The desperation of several Africans to travel to Europe, America and increasingly any other part of the world aside from their own countries is understandable. Young intelligent citizens feel betrayed by the very system that should shelter them from the heat of daily human existence. Absence of steady power supply, poor infrastructure, insecurity of life and property, corruption and ineptitude, to mention few, have all contributed to making most of urban sub-Saharan Africa almost unlivable.
However, it has been established that it is not necessarily the outward environment that determines the growth and successes of a man, but the inward make-up of the man. A good example of this truth is exemplified in the life of George Washington Carver, one of the greatest inventors of all times.
George Washington Carver was born a slave in 1864 to one of the millions of Africans brought to the United States from the areas known today as Lagos, Calabar, Cape Coast and other parts of Africa. The conditions in which the slaves lived in America pales in comparison with the condition under which most continental Africans live today. The slaves toiled under the worst expressions of man’s inhumanity to man ever recorded in modern history. They were branded with red hot iron upon arrival from Africa, and immediately sent to the plantation to work from the first crack of dawn until late at night. The slave taskmasters beat them with animal skin and rod, and devised all sorts of heartless methods as disciplinary measures. Daily the slaves toiled in the scorching heat or the extreme cold, with little clothing on their backs. They would retire hungry at night to their slave ramshackle, to sleep on the hard wooden floor. The slaves died in millions, from preventable diseases, suicide, punishment, hunger or snake bites.
In the midst of this extremity of human existence was born the sickly little George Washington Carver. His frailty saved him from the grueling plantation work as a child. Left alone at home from sun up to sun down, Washington Carver solitude led him to turn to the next living thing he could identify with; plants. Washington-Carver started to study plants, collecting in a very studious manner, as many varieties of plants and the soil samples on which they grew.
As there were no schools available for black people within his vicinity, Washington Carver was unable to go to school until he reached the age of twelve. At twelve, he was old enough to move several miles away from home, where he worked at a farm and studied in a one room school house with no facilities.
After his secondary education, Washington Carver, because he was black, and despite his much attested brilliance, found it impossible to gain admission into the university. In the times he lived, only white people were allowed the benefit of higher education; extremely few black people had that privilege. But Washington Carver believed in himself. Notwithstanding the racial obstacles posed to his accomplishing his dreams, Washington Carver kept sending out applications to universities. He kept improving himself with every available book he could find, and made friends with people who had passed through the university or had similar ambitions. After much struggle he was able to gain admission into the University of Iowa, at well past the age of thirty.
As he tried to gain admission into the university Washington Carver kept studying plants as his passion. Against the advice of many who felt his brilliance should lead him to study Law, Medicine, Engineering or other popular liberal arts courses, he insisted on following the deep callings of his soul by studying Agriculture up to the Master’s degree level. After his graduation, he started his work life, and that was when the hundreds of innovations and discoveries started, without which the United States, and indeed the world today would never have been the same.
Washington Carver invented several industrial applications from agricultural products. his discovery of five hundred shades of dye from different plants, George Washington Carver single handedly brought an end to the United States dependency on the importation of textile dye from Europe. In 1927, he invented the production of house and car paints from soybeans, and later, the use of groundnuts as the raw materials for the production of car tires, gums, lotions, creams, to mention few. George Washington Carver’s invention are too numerous to list in this article, but they were products desperately needed at the time he invented them.
Drawing from the life of this humble slave boy, what excuse does the African really have for wanting to leave the continent . George Washington Carver had the option of leaving the United States for either Europe, which had abolished slavery and treated blacks with much more kindness, or of moving to Freetown in Sierra Leone, where many of his contemporaries fled to. But he chose to stay in the United States and kept to his passion and vision. He held on to his life calling of turning the things around him into products which would be useful to humanity, for which he is still celebrated a hundred years later.
The negative aspect of focusing one’s attention on traveling out is that it robs the individual of the energy and motivation that should have been focused on looking within and around, in order to find out his passion and what he can easily access to use and change his immediate environment. Wealth creation is not a matter of one’s environment, but a matter of his mind
What is on your mind that you are not meditating on because all your thoughts are filled with how bad you country is and how you have to travel out? What is free and within reach of you that you are right now looking down on? There is really no impossible environment to conquer, there are only unwilling and uninterested people. We have all it takes in Africa to succeed and become much better than Europe and America, the problem is that we have lost faith in ourselves to transform our environment. If George Washington Carver had lost faith in himself, a poor, sick slave boy in a highly racially defined society without light, running water, security for the black people, uncaring government, just name it, he would have been lost in history. But by keeping focused on his passion and talent, and by stretching out his hand to grab what he could, George Washington Carver has told every African that indeed, we can achieve whatever it is we set our minds to achieve, regardless of what the environment says.