The world these past few days has been mourning the loss of a great inventor and leader, Steve Jobs. Judging from Facebook status updates, many here in Ghana mourned him just as much as others in the world, and why not? Jobs’ inventions: the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Apple computers are just as well regarded and popular in Ghana as elsewhere in the world.
However, the question that some Ghanaians and other Africans have raised is whether a man like Steve Jobs could have been raised and flourished in the current Ghanaian or African society. Are we creating the sort of environment where innovators and entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs can grow and succeed?
Steve Jobs was an adopted child who eventually had to drop out of university after one semester because of financial difficulties. He kept on auditing classes at the university though, sleeping on the floor of friends’ rooms and receiving free meals from charity. Doesn’t sound like a man born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, does it?
Yet this man rose from such a humble background to co-found and run what is now the largest technology company in the world and passed away with a net worth in the billions of dollars. So can this be replicated here in Ghana? In Africa?
It is believed that Steve Jobs’ success was due to both internal and external factors. He was a ‘genius’. That, at least, is widely accepted. However, reading his life story one must also acknowledge him as a man who persevered despite trials to rise to the top. Despite financial difficulty and having to officially drop out of college, he continued auditing (attending but not being graded) classes, in the hunger for knowledge. He had the bravery to recognize a good idea and push it, founding Apple Computers, he had the drive and determination that after having been kicked out of his own company in 1985 he continued to be such a success that his new company (NeXT Computer) was bought by his old one returning him to his old job in 1996.
Here, we must ask ourselves, are we developing children with just such qualities in this country? Jobs was renowned as an innovator, for breaking the ‘rules’, and trying new, different things. Is our educational system, which is focused on producing graduates who excel at regurgitating what teachers give them, going to produce innovators? Jobs hungered for knowledge, attending classes even after he was kicked out. Parents and students complain about the high cost of school fees but truly, do we see such a general hunger in our students for an actual education? Or are we producing pupils content to study what they are meant to and nothing else?
Jobs also enjoyed living in a country that promoted entrepreneurial activity. The fact that Jobs would consider starting a business and have the willingness to grow it into a world superpower is telling. Are we imbuing our own children which such entrepreneurial desire? How many of the thousands of university/college graduates around the country today will really consider starting a business instead of being focused on grabbing one of the few jobs available in banks or other private businesses?
How can Ghana expect to produce men and women like Steve Jobs when our public service finds a failure rate of 50% in basic educational exams to be acceptable and even an ‘improvement’? How can the young men and women who walk the streets of Ghana today, aspire to create their own businesses when bank lending rates are as high as they are?
Steve Jobs flourished in a country which celebrates and encourages its entrepreneurs. The United States which Ghanaians and other Africans admire is founded on the entrepreneurial success of men and women such as Henry Ford, Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. The United States wasn’t built by its government so much as it was built by its people, and the sooner Ghana learns this lesson the sooner we shall enjoy the same success.
Steve Jobs has passed away now but it is hoped that he shall be reborn a thousand times over in this country and others all over the continent. It is also hoped that, when he comes, we will have built the environment for him to Dream and Succeed.
Executive, Product Evangelism and Media Relations
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