It is very funny how we try to copy things that work elsewhere and just implement them here without asking how it will fit into our own society and environment. Most of them turn out to work even though they may not be as efficient as the original versions. Others turn out to be extremely hilarious and shameful. There have been a number of ventures in this regard at different levels. Some of our young tech engineers create apps that take after those already in existence. They give them all sort of funny names like the ‘Facebook of Africa’, ‘Instagram of Africa’. It seems everything abroad now has its ‘African version’. We have even heard of Silicon Valley introduced in Africa as Silicon Savannah! Of all these funny copy-and-paste schemes, the ones done at the national level are the funniest!!
In 2007 Nigeria decided to pay a whooping $340 million (40 billion Naira at the time) for a communications satellite. Other countries had it and in line with our attitude, we had to show we can also afford it! Trust the Chinese, they got Nigeria a Satellite and by May 2007, NigComSat-1 was launched. 18 months later, the newspapers were all sharing an interesting headline. Nigeria’s satellite was missing in space! In an unsuccessful bid to quell such embarrassing stories, the Minister of State for Science and Technology jumped in with a funnier message! Nigeria’s satellite had lost power and had to be “parked, just like a car would be parked”. He said “If it wasn’t parked and it lost all its power there would be no energy to even move it and it would be like a loose cannon and would be rolling about and hit other satellites in the orbit”! Can it get more hilarious than this?
The main reason for revisiting this story is to question the motive for doing things in this country. Do we just do things because other nations are doing those things? Why not invest that money into providing healthcare and basic infrastructure to improve the lives of people? What was the motive behind that super expensive venture? Our leaders want to show signs of a level of development that belies the suffering and poverty in the country. All this just to match what other leaders are doing. True, there is a lot of money in this country but we also have a lot of impoverished people that we struggle to hide from the cameras! We just ignorantly copy what others are doing and try to force the same to work here. For the record, the satellite that was brought in was adjudged to be inappropriate for this region considering the frequency it operates on and the weather conditions it can withstand yet we decided to carry on with its launch.
At the individual level, the need to show off with things we can’t afford has pushed many people to borrow, and in some cases steal, clothes, shoes and other accessories to take pictures strictly for Instagram and Facebook. We have a lot of information and pressure from peers, media and the internet, but that is not an excuse for mixing up our priorities. That should not move us to copy and paste everything. Instead it should make us creative. It should provide us with information and ideas to create solutions tailored for our unique problems. If someone has provided a solution and you think you can improve it, that is fine. If there is something people outside Africa enjoy and access to such a service is limited to such locations, I would appreciate an African creating a version for us that should match or surpass the available standard. I have no problem with that. My problem lies with the sub-standard and low quality versions of already existing solutions which we christen ‘African’! Stop making people believe that the African version of things must be sub-standard. If you must copy, don’t just paste. Copy, edit, improve and paste to serve us better. We are not the dumping ground for sub-standard things. Give us some respect! Think and create better solutions! Don’t just copy and paste!