Africa's killing It in thinking.
Disclaimer: this is in response to a post written by Sam Chipangura on his blog here:
In the post Sam puts forward (in debate mode) the theory that our University graduates leave college without much practical knowlegde applicable after college and how he thinks our universities (hence education system) lacks the skill that can enable this generation to take our economies further and build better startups.
I quite agree with most of his points but wish to clarify and expand on the subject. In the little time I have been involved in this industry, i have learnt it all boils down to solving problems. I strongly think the weakness with our industries and education system is in our approach currently. We seek to do things without a broad understanding of the problems we are trying to solve. I'm not getting to the how just yet.
You see, when you want to get from A to B, you start at knowing where you want to go. How far is it, which would be the most efficient way to get there? Should I build a solution from scratch or build upon something in existence already? That is the approach that brings about innovation and real solutions. We degrade ourselves to merely engineers because we fail to think, we lack exposure and imagination. We are limited to what others have already done and we wish to replicate & travel the same distance than push boundaries. (I'm staring at Ecocash) . Let's say I'm being melodramatic, let's take a look around us..when was the last time if ever you heard some tech guys discuss ideas on doing something TOTALLY new?
On the flip side, we possibly lack this exposure and imagination because our education doesn't instill in us, the power of dreams and coming up with our own theories: the ability to solve problems. This cancer is not just in I.T, it's well spread across industries in Africa. Take for example, sport...soccer. We learned to kick the ball around without much understanding of the importance of space, passing, physical size and technical strategy. The more developed countries (in thinking) easily have us for lunch and dinner. If we can take the time to study these things with a different, scientific paradigm we can get to the root of problems, and ultimately solutions.
Back on the I.T tip, we lack Computer Scientists. These are the people that can propose real solutions. I'm usually amazed when Google announces a new product. The way they describe new functionality and how it fixes a problem shows the depth in understanding of our human needs. We as Africans don't do this, we scrape the surface when we're creating so-called solutions. Little serious research, it's mostly hunches and baseless hope.
The only way we can safeguard our future is changing the way we think. Most programmers didn't learn this trade at school, that's reality. Most recently an Oxford graduate told me a good education at the most top universities is what you make of it. If you go there and sit back, you come away with nothing. Let's empower future generations to use different methods of THINKING. Different approaches to determine unfulfilled needs. We can't better existing solutions without knowing why they were REALLY created that way and their current limitations.
That's my opinion, i'm interested in knowing how you think. You can leave a comment below.
(This can be a really long debate so I will follow up with another post soon. Follow me @mukwenhac on Twitter to get my future posts.)