An African Problem! A Possible Solution?


It’s a shame, but a sad reality that one of the biggest shortcomings of the African nation is the petty jealousy’s that exist among its people. I read a comment on Facebook over the weekend written by an African guy I know who lives in the US but is from Ghana originally. In it he pointed out that it is a common thing for African people to look at each other with a lack of trust, and when it comes to being happy, they are happiest when things happen for themselves. They enjoy to watch others fail, and look down on each other for their successes. It is strange that a whole community can be so vicious with each other. Quick to criticise and point a finger, thoughtless of hurt and effect. If one succeeds then the others around are quickly plotting to bring that success crashing down in ruins.

I cannot help but wonder if this could be part of the cause of Africa’s lack of stability. How can anyone thrive or be successful when the culture in which you survive is dead set against you being successful? I know that jealousy exists in all walks of life, but I have never come across such radical and open displays of people who have contempt for each other and are so openly critical of the rewards of hard work and determination by members of their own community. Recently I have witnessed some really amazing displays of petty jealousy and the ways in which it can bring reputations and all the good work of one individual into disrepute. And for what? All because the one doesn’t have what the other has taken the time and effort to earn. Not everyone is like that admittedly, but it does appear to be a very common trend amoung African people, and if you take the time to sit and talk one to one with African people who are able to be honest and frank about their own short commings, they admit themselves that this inward facing jealousy is a major problem within African culture.

African politics is a mine field of uncertainties, and there is certainly no clear cut solution to many of Africa’s problems, but it would seem that when you talk to African’s one on one they are all well aware that their own worst enemy comes from within. Yet while they know that this jealousy and discontent exists none of them can explain its source, why it is there, nor how it has become such an issue. The idea of public unity and speaking with one voice becomes an impossibility when such powerful undercurrents of suspicion and discontent are evident within the community. It is impossible to mount any form of successful enterprise if it would seem that along the way anyone that you become close to would be prepared to go to almost any lengths to derail your progress.

It becomes clear why African leaders surround themselves with family as their closest allies. Nepotism is bread in Africa in alarming ways. It is not uncommon to find that senior politicians and people in influential positions are all members of the ruling Presidents or Prime Ministers family. Party and cabinet ministers are drawn from the ranks of the faithful as it is safer to rely on them for support and commitment than to leave it open to a democratic selection of members of parliament and land up having a group of people who are clearly going to be gunning for you for one reason or another.

It mystifies me how a whole society can live in such a way. I would hate to live under a cloud of suspicion. It would totally unsettle me to have to constantly watch over my shoulder and live out the saying keep your friends close and your enemies closer still. I have always been the kind of person to speak my mind, say what I think, be honest and deal with the consequences as they come. To live in jealousy over the success of anyone around me seems so trivial and childish that it beggars belief that this is a way of life for some people. And I have actually witnessed it happening which is the most alarming part of it. It’s not just words from one or two African people that I know.

Any person living in Africa will tell you that so many of the tribes themselves will never be able to see eye to eye due to cultural differences that they have been brought up with. Now cultural differences are one thing, and even they are very difficult to understand, but they are present in almost every country around the world. Culture is a very weird concept in that we are all human. We all breath the same air, eat much the same food, think very often the same thoughts, go to work, survive and live in much the same way as one would on the other side of the cultural fence. Yet right here in the UK, the Welsh cannot stand the English, the Scottish are a breed unto themselves, and the Irish just learn to hate. This is a tiny little island that would fit into most countries around the world many times over. Yet even here cultrualism plays its part in daily living.

But having said that, it is a very different world to that of the African people. Yes jealousy plays its part here too, but generally speaking the British people don’t mind if someone is successful through hard work and determination. They are happy to see that someone has made it, as they know that it opens the door to opportunities, builds a better Britain, drives others to emulate their example, and in all plays a major part in the success of the country as a whole.

In some ways people are encouraged to be successful here. There is a culture of recognising those that make it and a way of encouraging those that haven’t yet reached their potential to assist them along the way. This is a totally foreign concept for the bulk of the African community it would seem. The idea of assisting someone of their community to become successful goes against everything they think about. Why should I help him or her to make it when I myself cannot make it? How frustrating that must feel to someone that has the potential but can’t make use of it for lack of support from within.

I guess thinking about it though, for those that do make it, it must make that reward all the more sweeter. To climb the ladder to success without the help of peers must be a truly rewarding feeling. But it is clearly obvious that success within the African community will only come in small pockets where individuals are supported by a close knit family of relatives and friends who help you to achieve. For an individual to come along and challenge that success and seek to create their own wealth and prosperity, they would quickly find themselves shot down in flames.

So how then could a continent of uncontented people really imagine that they could enjoy the satisfaction of unity and true democracy? Are we fooling ourselves that there is a chance for Africa? Can we ever expect to see African’s working together side by side without concern over who is reaping the rewards, or who is in a position of power, or who is the boss and who is the worker? I’ve asked several African people who think that it is a mountain too high. It would seem that for the African people to exist in harmony and prosperity is a step too far. Only a few of them will really make it, and when they do make it, they will only take care of those around them, closely guarding their success and prosperity. There is nobody who would encourage their community to better themselves incase members of the community become better than they who facilitated their success in the first place. No one actively empowers those around them to have the ability they have just incase someone knocks on the door of success and out does them. And so Africa it would seem will continue to shoot itself in the foot through the insecurity of its people. How do you show a nation, no a continent that it is in its own interests to stop such hurtful and damaging behaviour and work together to overcome its issues?

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8 comments on “An African Problem! A Possible Solution?

  1. jamie zulu says:

    I think you may well be right rob as you say the welsh hate the engilsh and it much the much with swansea and cardiff unless people stick you can never reach the peak of your potential

    • Rob says:

      Exactly Zulu. I mean lets be honest, if a Jack and a Blue can’t see eye to eye, and they are all Welsh what hope do any of us have? Maybe its a problem endemic in society as a whole, not just in the African Cultures! I still think that success is promoted more in the Western World and society looks kindly on those that do succeed, or maybe not so kindly as more tollerates them, but it would seem that success amoung African people is almost frowned upon by some, and there are certainly some that go out of their way to discredit the hard work of others. I suppose every culture has its problem child. Maybe the British are just better at being two faced and hiding their jealousy’s!

  2. jamie zulu says:

    i can see where your coming from rob i belive that the british hide there back stabbing and jelousy well but since i have known you you have displayed a lot of african trates the one i am pointing to imperticular is your tendancy to tell it like it is please of offend maybe this is the down fall of the african people they dont say things behind your back what they can say to your face

  3. Patricia Smith says:

    Rob,I think the big problem with Africa is not so much jealousy,but power,which is due to the fact Africans have always been down trodden,so when they get into powerful positions they hold on for dear life,then they have the problem of having to please millions,that in Africa is not easy,so greed sets in,fear of been pushed out with no more power and wealth is a bad thing,I would not say their is any more jealousy than in whites or any other nation I find Europeans very spiteful and fickle.

    • Rob says:

      Good point. But do you think that is even the case further down the line? Yes, admittedly politicians and people in powerful possitions cling onto power. They do say absolute power corrupts, and I think that is a different issue, but there are two main points I have beening troubled about.
      1. What can we do to encourage the African Entrepeneur? Most people I’ve spoken too have dynamic and wonderful ideas but are so afraid of criticism and failure. Is that due to jealousy or something else?
      2. Why are we so quick to hate someone’s success as Africans? Maybe hate is the wrong word, but it seems that when someone “makes it” as an African person, there are so many people willing to speak badly of them or willing to see harm or failure come to those that have what others do not.

      I do agree that anyone can be fickle and hurtful of others. It is a human condition that I don’t quite understand. Ultimatly though, I’d like to try understand why Africa finds it so hard to succeed in business. Its probably a multitude of reasons, and it’d certainly be very interesting to get people’s oppinions, and learn others points of view. I guess that’s the reason I tried to start this debate.

  4. Deborah Mann says:

    Rob,
    I read your post with interest. I’ve lived in Africa all my life and know that part of their culture is jealousy. They just are inherently a jealous race. I’ve been told this countless times by my Black african friends. They’ve openly told me that they dare not wear such and such to town lest their friends get jealous. and on other occassions they’ll dress to the nines in order to entice jealousy and men. This is their nature. I don’t know if it’s borne out of living in lack for so long, or whether its from being introduced to the white mans ways and then comparing their ‘little’ to our ‘lots’. its very saddening, as I find their culture richer than any clothing we could ever don. anyhow, the jealousy factor won’t leave, as the Black African has suffered too long in poverty, and distress. he sees any competition as something to be done away with ASAP. He won’t suffer especially not in competition with one of his own race. nEVER! So this problem will not go away anytime soon. who can blame them?
    If you were kept in a Kaya your whole life and forced to be home by a certain time, and whipped if you were slightly late, or did the slightest thing wrong, and looked on in longing as your master wore the finest shoes while your blisters burnt, you too would develop a culture of jealousy and perhaps severe anger. You wouldn’t allow it to go away for fear of the blisters returning.

    • Rob says:

      Wow Deborah that is so real. Your last statement acutally makes so much sense. Its a vivid look at realities. Its quite madening that ultimatly we as the West, Colonial, White men whatever you’d call those who in the past subjected African people to such hardships and desperate lives are to blame for creatation of such a hunger in people that they would even hurt their national prosperity as a result. It’s shameful that people can do these things to each other. So how now, do we set this right. How do we show a nation that posperity for one will lead to the creation and opportunity of wealth and success for others?
      Yes, I see your point clearly and thank you for using such a clear and emotive way to bring it to life. I can feel in me how that would make me feel. It is easy to sit and examine and wonder about these things, and I seek to understand and know as much as I can so that I can say I am empowered by the knowledge to maybe better understand the ways of a culture I daily realise I know very little about. Taking time to see other people’s points of view can only lead to a better understanding of what makes us who we are. I worried that in writing this post I’d anger people, but its worth that risk if I can learn from the responses.

  5. Nick J says:

    I agree with some of your sentiments, but you overlooked the fact that this is what the world is doing right now….capitalism is based on that. Just because it’s formalised doesn’t make it different.eg the cartels such as Microsft, Oil companies etc… they will ensure that no one else succusseds in their area or industry, and they will go to extremes to maintain status quo. In southern Africae,g Zimbabwe and SA white farmers for a long time ensured that they squashed any black enterprenuership. I recall times when Black Africans were not encourage to own property wehther it be a car , or houses etc. If they did they will ensure that they did not get it in the affluent suburbs which corelated with their financial status. What iam syaing is that both white and Black Africans are guilty of this syndrome…..your overtones seemed to indicate that this is a Black problem…well it’s not!

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