IrokoTV (Nigeria); Adii Pienaar, ex-WooThemes (South Africa), Kaldi’s Coffee (Ethiopia), Anna Phosa, Celebrity Pig Farmer (South Africa); Patrick Ngowi, Helvetic Solar (Tanzania); Tsedey Asrat, Kaldi’s Coffee (Ethiopi); Desmond Mabuza, Signature Fine Dining (South Africa); Lorna Rutto, EcoPost (Kenya)
The continent needs more inspiring role models like them. These are the kinds of people our youths should be looking up to.
A youthful continent like ours should tightly embrace and openly celebrate hardwork, creativity, intelligence, integrity, grit, courage and, most especially, common sense.
Africa needs more examples of people who are ‘the kind of rich we want to be.’ Surely, they exist in every country across the continent. We just need to do a better job of identifying, acknowledging and celebrating these individuals, leaders, thinkers, doers and entrepreneurs.
These are the folks we should admire, celebrate and follow!
Do you know anyone who fits this profile?
I hereby encourage you to blow their trumpets in the Comments section below.
Let the blowing begin! 🙂