Posted on | maart 19, 2012 | No Comments
The Germany envoy to Kenya Mrs. Margit Hellwig-Boette said Friday in Mombasa that the digital revolution offers Africa an opportunity that other societies never had—-leapfrog onto development faster. She said quite unlike the US or EU, the digital platform offers Africa a unique opportunity to jump many steps and catch up with the global community. “The west had to pass through many steps including industrialization and globalization—but Africa cannot afford this unless it wants to be left far behind the rest of the societies,” she said.
The diplomat added that Germany, currently the third world economic power but with very little cultural affinity to Africa, is struggling to make a mark in the continent. She said unlike the French and the British…who would easily take the risk to invest in Africa, the Germans are risk-averse. “That notwithstanding, however quite a number of Germany companies are interested in doing business in Africa…with a number having African division headquarters in Nairobi, but a number have no adequate knowledge on Africa,” she said. But the digital platform may help change this scenario. Germans have no cultural affinity to Africa…., few Germans have interests in Africa…but information would be key to change all this. She said what should concern Africa is the quality of information goes to the internet.
According to Veni Swai Programme officer Freidrich Naumannn Foundation, Africa is an equal competitor in the world. ”We have to be asking ourselves what the world should be seeing about Africa. Africa has to create the perception,” she said. James Shikwati, the executive director, Inter Region Economic Network said digital revolution, like industrial revolution could free Africans—the later led to the freeing of African slavery while the former could emancipate the 1.8 billion black race worldwide from mental slavery.
According to Shikwati, Africa loses 1.8m trillion dollars annually in terms of natural resources. Further, 60% (2.5 million ha) of Africa’s farmland is leased annually to produce food by and for outsiders while the inhabitants keep roaming the world begging for aid. Agreeing with the assertion, the envoy added that there is lots of information on the internet much of which does not help market Africa as a destination of investment by the German investors.
For an example, she cited the drought in the Horn of Africa in 2009 in which there was lot of hype on Somalia leading to all donations from Germany geared to fighting famine Somalia. It was not easy for her to convince her colleagues in Germany that there were other areas in the region like Turkana which needed there help. She said aalthough there are quite a number of Africans earning scholarships to study in Germany, the problem is having Germans coming into Africa. Small steps are however being taken to help bridge the gap between the Germans and Africa. In Nairobi for example there are quite a number of schools in Kenya which are having some relationship with Germany schools.
Ethics of information
She cautioned Africa to be wary of the kind of information that goes out about Africa. “One may have information but what to do with it is also important to know. On social media, the ambassador said while social media is good for social change, but it can also be negative,” she said. For example, the social media positively brought about the Arab spring…but the same media is also being used to ferment continued unrest through the hate messages seen in lots of social media in tribally-driven politics in countries such as Kenya.
The ambassador said for Africa to attract Germans, they need to provide political stability; stop ethnic rivaling—which is very scary to German investments. “Quite a number of German investors are hesitant to invest in the country given the political instability,” she said. This she said it key given that few governments in Africa have plans to lead digital revolution that would attract investments. “Investors are coming to seek the opportunity for themselves,” she said. Norah Owaraga said the way out for Africa is to ensure that it positions itself to control the content posted on the internet about itself.
AUTHOR: Henry Neondo
URL: http:// www.africasciencenews.org
E-MAIL: neondohenry [at] yahoo.com