When life is going well, we tend to forget the struggles and the discomfort we faced before we got to where we are. It’s human afterall. They say, it’s easier to get used to the comforts of being rich than the discomforts of poverty. And it’s true.
I remember after I came here, right after high school (you remember Kenyan boarding schools had no hot water in the showers but ours had a huge boiler which wasn’t always on, but u get the drift, showering with cold water or do I call it bucketing?) so after staying for about a year, one day they were repairing the water heating system in the hostel I was staying in. When I got up that morning I went to the shower and there was no hot water. SHOCK!! Ofcourse you’re thinking si you can boil water….ehhh that’s the usual thing I’d do in Kenya, get water and boil in the kettle or using a heater (that we used to call a kaGladys, a story for another day), weka kwa karai (put in a basin) and shower take a bath. Well you don’t know how long it took to come to that idea, I actually sat and pondered on my next move for about 10mins, then decided maybe I should make tea (guess with what…..) as I wait for the water heaters to be put back on. A whole aspiring engineer like myself.
I read the famous article about the white guy that was talking to a Zambian about lazy African intellectuals, you don’t know it, check for it here. And it just occured to me that most of us intellectual Africans on moving from Africa, to come and study; we get here with great expectations and plans to go back and help out in lessening the burden of our people but after staying here for a while with tarmaced roads and 24hr internet (I know the same is available in Kenya/Africa nowadays but you get what I’m talking about); water and electricity supply you end up forgetting about all those days you stayed in darkness (I remember there were no lights at our place the night before my KCPE science paper; hadn’t thought of it prior to writing this) But such minor details tend to get lost on us, cause now when we go home for those that now have more money and can afford those luxury appartments in Nairobi they never interact with the “real” Africa anymore and hence we as african doctors, engineers end up coming to Europe, the Americas and Australia and after our studies join groups and associations to help solve “third world issues” that no Wanjiku/Kojo/Chibuzo etc can really identify with back home in Africa. Necessity is the mother of all inventions right?
I just wrote my bachelor thesis on increasing efficiency of wind turbines, which on looking at the idea would be great on implementing in Africa and Kenya especially but after talking to my professor I was getting ideas on writing my master thesis on energy storage. That would be an amazing topic, cause storage of energy is a major issue in Europe considering they are producing excess energy from all their power stations plus all the imported power from North Africa but now on thinking about it; how does that help the many Africans considering I plan to move back to Africa? Africa is barely producing enough energy for themselves, yet they are trying to share the little they have (Ethiopia is exporting part of it’s power to Southern Sudan though they aren’t producing enough for themselves) And here comes an African (myself) busy working on an energy storage plant that my people don’t need, they might eventually require it in the future but who is helping them get to that point of needing an energy storage system? If all those that could come up with energy efficient power plants are busy working on other things?
Being out here, trying to maintain your African roots yet remain relevant in the industries here can be taxing. But what do you do? Work on projects and innovations that Africans require but are considered too primitive for the Western market or keep inventing stuff that your governments in Africa will never recognize nor finance? I know Kenyans are currently big on the “Naomba Serikali” (requesting the government); which this might sound like but is it too much to ask for an African government to help finance small projects to help elevate the grassroot maybe to the grasstip (the grass in the savanna is very long)? Is it too much to ask for African intellectuals to invent something however small to help elevate their people back home? It’s disheartening to watch most of the simple mechanisms being introduced either to light up huts or treat drinking water in rural Africa all coming from the Western world headed by western engineers. Is it that Africans don’t invent anything?
It’s perfectly normal to think of yourself and your family first before making drastic measures like moving back to Africa with no stable job, and even with the job the pay is never as good as it is on this end. But is it possible to sacrifice the material pleasures to sacrifice yourself to helping out your people?
I’ve asked a lot of questions, I don’t have answers myself but would love to here what you guys think. Sorry this turned out to be a ramble, I was actually thinking of writing about something completely different but after that first paragraph, the post meandered into the lake of another issue. No worries, my attention span when I’m writing tends to be very short, wonder how I used to write compositions in school.