Africa: Why Startups and Private Universities Failed on Development


By Nneka Okumazie

How many startups in Africa can say that their existence is the reason a major problem was solved in Africa, for the majority of Africans?

Some may easily dismiss this as not being a part of their mandate, but maybe looking at what they do through that lens could make their services more useful to their people.

The startup scene in Africa is full of activities, but there is no evidence that those activities are connected to solving major problems on the continent, as most of the problems that Africa faces are still there, or worse, with little end in sight.

Africans are not solving the problems of Africa. Whenever Africa makes progress, it is often due to external involvement, sometimes with little to nothing for Africans to contribute.

The situation that Africans cannot solve their own problems could mean that the problems are really complex, or Africans are not competent enough to solve their own problems, or both. There are counterarguments that some can make, but the evidence before everyone is that Africa is not developed, so something is not right about what most of these people claim they are doing.

There were people who had thought that education was the problem in Africa, hence the proliferation of private universities, but no private university in Africa has solved any problem in Africa, making their existence questionable.

In some countries with strikes in state schools, student gangs, sexual harassment and poor facilities, private universities may have been seen as better by some parents, but avoiding some of those things does not make them universities.

Providing or getting a meaningful education is one of the things that cannot be easily copied. A student may buy a new pencil, bag or shoe, but if the student is hollow, the availability of those things does not count, even if they may show to outsiders that notice that the student seems equipped.

Most private universities in Africa have a new pencil problem. Copying buildings does not make a place a university, it is just real estate, giving dress codes does not make a university, just a fashion ground, even having discipline does not make the place better than a military camp.

The private universities in Africa appear not to have what it takes to be transformative destinations for high-quality education or serious projects that can develop Africa.

The terrible trend with private university graduates of recent years in Africa is that they are also leaving the continent, travelling for different reasons. Africans without education are travelling desperately. Those who went to state schools are travelling desperately. Those who went to private schools are also travelling desperately. So, what is the point of a private university, if their selling point for quality education produces graduates who become herds, with nothing substantial to offer than to do as others and race out?

Like shiny private universities and startups, many places in Africa may look new and modernized, but it appears that the dominant operational strategy for things in Africa is primitiveness. The same crude way that people do things in rural settings is the same way that others across Africa do things, even if they are better furnished.

The people that Africa copied startups from are not doing their mainstream startups like what Africa has made it. Success for startups often makes them evolve in more directions, with new paths and things, working their way to societal indispensability. This is not the case in Africa.

It must be familiar to be viable. And what is familiar must come from others. There is no originality, even of risks that would not cost much if it does not work. They are often on guard about insignificant products. They often make things that should make sense meaningless. They use hate and envy whereas they should use aptitude. They make choices based on what is easy not what is possible. Their character is weak, unable to bear the weight of the progress Africa needs. They often act like they are not in Africa, or what is evident is not their concern. Their persistence is often for show and pleasure.

African startups came to embody the same mistakes as universities, where the lecturers are motivated or happy by the availability of grants or funding, rather than by the need to solve pressing problems. There is hardly anyone in areas without money. The flock is where the funding is, or the purpose simply is money.

Just like African education is static, has not changed and solves nothing, showing that the lecturers are incompetent to even do anything in their own space, so are startups in Africa for whom it can be argued are lacking precise talents, even if there is the abundance of people doing things.

The startup scene instead has vultures, those with feet everywhere for whatever benefits they can amass. There are some of their apparently smart people who keep advising everywhere in public. Those people have nothing original. They know not more than they have read or seen. Anyone would know what they know given the same materials.

There were many on high horses for many years due to technical skills, but now that robots can code, it shows how light they have always been, having nothing beyond what anyone could learn.

African startups and private universities seem to turn away from obvious problems, for whatever reasons, maybe due to a lack of talent or what may bring funding.

There are young people who work on commercial buses in Africa, who scream intensely to get people to come in. There are people who carry things on their heads, walking miles to sell, come rain or shine. None of the private universities or startups seems to care or see these as problems to solve, though they find giving them loans or saving their money as something to solve, not their explosive misery.

Some startup people and university lecturers would wear African clothes or put all kinds of punctuation over their names, like what it means to love Africa or care what they wear or how their names appear when there are so many obvious problems, and what they offer is nothing.

Africa is in a bad place. There are many places in Africa where extreme poverty is the beginning of hope. There are too many common levels below extreme poverty, for many of the population, with most conditions external to human dignity.

The problems of Africa seem to be talking points for many, going to school elsewhere or doing some startups, only as means be far away from it, themselves.

Any university lecturer or startup person who says that government is bad or is the problem is absolutely clueless and has nothing to offer.

Government is an obvious problem in Africa from the observation of people who always externalize their problems. The university that cannot solve hawking, or transform parts of education services under their own power, would say the government is bad. A startup that has a useless but well-built product would say the government is bad.

African governments are just another department of the crudeness of Africans. Rather than the governments as a problem, they are opportunities.

All African governments (and law enforcement) are cheap, crude and confused. There is no way to want anything from them and not get it. Their power structure is only money and force, when power in the world has diversified with advances, they are stuck with the stale since their people too can’t seem to do anything new.

How does Africa make progress? There are many Africans who see nothing good in Africa and nothing would change that for them. Two sources, private universities and startups that should hold promise for Africa’s development have failed.

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