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China: Let’s borrow ideas, not money

China’s literacy level was below 40 per cent in 1949 when the revolution started; it rose to 65.1 per cent in 1982 when the fruits of the efforts started showing and by 2015, it was 96.36, growing at an average of 10.39 per cent.

Today, China has the largest number of educated human beings in the world with over 1.2 billion lettered people! A World Bank data for 2015 comparing literacy levels among other socio-economic variables on Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe put the data at 42.7 per cent, 68 per cent and 90 per cent respectively. These countries also epitomise samples of bad governance in Africa, though Ethiopia is currently showing signs of rapid improvement like Rwanda. Hopefully, this will be sustainable. What is important though is that a country that has up to 10 per cent illiterates is not ready to emerge into the highly industrialised and high income group.


What we have seen in the case of China is vision of tomorrow by a visionary leader. Is it that African leaders do not have vision? They do, but, it is not national vision. In most cases, the founding fathers have both national and international visions. They were concerned about bigger Africa and tried to promote Pan-Africanism and regional integration which remain on drawing board today, as successive leaders, particularly the military that took over through coup d’etat seemed more concerned about personal aggrandisement. The visions of the latter day leaders are of and for personal benefits. They value education to the extent that they send their children to study abroad so that they have good, exclusive and exotic education that will place them above the other citizens when they return while destroying the fabric of education at home. They send their children to study law, humanities and commercial courses that will put them in political saddle and business circle where they can control the economy and politics on return.

The leaders seem more contented with having peace in their respective home even if there is war in the public. They prefer to see poverty in public but not at their homes. They can foresee glamorous burial at death based on excess stolen funds and feel contented with underdevelopment of their citizens who have been reduced to nothingness by their actions or inactions. They do not see the ticking time bomb that frustrated citizens can unleash on them and their families when they are pushed to the wall. They rely on security operatives that have also been compromised with deepening poverty and rely on prayer houses where the poor bury themselves crying to God, who may not answer such prayers having provided required resources for each country to survive on.

What the African leaders have forgotten is that educated citizens are easier to govern than illiterates. That those countries doing well economically are able to do so because at some level of education nationally, all a government needs to do is to sit back and see the citizens working on their own to produce efficiently and effectively with less supervision. At the end of the day, the economy moves forward seamlessly in terms of growth and development. Education frees the mind, helps in reducing expenditure on health, housing, provision of basic needs generally and particularly in population planning. Educated people have vision of standard of living they want to enjoy and the number of children they can nurture that would not disturb that standard of living; they want to live decent lives and therefore make sure their environment is kept conducive for such decent living.

The Chinese population was growing at an alarming rate when illiteracy rate was very high and government had to legislate on population control of one child per family. The legislation has been relaxed, yet education has taught the citizens the benefit of population control. A lot of studies across the world have shown that there is inverse relationship between education and poverty; education and rapid population growth; and, education and income inequality. On the other hand, positive and direct relationship exists between education and factor productivity; between education and rising income; and, between education and good governance as well as enduring institutions.

Studies also show that economic development is not dependent on the volume of natural resources but human capital development. Japan has no worthy natural resources beside water and human beings but grew to occupy the position of the second economy in the world on the basis of human capital with over 98 per cent literacy level. That was the much that Bill Gates told the Nigerian government when he was invited by Aliko Dangote early this year and in the 2018 Goalkeeper Report of his Foundation. Even if we borrow money from China and build highways, air and seaports, stadia, and other social infrastructure, are we going to ask them to maintain the projects? It is hoped that African leaders would borrow from China the policy thrust of agriculture and education that has taken the country this far rather than money that will lead to debt trap and put future generations of Africans in perpetual production efforts to pay debts they never benefitted from. Let there be an African leader who will bell the cat! That will be the leader who will raise their head among the comity of developed nations.

Tella is a Professor of Economics, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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