Articles by Philip Emeagwali

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The Graves Are Not Yet Full

How Do We Reverse the Brain Drain?

Ideas, Not Money, Alleviate Poverty

An Open Letter to Martin Luther King

Philip Emeagwali

Globalization Not New; Look at Slave Trade

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The Graves Are Not Yet Full
By Philip Emeagwali
emeagwali.com <http://emeagwali.com>

Walk with me down memory lane. The time: 1968. In 30 months, one million dead. The setting: a dusty camp in Biafra where survivors waited and hoped for peace. The survivors: Refugees fleeing

Philip Emeagwali

from the “Dance of Death.” My mentor: One of the refugee camp directors, whom I called “Teacher” out of respect.

“Martin Luther King has been killed,” Teacher said, with a pained voice and vacant eyes. I looked towards Teacher, wondering: “Who is Martin Luther King?” I was a 13-year-old refugee in the west African nation of Nigeria, a land then called Biafra. Martin Luther King. What did that name mean?

Eight out of ten Biafrans were refugees exiled from their own country. Two years earlier, Christian army officers had staged a bloody coup killing Muslim leaders. The Muslims felt the coup was a tribal mutiny of Christian Igbos against their beloved leaders. The aggrieved Muslims went on a killing rampage, chanting: “Igbo, Igbo, Igbo, you are no longer part of Nigeria!” In the days that followed, 50,000 Igbos were killed in street uprisings.

Killing was not new to us in Biafra. I was 13, but I knew much of killing. Widows and orphans were most of the refugees in our camp. They had survived the Igbo “Dance of Death” - a euphemism for the mass executions. One thousand men at gunpoint forced to dance a public dance. Seven hundred were then shot and buried en masse in shallow graves. When told to hurry up and return to his regular duty, one of the murderers said: “The graves are not yet full.”

A few days later, with only the clothes on our backs, we fled from this “Dance of Death.” That was six months before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Teacher and I were eventually conscripted into the Biafran army and sent to the front, two years after our escape.

After the war, Teacher - who had taught me the name of Martin Luther King - was among the one million who had died. I - a child soldier - was one of the fifteen million who survived.

Africa is committing suicide: a two-decade war in Sudan, genocidal killings in Rwanda, scorched-earth conflicts in Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Liberia. The wars in modern Africa are the largest global-scale loss of life since the establishment of the Atlantic Slave trade, which uprooted and scattered Africa’s sons and daughters across the United States, Jamaica, and Brazil.

Africa’s wars are steering the continent toward a sea of self-destruction so deep that even the greatest horror writers are unable to fathom its depths. So, given our circumstances, Martin Luther King was a name unknown, a dead man among millions, with a message that never reached the shores of Biafra.

Neither did his message reach the ears of “The Black Scorpion,” Benjamin Adekunle, a tough Nigerian army commander, whose credo of ethnic cleansing knew nothing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement: “We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces move into Igbo territory, we even shoot things that do not move.”

As we heed Martin Luther King Jr.’s call, and march together across the world stage, let us never forget that we who have witnessed and survived the injustice of such nonsensical wars are the torchbearers of his legacy of peace for our world, our nation, and our children.

Excerpted from a speech delivered by Philip Emeagwali <http://www.emeagwali.com/> at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia at the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. The entire transcript and video is posted at emeagwali.com <http://www.emeagwali.com/>.

 Philip Emeagwali <http://www.emeagwali.com/> has been called “a father of the Internet” by CNN <http://cnnstudentnews.cnn.com/fyi/interactive/specials/bhm/story/black.innovators.html>  and TIME <http://www.time.com/time/2007/blackhistmth/bios/04.html>, and extolled as “one of the great minds of the Information Age” by former US president Bill Clinton <http://emeagwali.com/video/president-bill-clinton/one-of-the-great-minds-of-the-information-age.wmv>.

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Philip Emeagwali

emeagwali.com 

   Hailed as "the Bill Gates of Africa" by then-president Bill Clinton, Philip Emeagwali is a war survivor and renowned pioneer of the supercomputer and the Internet. "The Web owes much of

Philip Emeagwali

its existence to Philip Emeagwali," observed TIME magazine. CNN has called him "a father of the Internet."

    He was born on August 23, 1954, in Nigeria. At an early age, he developed a love for mathematics and earned the nickname "Calculus." With two million others, Emeagwali fled persecution to the safety of Biafran refugee camps during Nigeria's 30-month civil war that began in July 1967, which killed one million people. He was conscripted into the Biafran army at age 14, won a scholarship to the United States at age 19.

    In his adopted country, Emeagwali became fascinated with what he called the "HyperBall," a theorized supercomputer equivalent to an idealized Internet. He began programming in 1974 and because he could not find a research laboratory interested in his HyperBall, he conducted research alone for 15 years, delving deeply into the deep connections between motion, calculus, and computing.

    In 1989, he shocked the computing industry by winning singlehandedly, as an unknown, the Gordon Bell Prize, considered the "Nobel Prize of supercomputing." He reformulated Newton's Second Law of Motion as 18 "grand challenge" equations and algorithms and then re-created those as 24 million algebraic equations. By programming 65,000 processors to work as one seamless unit, he solved those 24 million equations at a speed of 3.1 billion calculations per second, setting three world records and garnering international headlines.

    This discovery that 65,000 processors can solve a grand challenge defined as the 20 gold-ring problems in computing, in part, inspired the reinvention of supercomputers as a union of vast numbers of processors communicating as an Internet. He is profiled in books on the history of the Internet because his discovery suggested a re-definition of the computer of the mid 21st century  as "a device communicating as an Internet while computing with thousands of processors," instead of one.

    By expanding the limits of computing, Emeagwali has helped to move humanity forward into the age of information, which prompted president
Bill Clinton to extol him as "one of the great minds of the Information Age."

    In his native Nigeria, he is hailed as national hero, his likeness appearing on the nation's
postage stamps and on the continent's music videos. He has been cited in numerous polls and lists of history's greatest black achievers, by publications ranging from New African  to Ebony.

    Emeagwali has won city-wide tennis tournaments. He is married to
Dale, a prominent molecular biologist, and they have a son, Ijeoma, who is studying computer engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He travels from Washington, D.C.

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An Open Letter to Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King Jr

By Philip Emeagwaliemeagwali.com 

Walk with me down memory lane. The time: 1968. In 30 months, one million dead. The setting: a dusty camp in Biafra where survivors waited and hoped for peace. The survivors: Refugees fleeing from the “Dance of Death.” My mentor: One of the refugee camp directors, whom I called “Teacher” out of respect.

“Martin Luther King has been killed,” Teacher said, with a pained voice and vacant eyes. I looked towards Teacher, wondering: “Who is Martin Luther King?” I was a 13-year-old refugee in the west African nation of Nigeria, a land then called Biafra. Martin Luther King. What did that name mean?

Eight out of ten Biafrans were refugees exiled from their own country. Two years earlier, Christian army officers had staged a bloody coup killing Muslim leaders. The Muslims felt the coup was a tribal mutiny of Christian Igbos against their beloved leaders. The aggrieved Muslims went on a killing rampage, chanting: “Igbo, Igbo, Igbo, you are no longer part of Nigeria!” In the days that followed, 50,000 Igbos were killed in street uprisings.

Killing was not new to us in Biafra. I was 13, but I knew much of killing. Widows and orphans were most of the refugees in our camp. They had survived the Igbo “Dance of Death” — a euphemism for the mass executions. One thousand men at gunpoint forced to dance a public dance. Seven hundred were then shot and buried en masse in shallow graves. When told to hurry up and return to his regular duty, one of the murderers said: “The graves are not yet full.”

A few days later, with only the clothes on our backs, we fled from this “Dance of Death.” That was six months before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Teacher and I were eventually conscripted into the Biafran army and sent to the front, two years after our escape.

After the war, Teacher – who had taught me the name of Martin Luther King — was among the one million who had died. I — a child soldier – was one of the fifteen million who survived.

Africa is committing suicide: a two-decade war in Sudan, genocidal killings in Rwanda, scorched-earth conflicts in Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Liberia. The wars in modern Africa are the largest global-scale loss of life since the establishment of the Atlantic Slave trade, which uprooted and scattered Africa’s sons and daughters across the United States, Jamaica, and Brazil.  

Africa’s wars are steering the continent toward a sea of self-destruction so deep that even the greatest horror writers are unable to fathom its depths. So, given our circumstances, Martin Luther King was a name unknown, a dead man among millions, with a message that never reached the shores of Biafra.

Neither did his message reach the ears of “The Black Scorpion,” Benjamin Adekunle, a tough Nigerian army commander, whose credo of ethnic cleansing knew nothing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement: “We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces move into Igbo territory, we even shoot things that do not move.”

As we heed Martin Luther King Jr.’s call, and march together across the world stage, let us never forget that we who have witnessed and survived the injustice of such nonsensical wars are the torchbearers of his legacy of peace for our world, our nation, and our children.

Transcribed from speech delivered by Philip Emeagwali on April 4, 2008 at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia at the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. The entire transcript and video are posted at emeagwali.com.

Philip Emeagwali was inducted into the gallery of history's 70 greatest black achievers by the International Slavery Museum and into the Gallery of Prominent Refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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Ideas, Not Money, Alleviate Poverty
By Philip Emeagwaliemeagwali.com 

I once believed that capital was another word for money, the accumulated wealth of a country or its people. Surely, I thought, wealth is determined by the money or property in one’s possession. Then I saw a Deutsche Bank advertisement in the Wall Street Journal that proclaimed: “Ideas are capital. The rest is just money.”

Philip Emeagwali 2

I was struck by the simplicity of such an eloquent and forceful idea. I started imagining what such power meant for Africa. The potential for progress and poverty alleviation in Africa relies on capital generated from the power within our minds, not from our ability to pick minerals from the ground or seek debt relief and foreign assistance.

If ideas are capital, why is Africa investing more on things than on information, and more on the military than on education? Suddenly, I realized what this idea could mean for Africa. If the pen is mightier than the sword, why does a general earn more than the work of a hundred writers combined? If ideas are indeed capital, then Africa should stem its brain drain and promote the African Renaissance, which will lead to the rebirth of the continent. After all, a renaissance is a rebirth of ideas. And knowledge and ideas are the engines that drive economic growth.

When African men and women of ideas, who will give birth to new ideas, have fled to Europe and the United States, then the so-called African Renaissance cannot occur in Africa. It can only occur in Paris, London and New York. There are more Soukous musicians in Paris, than in Kinshasha; more African professional soccer players in Europe, than in Africa. African literature is more at home abroad than it is in Africa. In other words, Africans in Europe are alleviating poverty in Europe, not in Africa. Until the men and women of ideas — the true healers of Africa — start returning home, the African Renaissance and poverty alleviation will remain empty slogans. After all, the brightest ideas are generated and harnessed by men of ideas.

The first annual report by J.P. Morgan Chase, a firm with assets of 1.3 trillion dollars, reads: “The power of intellectual capital is the ability to breed ideas that ignite value.” This quote is a clarion call to African leaders to shift purposefully and deliberately from a focus on things to a focus on information; from exporting natural resources to exporting knowledge and ideas; and from being a consumer of technology to becoming a producer of technology.

For Africa, poverty will be reduced when intellectual capital is increased and leveraged to export knowledge and ideas. Africa’s primary strategy for poverty alleviation is to gain debt relief, foreign assistance, and investments from western nations. Poverty alleviation means looking beyond 100 percent literacy and aiming for 100 percent numeracy, the prerequisite for increasing our technological intellectual capital. Yet, in this age of information and globalization when poverty alleviation should result in producing valuable products for the global market and competing with Asia, the United States, and Europe — shamefully, diamonds found in Africa are polished in Europe and re-sold to Africans.

The intellectual capital needed to produce products and services will lead to the path of poverty alleviation. Intellectual capital, defined as the collective knowledge of the people, increases productivity. The latter — by driving economic growth — alleviates poverty, always and everywhere, even in Africa. Productivity is the engine that drives global economic growth.

Those who create new knowledge are producing wealth, while those who consume it are producing poverty. If you attend a Wole Soyinka’s production of Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” you consume the knowledge produced by Soyinka and Achebe as well as the actor’s production, much like I consume the knowledge and production of Bob Marley’s through his songs. 

We will need wisdom, that which turns too much information — or information overload — into focused power, not only to process, but also to evaluate the overwhelming amount of information available on the Internet. This wisdom will give us the competitive edge and enable us to find creative solutions.

The following story illustrates the difference between information and wisdom. Twelve hundred years ago, in the city of Baghdad, lived a genius named Al-Khwarizmi, who was one of the fathers of algebra. In fact, the word algebra comes from the title of his book Al-jabr, which for centuries was the standard mathematics textbook. Al-Khwarizmi taught in an institution of learning called the House of Wisdom, which was the center of new ideas during Islam’s golden age of science. To this day we computer scientists honor Al-Khwarizmi when we use the word algorithm, which is our attempt to pronounce his name.

One day, Al-Khwarizmi was riding a camel laden down with algebraic manuscripts to the holy city of Mecca. He saw three young men crying at an oasis. “My children, why are you crying?” he enquired.

“Our father, upon his death, instructed us to divide his 17 camels as follows: ‘To my oldest son I leave half of my camels, my second son shall have one-third of my camels, and my youngest son is to have one-ninth of my camels.’”

“What, then, is your problem?” Al-Khwarizmi asked.

“We have been to school and learned that 17 is a prime number that is, divisible only by one and itself and cannot be divided by two or three or nine. Since we love our camels, we cannot divide them exactly,” they answered.

Al-Khwarizmi thought for a while and asked, “Will it help if I offer my camel and make the total 18?”

“No, no, no,” they cried. “You are on your way to Mecca, and you need your camel.”

“Go ahead, have my camel, and divide the 18 camels amongst yourselves,” he said, smiling.

So the eldest took one-half of 18 — or nine camels. The second took one-third of 18 — or six camels. The youngest took one-ninth of 18 — or two camels. After the division, one camel was left: Al-Khwarizmi’s camel, as the total number of camels divided among the sons (nine plus six plus two) equaled 17.

Then Al-Khwarizmi asked, “Now, can I have my camel back?”

These young men had information about prime numbers, but they lacked the wisdom to use the information effectively. It is the manipulation of information to accomplish seemingly impossible purposes that defines true wisdom.

Today, we have ten billion pages of information posted on the Internet — more than enough to keep us busy the rest of our lives, and new information is being added daily. More information has been created in the last 100 years than in all of the previous 100,000 years combined. We need the wisdom to sift through and convert these billions of pages into information riches.

The genius of Al-Khwarizmi was not in his mathematical wizardry or even his book knowledge: It was in his experiential knowledge — his big-picture, right-brain thinking; creativity; innovation; and wisdom. It was his wisdom to add a camel to make the total 18 and still get his camel back.

Prime numbers are to whole numbers what the laws of physics are to physics. Twenty years ago, I used an Al-Khwarizmi approach to solve a notoriously difficult problem in physics. I added inertial force, which enabled me to reformulate Newton’s Second Law of Motion first as 18 equations and algorithms, and then as 24 million algebraic equations. Finally, I programmed 65,000 “electronic brains” called processors to work as one to solve those 24 million equations at a speed of 3.1 billion calculations per second.

Like Al-Khwarizmi, I derived my 18 equations through out-of-the-box thinking in an in-the-box world, adding my metaphorical camel: inertial force. In other words, I applied wisdom to known knowledge to generate intellectual capital.

Unless Africa significantly increases its intellectual capital, the continent will remain irrelevant in the 21st century and even beyond. Africa needs innovators, producers of knowledge, and wise men and women who can discover, propose, and then implement progressive ideas. Africa’s fate lies in the hands of Africans and the solution to poverty must come from its people. The future that lies ahead of Africa is for Africa to create, after the people have outlined their vision. We owe it to our children to build a firm foundation to enable them go places we only dreamt. For Africa to take center stage in today’s economic world, we have to go out and compete on a global basis. There is simply no other way to succeed.

Transcribed from a lecture delivered by Philip Emeagwali at the University of Alberta, Canada.

Philip Emeagwali has been called “a father of the Internet” by CNN  and TIME; extolled as “one of the great minds of the Information Age” by former US president Bill Clinton; and voted history’s greatest scientist of African descent by New African. He won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, the Nobel Prize of supercomputing.

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How Do We Reverse the Brain Drain?

By Philip Emeagwali
emeagwali.com 

For 10 million African-born emigrants, the word "home" is synonymous with the United States, Britain or other country outside of Africa.

Personally, I have lived continuously in the United States for the past 30 years. My last visit to Africa was 17 years ago.

On the day I left Nigeria, I felt sad because I was leaving my family behind. I believed I would return eight years later, probably marry an Igbo girl, and then spend the rest of my life in Nigeria. But 25 years ago, I fell in love with an American girl, married her three years later, and became eligible to sponsor a Green Card visa for my 35 closest relatives, including my parents and all my siblings, nieces and nephews.

The story of how I brought 35 people to the United States exemplifies how 10 million skilled people have emigrated out of Africa during the past 30 years. We came to the United States on student visas and then changed our status to become permanent residents and then naturalized citizens. Our new citizenship status helped us sponsor relatives, and also inspired our friends to immigrate here.

Ten million Africans now constitute an invisible nation that resides outside Africa. Although invisible, it is a nation as populous as Angola, Malawi, Zambia or Zimbabwe. If it were to be a nation with distinct borders, it would have an income roughly equivalent to Africa's gross domestic product.

Although the African Union does not recognize the African Diaspora as a nation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) acknowledges its economic importance. The IMF estimates the African Diaspora now constitutes the biggest group of foreign investors in Africa.

Take for example Western Union. It estimates that it is not atypical for an immigrant to wire $300 per month to relatives in Africa. If you assume that most Africans living outside Africa send money each month and you do the math, you will agree with the IMF that the African Diaspora is indeed the largest foreign investor in Africa.

What few realize is that Africans who immigrate to the United States contribute 40 times more wealth to the American than to the African economy. According to the United Nations, an African professional working in the United States contributes about $150,000 per year to the U.S. economy.

Again, if you do the math, you will realize that the African professional remitting $300 per month to Africa is contributing 40 times more to the United States economy than to the African one. On a relative scale, that means for every $300 per month a professional African sends home, that person contributes $12,000 per month to the U.S. economy.

Of course, the issue more important than facts and figures is eliminating poverty in Africa, not merely reducing it by sending money to relatives. Money alone cannot eliminate poverty in Africa, because even one million dollars is a number with no intrinsic value. Real wealth cannot be measured by money, yet we often confuse money with wealth. Under the status quo, Africa would still remain poor even if we were to send all the money in the world there.

Ask someone who is ill what "wealth" means, and you will get a very different answer than from most other people. If you were HIV-positive, you would gladly exchange one million dollars to become HIV-negative.

When you give your money to your doctor, that physician helps you convert your money into health - or rather, wealth.

Money cannot teach your children. Teachers can. Money cannot bring electricity to your home. Engineers can. Money cannot cure sick people. Doctors can. Because it is only a nation's human capital that can be converted into real wealth, that human capital is much more valuable than its financial capital.

A few years ago, Zambia had 1,600 medical doctors. Today, Zambia has only 400 medical doctors. Kenya retains only 10% of the nurses and doctors trained there. A similar story is told from South Africa to Ghana.

I also speak from my family experiences. After contributing 25 years to Nigerian society as a nurse, my father retired on a $25-per-month pension. By comparison, my four sisters each earn $25 per hour as nurses in the United States. If my father had had the opportunity my sisters did, he certainly would have immigrated to the United States as a young nurse.

The "brain drain" explains, in part, why affluent Africans fly to London for their medical treatments. Furthermore, because a significant percentage of African doctors and nurses practice in U.S. hospitals, we can reasonably conclude that African medical schools are de facto serving the American people, not Africa.

A recent World Bank survey shows that African universities are exporting a large percentage of their graduating manpower to the United States. In a given year, the World Bank estimates that 70,000 skilled Africans immigrate to Europe and the United States. While these 70,000 skilled Africans are fleeing the continent in search of employment and decent wages, 100,000 skilled expatriates who are paid wages higher than the prevailing rate in Europe are hired to replace them.

In Nigeria, the petroleum industry hires about 1,000 skilled expatriates, even though we can find similar skills within the African Diaspora. Instead of developing its own manpower resources, Nigeria prefers to contract out its oil exploration despite the staggeringly high price of having to concede 40% of its profits to foreign oil companies.

In a pre-Independence Day editorial, the Vanguard (Nigeria) queried: "Why would the optimism of 1960 give way to the despair of 2000?"

My answer is this: Nigeria achieved political independence in 1960, but by the year 2000 had not yet achieved technological independence.

During colonial rule, Nigeria retained only 50% of the profits from oil derived from its own territory. Four decades after this colonial rule ended, the New York Times (December 22, 2002) wrote that "40 percent of the oil revenue goes to Chevron, [and] 60 percent to the [Nigerian] government."

As a point of comparison, the United States would never permit a Nigerian oil company to retain 40% of the profits from a Texas oilfield.

Our African homelands have paid an extraordinary price for their lack of domestic technological knowledge. Because of that lack of knowledge, since it gained independence in 1960, Nigeria has relinquished 40% of its oilfields and $200 billion to American and European stockholders.

Because of that lack of knowledge, Nigeria exports crude petroleum, only to import refined petroleum. Because of that lack of knowledge, Africa exports raw steel, only to import cars that are essentially steel products.

Knowledge is the engine that drives economic growth, and Africa cannot eliminate poverty without first increasing and nurturing its intellectual capital. Reversing the "brain drain" will increase Africa's intellectual capital while also increasing its wealth in many, many different ways.

Can the "brain drain" be reversed? My answer is: yes. But in order for it to happen, we must try something different. At this point, I want to inject a new idea into this dialogue. For my idea to work, it requires that we tap the talents and skills of the African Diaspora. It requires that we create one million high-tech jobs in Africa. It requires that we move one million high-tech jobs from the United States to Africa.

I know you are wondering: How can we move one million jobs from the United States to Africa? It can be done. In fact, by the year 2015 the U.S. Department of Labor expects to lose an estimated 3.3 million call center jobs to developing nations.

In this area, what we as Africans need to do is develop a strategic plan - one that will persuade multinational companies that it will be more profitable to move their call centers to nations in Africa instead of India.

These high-tech jobs include those in call centers, customer service and help desks - all of which are suitable for unemployed university graduates.

The reason these jobs could now emerge in Africa is that recent technological advances such as the Internet and mobile telephones now make it practical, cheaper and otherwise advantageous to move these services to developing nations, where lower wages prevail.

If Africa succeeds in capturing one million of these high-tech jobs, they could provide more revenues than all the African oilfields. These "greener pastures" would lure back talent and, in turn, create a reverse "brain drain."

Again, we have a rare and unique window of opportunity to convert projected American job losses into Africa's job gain, and thus change the "brain drain" to "brain gain." However, aggressive action must be taken before this window of opportunity closes. India is a formidable competitor. Therefore, we need to determine the cost savings realized by outsourcing call center jobs to Africa instead of India. That cost saving will be used as a selling point to corporations interested in outsourcing jobs.

A typical call center employee might be a housewife using a laptop computer and a cell phone to work from her home. As night settles and her children go to bed, she could place a phone call to Los Angeles, which is 10 hours behind her time zone. An American answers her call and she says, "Good morning, this is Zakiya." Using a standard, rehearsed script, she tries to sell an American product.

Now that USA-to-Africa telephone calls are as low as 6 cents per minute, it is economically feasible for a telephone sales person to reside in Anglophone Africa while virtually employed in the United States, and—this is important—paying  income taxes only to her country in Africa.

I will give one more example of how thousands of call center jobs can be created in Africa. It is well known that U.S. companies often give up on collecting outstanding account balances of less than $50 each. The reason is that it often costs $60 in American labor to recover that $50.

By comparison, I believe it would cost only $10 in African labor (including the 6 cents per minute phone call) to collect an outstanding balance of $50.

Earlier, the organizers of this Pan-African Conference gave me a note containing eleven questions. The first was: Do skilled Africans have the moral obligation to remain and work in Africa? I believe those with skills should be encouraged and rewarded to stay, work, and raise their families in Africa. When that happens, a large middle class will be created, thereby reducing the conditions that give rise to civil war and corruption. Then, a true revitalization and renaissance will occur.

The second question was: Should skilled African emigrants be compelled to return to Africa? I believe controlling emigration will be very difficult. Instead, I recommend the United Nations impose a "brain gain tax" upon those nations benefiting from the "brain drain." Each year, the United States creates a brain drain by issuing 135,000 H1-B visas to "outstanding researchers" and persons with "extraordinary ability." The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), working in tangent with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), could be required to credit one month's salary, each year, to the country of birth of each immigrant. Already, the IRS allows U.S. taxpayers to make voluntary contributions to election funds. Similarly, it could allow immigrants to voluntarily pay taxes to their country of birth, instead of to the United States.

The third question was: Why don't we encourage unemployed Africans to seek employment abroad? Put differently, if all the nurses and doctors in Africa were to win the U.S. visa lottery, who will operate our hospitals? If we encourage 8 million talented Africans to emigrate, what will we encourage their remaining 800 million brothers and sisters to do?

The fourth question was: Should we blame the African Diaspora for Africa's problems? Yes, the Diaspora should be blamed in part, because the absence it's created has diminished the continent's intellectual capital and thus created the vacuum enabling dictators and corruption to flourish. The likes of Idi Amin, Jean-Bedel Bokassa and Mobutu Sese Seko would not be able to declare themselves president-for-life of nations who have a large, educated middle class.

The fifth question was: Should we not blame Africa's leaders for siphoning money from Africa's treasuries? It becomes a vicious circle: the flight of intellectual capital increases the flight of financial capital which in turn increases again the flight of intellectual capital. Leadership is a collective process, and "brain drain" reduces the collective brainpower needed to fight corruption and mismanagement.

For example, the leadership of the Central Bank of Nigeria did not call a news conference after Sani Abacha stole $3 billion dollars from it. The bank's Governor-General did not go on a hunger strike. He did not report the robbery to the police. He did not file a lawsuit. Had they the intellectual manpower to counter corruption, the results would have been very different.

The sixth question was: Is it possible to achieve an African renaissance? Because by definition, a renaissance is the revival and flowering of the arts, literature and sciences, it must be preceded by a growth in the continent's intellectual capital, or the collective knowledge of the people. The best African musicians live in France. The top African writers live in the United States or Britain. The soccer superstars live in Europe. It will be impossible to achieve a renaissance without the contributions of the talented.

The seventh question was: For how long has the "brain drain" problem existed? A common misconception is that the African "brain drain" started 40 years ago. In reality, it actually began ten times that long. Four hundred years ago, most people of African descent lived in Africa. Today, one in five of African descent live in the Americas. Therefore, measured in numbers, the largest "brain drain" resulted from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Contrary to what people believed, Africa experienced a brain gain during the first half of the 20th century. Schools, hospitals and banks were built by the British colonialists. These institutions were the visible manifestations of brain gain. At the end of colonial rule, skilled Europeans fled the continent. Skilled Africans started fleeing the continent in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. The result was the widespread rise of despotic rulers.

The eighth question was: Is "brain drain" a form of modern slavery?

By the end of the 21st century, people will have different sensibilities and will describe it as modern day slavery. In the 19th century, which was an Agricultural Age, the U.S. economy needed strong hands to pick cotton, and the young and sturdy were forced into slavery. In the 21st century, which is an Information Age, the U.S. economy needs persons with "extraordinary ability" and the best and brightest are lured with Green Card visas. Africans who are illiterate or HIV-positive are automatically denied American visas.

The ninth question was: Do you believe that the "brain drain" can be reversed? As I stated earlier, "brain drain" is a complex and multidimensional problem that can be reversed into "brain gain."

India is now reversing its "brain drain," and turning it into "brain gain;" I believe Africa can do the same. But unless we reverse it, the dream of an African renaissance will remain an elusive one.

The tenth question was: Can we blame globalization as a cause of brain drain? Globalization began 400 years ago with the trans-Atlantic slave trade that brought the ancestors of 200 million Africans now living in the Americas. It has accelerated because the Internet and cell phone now enable you to communicate instantaneously with any person on the globe.

Overall, globalization is a force that is denationalizing the wealth of developing nations. Economists have confirmed that the rich nations are getting richer while the poor ones are getting poorer.

We also know that the globalization process is increasing the foreign debts of developing nations, accelerating the flight of financial and intellectual capital to western nations.

The economics of offshoring will force multinational corporations to outsource to developing nations where lower wages prevail.

To remain competitive and profitable, companies will be forced to reduce costs by hiring five-dollars-an-hour computer programmers living in Third World countries and lay off expensive American programmers that demand $50 an hour. In the long term, offshoring will reverse the flight of financial and intellectual capital from western nations to the Third World.

The eleventh question was: Why have I lived in the United States for 30 continuous years? Africa has bitten at my soul since I left. My roots are still in Africa. My house is filled with Africana - food, paintings, music, and clothes - to remind me of Africa. I long to visit the motherland, but I must confess that when Africa called me to return home, I couldn't answer that call. The reason is that I work on creating new knowledge that could be used to redesign supercomputers. The most powerful supercomputers cost $120 million each and Nigeria could not afford to buy one for me. I created the knowledge that the power of thousands of processors can be harnessed; this knowledge, in turn, inspired the reinvention of vector supercomputers into massively parallel supercomputers. New knowledge must precede new technological products and the supercomputer of today will become the personal computer of tomorrow. And so to answer your question: even though I reside in the U.S. the knowledge that I created is now materializing into better personal computers purchased by Africans.

Finally, millions of high-tech jobs can be performed from Africa, but may instead be lost to India. We must identify the millions of jobs that will be more profitable when transferred from the United States to Africa.

Doing so will enable us to create a brain drain from the United States and convert it to a brain gain for Africa.

Transcribed from speech delivered by Philip Emeagwali at the Pan African Conference on Brain Drain, Elsah, Illinois

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Globalization Not New; Look at Slave Trade
By Philip Emeagwaliemeagwali.com 

Globalization - or the ability of many people, ideas and technology to move from country to country - is not new. In Africa, it was initiated by the slave trade and given impetus by colonialism and Christian missionaries. The early missionaries saw African culture and religion as a deadly adversary and as an evil that had to be eliminated. In 1876, a 27-year-old missionary named Mary Slessor emigrated from Scotland to spend the rest of her life in Nigeria. For her efforts in trying to covert the people of Nigeria, Mary Slessor’s photograph appears on Scotland’s ten pound note, and her name can be found on schools, hospitals and roads in Nigeria.

The introduction to Mary Slessor’s biography titled: “White Queen of the Cannibals” is revealing:

On the west coast of Africa is the country of Nigeria. The chief city is Calabar,” said Mother Slessor. “It is a dark country because the light of the Gospel is not shining brightly there. Black people live there. Many of these are cannibals who eat other people.”

They're bad people, aren't they, Mother?” asked little Susan.

Yes, they are bad, because no one has told them about Jesus, the Saviour from sin, or showed them what is right and what is wrong.”

These opening words clearly show that Mary Slessor came to Africa on a mission to indoctrinate us with Christian theology. She told us we worshipped an inferior god and that we belonged to an inferior race. She worked to expel what she described as “savagism” from our culture and heritage and to encourage European “civilization” to take root in Africa.

We accepted the mission schools which were established to enlighten us, without questioning the unforeseen costs of our so-called education. These mission schools plundered our children’s self-esteem by teaching them that, as Africans they were inherently “bad people.” Our children grew up not wanting to be citizens of Africa. Instead, their education fostered the colonial ideal that they would be better off becoming citizens of the colonizing nations.

I speak of the price Africans have paid for their education and “enlightenment” from personal experience. I was born “Chukwurah,” but my missionary schoolteachers insisted I drop my “heathen” name. The prefix “Chukwu” in my name is the Igbo word for “God.” Yet, somehow, the missionaries insisted that “Chukwurah” was a name befitting a godless pagan. The Catholic Church renamed me “Philip,” and Saint Philip became my patron and protector, replacing God, after whom I was named.

I have to argue that something more than a name has been lost. Something central to my heritage has been stripped away. This denial of our past is the very antithesis of a good education. Our names represent not only our heritage, but connect us to our parents and past. As parents, the names we choose for our children reflect our dreams for their future and our perceptions of the treasures they represent to us.

My indoctrination went far deeper than just a name. The missionary school tried to teach me that saints make better role models than scientists. I was taught to write in a new language. As a result, I became literate in English but remain illiterate in Igbo - my native tongue. I learned Latin—a dead language I would never use in the modern world—because  it was the official language of the Catholic Church, which owned the schools I attended.

Today, there are more French speakers in Africa than there are in France. There are more English speakers in Nigeria than there are in the United Kingdom. There are more Portuguese speakers in Mozambique than there are in Portugal. The Organization of African Unity never approved an African language as one of its official languages.

We won the battle of decolonizing our continent, but we lost the war on decolonizing our minds.

Many acknowledge that globalization shapes the future, but few acknowledge that it shaped history, or at least the world’s perception of it. Fewer acknowledge that globalization is a two-way street. Africa was a colony, but it is also a key contributor to many other cultures, and the cornerstone of today’s society.

The world’s views tend to overshadow and dismiss the value and aspirations of colonized people. Again, I must impart my own experiences to illustrate this point. I grew up serving as an altar boy to an Irish priest. I wanted to become a priest, but ended up becoming a scientist. Religion is based on faith, while science is based on fact and reason—and science is neutral to race. Unfortunately, scientists are not neutral to race.

Take, for example, the origin of AIDS, an international disease. According to scientific records, the first person to die from AIDS was a 25-year-old sailor named David Carr, of Manchester, England. Carr died on August 31, 1959, and because the disease that killed him was then unknown, his tissue samples were saved for future analysis. The “unknown disease” that killed David Carr was reported in The Lancet on October 29, 1960. On July 7, 1990, The Lancet retested those old tissue samples taken from David Carr and reconfirmed that he had died of AIDS. Based upon scientific reason, researchers should have deduced that AIDS originated in England, and that David Carr sailed to Africa where he spread the AIDS virus. Instead, the white scientific community condemned the British authors of those revealing articles for daring to propose that an Englishman was the first known AIDS patient.

If these scientists were neutral to race, their data should have led them to the conclusion that Patient Zero lived in England. If these scientists were neutral to race, they should have concluded that AIDS had spread from England to Africa, to Asia, and to America. Instead, they proposed the theory that AIDS originated in Africa.

Even history has degraded our African roots. We come to the United States and learn a history filtered through the eyes of white historians. And we learn history filtered through the eyes of Hollywood movie producers. Some of us complained that Hollywood is sending its distorted message around this globalized world. Some of us complained that Hollywood is a cultural propaganda machine used to advance white supremacy. George Bush understood Hollywood was a propaganda machine that could be used in his war against terrorism. Shortly, after the 9/11 bombing of New York City, Bush invited Hollywood moguls to the White House and solicited their support in his war against terrorism.

Some will even argue that schools play a significant role as federal indoctrination centers used to convince children during their formative years that whites are superior to other races. Fela Kuti, who detested indoctrination, titled one of his musical albums: “Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense.” It scares me that an entire generation of African children is growing up brainwashed by Hollywood’s interpretation and promotion of American heroes. Our children are growing up idolizing American heroes with whom they cannot personally identify.

We need to tell our children our own stories from our own perspective. We need to decolonize our thinking and examine the underlying truths in more than just movies. We need to apply the same principles to history and science, as depicted in textbooks.

Look at African science stories that were retold by European historians; they were re-centered around Europe. The earliest pioneers of science lived in Africa, but European historians relocated them to Greece.  Science and technology are gifts ancient Africa gave to our modern world. Yet, our history and science textbooks, for example, have ignored the contributions of Imhotep, the father of medicine and designer of one of the ancient pyramids.

The word “science” is derived from the Latin word “scientia” or “possession of knowledge.” We know, however, that knowledge is not the exclusive preserve of one race, but of all races. By definition, knowledge is the totality of what is known to humanity. Knowledge is a body of information and truth, and the set of principles acquired by mankind over the ages. Knowledge is akin to a quilt, the latter consisting of several layers held together by stitched designs and comprising patches of many colors. The oldest patch on the quilt of science belongs to the African named Imhotep. He was the world’s first recorded scientist, according to the prolific American science writer Isaac Asimov. The oldest patch on the quilt of mathematics belongs to another African named Ahmes. Isaac Asimov also credited Ahmes as being the world’s first author of a mathematics textbook.

Therefore, a study of history of science is an effort to stitch together a quilt that has life, texture and color. African historians must insert the patches of information omitted from books written by European historians. There are many examples of the mark Africans have made on world history.

Americans are surprised when I tell them Africans built both Washington’s White House and Capitol. According to the US Treasury Department, 450 of the 650 workers who built the White House and the Capitol were African slaves. Because the White House and Capitol are the two most visible symbols of American democracy, it is important to inform all schoolchildren in our globalized world that these institutions are the results of the sweat and toil of mostly African workers. This must also be an acknowledgement of the debt America owes Africa.

Similarly, discussions of globalization should credit those Africans who left the continent and helped build other nations throughout the world - most nations on Earth. Africans who have made contributions in Australia, in Russia, and in Europe must be acknowledged so our children can have heroes with African roots - so they can know their own roots and be proud of them.

The enormous contributions of Africans to the development and progress of other nations has gone unacknowledged. We have yet to acknowledge, for example, that St. Augustine, who wrote the greatest spiritual autobiography of all time, called “Confessions of St. Augustine,” was an African; that three Africans became pope; that Africans have lived in Europe since the time of the Roman Empire; that Septimus Severus, an Emperor of Rome, was an African; and that the reason Beethoven was called “The Black Spaniard” was because he was a mulatto of African descent. Why are we reluctant to acknowledge the contributions and legacies of our African ancestors? We cannot inspire our children to look toward the future without first reminding them of their ancestors’ contributions.

Look at the long struggle of African Australians, who recently became citizens with rights on their native continent. Africans have been living in Australia for 50,000 years. Yet, African Australians were granted Australian citizenship just 42 years ago, in 1967. According to CNN, African Australians were not recognized as human beings prior to 1967. They “were governed under flora and fauna laws.” African Australians were, in essence, governed by plant and animal laws. For many years, African Australians were described as the “invisible people.” In fact, the first whites to settle in Australia named it the “land empty of people.”

The contributions of Africans to Russia must be reclaimed. Russia's most celebrated author, A.S.(Aleksandr Sergeyevich) Pushkin, told us he was of African descent. Pushkin’s great-grandfather was brought to Russia as a slave. Russians proclaim Pushkin as their “national poet,” the “patriarch of Russian literature” and the “Father of the Russian language.” In essence, Pushkin is to Russia what Shakespeare is to Britain. Yet Africans who have read the complete works of Shakespeare are not likely to have read a single book by Pushkin.

I was asked to share today the story behind my supercomputer discovery. It would require several books to tell the whole story, but I will share a short one that I have never told anyone. The journey of discovery to my supercomputer was a titanic, one-man struggle. It was like climbing Mount Everest. On many occasions I felt like giving up. Because I was traumatized by the racism I had encountered in science, I maintained a self-imposed silence on the supercomputer discovery that is my claim to fame.

I will share with you a supercomputing insight that even the experts in my field did not know then and do not know now. In the 1980s, supercomputers could perform only millions of calculations per second and, therefore, their timers were designed to measure only millions of calculations per second. But I was performing billions of calculations per second and unknowingly attempting to time it with a supercomputer timer, which was designed to measure millions of calculations per second. I assumed my timer could measure one-billionth of a second. It took me two years to realize my timer was off a thousand-fold.

I was operating beyond a supercomputer’s limitations, but I did not know it. The supercomputer designers did not expect their timers to be used to measure calculations at that rate. I almost gave up because I could not time and reproduce my calculations which, in turn, meant I could not share them, two years earlier, with the world.

After years of research, my supercomputer’s timer was the only thing stopping me from getting the recognition I deserved. I realized the timer was wrong, but I could not explain why. I spent two years mulling over why the timer was wrong. It took two long and lonely years to discover why I could not time my calculations. My 3.1 billion calculations per second, which were then the world’s fastest, were simply too fast for the supercomputer’s timer.

What I learned from that experience was not to quit when faced with an insurmountable obstacle – and that believing in yourself makes all the difference. I learned to take a step backward and evaluate the options: Should I go through, above, under, or around the obstacle? Quitting, I decided, was not an option. Indeed, the old saying is true: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Looking back, I learned that most limitations in life are self-imposed. You have to make things happen, not just watch things happen. To succeed, you must constantly reject complacency. I learned I could set high objectives and goals and achieve them.

The secret to my success is that I am constantly striving for continuous improvements in my life and that I am never satisfied with my achievements. The myth that a genius must have above-average intelligence is just that, a myth. Geniuses are people who learn to create their own positive reinforcements when their experiments yield negative results. Perseverance is the key.

My goal was to go beyond the known, to a territory no one had ever reached. I learned that if you want success badly enough and believe in yourself, then you can attain your goals and become anything you want in life. The greatest challenge in your life is to look deep within yourself to see the greatness that is inside you, and those around you. The history books may deprive African children of the heroes with whom they can identify, but in striving for your own goals, you can become that hero for them – and your own hero, too.

I once believed my supercomputer discovery was more important than the journey that got me there. I now understand the journey to discovery is more important than the discovery itself; that the journey also requires a belief in your own abilities. I learned that no matter how often you fall down, or how hard you fall down, what is most important is that you rise up and continue until you reach your goal. It’s true, some heroes are never recognized, but what’s important is that they recognize themselves.

Philip Emeagwali 3

It is that belief in yourself, that focus, and that inner conviction that you are on the right path, that will get you through life’s obstacles. If we can give our children pride in their past, then we can show them what they can be and give them the self-respect that will make them succeed.

Transcribed from speech delivered by Philip Emeagwali [emeagwali.com] at the Pan-African Conference on Globalization, Washington, DC USA

Philip Emeagwali helped give birth to the supercomputer - the technology that spawned the Internet. He won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, which has been dubbed the “Nobel Prize of Supercomputing.”

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Within the Internet lies Africa’s clay of wisdom

by Philip Emeagwali
emeagwali.com 

According to history books, gun-wielding European slave traders kidnapped one in five Africans and transported them across the oceans to the Americas. A less visible, but no means less drastic

Africa

technological tool of suppression, is the compass, a device used worldwide for navigation. In the same way that Britain used its maritime knowledge and the US harnessed its intellectual capital to rule the world, the early slave traders used the simple compass to wreak havoc on civilization.

It is a sad fact that the innocuous navigation tool originated during and was fuelled by the Atlantic slave trade. The technological development of the innocent compass, invented in China for religious divination 2,000 years ago, allowed Africa to be ravaged in unspeakable ways.

It was the compass that created the Atlantic slave trade, enabling the early colonial navigators — and their blood merchants — to chart an accurate course from Gorée Island, off the coast of Senegal, to Brazil; paving the way for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which began on August 8, 1444. This trade in human merchandise covered four continents and lasted four centuries, and serves as a shameful beacon for the depravity of human greed and conquest.

The compass became the de facto weapon of mass destruction, which led to the de-capitalization and decapitation of Africa. It created the African Diaspora with one in five people taken out of the motherland. It was the largest and most brutal displacement of human beings in human history. 

Today, it is hard to imagine that such destruction and the wholesale abduction of a race could result from a tool as common as the compass. Yet, as a people who survived the slave trade, we must draw our strength from lessons learned from the past and draw our energy from the power of the future. And the power of the future lies in “controlling” technology and harnessing it for the benefit of mankind, not for his destruction.

The people of Africa must take note that the Internet is our modern-day compass, and within it resides our own clay of wisdom. As we prepare for our great journey into the cyberspace of the future, with its technological promise — its clay of wisdom — we must understand the strategic value and potential of this all-important tool. Our image of the future inspires the present and the present serves to create the future.

Africa’s lack of substantial technological knowledge of the Internet and its potential may lead it to be assaulted or manipulated in unexpected ways, just as it was devastated generations ago for the lack of a simple compass. We didn’t recognize the power of the compass then; the danger is that we don’t recognize the power of technology today. While Africa merely contemplates the future, the West, the quickest off the mark to wield technology’s weapons, actually makes the future.

This fact, and how the power of technology can be wielded against the poor, was brought home to me clearly when I received the following email recently:
“About a year ago, I hired a developer in Africa to do my job. I am paying him $12,000 a year to do my job, for which I am paid $67,000 a year,” the sender wrote. “He’s happy to have the work and I’m happy that I have to work only 90 minutes a day. Now I’m considering getting a second job and doing the same thing.” 

Technology in the hands of others has been used to exploit Africa for centuries. But now it's time for Africa to grasp technology and finally embrace the modern age’s clay of wisdom and advancement. Africa has the chance to show the world how technology can be used for good, not evil. And the people of Africa can use today’s technology, not to mimic their own exploitation, but to right the wrongs of the past and empower themselves with the same tool that has been used to oppress them in the past. Africa can provide a shining example for the world in using technology for its own upliftment and the benefit of mankind.

This time, it is our choice.

Transcribed from a speech delivered by Philip Emeagwali at the African Diaspora Conference in Tucson, Arizona. The entire transcript is posted at emeagwali.com.

Philip Emeagwali 4

Philip Emeagwali has been called “a father of the Internet” by CNN  and TIME; praised as an “unorthodox innovator [who] has pushed back the boundaries of oilfield science” by a leading European oil and gas industry journal; extolled as “one of the great minds of the Information Age” by former US president Bill Clinton, and voted history’s 35th greatest African by New African. He won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, the Nobel Prize of supercomputing.

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Africa Must Produce or Perish

By Philip Emeagwali
emeagwali.com 

Imagine that it is May 25, 2063, the 100th anniversary of Africa Day, a day for reflecting on Africa’s successes and failures. The newspaper headline announces, “Last Remaining Oilfield in West Africa’s American Territory Dries Up.”

The article continues: “The last patch of rainforest will soon be empty land scarred by oil pipelines, pumping stations, and natural gas refineries. Wholesale pollution will be the environmental legacy for future generations.

“Africa’s offshore oil reserves will ebb away. Abandoned oil wells could well become tourist attractions, and oil-boom settlements will be transformed into derelict ghost towns.

“In a world without oil, air travel will disappear, and people will voyage overseas on coal-powered ships. Farmers will use horses instead of tractors, and scythes instead of combine harvesters. As crops diminish and populations soar, famine will grip the globe. With no means to power their vehicles, parents will be housebound, without jobs, and children will walk to school.”

This scenario could become a reality, because we no longer have an abundant oil supply. We know oil exists in limited quantities and that most oil wells dry up after 40 years. It is as certain as death and taxes. Rather than debate the exact year when we will run out of oil, I prefer to imagine that we have already run out. It may come sooner than any of us expect. Our heirs will thank or curse us for how much oil we left for them. Instead of asking, “When will Africa run out of natural resources?” we should ask, “When will Africa be unable to export raw materials, either for lack of our own oil or because foreign markets have themselves dried up?”

A $100 bar of raw iron is worth $200 when forged into drinking cups in Africa, $65,000 when forged into needles in Asia, $5 million when forged into watch springs in Europe. How can this be? European intellectual capital – the collective knowledge of its people – allows a $100 raw iron bar to command a 50,000-fold increase! It could be said, therefore, that a lack of intellectual capital is the root cause of poverty.

Without African intellectual capital, iron excavated in Africa will continue to be manufactured in Europe and exported back to Africa at enormous cost. To alleviate poverty, Africa needs to cultivate creative and intellectual abilities that will allow it to increase the value of its raw materials and to break the continent’s vicious cycle of poverty. Poverty is not an absence of money. Rather, it results from an absence of knowledge.

In oil-exporting African nations, multinationals such as Shell (selling rigs for a 40% royalty on exported oil) are getting rich, while the oil rig workers remain poor. Instead of addressing the underlying causes of poverty – minimal productivity resulting from a lack of intellectual capital – Third World leaders have focused on giving false hope to their people.

We need less talk about poverty and more action to eliminate it. So how do we do this? Education has done more to reduce poverty than all the oil companies in the world. So it is disheartening to realize that few leaders believe that their people’s potential is far more valuable than what lies beneath the soil.

Intellectual capital, not higher wages, will eliminate poverty in Africa. If we all demand higher wages, we will end up paying the higher wages to ourselves. Intellectual capital will result in the creation of new products derived from new technologies. The end result will be not just a redistribution of wealth, but the creation and control of new wealth.

And Africa’s power to reduce poverty will open the floodgates of prosperity for millions of people. One catalyst for such prosperity could be telecommuting. If 300 million Africans could work for companies located in the West (just as millions of Indians do), then both regions would benefit. The strategy would be to recognize the labor needs of the global marketplace, and enable Africa to fulfill those needs.

For example, tax preparation experts living in Africa, where labor is cheaper, could fulfill the needs of US-based accountants. Furthermore, the time difference could allow for a fast turnaround in service. It is clear that knowledge and technology is crucial to alleviate Africa’s poverty.

Africa will perish if it continues to consume what it does not produce, and produce what it does not consume. The result will be a depressing cycle of increasing consumption, decreasing production, and increasing poverty. We are missing a golden opportunity by not using the trillion dollars earned by exporting natural resources to break Africa’s cycle of poverty.

We are at a crossroads where one signpost reads “Produce” and another reads “Perish.” We risk becoming like the driver who stops at an intersection and asks a pedestrian, “Where does this road lead?”

And the pedestrian replies, “Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know,” the driver replies.

“Then it obviously doesn’t matter which road you take!” replies the pedestrian.

If we adopt the same attitude as the driver, Africa will have lost its chance to “choose” its future.

For decades, power in post-colonial Africa rested in the hands of those with guns, not those with brains. We were not always at war with our neighbors, but we were always at war with poverty. And we spent more on guns than on books and bread.

Africa’s choice is clear: produce or perish. However, it is important that we do not blindly choose the lesser of two evils – producing what we cannot consume or consuming what we cannot produce. We can avoid this. My wish is that by the end of the 21st century high-end products in New York City will sport the label: “Made in Africa.”

We cannot look forward to our future until we learn from our past. Five thousand years of recorded history reveal that technology was ancient Africa’s gift to the modern world. Forty and a half centuries ago, geometers in Africa’s Nile Valley region designed the Great Pyramid of Giza, the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. That man-made mountain remains the largest stone building on Earth. It is an icon of engineering, and testifies that Africa was once the world’s most technologically advanced region.

It is absolutely imperative that Africa regain its technological prominence, which will enable it to produce what the world can consume. When we do that, Africa will finally be eating the fruits of its own labor. When Africa has regained its technological prominence, the world’s leaders will seek it out. And, like a rainforest renewed, Africa will flourish again.

Transcribed from a speech delivered by Philip Emeagwali to the African community in Valencia, Spain. The entire transcript and video are posted at emeagwali.com.

Philip Emeagwalihas been called “a father of the Internet” by CNN  and TIME, and extolled as “one of the great minds of the Information Age” by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. He won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, the Nobel prize of supercomputing.

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