We had our summer holiday at home, partly to receive our grandchildren for their annual visit and partly to recover after this year’s long distance travel (to China, Kenya and Southern California), work related but to which we had managed to add a bit of tourism. A few days in each place does not make me an expert but I think some of the impressions are worth sharing and food for thought.
China is about people. Its billion population are both asset and liability and they have become truly expert in managing expectations and outcomes so that the asset value dominates and the liabilities controlled. I saw many modern out-workings of this and, at the same time, cultural assets with important lessons embedded have become large scale tourist attractions. The Terracotta Army is a reminder that people overcame the imperial traditions of the day. They negotiated on the death of the incumbent that, instead of the real army being put to death to serve the dead, that a sacrifice of labour would do the job just as well and with many earthly advantages!
Africa is about land, a vast land, rich in every way as witness its abundant wildlife. People of all colours and ethnic origins love the land and live alongside it almost afraid to use it, in case they lose it. It is easy to see a “Garden of Eden” when in a National Park and genuine Maasai village, less so in the outskirts of Nairobi or in a “modern” Maasai town. “Colonial” legacies abound (e.g. handwritten triplicate receipts for national parks) while alongside in the private sector, Safaricom and its ilk, provide universal 3- and 4-g mobile that is used to manage business, payments, teaching and more.
In California the word is Technology. It shapes the people and their mind set. The land is forbidding but yields easily to modern technology; if you have it or the cash to buy it, you can live well and in comfort; if you don’t then life can be very tough indeed unless you are happy with all the ramifications of trickle-down. Behind the scenes and a long way away, the environmental ramifications increase relentlessly but invisibly, at least, to many.
Here, we live on the pig’s back! Clean water flows from the sky and into our taps. Good food is cheap; our climate is moderate. Even a modest job can provide shelter and sustenance. Yet we so easily turn our advantage into dissent.
What’s the alternative?
I think the word in common is innovation, or profitable change. We can use ours to feed theirs or in consort with theirs to take global opportunities, and to build all of our local and global economies with the principles of fair trade and entrepreneurship. In our mantra, relationships that lead to trust can lead to transactions.
With each we have valued historic links. China and Sir Robert Hart; Kenya and California many notable diaspora. With each I found a respect in our contributions to science and engineering and in our recent story of knowledge-based economic recovery. So we have a basis for relationships and trust.
We are connected to each by oceanic fibre and ready air travel; so we have the means.
Our ideas are in the right sectors; food, health, environment underpinned by digital, cyber and advanced (clean) manufacturing. The only thing stopping us is us ourselves. Actually some of our young millennials have got it; what the baby boomers have to do is get behind them and push, or at least not get in their way!