Many Africans might have missed an event that should have been at the centre of the news. On August 23, 2023, India landed a spacecraft on the moon, making history as the fourth country to do so.
India is in exalted company. The other countries in that rarefied club are Russia, the US and China. India did not just land a spacecraft on the moon, it landed the craft near the south pole of the moon — the only country to achieve such a feat.
The reporting on this in the African press missed the significance of India’s achievement. Most media reported it as if it was another routine space mission by another power. First, any landing on the moon or any missions into space by any country are not routine.
They demonstrate the most advanced science and technology and their economic might. They showcase meticulous organisation, steely political will to achieve national ambitions, and an extraordinary sense of patriotism among citizens to make their country great.
There is another reason why this news should have dominated our airwaves and discourse. India was colonised for more years than most African countries. India, like African countries, is multiethnic and multireligious. India, like Africa, has suffered from social strife. India, like many African countries, has gone to war with neighbouring countries. India, just like us, has to deal with disabling outdated traditional customs and beliefs.
And yet it did not use any of these characteristics as an excuse not to reach, quite literally, for the skies.
Further, India suffers from Monsoons and volcanic activity from which, for the most part, we are spared. It has a huge population, which many African countries do not. Yet it did not use these as excuses not to compete with, and sometimes beat, the best.
Perhaps we let this event pass without much commentary because we felt ashamed. Ghana became independent in 1957, 10 years after India.
Decades later, India had expanded its railway network to become the largest in the world. Ghana just expanded the railway left by the British the other day. As Ghana’s economy collapsed, India’s rose steadily. As Ghana’s education system stagnated, India advanced in science and technology, enabling it to explode a nuclear device in 1974, 27 years after Independence.
As Ghana’s heath system collapsed, India advanced theirs. Today, India has very advanced medical science and health system. Our leaders, after collapsing our health systems, seek treatment in India. India has expanded its GDP to become the fifth largest in the world. Ghana’s GDP is $80 billion, below that of Luxembourg, a tiny country of less than a million people.
Ghana is, of course, representative of the African post-independence experience of mismanagement, thievery and collapse. Will India’s example wean us from our “Pathological Excuse Syndrome” (PES)? Unlikely.
The Kenya Kwanza regime has churned out more excuses in one year than all previous regimes combined.
Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator.