Malawians can stun the world

It is not inconceivable that the next Zuckerberg would have attended Mchesi Primary School in Lilongwe or would have been born in the Henga Valley in Rumphi or at Nyezelera in Phalombe.  Mark Zuckerberg is an American of Jewish descent who founded and is CEO of the social, Internet based, application, Facebook. He is one of the youngest billionaires in the world.

Mark dedicated a good deal of time and effort to developing a platform which would enable users from all over the world socially interact with each other. The catchword here is dedication. With dedication people of all descriptions can achieve great things. Yes, even those who were born and raised in Malawi can shoot to global prominence if they, armed with desire, dedication, determination and discipline (the four D’s), develop an innovation similar to Facebook.

Rwanda is already making great strides in the area of information and communication technology (ICT). According to techcrunch.com, the country (Rwanda) has “adopted e-government service initiatives, aggressively courted partnerships with international investors, and significantly reformed its private sector.” American startup, Zipline, is operating in Rwanda in conjunction with local innovators to make up to 150 deliveries of critical medical supplies a day to the rural parts of Rwanda by means of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones).

Rwanda is developing into Africa’s technological hub. South Korea is funding the development of a $5.6 million ICT innovation centre in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. We can borrow a leaf from our Rwandan colleagues by creating a technologically enabling environment if we are serious about producing minds similar to those of Zuckerberg or Jobs or Gates from our beloved motherland.

Nobody will just wake up one morning, fiddle around and come up with a product like Facebook. It takes a great deal of preparation to do that. One needs to familiarise themselves with the tools and the language needed to develop products of this nature or indeed any other valuable products.

Our young people need to be exposed to technology from an early age. They must not develop a phobia for anything scientific, like some so easily do. I know of people who literally switch off when you start to refer to water as H2O. They are comfortable with water as a liquid which is used for washing or cooking or drinking but to think of it as a chemical is regarded as academic chitty chatty. Chemicals, as far as such people are concerned, are found in books and are given funny symbols. This is where we miss it big time. We do not concretize the knowledge we acquire at school. We fail to realise that each one of us is actually a bunch of chemicals—carbon chains, amino acids, fatty acids, salts of some metals, and more.

To become innovators we must be able to bridge the imaginary gulf between academic knowledge and reality. A pupil must come to appreciate that air pressure and steam pressure are more than just concepts but are real, for example. It would be nice to construct a crude steam engine that works as a way of demonstrating such reality. Teachers will have to be up to it for this to happen. However, the pupils/students themselves should develop a culture of experimentation. They can try some things out with their friends at home. When I was in secondary school, I would try out constructing a crude motor from wire wound around a nicely shaped piece of wood and placed between magnets during holidays. I got elated when the motor worked.

Those wishing to come up with something in the ICT field need to be friends with algorithms and programming techniques. These tools are not only useful for responding to assignments and for answering examination questions. Young people ought to incorporate them in their habits. They need to think algorithms, eat algorithms and dream algorithms. Only then can they have a realistic chance of developing an ICT product that will stun the world. Who said it cannot happen in Malawi? All things are possible.

How much longer are we going to trail other global players in technology? God may have distributed natural resources like gold, diamonds and oil unevenly across the countries of the world but intellectual ability is pretty much evenly distributed. We can create an abundance of wealth, if not from gold which we may not be endowed with it, but certainly from innovations..

Search within yourself for the right mix of attributes. It starts with desire. To your desire you need to add determination; to your determination, dedication; to dedication, add discipline and you will be on your way to something really great.

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