Last year I was giving a talk in DC. On the way to the venue, I was given a ride to the train station by this Zambian driver. He came to the US as a diplomat and now is working as a driver for the hotel in the DC area. This is one example of what Richard Cambridge, VP of the African Diaspora Program at The World Bank, would call “brain waste.” I didn’t get the driver’s name, but in my short conversation (and I don’t remember how I thought to record his nuggets of wisdom) I came away richly rewarded with insight on life, Africa and our future. It was one of the most rewarding taxi rides of my life. I didn’t get to record the whole conversation, but the little two-minute clip that I did record is worth a listen and worth pondering in the big picture.
“The young trees which are growing will be the forests of the future,” he says. “Who is going to take over from us. For us we are tree which are already old. Who is going to take over as an account… who is going to take over?”
In the span of those few minutes, I was struck by his truth, and his genuine concern for the future of Africa. Those who come here [ in the West ] to pursue a better life, but wasted the opportunity by being distracted from the goal depleted our future forest of trees of knowledge. On a continent of a billion people and counting, we need as many trees of knowledge as the forest can hold, and not simply for the benefit of the environment either.