“Intellectual African Scum”

Everyone has been talking about this post, so aptly entitled “You Lazy (Intellectual) African Scum”

I love to see African issues talked about and dissected, but it was a disappointment for me to see so many agreeing with the sentiments expressed, and reblogging and retweeting their agreement without discussion, like victims of the nodding disease currently killing kids in Northern Uganda.

And so here, without blemish or edit, is a rebuttal by Ernest Bazanye who is awesome all over the internet. Hopefully it will add something to the current discussion:

Here in bufunze and bullet points is what bugged me about the Lazy Intellectual post.

First the things on the surface of it. Casual assumptions made that seem to bolster his main argument, even though they themselves are disputable.



The white man talks about coming in to Africa and taking all the wealth and leaving crumbs.

A rich person coming to your market is a good thing. Yes, when he leaves he will still be rich and you will still be poor, but he leaves his money behind. Would it be better if we kept our minerals and never made any money off them?

Wamma white man come to my country and look at my giraffes and pay me. If somebody thinks you are exploiting me, well, it works both ways.

It was when Africans entered the world of free markets as traders, when we let customers come in to buy and sell, the continent began to register records in economic growth. Foreign investment has been better for Africa than all the protectionism and nationalism and gung-ho Africa pride white elephant industries of the eighties.

Muzungu, muzungu

He mentions a “nincompoop from the New York streets” of whom he says, he “bring him to Lusaka and (Africans will) all be crowding around him chanting muzungu, muzungu and yet he’s a riffraff.” He wants to be told why this is so.

Africans may chant muzungu muzungu for many reasons, among them these two:

One is that children find it entertaining to see a white person. If it was a donkey in shoes they would chant “Punda yenye viatu! punda yenye viatu!” That guy should be offended instead of taking it as a sign of supposed superiority.

The second reason is because when a smart person sees money, he goes to get some. If I have a bucket and I see a rich man with a car, I go and tell him he is very handsome and he has a smart car and he should let me wash it for him at a cost.

Homeless junkie:

If a homeless white drug addict thinks he’s superior to me he can screw himself superiorily. He’s homeless and on drugs. And I’m on a plane.


“Do you know where I found your intellectuals?” he asks. “They were in bars quaffing.”

From the movies I have watched and books I have read, that is kind of what intellectuals do even in the US and Britain. They is always a group of self-obsessed blowhards who congregate around alcohol loving the sounds of their own voices. But it would be a mistake of me to assume that these form the entirety of western intellectual culture. And a mistake to think that the pompous drunks in African bars are the sum of Africa’s intellectual culture.

AIDS cure:

And why should Africa come up with her own AIDS cure? Since when was THAT the way it worked? Did Spain come up with its own cure for Smallpox? Did Japan find its own cure for polio? When someone finds a cure, it’s a cure for everyone. And are you assuming that there are no Africans contributing to the global pool of knowledge that is eventually going to yield a cure?

White Man’s Plane

Also, African passengers are not dependent on white people’s planes. Airline companies are dependent on the money paid for ticket fares. So the plane is the one dependent on the African passenger.

But the main problem with this argument isn’t the examples used to present it, it is the argument itself. The fundamental premise of the thing. He says “In this demesne, as they call it, there are hardly any discoveries, inventions, and innovations.” And then goes to argue that it is because African Intellectuals are lazy.

This is bull. Africans discover and invent and innovate all the time. Farmers create new ways of beating the change of seasons, cooks create new meals, mechanics fabricate makeshift fixes for trucks and matatus, businesspeople make new patterns of distribution, thieves and pickpockets innovate new scams, kisekka market inventors make Japanese imports obsolete at a stroke, … musicians manufacture new styles… It’s just not something as massive and world-shaking as the television or the computer, but then again, when was the last time you heard of a world-shaking technological invention coming out of Romania, or Syria, or Trinidad, or Paraguay, or Andorra?

The major technological leaps of our current global civilization have not been sprouting out of every every single place except Africa. They have actually come from a relatively small part of the global community. Just specific parts of Western Europe. Mostly Britain and America.

The truth is that innovation happens naturally wherever you have societies. And it happens in the same way. Necessity breeds invention. And then invention builds on itself. And so when the computer is invented it will breed computer-based inventions in the societies that have computers and the snowball will grow. The reason you the bulk of internet-based innovation is not taking place in Africa is the same reason it is not taking place in the Emirates. Because the hub is in the US.

And the assumption that there is no internet innovation in Africa is as false as the assumption that there is none in Dubai.

What we forget here is that no matter what the slogans say, Africa is not unique in history. Africans are no different from anyone else. This means that everything that happens in Africa is happening or has happened somewhere else.


12 thoughts on ““Intellectual African Scum”

  1. We do suck if we didn’t suck why is Africa consistently crying for help? Why do we still have a govt-less Somalia? Why is Uganda with the same president for 26 years, why is Libya and Egypt in a political mess, why do we have very high infant mortality rates? Why does Uganda have consistet load shedding, why is youth unemployment at 85%, why is Senegal and Ivory Coast the once stable countries declining politically? Why is DRC one of the poorest yet one of the richest? Why are the educated in Africa seeking a way out of the continent faster than you can blink? Why why why? Gosh the list goes on and on and on….the mzungu had an excellent assesment and opened many of our eyes yours too Ernest hence inspiring you to write this article which you otherwise would never have written. AFRICA AND AFRICANS STAND UP!

    1. Well said, African in Diaspora. What the “mzungu” said was a lot of generalisations, but the fact remains that Africa is waay behind. Leave the inventions and innovations alone. Who needs a computer when they do not even have access to enough clean water to have a bath and feel a bit human after a hard day’s work? It won’t help us to compare ourselves to Paraguay, Romania or wherever. Romania’s problems are Romania’s and it’s up to the people of Romania to discuss and deliberate upon them. That’s the thing with problems. The “international community” will always swoop in to join your discussions and maybe even help a bit in clouds of UN and NGO benovelence but the actual problem solving? It’s still up to you. We know that ourselves from the way we behave to the latest friend who’s broke or bangled up some relationship or other. In fact, we should each go back to the country level before we sing Africa, Africa. There’s no way a continent will change when its individual countries are like ships with no compass. What about corruption? E.g. Ugandans will risk their lives and take to the street to protest hiked interest rates but there is no concerted effort to resist the blatant misuse of the nation’s riches. Yes to the free market – yet you can sell your minerals and resources and peddle and recycle inventions from British and American hubs all you want, but if for some reason you’re always pulling the shorter stick? Find out why. Yes, Africans are no different from any one else, but if for some reason we’re still the measure of what does not work? We need to know why. The poultry farmer (of whom we’ve got so many industrious/not lazy ones in Uganda :-)) will tell you that it’s better to prevent hens from eating their own eggs than to cure them of the nasty habit later. Denying the fact that we are a part of the problem does not improve the situation one bit.

      1. Proud Ugandan and Diaspora African, Hi. Thanks for engaging in this discussion.
        I have spent quite a lot of time trying to draft a (lengthy) response to you but then I realised that he problem, the reason you misunderstood me was that I left too many details for you to get bogged down in. Proud Uganda, for example, mistook my citing of Paraguay and Romania entirely.

        So I have kept my notes for another post. For now this is my response.

        The “Walter” character said Africa has many problems, stemming from a lack of innovation and invention and this lack comes about because African intellectuals are too lazy to apply themselves to change.
        I rebutted, saying there is no lack of innovation and invention in Africa, and that African intellectuals are no more lazy than intellectuals everywhere else on the planet. Africa does have problems, though. That I do not dispute.

        Diasporan African, it seems that you are trying to say that because African DOES have problems, however, this means his entire argument is correct. It is not. He is correct about only one point. That Africa has problems. He is wrong in saying that there is no innovation in Africa, or that the clever people in Africa are all not working to solve them.

        One thing is true on every continent: There are intellectuals who are too busy making noise to do any work, and there are those who are too busy working to make noise. So you will find one group on intellecuals wasting their breath on facebook, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that these are the only inteelectuals Africa has.

        Proud Uganda, you mentioned computers. You asked, why should Africans make a computer when our more pressing problem is getting clean water? Exactly what I had said in my post. The reason why African intellectuals are not inventing computers is because we have more pressing problems. And I believe that when African thinkers and innovators get to work it is to find solutions to these direct problems.

        But the assumption “Walter” wants us to make is that these innovators do not exist. Only the noisemakers in the bars exist.

        Let me ask you guys this: Do you believe that nobody in Africa has invented a way to improve delivery and storage of safe water? On the whole continent of human beings. Do you believe that no African has done anything to improve delivery and storage of safe water in rural areas?

  2. First, this is no rebuttal AT ALL; It absolutely misses the point in the original post, and deliberately mischaracterises it’s argument. This is precisely the kind of thinking that keeping our continent behind. It’s a pity this attitude should even be lauded.

  3. Thanks for the answer Ernest. I know full well that Africa is a nation of hard-working, innovative individuals. You wrapped up the essence of my noise in your paragraph on the need for African thinkers and innovators to get to work finding solutions to Africa’s direct problems. That right there is the bane of Uganda’s/Africa’s issues. We’ve got to go back to the basics instead of trying to construct skyscrapers on potholes, run before we walk… and that by no means suggests that the Walters of this life have the last word

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s