Behold, the 4IR is passing us by as we sell off minerals that fuel it

Saturday May 27 2023

Picture illustration. PHOTO | NMG


May 14 was a milestone for Israel, marking 75 years of statehood. Usually referred to as the start-up nation on account of its technological start-up innovations, Israel is actually a start-up nation itself, daringly created in 1948 by a homeless people whose centuries of persecution in the diaspora for being Jews had just climaxed in the killing of six million of their own in the Holocaust.

Driven by the spirit of “Never Again” to be killed en masse for being who they are, they carved out a tiny state in the desert, where they believe their ancestors lived.

Besides successfully defending its young sovereignty in against powerful neighbours who also have their justified causes, Israel avenges attacks on Jewish people anywhere, like some who people killed a dozen Israeli athletes in the 1972 Olympic got hunted down around the globe.

As the subsequent Montreal 1976 Games were turning out to be the biggest flop in the history of modern Olympics — partly due to security concerns from the Munich 1972 and also due to the ideological boycott — Israel staged the most successful and dramatic military rescue mission of modern times, at the East African airport of Entebbe on the scenic Lake Victoria, where some people who hijacked a plane most of whose passengers were Jews had redirected it to.

The rescue mounted by Israeli commandos was stranger that a war movie and gave the world a reality show that would compensate for that year’s flopped Olympics, which are otherwise called The Greatest Show on Earth.

Read: Uganda reckons with Indian exodus 50 years on


Like the Jews who dared create a safe homeland for themselves, Africans also completed the decolonisation of their continent, ending six decades of servitude to foreign conquerors.

Now, six decades after decolonisation, you could be tempted to compare what African states have achieved with what Israel had in May 2008, when it turned 60.

But the comparison may not be comfortable, kind or politically correct. You could even cause responses like Israel having benefited from US financial and security assistance. That would arm those opposed to your view by pointing at a state like Congo-Kinshasa (DRC) that also received massive US help in reward for opposing socialism, but whose per capita GDP today, despite its enormous natural wealth, is just a hundredth of Israel’s, but with no natural wealth to talk about, except its people’s spirit.

So, the more useful thing to do is to ask what lessons African states can pick from Israel’s story, and they don’t need to like or dislike the tiny desert state, which a Kenyan athlete can easily run across without breaking a sweat.

There are several tips to pick from Israel, but here are two of them: the first arising from the much-acclaimed American support for Israel. African states, too, can get technology, skills and equipment from abroad, whether from America, China, or even Israel. Africans can use their wealth to purchase these.

Many studies have shown that Africa is a net transferor of wealth to the developed countries. Africans can even buy technology from the Black-led South Africa, which USA is currently requesting not to sell weapons to Russia!

Read: BUWEMBO: A month since AU’s Big Two visited ‘Bro Putin’ we starve on

Second, like Israel has leveraged its diaspora population, African states can also tap the technical skills, capital, connections and organisational capabilities of their people in the diaspora. We have read enough celebratory profiles of African scientists, entrepreneurs, even legislators out there in Europe; can we start seeking their meaningful participation in seeking to ensure that our states don’t watch helplessly as the next (4th Industrial) revolution passes by!

Incidentally, Africa has huge deposits of the rare earth minerals that are key to the new electric mobility that the world’s auto makers now covet like gold. Highest regards to Zimbabwe for being at the forefront of demanding that Africans should not export them unprocessed for a pittance.

African countries also need to remember that they have the fastest growing market, if they do not remain divided. Industries using African raw materials would create employment and not lack market.

The African Union should be commended for the Continental Free Trade Area arrangement. Kindly, check how passionate your own elected legislator is about AfCFTA.

Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail: [email protected]