Youth Achievement Differences – American versus African

Earlier this year, I had a facebook casual discussion with my friends and it was very crucial to engage especially to African youth as the topic was centered on a comparison on what could be the reasons behind the achievement disparities among youth “American vs. African”. Therefore, a friend posed a question on his wall. After realizing that I might not access the comments, I decided to make a blog post. Surprisingly, this person is currently on a break and I cannot access this info. This conversation has not been edited.

Why is it, in America a person at 22 would have achieved a lot, some will be already having their own houses? But in Africa in it seems life begins around 25 years going upwards.

Lucky: The background behind every individual counts a lot. Also in Africa, you could realise that there are some within that range – 22. However, the continental economic power can be suggested to be the root of such disparities. I am not sure when it comes to link on the past but I assume that that history of colonisation could be to some extent justify this – its my opinion based on a mere assumption”.

 Mfano Ncube: “I think it’s because, when our parents send us to school, they advise us to work hard, get good grades, get a good job then retire. And most of the money you will earn, (AFTER TAX) while working will go to supporting your parents and your siblings. While in America, they say to their children when they send them to school; “Go to school, while at school, nurture your passion or study what you are passionate about and then take the money we saved for you and use it to live your passion while it makes more money for you“.

 Lucky: “Very true Ncube, that creates a huge gap. It’s unfortunate that some of us try to follow a career that will secure us jobs yet some perceive learning centers as social places where we meet friends, enjoy as friends etc. The most painful part is to learn that a significant %age of learners study courses which does not match their natural abilities. This could be just being a result of a handful of factors such as poor background, poverty which would turn learners to go for anything that comes on way. It is not bad though when considering the misfortunes of life. However, this all delays self-actualisation and brings us back to the ages mentioned by Moe above. However, some could experience life in their 50s as a result.

I am still to explore more on this research area when I get enough time and resources. I came up with a rough draft model for Career Guidance. However, the concept is still raw as it has a number of assumptions that would have to be validated and confirmed with the existing literature.

Have a look on it:…/”.

Mfano Ncube: “Yeah! You are right. I think the rules of education have completely changed, but the education system has remained unchanged and our parents don’t know it that’s why they keep on giving us obsolete advice. We should change this with our children’s generation because old jars have long been proven unable to contain new strong, wine, (Bible over 2000 years ago) which has the power to break it the second one pours it in them. It’s also up to us, who were suppressed and made dumb by our traditional backgrounds to get out of our comfort zones and always try something new….. Will check your blog out bro. thanks for the link”.

Lucky:  Perfect – “getting out of our comfort zones and always trying something new” – there is more power in that. We often make efforts to avoid taking risky options. We prefer a comfortable zone – many prefer getting a job with a continued flow of income than trying something which could turn into gold despite the risk associated. This reminds me of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s most recent report which compares various entrepreneurial aspects worldwide. The document in page 19 compares countries’ economies into Factor-driven economy, Efficient-driven economy and Innovative driven economies. Comparing different countries, we see most African countries that participate being Factor driven economies while most European and USA being Innovative Driven economies. This point back to the disparities among the Africans and USA individuals”.

Sipuka: “Simple because u were born poor u will die poor those who r rich will die rich”

Tichaona: “Most Americans are fortunate enough to be born in families where their parents already have businesses, so they grow in business, by the time they finish high school they already know business practices. As for us the unfortunate ones, lecturers have to teach us what a business is etc, and that process takes quite a long time for us to grasp concepts. I think if we African teach our children trading at a younger age, will do us good”.

Lucky: “That’s the way to go Tichaona, now that we know I am sure we shall teach our kids and our bros and sis* such a route”.

Bridget:  “interesting thread!!”

Moe: “Still on the same topic, Luckisto, Ncube if your child is passionate about sport or singing would you invest your resources to send the child to the music school or sport school respectively. As you guys highlighted on our background which significantly prolong our success, I still remember sport wasn’t one of the subjects /talents which our parents considered important into a child’s future. Babalwa, on being born poor, I partially agree because you don’t choose a family to be born from; however I strongly disagree on dying poor because you have a choice to change your future. Tichaona we can’t necessarily say they are born from families with businesses, thus an assumption, I guess they are some who are born from similar families as ours but they still make it in life earlier than we do. Bridget and Maka, interesting indeed. And guys don’t you think race plays a role, whites usually at 22 even in Africa they will be having something to treasure”.

Lucky: “When I grew up, playing soccer was viewed as time wasting – I can assume my community still believes in this same perspective. They believe spending an hour in the fields (farm) is worth better than spending an hour in a soccer session ground. I would like to admit on behalf of my culture that we are not aware of the true preferable investments. However, I always partially agree to why they subscribe to such values and to some extent I would like to assume that their justification is valid.

Careers such as soccer or music are not common yet the pattern of following a teacher, nurse, doctor careers etc are common hence going to school is viewed as a general alignment towards the later mentioned jobs. In my community, we have no one in the national team (soccer Zim) and only one family made its names to such a level in the entire history (Peter Ndlovu, Madinda Ndlovu, and the late Adam Ndlovu). We are even puzzled how they built such a strong recognition. However, it is believed that one brother excelled in soccer and influenced the whole family. My point here is, there are some careers which we see no value in them or the community has developed a well-known and observed assumption that taking such a career leads to NO-WAY, anyone who tries it puts oneself as a reference point or example.

Having a closer look on this justifies my community have no faith in some careers as mentioned above. It can be summarised as follows: If no-one has made a living out of it then who are you to be the first – common sense would just confirm that such an option is not welcome. Well, I am suggesting them an assumption which I do not believe in myself as well. If having a kid with a passion in such fields, I would consider the environment and building it from there. Actually, I would love my kids not to follow general education system – it’s too long (how can my kid spend a combined (primary, secondary, advanced and tertiary level), approx. 17 years learning to get a degree qualification which might not even lead to employment. Have we thought of recouping all the invested monies in education? In economic terms, this could lead to an assumption that some are investing into a sinking investment – with negative returns. In business simple lingo, some fail to break-even, meaning that they make a loss on an investment made in education. It’s painful to know this – think of the graduates who spent more than 20 years learning and now are in the circles of unemployment. Who would have taken such a route is all the implications were known before?

I refuse to invest is such a “share” – this is what I shall do: Identify talent in my kids, develop them on the survival and success skills and their talents, teach the enough life oriented mathematics and investments principles; teach them the practical aspect of investments; and constantly emphasise, to them, that there is no need for achieving a briefcase of qualifications. I am sure it won’t even take them 10 years to do what they enjoy most.

We should be reminded that our communities have a shape towards our career believe it or not. Here is my reason: compare someone staying in Harare CBD and another person from Binga (that’s my rural village). Let us assume both have passion in music or soccer, who is more likely to make it? It might be difficult for some to follow logic but it is obvious someone in the CBD has high chances because his/her talent would be easily notice by people (the environment is enabling, presence of studios, music from various artistes and you name the rest) someone in Binga might be talented but might not meet anyone to realise such a talent. There is a well known Ugandan Musician in the East Africa (Uganda) of the name DR. JOSE Chameleone, his career in the music industry is an inspiration to many. Circumstances around him proved to be a huge challenge yet he had to sacrifice up to his last cent in a nearby country (Kenya) where he got the chance to develop his passion. He never stopped there and kept on putting all he can do. Now, he is close to 15 years in the industry with various awards won and he is flourishing greatly. I was deeply inspired by his story and I had to include him as one of my favourite music despite the fact that I do not understand him mother tongue language which most of his songs are sung in. This could be loosely linked to our main topic that an enabling environment is very crucial to all. I jokingly say to my nephew: “If you won’t reach Peter Ndlovu’s standard in soccer, then concentrate on your studies”. I will be trying to pass the message that currently, we believe in well known careers in the community – I acknowledge that I am not doing the right thing but my justification is that our environment is not supportive to such talents.

Another example would be to compare business supportive environment among different places. Consider a comparison between two business minded individuals one based in Cape Town and the other one, in Bulawayo. Someone in Cape Town has high chances of thinking entrepreneurial compared to someone in Bulawayo simply because in Cape Town one might have a chance of attending a multitude of workshops and networking events with no cost yet someone in Bulawayo could barely attend a networking event in a month’s time (it’s another assumption, I am not sure on the Bulawayo business networking events but on the Cape Town, I tried and tested this – there are plenty of such events). This adds some points on the influence of an environment’s influence.

On the race, I am not sure but it is always common sense that there are some tribes which are naturally known for being rich yet some are known of being poor. An interesting pattern to reveal is the extent of cohesion among different tribes. Think of it. How is your tribe known of in terms of cohesiveness? Are you supportive to one another or not? If your friend needs to borrow money to establish a business, what would be your reaction? . . . Willing to help or taking the risk of losing the lent amount. Food for thought. There should be an interesting pattern there. Let me leave that for the Sociologists, I am sure they have a perfect explanation on that.

On the aspect of being born poor and dying poor, I fully disagree with that notion. Motivation speakers usually say: “It is not a problem to be born poor BUT a problem to die poor”. It’s a fact that we are naturally different from one another and we should not expect everyone to be of the same opinion – differences should be observed and acknowledged therefore.

One of the entrepreneurial characteristics very crucial is having an “internal locus of control”- this when simply put to a layman means such people believe they have the power to influence and shape their environment and of course destiny. To them being born poor translates to “not dying poor but dying rich instead”. This is very interesting – I always big-up adults who still completes their matric even after being married and those who take up the challenge for enrolling for a tertiary education in their 40s, 50s, or 60s – my rough Career Guidance model (mentioned earlier) acknowledges this and this signal an internal locus of control as an individual would be proving that the background will not determine the future. We should not sit down and relax saying that it is a fact I will die poor since I was born poor. Never, build on such a negative perspective. It’s always interesting to break the general norms, achieving something which is not believed to be possible in a family.

I might write a book, let me not exhaust the discussion and leave it for others to add their opinions”.


About Lucky Sibanda

He is a holder of Diploma in Entrepreneurship (cum laude) and a Bachelor of Technology in Business Administration at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (2014 June - cum laude) (Cape Town, South Africa, in Africa). He has varied basic experience stretching from engineering, office work, retail and to the provision of tuition gained from the period of 2005 up to date. He is a qualified and registered Assessor (Services SETA) with a scope of 10 qualification (up to NQF Level 4).

Posted on 19/12/2013, in Others and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Jenny Enombo


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