Home > Development > Are you a hog or fox?

Are you a hog or fox?

European hedgehog (Erinaceus_europaeus)

European hedgehog (Erinaceus_europaeus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In trying to understand why Africa is the way that it is when other continents and nations that have faced similar challenges as those faced by Africa and moved on, I came across the analogy of the hedgehog and the fox. While reading about the characteristics of a hedgehog, I couldn’t help but muse over the similarity with African leadership and Africans in general. A hedgehog is a person who believes that life revolves around one big idea and one ultimate truth. In Zimbabwe the current big truth is that you need a good job to succeed and education is the key to the big job! Another big idea is that if you are black you can succeed and you don’t have to answer to anyone. Sadly only 5% of the population have jobs, so how true is this fact?

Hogs are narrow minded and think there is only way of doing things; it is either my way or the highway. Africa has been stuck in a time warp because Africa has held onto one great idea while the rest of the world has been moving from theory to theory and concept to concept.

Hog thinking often sounds like this, ‘It needs government, big business and big labour to meet the needs of the masses, to create employment and to grow the economy. We need donors, more aid, more ngo’s, debt cancellation to solve our problems.’

Foxes are sassy, shrewd and are always adaptable to different situations. Foxes believe that life is about knowing many things and that life consists of many different twists and turns and many unexpected forks in the road. There is no easy road to development and there will be many unforeseen difficulties, challenges and opportunities on the road to development. Every action counts and there are many small pieces that will eventually complete the puzzle. It may seem as if the road is diverting of course, but that twist will serve a good one way or another. America gets more than half of its economic growth from industries established less than ten years ago because they adapt quickly to change. The West realizes that small business is the backbone of the economy and people are encouraged to start small businesses, not because it is their only option, but because it is good idea. In Africa we believe that you start a small business only if you can’t get a job. The west in constantly innovating change, finding new and better solutions to their problems. Africa on the other hand waits patiently for the deliverer to come and rescue them, give them aid and cancel debts. One of my mentors asked me what animal I would be if I was an animal. Today my answer will be I’m a fox. Read through the list below and see whether you are a hedgehog or you are foxy! I think that in Africa we are raised by hedgehogs to become hogs and if you try to be foxy, you are ridiculed and mocked.

Characteristics of a Hedgehog

  • Regard small business as a refugee camp for those who have failed to find jobs.
  • Feel that the world owes them, if you want a farm, you invade one and take it by force etc.
  • Are comfortable with capitalism where they pull strings and give special deals. I was in Spar Five Avenue last week and people were pulling strings to jump the grocery line. If you can’t wait five minutes in a queue, are you going to be able to wait two years for your business to take off, or you will need to pull every string available?
  • If you are not for them, you are against them. My way or the highway!
  • Hedgehogs join bandwagons- foxes love underdogs and minority opinions because the majority is often wrong.
  • Hedgehogs want to own people. My people, my workers, my students. My church…
  • They rely on single commodities and mass production.
  • Love attending international conferences on aid and development though it is possible to communicate internationally over the phone. They are willing to spend thousands on international conferences only to come back and do nothing about what they have learnt.
  • They believe that the best way to fix problems is by throwing money at them.
  • Hedgehogs select costly first world solutions that may not be appropriate for their needs.
  • Pigeonhole people into preordained structures.
  • Love and crave flattery. If you want to get on with a hedgehog, shower them with praise and flattery.
  • Do as I say and not as I do. Their behavior contradicts what they say. They have no morals and use every trick in the book to get ahead.
  • Pour cold water on any new idea but claim it is their own once it flourished.
  • Will tell you what his position is and who he is related to.
  • A hedgehog will look through you and will only acknowledge you if you are part of his grand design.
  • All animals are equal, but others are more equal than others-Animal Farm
  • Class conscious, where do you live, what car do you drive, what do you do…
  • Hide behind the bed in a bunker while others are out there fighting.
  • Accumulate formal qualifications and become a professional student’s continually studying one programme to another without any contribution to society.
  • Give keynote addresses and promptly leave the podium without any feedback. Even the pastors now do this, they make a grand entrance minutes after the service has started and make a grand exit minutes before the finish with a large delegation in tow.
  • Lash out and find someone to blame. It is never their fault.

Characteristics of a Foxes

  • Prefer to stay at home and fine tune the development policies to improve the environment.
  • Believe that to attract investors your country must be appealing.
  • Mould solutions around the resources they have, and not want donors are going to provide.
  • Inspire people by setting an example.
  • Will tell you what he does- I help people start businesses and not I am a consultant.
  • Will dig trenches and get shot at.
  • Go to the University of Hard Knocks. ‘I am a student at the University of Life.’ Philip Chiyangwa
  • Learn from mistake of others and their own.

So, what are you? A classic African hog or just a hog in general? I wonder whether Africa will ever really make a comeback with all the hogs around. What hope is there for Africa? Africa used to be foxy before the Europeans arrived. Each village was tightly knit and everyone had a distinct role. The Europeans divided Africa up into nation states each with a huge administration apparatus of hedgehogs! Each generation is breeding more hedgehogs and unless we find our foxy selves, we shall continue on a road to destruction.

Adapted from Clem Sunters book: Never mind the Millenium, what about the next 24hours

Categories: Development
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