Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The African Mentality

I have lived in the United States for some time now to warrant the general comment I am about to make. Through my observation of various people groups there are some that stand out in the American society; The Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Indians and Hispanics, to mention a few. These people group groups among many others, are in many respects successful and living the American dream. These immigrant communities own businesses and contribute to the welfare of America.In fact it is said the economy of the United States is run by 3% of the population and they are Jews (Couldn't find the source of my stats so he number could be higher or lower). However, one of the largest immigrant population in the U.S. are the Africans but the results are very different in terms of economic success. Though we have determined African like those from the western part of continent, it seems we still have not broken through and decoded the economy of the west to have the same success that other people groups have.

It is my opinion that the one thing that stands in our way as Africans is our mentality. When an Asian comes to the U.S. for example, he or she is not thinking "where can I get a job?" But rather what business can I open.
Therefore, you find a Chinese restaurant at almost every corner in New York city or a beauty spa operated by an old Chinese lady with an army of young women plying the trade. However, the other jobs such as baby sitting, house cleaning, older people care etc are left to the low-aiming Africans and Mexicans. I have met so many Africans for example that are satisfied at this level and will not aim any higher. Now there is nothing wrong with these jobs AS A STARTING POINT for your life in a foreign land. However, there is something wrong when people begin to think that this is all life has to offer and they are not capable of anything higher than this.

On the other hand, if you go to down town New York, you will find Africans on the streets operating little street businesses from their suitcases and running away from police to avoid fines for illegal business. This sounds all so familiar to me. What these African brothers have done is transplant the way they did business back home (Tuntembas or street stores) and are trying to use that same methodology in New York. This of course will not work. Not in this economy and that's why I believe that there is need for a mentality transformation.

Allow me to just to say this one last thing to prove my point. When people ask me which country I come from, I am quick and proud to say "I am Zambian." However, that sometimes is not a good thing to say because that is usually followed by; "wow you guys can drink and party." Now that is the legacy our nation is known for and that bothers me. I have heard of people travelling all the way from New York to Atlanta in hired Escalades to go and party and drink their money off. This is unfortunate and I do not want to be associated with that. We are intelligent people with tremendous potential.We can make a difference in our own nation and so I refuse to be known as a party animal. This is why I blog. I want to provoke you to become the best that you can be for the sake of our nation and those who do not have the opportunities that we have. This is why I do not want to waste my time in the U.S. making myself comfortable and living "my life" while ignoring my responsibility to be a change agent. By the way check out my links to some great Zambian blogs written by people with like minds.

Okay, got that off my chest but now how can you and I be part of changing the African Mentality.

1. Think Information instead of ignorance & naivety.
Unfortunately the information age is too slow in taking root in Africa but we must be pro-active in seeking information. Read widely. Have you read your country's Constitution? Are you informed of your government's education policy or do they even have one. How can you help?

2. Think Entrepreneurship instead of employment.
As an employee your employer determines how high you can rise in your field of work and how fast you attain that career height. However, as an entrepreneur you are in charge of your own destiny. You decide when you work, where you work and how long you work. You are your own boss. There is nothing wrong with starting off by being an employee but many people get stuck there because they never had it in their minds to open their own company. So go ahead and find what you're passionate about, find a way of making it into a business, have fun doing and become rich while doing it.

3. Think Excellence instead of Mediocrity.
Do not be satisfied with doing something well. Do it in an excellent way. Mediocrity is an enemy of success. Mediocre people are satisfied with average but people of Excellence are never satisfied; they keep pushing the envelope until all their potential is unleashed. Good is the enemy of Best. What are you involved in right now and are you doing it in an excellent manner? Even if you're working for somebody else, do your work with excellence and this way you will become indispensable. Seek to be an Asset rather than a liability.

4. Think Vision instead of mere existence.
Most people live life not knowing where they are going or what they want to achieve. Vision-a clear mental picture of your preferred future-is of utmost importance. You must see where you want you want to achieve only then can you make the necessary steps to get there. This is huge. Most people I meet and talk to don't know where they want to go in life. They are just here for the ride and where ever the bus of life takes them, they will go but not you. You must have vision.

5. Think Strategy instead of Harp hazard Action
People without a vision have no plan for their lives. They live life as it comes at them. Success is deliberate. You succeed on purpose. Hence you must have a deliberate plan for the achievement of your vision.

People may say, Campbell you say the same things all the time but that's because people are not hearing me. They choose to remain the same and as long as they remain that way, I will say the same things over and over again so that even if they did not plan on hearing me, it will at least get into their sub-conscious mind and provoke action.

Therefore, begin to change your mentality and together we can make Africa the place of progress and success.


bangalo said...

Well, I could not personally put it any better than that. You hammered the point home and I hope we as a Zambian community can pick one or two things from what you have said... One thing I readily agree with you is that we are indeed a smart people. Our problem has always been implementation, inaction, passiveness... I mean call it what you may but it's very sad!

Right on the money and I will be checking out your blog more often. I'm one of those who is always challenging the status quo..

Keep at it man!

Anonymous said...

As always are right. You got another Zambian stimulated. I aim high, for my father's laps on his throne, if I fall short, LOL I am landing in heaven. The fight against Zambian procrastination has officially commenced. Living on the opposite end of the US from yourself; my mission is to end the picture of Zambians that all people here have, including Africans. God bless you.

Alive said...

The rebirth of Zambia; moral rejuvination and education.

Campbell Lumbila said...

Thanks Bangola and my Anonymous friend,
Its good that you found the articles stimulating and I appreciate you taking the time to share your hearts. Please continue to do so.