“Today, the defining feature of social, economic, and cultural life in much of the world is abundance”, says Daniel Pink in his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future. And there is a sense that despite economic disparities among nations and between the well-to-do and those at the bottom of the income pyramid within each country, technological progress of the past 200 years has continued to create material abundance and improved well being for all. How true is this? In their book, Abundance – the future is better than you think published in 2014, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler observed: “Compared to fifty years ago, today the Chinese are ten times as rich, have one-third fewer babies, and live twenty-eight years longer. In the same half-century span, Nigerians are twice as well off, with 25 percent fewer children and nine-year boost in life span. All told, according to the United Nations, poverty was reduced more in the past fifty years than the previous five hundred.”
Even with such data, it is hard to believe that mankind has made much progress given our level of cynicism and the media’s predilection for bad news, especially in Africa. But those who envision the age of abundance are certain about a period of radical transformation in which technology has the potential to significantly raise the basic standards of living for every man, woman, and child on the planet. The question is whether; this abundance perspective can free the African mind from the day-to-day struggles and allow millions of people in the continent to pursue significant desires – purpose, transcendence and/or spiritual fulfilment.
Vijay Mahaja’s Africa Rising narrative seems to allude to this, where more than 900 million consumers with daily basic necessities for food, clean water, shelter, clothing, medicines; as well as additional amenities such as cell phones, computers, automobiles and education for their children presents huge opportunities for everyone to create markets to meet these needs. Moreover, Africa currently has at its disposal, disruptive technological innovations that were not evident or even possible for developed nations. As Diamandis and Kotler aptly put it: “Right now a Masai warrior with a cell phone has better mobile phone capabilities than the president of the United States did twenty-five years ago.” The possibility for abundance in Africa therefore could be ways of re-imagining how things can be done in the face of present and future capabilities to provide goods and services once reserved for the wealthy few, to everyone who may need or desire them. And who is better placed than ‘young African minds’ to take up this challenge? As James Martin in his blueprint for ensuring humanity’s future – The Meaning of the 21st Century, proposed: it is possible to pluck youngsters from shantytowns and boot-camped for a startlingly new human game. “The goal is to demonstrate that we can take children of no hope and put them into a world of great hope”, he said.
~ Tarry Asoka, 09/03/18