In pursuit of industrialization and economic advancement, many African leaders have often picked models for their countries – shuttling between the United States, United Kingdom and China; with time and immeasurable resources spent in greasing these channels towards accessing socio-economic transformation, but very little to show. It is one thing to choose a model and another to choose a model that suits you. To achieve the desired results, African nations must annihilate the stereotypes which are non-sequential to their developmental phases.
I cannot agree more with Carlos Lopes, former executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, when he said that although African nations can advance her economic and industrial structure through adopting the transformation framework of other countries, following in the footsteps of the West and Asia – whose blueprints are clearly incompatible with the African makeup, will not yield the desired results.
For Africa to attain her desired position on the ladder of socio-economic advancement, it is imperative to retract from her current models and set sights on a model that fits. In choosing this model, rather than ask ‘Why Finland’, the right question should be ‘Why not?’ Finland boasts of working institutions which rank amongst the best in the world and her systems are centered on value orientation and human development, which has yielded great results in the areas of education, improved living standards, transportation and governance.
Although there is always the argument centered on census which is propagated by certain school of thoughts who claim that Finland’s low population of about 5.5 million (in 2016) is the true reason behind her successes. I believe however, that this claim holds very little water considering the fact that Finland occupies 116 out of 233 on the 2017 list released by the United Nations of countries ranked by their population, yet the country has recorded more success than the 117 countries below it. If China, with a population of over 1.4 Billion people is more successful than Lebanon – a country in the same continent and with a population just above 6 Million, then the basis of attributing success to low population is baseless and unfounded.
Today, the country is top on the rankings for best education systems in the world, but this did not happen overnight. A few decades ago, the country had a poor educational system – her students were below the accepted international average especially in mathematics and science, coupled with the tangible gap between students in urban and rural areas. Identifying the importance of education to a nations development, the country went back to the drawing board and mapped out a comprehensive teacher training scheme which has helped solve the problem and raised the educational standards through building a rock solid foundation. Now, the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) rates Finland as one of the few countries that have achieved both high quality and equality in education of students regardless their backgrounds.
Finland also deserves accolades for her successes in socio-economic transformation and governance. Currently on record to have the least corrupt government in the world and ranked the happiest place to be on the surface of the earth as at 2018 by the United Nations in its just released annual reports; the country is evidently reaping the rewards of investing in the right values and people. Back in the early 80s, not many predicted success for a country like Finland considering her historical antecedence and unorthodox idiosyncrasy – which undoubtedly is the paradox of her enviable achievements.
According to Adam Taylor, a columnist for Business Insider - Finland’s success came as a result of the country going against popular stereotypes of the centralized evaluation-driven model which the Western world employs. I believe African nations must do same in her search for advancement, it is not too late to start all over and focus on a model that will build our institutions from the bottom up in reducing the gap between the affluent and the poor; rather than continue to chase misplaced priorities of building castles in the air and living in a fool’s paradise.