Monday, November 9, 2009

Why is Africa not successful?

I learned something new today about the Psychology of Happiness and Success. There is an entire psychological school of thought devoted to this theory. The theory says:

1. If you are happy you are more likely to be successful than if you are unhappy
2. Optimists are more likely to be happy with their circumstances than pessimists.
3. Man is a social animal who is generally empathetic and will respond to the behaviour – good or bad, happy or unhappy, of others who surround him. As a proven statistic 85% of people will be influenced by the behaviour of those around them while the other 15% will not. We tried this in a brief experiment and it worked inasmuch as 85% of us were able to make the other 85% smile!

So beware of the company you keep and surround yourself with happy optimists.

The drift moved on to why is Africa not successful. Of all the continents, Africa has the highest misery index and the least success. It has been suggested by the School of Happiness and Success, no less, that the possible reason for Africa’s continuing failure is that as a people, they do not believe they can change things through their own behaviour. As in Zimbabwe, Africans tend to say ‘But what can we do?’ when faced with a government that leads them into a trillion percent inflation, bullies them, even kills them off one or more at a time and leads them into lives of misery, uncertainty and insecurity. And African governments, faced with failure to perform, blame outside influences – a la ‘Western Illegal Economic Sanctions’, droughts, world recessions, global warming caused by the West, etc, etc, etc.

But I wonder about this. The ordinary people are generally happy in the midst of some of the most appalling circumstances. Then there are some of the people who make a lot of decisions to help themselves and become successful beyond their wildest dreams – that is if you measure success by the amount of money in their bank balances or the numbers and size of the cars in their garages, their homes, whatever. Look at Phillip Chiyangwa, the senior members of the Army and Police, civil servants, judges, and ZANU PF politicians who now have several farms – each(!), plenty of expensive and luxurious motor cars and homes that would challenge Balmoral Castle (if not quite Buckingham Palace!) So given the right circumstances (power) they can be happy (successful) optimists – at the expense of course – of the ordinary people who are ‘fatalists’ if not pessimists.

Yet Africa as a continent and Zimbabwe as a country is getting poorer by the day so there is an ingredient missing amongst the successful Africans – perhaps it is empathy? They could be the 15% who you can’t make smile around the boardroom table?

Is this the psychological answer to Africa’s failure, I wonder?

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