The Story of the Two Kegs of Water

The Story of the Two Kegs of Water

By Azuka Onwuka

plastic water bottles

Recently I bought two 20-litre kegs of water: one for N350, and the other for N10. The huge difference in prices got me thinking. Why was that so?

My pumping machine was faulty. After some days, my water reservoir ran low. My wife and I had decided to suspend the use of house helps. Despite the challenges, it has not been a bad idea. So I put some jerrycans in the car to buy some water on my way from the office.

On my way home, I stopped by a shop not far from home. Beside the shop, an elderly man had three taps on the wall for selling water. He charged N10 for each 20-litre jerrycan. At the shop next to him, I bought some 18-litre cans of branded water, each for N350.

Ordinarily, I should have complained that I was robbed, but I didn’t. One jar contained processed and branded water, while the other contained water straight from the ground, with no value added. If I had bought the more common 1.5-litre bottle of water from a shop, I would have even paid N100.

That means that if one buys 12 bottles of such 1.5-litre branded water in retail form to get 18 litres, one would have to pay N1,200. Therefore, while N10 bought me 20-litre water from the roadside tap, I could have spent N1,333 to buy the same volume of water if I was buying any of the 1.5-litre bottled water brands one by one. So spending N350 to buy the 18-litre water brand was actually a huge bargain.

The difference in the prices of these two kegs of water is why Africa continues to be poor and beggarly, while most countries in Europe, America and Asia continue to be richer and more powerful. We take what God has given to us and sell it cheaply to other continents, who then process and package it and resell it to us at a premium.

We sell crude oil and buy petrol, diesel, kerosene, etc. For years, we toil in farms to plant, tend, and harvest cacao; then we extract the seeds from the pods, spread them on mats to dry under the sun, and then sell them to Western companies. The confectionery companies turn the cacao to cocoa and then into chocolate, which is sold to us in bars at high prices. While the farmers who slave in the cacao farms wear tattered clothes and merely manage to feed their families, those who sell the chocolate bars wear bespoke suits and swim in money and comfort.

The same story happens between the farmer of rubber and the manufacturers of tyre, rubber bands, balloons, rubber shoes and other rubber products; the cotton farmer and the makers of textile; the growers of tomato and the producers of tomato puree; the rearers of cattle and makers of corned beef, canned milk and leatherwear.

We have remained backward and poor because we do not add value to what we find in nature. For us, yam can only be cultivated, boiled or roasted and then eaten; fish and animals can only be boiled or roasted and eaten; fruits can only be plucked and eaten. We even find it hard to preserve these items for a long time so that we can still eat them months after. Whatever we cannot eat immediately gets rotten and thrown away.

We have done little to embrace technology and machines, even though we do not need to reinvent the wheel: all we need to do is to copy and reproduce what other countries are doing. Most of the required machines are available all over the world. When you buy them, most manufacturers even have some special arrangements of sending some of their staff to help train your people on how to use them.

Regrettably, decades after, we still seem to remain on the floor where we have been. Yet our taste has continued to grow astronomically. We love to use the latest and most expensive of gadgets and cars.  Ironically, some of our people even go to other nations and excel in technology.

The same factors that made the Europeans conquer and rule Africa are still present. Two reasons accounted for the conquest of Africa by Europe: guns and ships. Then there was a third: organization. This third point was not very important because even the kingdoms that were organized like the Bini Kingdom were still conquered.

So guns and ships were the two critical factors that made Europeans conquer Africa. A gun made it easy for one European soldier to kill many Africans charging at him with their machetes and clubs. Ships made it easy for Europeans to transport hundreds of soldiers, guns and other necessities at once to Africa.

When African fighters saw the ease with which their colleagues were felled in one fell swoop, nobody needed to advise them to surrender promptly. And because most of the kingdoms were independent towns and villages, it was easy taking them one after the other. When the news spread of how the Europeans wiped out communities that resisted them, the locals surrendered to them to avoid bloodshed.

In summary, Europe used machines to conquer Africa. Machines made their work faster and easier, giving them more results than human efforts could. Guns and ships are products of technology. So it all boils down to technology.

These same factors are still keeping African countries subservient to Europe, America and Asia. Some Asian countries like South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, China, and India have laid emphasis on technology and have transformed their countries to stronger and wealthier countries. Regrettably African countries have not made much progress in technology.

Our country must pay special attention to technology, industrialization and branding. Tapping what nature has provided and selling it without adding any value to it is laziness of the body and of the mind. We must create policies that will make importation of finished goods unprofitable. Just like the new policy on the importation of cars, which has discouraged companies from car importation, we must replicate such policies in all sectors, especially on GSM phones, television sets, refrigerators, fashion materials, drinks and food items.

Any company that loves Nigeria’s money so much as to send its finished products to us to buy must be made to come in and set up a factory where it can make such products and sell to us. Such will provide jobs for millions of our people and boost our economy. It will also help to improve the technological know-how and productive skills of our people. It will also help to improve our infrastructure.

Excuses about poor electricity and infrastructure must not be accepted; after all, it is under the same conditions that companies like Nigerian Breweries Plc, Dangote Group, Nigerian Bottling Company, Nestle Nigeria Plc, etc have been producing for decades and making profits.

*** First published April 29, 2014

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