Africa’s most successful and enduring institution is the tribe. This is the institution that has been most threatening to outside forces and has attracted the most ferocious attacks by missionaries, colonial governments, post colonial administrations and foreign development institutions but the tribe lives on sometimes openly most times underground. This is Africa’s unexpected success and the Incongruity:- the variance between what is and what should or ought to be. Africa has therefore had an “R.H.Macy Unexpected Success” Problem for the last hundred years!
Let me unashamedly quote from Peter F Drucker in Innovation and Entreprenuership quote,
“More than thirty years ago, I was told by the chairman of New York’s largest department store, R. H. Macy, “We don’t know how to stop the growth of appliance sales.”
“Why do you want to stop them?” I asked, quite mystified. “Are you losing money on them?”.
“On the contrary,” the chairman said, “profit margins are better than on fashion goods; there are no returns, and practically no pilferage.”
“Do the appliance customers keep away the fashion customers?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” was the answer. “Where we used to sell appliances primarily to people who came in to buy fashions, we now sell fashions very often to people who come in to buy appliances. But,” the chairman continued, “in this kind of store, it is normal and healthy for fashion to produce seventy percent of sales. Appliance sales have grown so fast that they now account for three-fifths. And that’s abnormal. We’ve tried everything we know to make fashion grow to restore the normal ratio, but nothing works. The only thing left now is to push appliance sales down to where they should be.”
For almost twenty years after this episode, Macy’s New York continued to drift. Any number of explanations were given for Macy’s inability to exploit its dominant position in the New York retail market: the decay of the inner city, the poor economics of a store supposedly “too big,” and many others. Actually, once a new management came in after 1970, reversed the emphasis, and accepted the contribution of appliances to sales, Macy’s—despite inner-city decay, despite its high labor costs, and despite its enormous size—promptly began to prosper again.” End Quote.
Show me a successful African, who does not think of himself, his family, his clan, his tribe before that thing that was penciled in by the colonials, and I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn NY!
Africa’s struggles with governance, feeding itself and relationship inside and outside results from this externally imposed self denial, this is a conflict that will have to resolved. People don’t need to be forced to pretentious to be uniform, they can be different but accepting of each other.
Progress results from Successful Innovation and the Japanese are a case study in continuos long term human societal progress.
“When the Japanese, in the Meiji Restoration of 1867, most reluctantly opened their country to the world, it was to avoid the fates of India and nineteenth-century China, both of which were conquered, colonized, and “westernized” by the West . The basic aim, in true Judo fashion, was to use the weapons of the West to hold the West at bay; and to remain Japanese. ” Peter Drucker.
The colonials learned from them that to completely subjugate a people, they have to demonize all local social institutions hence the demonization of African tribes, cultural practices and spiritual ceremonies even those inline with their christian Holy Book!
We have learned from the Japanese that social innovation is far more critical than a jumbo-jet or the cellphone . And that social innovation, in terms of the development of such institutions as schools and universities, a civil service, banks and labor relations, is far more difficult to achieve than building MPESA and Safaricom. A SuperJumbo that will fly from New York to Florida will equally, without adaptation or change, fly from Nairobi to Lagos. But the social institutions have to be at once quintessentially “African ” and yet “modern.” They had to be run by Africans and yet serve an economy that is “Western” and highly technical. Technology can be imported at low cost and with a minimum of cultural risk. Institutions, by contrast, need cultural roots to grow and to prosper.
The Japanese made a deliberate decision a hundred years ago to concentrate their resources on social innovations, and to imitate, import, and adapt technical innovations—with startling success. Africans need to stop fighting their cultures, their tribes and concentrate on intertribal harmony building openingly on strengths in diversity.
Indeed, this policy may still be the right one for them. What is sometimes half-facetiously called creative imitation is a perfectly respectable and often very successful entrepreneurial strategy.
African governments abetted by western institutions lead by churches have continued the colonial fight and demonization of the only African institutions that have survived and been understood by Africans from ages ago – the tribe and it’s cultural institutions. African tribes, their organization and the pull on their people are success stories that threaten the ” modern” way of life and the order of how things should be! We have refused to see this success and instead spent resources not only denying it but trying to make life they way it should be, still we keep hearing stories like Africans fall back into tribal cocoons !
The world however sees nothing wrong with Germanys being both European and Germans, or the Irish being both Irish and European or the Scottish being Scottish and under the British crown. It’s seems President Uhuru has to pretentiously be only Kenyan and African, he cannot be Kikuyu! If African tribes are so bad, why are Africans here? Why did they not exterminate themselves before the European missionary came to save them from themselves?
Africa’s challenges lies in this denial. Africa’s future opportunity lies very much in the open in this unexpected success and the incongruity—between reality as it actually is and reality as it is assumed to be or as it “ought to be! Africa’s most successful and enduring institution is the tribe, it has been the most threatening of all foreign influence and has hence attracted the most ferocious attacks by religious missionary institutions, colonial authorities, post colonial administrations and foreign “development” institutions. All have failed and the tribe lives on, albeit “underground”!
There is no such thing as a “resource” until man finds a use for something in nature and thus endows it with economic value. Until then, every plant is a weed and every mineral just another rock. To the Africans, a tribe should be a resources to harness not a liability. The Tribe has been a resource for Africans until the colonialist decided that it should be demonized to make it easy to conquer and rule!
Time has come to face up the truth and reevaluate the processes that will move Africa forward. The experiment to Detribalize and civilize Africans has already been run to its ultimate conclusion. We took them from their tribal societies, stripped them of their culture, tribal names and languages. We taught them English and traded them like commodity to ensure the tribe is eliminated. Walk with me through the streets of Chicago and Philadelphia. I rest my case with the following American Conservative Hero video