As black Africans we like to talk about our problems as coming from slavery, colonialism and racism/apartheid. We never like to talk about why we were enslaved in the first place. We never want to go far back in time and discuss why it is that Europeans could invent guns and ships and come over to us while we only had managed to invent bows and arrows.
At some point in history black folks were weak enough to be enslaved and colonized by other races. After all, you can only enslave a person who is weaker than you. If you believe, as I do, that all people were created with equal intelligence then it means that at some point in history we black people were so distracted by some trivia while our white colleagues were busy inventing guns and ships. That missed moment resulted in us being eventually enslaved and colonized.
I was reminded of this recently when the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) resolved to once again commit to 50/50 gender representation in the very near future. This means that every government in the SADC region will soon be forced to have 50% men and 50% women at all levels – executive, legislature and judiciary branches.
As usual there was a lot of jubilation and self-congratulatory among SADC leaders. This 50/50 representation was taunted as a solution to Africa’s developmental problems.
But wait a minute! Why is 50/50 gender representation important? Where in the world can we find a country which transformed itself from poverty to riches through 50/50 gender representation? Is this not just yet another trivia we black folks are distracting ourselves with instead of concentrating on finding real solutions and getting highly qualified people from among us to implement those policies?
There is no country in the world that solved its problems through 50/50 gender representation. In fact history shows the opposite. Successful nations are those that simply put emphasis on identifying and using the most qualified people from among them. The United States of America, the most powerful and richest nation ever to exist has not come to these levels through 50/50 gender representation. The same is true with China, arguably the second largest and powerful economy of the world.
In spite of stereotypes in the western media, Africa is already far ahead of most developed nations in gender representation. At the executive level, most SADC countries have had women vice presidents or president. Compare that with the United States where for more than 200 hundred years of its existence no woman has ever been president or vice president. This trend is set to continue for at least the next 4-8 years. China, Russia, Japan and France do not have a good record in that area either. In its hundreds of years of existence, Britain has only had one female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.
The representation of women in cabinets of most SADC countries is already higher than in the current US administration. The percentage of women in most African parliaments is higher than in the US Senate. Rwanda, an African country, has the highest representation of women in parliament in the whole world. In SADC countries, women account for more than 20% of boardroom executives of the largest companies. Compare that to just over 10% in Fortune 500 companies of the United States.
If equal gender representation is the magic bullet that transforms countries from poverty to riches then Africa should already be the most powerful and richest continent of the world ahead of the Americas and Europe.
There is no question that this misguided idea of 50/50 gender representation is being pushed by South Africa. South Africa has sadly become an entitlement state. It is no longer a merit-based society. People feel entitled to certain positions in government not because they are qualified but simply because they belong to a certain gender or race. Such misguided affirmative action mentality can have dire consequences.
We have recently watched with horror as South African police fire live bullets on largely unarmed civilians killing multitudes. One cannot help but wonder how much of this terrible and unprofessional act by police could have been a result of misguided affirmative action. Could it be that in a haste to have an ‘equal’ South African society most who are not qualified have been placed in the higher ranks of police?
We know which nations will be powerful and rich in the world of tomorrow. They are the nations that are today busy mastering and innovating any of the following three fields: information technology, robotics and alternative energy. SADC is geographically well positioned to take lead in alternative energy research. The region sits in one of the most abundant sunshine areas of the world. Unfortunately SADC is barely taking steps to utilize this advantage. When was the last time a SADC summit emphasized on information technology, robotics and alternative energy? When was the last time SADC set strong guidelines prioritizing research in any of these three fields? Never! Instead we get distracted and waste too much time on these far-left unproven ideologies like 50/50 gender representation.
History seems to be repeating itself. While our forebears were being distracted by whatever trivia they were involved in, their white counterparts were busy inventing guns and ships. These guns and ships gave them enough power to eventually enslave and colonize us. Today, hundreds of years later, we still have not learned the lesson. Here we are once again being distracted by such trivia as 50/50 gender representation while the powerful of tomorrow are busy inventing information technology, robotics and alternative energy.
I wonder what excuse a SADC black person 400 years from today will give for his race’s backward condition.