At the age of 12, I was afforded a rare experience that has given my life purpose since. I visited an uncle on his Cotton farm in Dassa, Benin for the summer vacation. He was my father’s younger brother, and he lived a less than modest life. I was charged to deliver t-shirts my father had purchased for him during his travels throughout Europe. He was ecstatic and elated to have the new garments and could not stop relating his thank you’s. The vacation consisted of living life as he lived it and experiencing an amazing part of my culture. We woke up at 5 am, our alarm was the literal cockcrow. Soon after getting up, breakfast was made and consisted mostly of the leftovers of the night before. Then off to the plantation, it was. Here, we cultivated or harvested cotton depending on the side of the farm we were located on. This was no easy labor, rather harsh and vicious work that demanded hours of muscle activity under an unforgiving sun. This would go on for the better part of the morning and the afternoon with just a half hours sweet relief for lunch, which consisted of beans mixed with gari (farina like substance made from cassava). This meal was said to give you energy and support for your muscles. It wasn’t but years later that I understood what that meant and learned that beans contain protein which builds muscles and helps burn stored fat turning it into energy. But I digress. My days went on in the same fashion, with body aches and blistered hands for an entire month. It wasn’t until a few days before the end of my “magical” vacation, that I started asking questions that troubled my young mind the entire time. So I asked my uncle, how come if you work so hard, you live in a hut made of clay, and most days you can barely afford to make hands meet? Do you not sell the cotton harvested from the farm? Did you always want to be a farmer? Why not follow in your brother’s footsteps and get into public affairs? All great questions, or so I thought until I provided answers and I became even more confused.
African life is less than ideal for the multitude, and it is not because they are lazy, and it is not because they don’t contribute to the world’s economy. In fact, they contribute more so than the average westerner. The major difference here is that in the west, you are paid a fair wage for your labor. My uncle produced the cotton that made the t-shirts, he so loved and appreciated, yet he barely received 1 cent on the dollar for his hard work. And while the tides are shifting, like the slow hands of time, we find ourselves reliving these realities. We are now part of a global economy, one that sways us left and right without so much of our say so. Our kids will continue in this global economy and will fight for the same jobs that western kids will fight for. Are we really affording them a fair chance of success? American and European kids are introduced to computers at an early age. By the second grade, computers are easily accessible to every child. This endeavor was so important that President Obama’s administration launched the STEM campaign, ensuring a one per student environment for most schools.
Every African elect president sings the same chant, “every kid will have a computer on their laps during my presidency”. They do this because they know the urgency of the matter. They do this because they know there is a need and a demand. But once on the job, they fail at this promise or they fail at the know-how.
It is high time, we challenge the status quo and start by providing our next generation with a seat at the decision table. Itinere Cloud and Tzedakah are here to meet that challenge and face it head-on. Utilizing proven technology currently being used in the US, Canada, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland, and an approach that is designed to disrupt the current way of things to make way for a better path.