My African Standards

My organisation won a project to renovate and upgrade a mini estate after the former occupants who had stayed there for four years moved out. Excited about this new prospect, we set out to scout for the army of artisans we needed for the job.

Half way through the inspection process, we discovered that the armoured electrical cable supplying the estate with electricity from the state electrical feeder had been destroyed. We learned from within the neighbourhood that the damage had been done a while back, and because we didn’t know who was responsible, there was no one to ask for compensation.

We proceeded to contact an electrician to give a quotation for repair and to our horror he quoted an amount that would have completed the electrical wiring of three estates put together! When questioned about his absurd quotation, the electrician explained to us that he was going to deliver a “foreign” standard job and not an African standard one.

His response took me by surprise. I become curious to find out what the African standard of craftsmanship was and the difference between foreign and African standards.

He went on confidently to say that the foreign standard was “superior”, and that he would make sure that his work would not be an inferior one, that is, “African”.

Although I was livid by his explanation, it made me reflect on a few things:

  1. Here was a man openly admitting that he knew the difference between standards.
  2. He knew he had the ability to deliver both standards
  3. He was openly admitting that the standard he represented was inferior and was offering me another country’s standard for an increase in price.

Washed with anger, I swiftly give him a tongue lashing, letting him know that my African standard was just as good as any foreign standard and that I expected nothing less from him for the regular price of work to be done. Why couldn’t our African standard be the superior one? I read him the riot act on the presumption of standards and my belief that they were only as good as the people perfected and believed them to be.

After I had calmed down, I had to stop and analyze this situation: why did this man think his country’s standards were inferior?

Was it because of the following reasons:

  1. He had been so mentally compromised by media reports praising the achievements of the western world that he felt Africa could never catch up?
  2. Maybe it was because he still sees Africa (and himself) as a place of poverty, disease, illiteracy and corruption – a helpless continent that cannot help itself?
  3. Maybe his inferiority complex was as a result of the confusion sometimes experienced by Africans, who are aware, but unconsciously fight the African renaissance, that is, a new wave of change. Change in social consciousness, Ideologies and formats.

Whatever the case, I did regret speaking to him in an angry way. Maybe if I had explained in detail that a country and continent is only as powerful and as mighty as the love citizens give to her, that there is no place like home, and that one’s home country should not be put down, maybe, he would have understood that no matter how inferior situations and circumstances are perceived to be, resignation and acceptance should never be the road most travelled.

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