In October 2015, several African websites published articles claiming Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump described Africans as lazy. They reported that Trump made the comments in a speaking event in Indiana; and this caused a major uneasiness among the African community in America and across the continent.
Many have called for Trump not to be voted into the White House because by this remark, he has displayed his dislike for the continent, and if voted into power, his foreign policy will neither be favourable nor in the best interest of Africa.
This allegation was later found to be false, as there were no evidence supporting this rumour. Two websites in America, Inquistr and Snopes, published articles showing there are no video or official transcripts of Trump in Indiana on the day he allegedly made those comments. Inquistr for one stated that no major news outlet covered any story on a Trump-speaking event in Indiana on October 25, which indicates that the comments were fabricated.
Having conceded that such comments were false, yet one has to stop and wonder: Would statements describing Africans to be lazy be a true reflection on Africans, as we have just celebrated the occasion of African Union (AU) Day? To further ask: Could Trump (assuming he were to make such statements) be drawing his remarks from experience, an encounter or observation he may have made among Africans in America or across the continent at large?
On this subject of laziness, the Bible teaches two signs of a lazy man: he gives excuses, and he loves sleep.
Africans generally have an attitudinal problem towards work. We love giving excuses for neither working nor showing up for work. Just think of encounters with some of our artisans: masons, carpenters, steel benders, plumbers, painters and the like. Such reveal the depth of this canker. After taking on an engagement, they are full of excuses for not showing up to work or for coming late.
This problem is not only endemic among our artisans but among regular office workers across the continent. Sadly, people have to be forced and supervised before they work and give off their best.
We have a large number of unemployed youths across the continent, and if one were to ask them why they are idle and not doing anything with their lives, they will probably give excuses about the unavailability of jobs. In all sincerity, this attitude depicts laziness, and it is only lazy people who give excuses for not doing anything. Africa to a large extent is the only continent which has a significant numbers of idle people in the name of no jobs. Right on our shores, we have strong and energetic young people wasting their lives away idle and sitting at home and on the streets of cities across the continent doing nothing. These are people with talents and gifts which could be harnessed, refined and deployed at the marketplace of work, but many of them are simply unwilling to yield.
In most workplaces and offices on the continent, one could very likely see men and women who having reported to work are nevertheless idle, doing nothing. In fact, they spend working hours doing politics, receiving personal calls, shopping, conducting personal business, or reading national dailies.
In several countries across the continent, religious activities are organised and held during weekdays and working hours, and one can find those who are supposed to be at work working, rather at such programmes seeking special prayers. Indeed, many have replaced work with religious activities, and some even close their shops and offices to honour such programmes.
It is a worrying and discomforting spectacle to note that in numerous workplaces and offices across the continent, there are those who report to work but instead of working, sleep! Yes, our people love excessive sleep and can sleep for the greater part of the day. In a way, it is only in Africa that you can find people sleeping more and working less whereas in other parts of the world, they work more and sleep less.
However, if the masses ought to face the jarring music that would jolt them from their stupor and indolence to meaningful avocations and economic progress, there must equally be a call for the celebration of the few who appear as outliers on the continent. These are the few who in spite of the inviting ease with which they could join the masses are nevertheless actuated to lend themselves to tireless effort, ceaseless industry, astounding versatility and dauntless persistence and perseverance, and thereby place their best strengths and innate gifts on the altar of meaningful and beneficial activities as they work towards a better continent.
Without doubt, these hard working men and women across the length and breadth of the continent, striving so hard to build the economy of their respective countries, must receive lofty plaudits, high encomiums and pleasant approbations even as we have just marked another AU Day.
Despite the grim prognosis that we are confronted by on a daily basis, it is refreshing and irresistible to cheer and celebrate the few who stand tall and have earned their indelible names and places on our scrolls of honour; men and women from the African soil who have risen to take positions in international organizations as heads for which they delivered and performed excellently, and did not (as lazy souls) shirk on the job. Indeed, one such shining example is Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, an illustrious son of Ghana.
While that is a drop of good fortune in our rather unenviable chalice from which we continue to drink as a continent, and one that calls us to rise up and fix such pressing issues, as we endeavour to transform the not one, but the many proverbial “Mensahs” scattered like Harmattan dust and haze on a humid January day; we must hope with bated breath that those who are in a place of good fortune and favour will do all in their power to lead and spearhead the gallant transformation of our beloved continent.
As a needed and salutary bluntness suggests, it is our laziness as a people that makes us continue to reach for the fading coat-tails of other advanced nations. However, if we would fix this issue as well as our desire and love for sleep and instead offer ourselves and channel all our inner and outer powers to a better and brighter continent, then our needed and pleasant change will soon break upon us.
As a final suggestion, we must turn to an inspired prophet and sage who several centuries ago intimated divine direction to a people very much in need of change, saying, “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.” Are we as a continent equally willing? Will we obey such a lucid call for us to jettison our indolent proclivities and bestir ourselves to hard work and tireless and persistent effort needed to change this lagging continent?
Angelina K. Morrison & Charles Anyomi