Africa must think paradigm (Part II)

ONCE a month, this column is dedicated to a special series called Bible School Business School (BSBS).

The Human Capital Telescope

BSBS explores the Bible for deep insights on business, leadership and personal growth. BSBS grew out of a quest to explore an alternative source of wisdom so as to address the challenges of business, leadership and personal growth.

Brett Chulu (BC) continues his conversation with Samuel Koranteng-Pipim (SKP), a US-based Ghanaian, globally-renowned researcher and thinker trained in engineering and systematic theology recently in Zimbabwe to give a series of lectures called Africa Must Think.

Like BSBS, SKP’s Africa Must Think message gleans nuggets from the Bible to offer a simple but well-articulated framework for addressing Africa’s challenges and ills.

This biblically-anchored approach to Africa’s ills is communicated using African metaphors to drive the message home. This is the second of a four-part series where we discuss these African metaphors to introduce our readers to the “Africa Must Think” paradigm.

Last week we discussed the metaphors of the African elephant, African chicken, African eagle and the African black bean. SKP’s central argument is that Africa was liberated from metal chains but not mental chains. The African elephant- in- a- zoo metaphor captures this thought.

This week we look at more metaphors and expand on others we discussed last week.

BC: Your country was once known as the Gold Coast, an apt metaphor that describes the vast wealth the entire African continent is blessed with. You insist that “gold without a golden rule is poverty and misery”. What’s the message here?

SKP: The message is both a diagnosis and prescription to the African problem of having huge resources, and yet being very poor. I’m speaking to the need for a sound ethical foundation to guide us in the distribution and management of our resources. Because of the symbolic value of gold as a measure of wealth, time, enduring relationships, achievements, blessings and tried faith, I use gold as a symbol of the highest ethical principle to live by: The golden rule is “Do unto others what you want them to do unto you.”

As the Christian’s code of conduct, the golden rule sets forth our responsibility towards one another. Without the golden rule, our nation and continent, and indeed the whole world would be impoverished. For, gold without a golden rule is poverty and misery.

My country of birth, Ghana, is a land of gold. It is a world leader in the export of gold. In fact, prior to independence, our country was known as “the Gold Coast”. And to this very day, we continue to discover gold even in some unexpected places. Our country, like the rest of the continent, shouldn’t be poor.

And yet we are. Why?
The simple answer is that, whereas we have the gold, we haven’t embraced the golden rule, the only code of ethics to ensure that we can all equitably benefit from the gold. We haven’t adopted the right mind-sets or attitudes regarding how we relate to one another.

BC: Are you saying the problem of Africa’s “nillionaires” as you call them and I would also add “illionaires” (unhealthy African masses) is a result of the violation of the golden rule?

SKP: I love the “illionaires” word! I’ll start using it to describe the many “ills” of Africa. Take for example, the problem of hunger. On the continent of Africa, just as in different parts of the world, people are starving not because of a shortage of food in the world, but because of the huge inequality of its distribution, which, in turn, is a result of the even more unequal distribution of wealth, education, the means of production and transportation.

The exploitation and neglect of the poor by the rich is a moral problem.

We can say the same for other challenges: tribal, political conflicts and violence, HIV and Aids, malaria, drug addiction, corruption, etc.

These all have moral implications. If they simply involved the lack of education, medical advancement, scientific or technological resources, they could have been solved a long time ago. The point is that the greatest problems that overwhelm our society are moral problems. We do not embrace time-tested principles of conduct.

Thus, the poverty we find is not necessarily a lack of material resources such as gold, diamond, bauxite or oil (which we have in abundance), but it’s rather an impoverishment of the human spirit — the consequences of not submitting to God’s moral law – God’s highest code of ethics. We need people who think and act by the set of principles consistent with Christ’s golden rule, an ethical code based on God’s moral law.

Stated differently, our problem is not the lack of gold, but an unwillingness to live by the “golden rule” that ensures the equitable distribution and use of the gold we already have. Our greatest need is to start living by the right kind of ethical code — the golden rule found in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount — which sermon is the clearest exposition of the 10 Commandments He Himself had given on Mt Sinai.

BC: It’s interesting that the golden rule is the principle by which nature is sustained. The lake of Galilee has fresh water because it receives from the Jordan River and empties out. Below the lake of Galilee is the Dead Sea. It receives from the Jordan and does not pass on what it receives. Is this not a metaphor of Africa’s challenges? Selfishness is decay and ultimately death, do you agree? Africa must give?

SKP: Absolutely! The Bible repeatedly teaches that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. But because we don’t think Biblically, we have come to the place where we believe receiving is a blessing! Reflect on this for a while: According to the Bible, the way to be blessed is to give; but with our minds in chains we think that “it is more blessed to receive than to give”.

Thus, many preachers and members go to church to receive: the preacher from the members, while the members receive from or are “blessed” by the preacher’s prayers and sermons. In an endless cycle of each party grabbing, receiving and taking, most forget the time-tested principle that if we embrace this mind-set of merely receiving (and not giving), we deprive ourselves of the very blessings we so much seek. Invariably, this mind-set spills over into society and the result is church, community and national impoverishment.

When transferred to society, this mind-set of receiving (instead of giving), breeds a culture of corruption at all levels. The likely fallout when “Christians” take up positions of leadership in office, state or government is that they will tend to expect others to do things for them, instead of doing things for others.

Meanwhile, they justify such actions of constantly getting or receiving from others through bribery and kickbacks with such nuances as “settlement”, “sharing of the national cake” or “motivation”. Is it any wonder that we resort to begging or dependency? At the individual level, our people are constantly looking for “sponsorship from abroad” and at the national level the begging or dependency expresses itself in the form of foreign aid and loans from developed countries and international financial institutions. We even build begging (receiving foreign aid and loans) into our budgetary or economic policies, and tie the fate of those we lead to acceptance of charity and handouts.

Can you imagine what it would be like if our governments decided that instead of receiving foreign aid, we should rather give to others? The Lord would richly bless us! And who says we can’t, with the vast resources on our continent and the human resources in our churches? Throughout history,
Christians have always been influential in national and community development. But it has been only those whose minds are liberated — those who were not merely interested in cashing in on lucrative government contracts but who, through the renewing of their minds, transformed their communities. This is just one contribution that true Christians could bring to the world if our minds were liberated.

Free book offers
The first 10 readers to write and share their views on the issues discussed here will each receive a copy of SKP’s collection of thought nuggets summarised into a book called Africa Must Think.
Brett is a Strategic HR consultant and business strategist pioneering innovative HR and business practices in both listed and unlisted firms in Zimbabwe —brettchulu@consultant.com