A Sleeping Giant Stirs

"The African cause is not lost!" That’s a bold statement which, at first glance, seems to fly in the face of a dismal, obstinate reality. What, with poverty on the continent widespread and so far unmanageable; meaningful infrastructure non-existent; social services grossly inadequate; and, rural communities relegated largely to forgotten places and neglected spaces. But the person making the claim, Musaba D. Chailunga, author of the 273-page provocative book, Object Oriented Development in Africa (2012), happens to believe, deep within the core of his being, every word of that exclamation.

Zambian by nationality, software developer by training with certified knowledge of applied business, and an unashamed protégé of Hernando de Soto and C. K. Prahalad (both advocates of capitalism as poverty-eradicator and personal wealth-builder), Chailunga has provided compelling evidence, free of all dense economic jargon, to justify his profound faith in Africans and Africa’s destiny.

Chailunga uses his evidence to challenge Sub-Saharan Africans to take full ownership of the responsibility to develop themselves and their countries. In that sense, his book is part motivational and part indictment because most Africans, especially the educated ones, don’t credit Africans with the capacity and know-how to achieve development on their own. These enlightened ones are paralysed by doubt and pessimism tied to a history of past failures. Chailunga’s book argues persuasively that a new, indigenous, development precedent can be established for the continent.

And he proposes to carve that path to development by using technology-based software problem-solving principles and techniques in the economic arena. He intends to use object-oriented development (OOD), an established methodology in software development, like a scythe to clear the way to his destination. And he extends an invitation to others, as key stakeholders, to join him in pursuing the goal to Africa’s development through liberal, free-market economies.

I believe,” he says in his book, "Africa is like a vehicle on four wheels". The government is one wheel, and the other three wheels are made up of the African public: civil servants, businesspeople, and consumers. If one of these wheels is not functioning the way it should, the whole vehicle will hardly move.

Central to Chailunga’s Object Oriented Development in Africa is his novel concept of “cluster villages.” These self-contained communities using OOD lie at the heart of his development strategy. He claims that most people ignore the positives of African village life, failing to recognize the intelligence and, believe it or not, the wealth on which that system has been built. Instead, all they see is poverty, helplessness and stagnation. But for him, African villages are integral to the success of development in Sub Saharan Africa.

But his goal will not be easily attained. In his quest, Chailunga faces a major cultural and psychological hurdle. He has to get Africans to accept the legitimacy and usefulness of capitalism as the major stepping-stone to development. Almost instinctively, Africans oppose capitalism because they associate it with a greedy selfish individualism that contradicts their traditional communal lifestyle. In the face of such resistance, Chailunga has to make possible the conceptual leap in the way Africans view free markets. That’s far easier said than done.

However, for Chailunga, given the failure of socialism to deliver on its development promises in times past, capitalism is the only conceivable way for Africans to build personal wealth in the future. And OOD in Africa is his tool of choice to do just that.

Trevor M. Millet is a freelance journalist/writer who worked for the United Nations Department of Public Information for many years.