JOHANNESBURG - Nation Building is a concept that can mean different things to different societies.
This is especially true when the societies have a cauldron of different objectives, languages, cultures and creeds. It is even worse when a country is so fractured and has many factions.
Yet with all our differences, nation building should just focus on creating a functioning country out of a bad or non-functioning one. Obviously certain basics need to be in place before we start building. These include political stability, a growing - or better still - a thriving economy, employment opportunities, solid infrastructure, low levels of poverty and a workforce that has market-relevant skills to help drive the development trajectory.
Last, but by no means least, the economic landscape must be conducive to entrepreneurial empowerment and sustainability, ensuring that commercially-viable ideas get to market and don’t gather dust in some dark basement. Homogeneity is also critical for nation building to succeed. It is difficult where we have so many languages, unequal education and lack of infrastructure in various communities in the continent.
Last week, I was invited by South Korea’s Ambassador to South Africa, H.E. Dr. JD Park, to attend his lecture at the University of Pretoria. He addressed an audience of mostly students and spoke passionately about his country’s hugely successful model of Nation Building and Africa’s forgotten mission of Nation Building, highlighting what the continent needs to do to get back on track. In my June 2019 piece, I penned a piece in relation to building model cities for Africa’s growth.
The Ambassador maintains that we must have a strong sense of national identity and a developmental mindset that focuses on one simple, yet highly effective acronym, which is KPOP. Unpacked, it translates into Knowing, Practicing, Owning and Passion, all of which must be fully supported by the state.
Knowing: Knowledge is critical and it involves either theoretical or practical understanding. The problem we have globally could stem from the lack of universal values. We all have these embedded in us, but most times choose to ignore them. The information and skills, acquired either through our experiences and/or education, are crucial to build a nation and for us, as a people, we must be equipped with the proper values, while our experiences and our environment shape us. Africa survived a rough past of colonization, but it’s in our hands to change the dynamics and the landscape to rebuild our nation. We need to give new knowledge and direction to all of Africa’s people.
Practising: It is not enough to just acquire knowledge and values. We have to share and practice them constantly – be it at home, in schools or at church, wherever and whenever we can. It can’t just be left to teachers alone to monitor and mould the minds of school kids. Parents also have a huge role to play in ensuring that practice occurs and kids are embedded with usable knowledge. The actual application of knowledge is what Africa needs.
Owning: This includes physical and non-physical. It deals with empowering people to be able to own resources and utilize these to help build the nation. The resources can include knowledge, skills, physical property and even values – which are precious assets.
Passion: We aren’t alone. The world at large faces ongoing and enormous challenges. Now’s the time to stand together as proud Africans. We must have a united passion to build our continent. We must remain hungry, enthused and eager for change. Initiatives such as Proudly African, Proudly South African, Brand Africa, and many more of these are great and citizens of all African countries should be encouraged to be passionate about their country and continent.
The process of the Ambassador’s KPOP model can be reverse engineered if needs be, where we first change the mind-set by ensuring citizens are passionate and then focus on embedding Knowledge, Practicing and Owning.
We must find ways to homogenise the population by understanding what values, languages and cultures bring us together. Education must also be a cornerstone and Africa should drive wealth creation for all and work as one to rebuild our continent with an inclusive and empowering entrepreneurial mandate, overseen by strong, credible governance and solid, transparent leadership.
Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa; 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.