10 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Time for Experts to Give Back


Zimbabweans shine abroad, but charity begins at home. With Zimbabweans excelling all over the world in various fields of academic and professional endeavour, one hopes that at some point, each one of these individuals will come back home to help develop our nation.

Last December saw a number of Zimbabweans being honoured for academic and professional achievements in fields ranging from economics, innovation and technology to social sciences such as anthropology.

In the United States, president Barack Obama appointed Dr James Manyika to his Global Development Council. Dr Manyika is currently the director of the McKinsey Global Institute and a senior partner at McKinsey & Company.

Prior to joining McKinsey, he studied at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and later on taught in the engineering faculty at the same institution.

Zimbabwe has had a distinguished history of producing Rhodes Scholars among them the late veteran banker Dr David Hatendi and most prominently Deputy Prime Minister Author Mutambara.

What is encouraging is that a younger crop of high flyers is also picking up global honours. This year Dalumuzi Happy Mhlanga, a Harvard undergraduate in Social Sciences was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to study at the University of Oxford.

Naseemah Mohamed also a Harvard Social Sciences graduate was given the same honour. Dalumuzi and Naseemah are two out of only 25 black Rhodes scholars for 2013.

Closer to home, Zimbabwean economist Fidelis Mabika Hove became the youngest PhD graduate at the University of Cape Town, Africa's top ranked university.

Fidelis finished his PhD at the age of 26 making him the youngest graduate of the PhD class of 2012. He currently works as a development consultant for Oxford Policy Management, a top tier international development consultancy.

What is inspiring is the impact that each of these young achievers and many others who have studied abroad can or are already making it in Zimbabwe and other Third World countries.

For instance, over the past three years, Dr Fidelis Hove has worked as a consultant in developing countries such as Mozambique, South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

In this capacity, he has provided technical assistance to development partners such as Unicef and the World Bank as well as to governments in these countries.

In addition to leading various student groups at Harvard, Dalumuzi Mhlanga is the founder of the Zimbabwe based NGO "Lead Us Today".

Lead us Today provides leadership training to Zimbabwean high school students. Although she currently works in the Unites States for the Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE), an organisation she co-founded earlier this year to broaden understanding of African cultural traditions, Naseemah also has hopes of working as a development consultant in Zimbabwe and other developing countries.

A look at the latest Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings reveals a sobering fact.

While the traditional "ivy league" university dominates the rankings, only a few African universities feature on the list.

According to the list, the top ranked university is the Massachusetts University of Technology while Harvard sits at number three and Oxford is fifth.

The highest ranked African university is the University of Cape Town which sits at a decent 154. What's disheartening is that the only other African universities in the top 400 are miles away with the University of the Witwatersrand at 363 and the University of Cairo at 392.

The point here is that it is clear that African universities, especially those in Zimbabwe have a long way to go and the likes of Dr Mayika, Dr Hove, Dalumuzi and Naseemah should appreciate how privileged they have been.

They should remember that charity begins at home and they should keep striving to bring back that knowledge and experience back home to help build Zimbabwe's universities, schools, businesses and society as a whole. Only then will we say that "they have arrived."

Peter Mudzi, is a businessman and management consultant based in Washington DC.

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