I've just come back from Vietnam and wanted to write about it. Not because I particularly want to write about Vietnam but I do need to vent a little. It's just it made me even more frustrated about the lack of progress in Africa - for example Cameroon and Nigeria, the countries I know best.
There are so many similarities. Like in Africa, in Vietnam over hundreds of years world powers have brought trade, religion, invasions and war before independence was finally achieved. In fact when the war ended in 1975 a destroyed country was in a far worse position than Cameroon or Nigeria. It experimented with communism but when the world order changed they reinvented it as something more like capitalism.
The Vietnamese economy bounds forward powered by an eager nation of young people producing and selling like their lives depend on it - which of course they do as there is no welfare state. There is productivity everywhere in Vietnam much of it based on traditional agricultural pursuits such as growing rice and making noodles and bringing fruit, vegetables, meat and spices to the markets. After agriculture Vietnam is also in the grip of a tourism boom and there are major factories owned by the likes of Samsung and Canon.
There is very little I saw that shouldn't be possible in Africa. It's not rocket science. Vietnam even has endemic corruption to deal with and has nothing resembling democracy. The parallels in Africa just go on. Even the weather, the latitude, the types of crops look the same.
So one can only conclude that lack of progress in Africa is down to governments and culture and is therefore largely self-inflicted. One can go on making excuses for Africa's woes but the excuses look rather lame after a visit to Vietnam. It's not perfect but like South Korea and Malaysia at this rate it will soon be light years ahead of sub-saharan Africa. Leaders in Africa need to look East - and then take a long hard look at themselves.