Editor's Memo: No one is coming to save us

James Manyika Google’s Senior Vice President in charge of Artificial Intelligence

This week, James Manyika , Google’s Senior Vice President in charge of Artificial Intelligence made some remarks that should give our leaders some food for thought.

He had just attended the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. At the summit, he exchanged a handshake with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whereupon a reporter asked him how and if he would help the country.

“When I think about how I can help Zimbabwe, it’s a two-way street. There are things that I am doing, I have helped set up scholarships and fellowships to help Zimbabweans get access to resources and opportunities. But Zimbabwe has to do some things too. It must make it easy for people like me to help. It’s a two-way street,” he said.

Pointedly, Manyika noted that his country had a way of embarrassing its own.

“It’s not a one-way street. It’s not that I will go around the world saying ‘Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe’, only for Zimbabwe to embarrass me. It doesn’t work. That’s what we need between those of us outside, and those at home. Let’s help each other to uplift Zimbabwe.”

When Google hired Manyika in 2022, this is what its chief executive office Sundar Pichai, said: “I’m thrilled that James Manyika will be joining Google’s leadership team.

He’s spent decades working at the intersection of technology and society and has advised a number of businesses, academic institutions and governments along the way." 

He had spent the previous 13 years as chairman and director of the McKinsey Global Institute, a company he had joined in 1997.

Manyika’s response to the question of what can one do for their country and Zimbabwe in particular has become a pertinent issue in these times of deep political polarisation.

Alpha Media Holdings chairman, Trevor Ncube touches on the topic extensively in his latest newsletter of the In Conversations with Trevor blog.

“The building blocks of a failed State have been in full view for anyone who cares to notice. The gradual, but sure slide into a society where we normalise the abnormal has solidified into a dominant part of our culture. This collapse permeates all facets of our society, without exception,” Ncube notes.

“The State embodies the predominant values in our society. Our society cannot hold the State accountable because the State has become a microcosm of the larger society. Society cannot demand better conduct from the State because the majority are mired at the mud level of mediocrity and malfeasance.”

We can collectively put the country on the right path by being deliberate about batting for the nation, he argues.

We need to be getting simple things right, selfishness giving way to altruism. One former minister responded: ‘I like it, simple and practical. So, let’s do it!’

No one is coming to save Zimbabwe from being a failed state, especially politicians. But collectively we can save ourselves.

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