Freedom,And Not Economic Gains Will Define Future Societies
Recently, rickety boats overflowing with
desperate Africans capsized off the Italian
coast. This is happening at a time when the
headlines tell us that Africa is booming.
Everyone – the Chinese, the Russians, the
Indians, the Brazilians, the West, are courting
it or rivaling each other over its resources.
Africa’s middle class is rising, and every day,
one reads about big multinationals setting up
shop in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam,
or Lagos with the hope of cashing in on the
affluence in years to come.
Europe, on the other hand, has been in the
economic dog-house over the last six years.
Youth unemployment is over 50 per cent.
Those Africans who risk their lives over
treacherous waters to get to Europe know that
they are unlikely to find work. So why leave a
“rising” continent and risk yourself on a
journey to a troubled Europe?
The answer is that Europe offers something
few African countries, even those with
flourishing economies, don’t: freedom. That
age-old question about whether people eat
freedom, has been answered. They do.
The West still offers Africans something they
don’t get at home; the freedom to fail because
your idea wasn’t very innovative or you didn’t
work long enough on it. Or it was smart and
innovative, and you just got unlucky.
In Africa, in too many countries, your fate is
still decided by the tribe of the man who won
or stole the last election.
In my travels, I have also been trying to make
sense of what people want. A few days ago at
my hotel in a Western city, I noticed that
nearly 80 per cent of the people checking in or
out in pairs were either both men or women.
My sense is that many of them were gay
couples. They wouldn’t dare do that in most
places in Africa.
Also, the diversity of places like London is just
incredible. There are folks from every race,
religion, and nation everywhere you look.
But it is the message that diversity sends,
rather than the fact of it, that will be decisive
in years to come. These cities are saying they
want to be something the world has never
While it is hard to say how it will end, there is
no doubt that these open and diverse cities
will create new societies, cultures, and
innovations that will capture the spirit of the
People want to experience these new things;
they want the freedom to be who they want to
be. Whether they want to marry or not, have
children, abortion, name it.
This current phase of economies of countries
like China running on steroids will end. The
most competitive nations of the future will be
those that offer the most freedom, and are the
most diverse. There are a few scenes in The
Fifth State that offer stark glimpses of where
we are going. Watch it