DESCRIBED by some as Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia rolled into one, the question-and-answer website that is Quora is an interesting place.
It works by allowing its community of real-name users to ask, reply, edit and organise questions, including through upvoting or downvoting. Answers that tick the right boxes for the majority of users show up first, a sort of cream rising to the top situation, although it is also a process aided by Quora algorithms—although if there is only one answer it would still be ranked first.
Conceived by two former Facebook employees, it was founded in 2009 with a mission to “share and grow the world’s knowledge”. In April 2014 the California, US-headquartered firm was valued at nearly a billion dollars.
It has many famous users including Barack Obama—in September he answered a question on the Iran nuclear deal— and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and is estimated to have a community of anywhere up to 20 million users monthly—the firm does not divulge its stats—and over 250,000 topics.
The firm is reportedly looking to add new languages—an estimated 38% of its users currently come from India, ahead of the US with about 20%, as it looks to keep the edge over rivals who include Yahoo Answers.
All kinds of questions are asked, with the majority answered. Africa, while seeing less activity compared to less regions, arouses its fair share of questions, and the answers can be illuminating or downright riveting. We pick out some of them, with (the most popular) answers edited and paraphrased for brevity:
Why is Africa called Africa?
Answer: The etymology of Africa is disputed, except of course the Roman suffix part. One of the foremost theories holds that ‘Afri’ was the name of a people, maybe the Berbers of North Africa, given by the Romans. Other etymologies include the Latin word aprica, meaning “sunny”; or the Greek word aphrike, meaning “without cold.”
Why is Africa so poor?
Using the above chart from Romer’s Advanced Macroeconomics, the most voted-for answer shows that it’s not so much Africa that’s poor, but any place close to the equator is poor. And much of Africa happens to be close to the equator.
Some more hypotheses are put forward: that a lack of capital is not to blame, but obstacles to productivity and the rule of law, because capital always moves to where returns on capital are high—where there is a shortage.
Colonisation is also often blamed for the continent’s poverty—but the poorest places were among those colonised late. “Why? Maybe because Europeans (and before them Arabs, who conquered the Mediterranean coast of Africa but never went very far into sub-Saharan Africa) couldn’t deal with tropical diseases, or because they couldn’t figure out how to do large-scale export-focused agriculture in the tropics…”
Additionally, “modern agricultural techniques that enable [agriculture to be productive enough so more people can move into industry and services] are best developed, and the knowledge mostly widely spread, in and for temperate climates.”
Can colonialism still be blamed for Africa’s problems today or should Africans take responsibility for the poor management of their countries?
The top ranked answer is by a Nigerian: “I hit a eureka moment a few days ago when I was thinking about why so many African countries’ governments become unstable after independence. There are multiple factors, but at least for Nigeria, one crucial factor I think played a key role is low institutionalisation of political ideology.
At the point of independence, a sovereign government came into power. But, with a majority of people living in rural areas, and with a general culture of tribal monarchical rule, most Nigerians (apart from a very few educated ones) did not fully understand the fundamental principles upon which a government operates. When it became a republic, there was no diffusion of the republican ideology - that democracy operates from the bottom up (the people hold the absolute power), and not from the top-down (the government holds the absolute power). This top-down mentality (owing to being used to monarchical rules and having only a small proportion of educated and philosophically-influence people) contributed to low public vigilance.
What is it like to be an African-American living in Africa?
“I am from Liberia, but I am a descendent of the repatriated slaves, called locally, the “congo” people. I was born in the US and I moved to Liberia with my parents when I was 11. There is a great divide between the congos and the natives. The congos are the minority yet they are the most influential (by nepotism), prosperous and are able to travel to the US frequently (most of the time). Their accent is like the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Speak like Sirleaf…
The natives, by majority, are illiterate and impoverished. But this is due to the fact that those who have been in power have been more focused on corruption rather than restoring their country. They speak liberian english, like a patois, which is essentially the lingua franca, if you will.There is an undercurrent of animosity that runs between the two. The natives feel disadvantaged by the congos who came and took their land and essentially made them inferior in their own home. The Congos feel that the natives are thieves and to hard to become “civilized.”
What will happen to the carcass of a poached African elephant?
Hidden cameras helped answer this question, showing how an elephant’s tragic death “will sustain life for thousands of animals and insects. More than five million calories will not go to waste; but will be recycled back into the African environment.”
The cameras capture, in order, the arrival of vultures, who do 70% of all the cleaning up, hyenas, insects, birds, flies, maggots, surprisingly the leopard, a lion, jackals and finally the most dangerous predator of all—man— who six days later arrives to pick dislodge the tusks from the cleaned up skeleton. Luckily, they are wildlife rangers taking part in the research.
Who are the best authors from Sudan?
The most famous Sudanese author is - without a doubt - Eltayeb Saleh. He is one of the most influential writers in Arabic literature in general, and his novel Season of the migration to the North (Mawsim al-Hijra ila al-Shamal) is translated to many languages and it is one of the classics of Arabic novels. It was declared “the most important Arabic novel of the 20th century” by the Arab Literary Academy in 2001.
Others are Hammour Ziada, whose novel novel, The Longing of the Dervish (2014), won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2014, Bushra Elfadil (poetry and short story), Abbakar Adam Ismail (novelist) and Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin.
Will the people of Morocco ever stand up to overthrow the royal family?
This is difficult because of the hesitation following the post-Arab Spring order that was chaotic for countries such as Libya and Egypt, the country’s military structure also favours the royals.
In addition,” popular approval of Mohammed VI is quite high. His image is often that of the “King of the Poor”. For every Moroccan that disapproves of the royal family, there is a whole family rooting for the king.”
Some questions and answers are downright hilarious:
What are some major social faux pas to avoid when visiting Malawi?
Essentially, Don’t rush into requests when meeting someone - introductions are important; Don’t apologise if you don’t need to: “Sorry,’ means Sorry in its real sense, rather than the pitiful substitute for ‘excuse me’ it has become elsewhere”; Don’t underemphasise or under-exaggerate your achievements—be modest’; and finally texting and mobile communication is the lifeblood of socialising in Malawi, learn how to ‘flash’ as a way of exchanging numbers.
A picture of the beautiful sunset in Malawi.
How do you take over a small African country, and then the continent?
Pretty easy: |1|. Make sure people like you and you won’t have to spend time money and military keeping them in line, |2|. Justify your conquest of other nations as best as possible, |3.| Gain allies and let them do work for you, you’re set if you can get a major world power on your side, |4|. Take every complaint from other nations very seriously, |5|. Keep your generals and army happy and they will fight better than the most well equipped army. That’s my take, but it would be hard to do, especially if you plan to do it in just one lifetime and become the continental leader yourself.
Why do so many e-mail scams come from Nigeria?
There are even books about 419 scams. (Photo/Amazon)
They actually don’t, according to the top-ranked answer—Not to absolve the country but most such ‘419’ (named for the Nigerian penal code section that punishes offenders) emails emanate from the US, based on their computer IP addresses. The question should then be, why is Nigeria the scapegoat and not necessarily the major culprit? This is because of the country’s “dreadful reputation for corruption that makes the strange tales of dodgy lawyers, sudden death, and orphaned fortunes seem plausible in the first place.”
There is also unsurprisingly the fair share of imperialism and colonialism:
Will the Whites ever allow Africa to be united and without wars?
Whites will never allow Africa to be united and without wars as it’s not for whites to permit, it’s for Africans to permit. How Africans respond to its various challenges is a matter of African choice not white permission. If Africans wait for this permission it will never come as its not for whites to give but for Africans to decide upon it and execute the decision.
What if Africans had colonised Europe?
(African languages) IsiXhosa and Swahilli would become business languages, Donald Trump a hobbo, Obama would be a mayor in Gauteng South Africa, Robert Mugabe would be a farmer not a president, the dominant trading currency would be called Randela (named after Nelson Mandela ). George bush both senior and junior would be preschool teachers. American cars would be smaller and there would be no such thing as a McDonalds
Do black South Africans want white South Africans to leave the country?
Answer: Many do. There is a growing and disconcerting number of [economically disillusioned] Black South Africans who believe that a nationalist point of view means their country belongs to “them”. They believe in paying injustice with justice. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. Mercy for no one.
And these ideas are propagated even further by leaders who constantly ingrained them in the people. Leaders who are preying on the psyche of disillusioned South Africans.
South African history is very complicated. I don’t think I will ever be able to understand the nuances of it all. I live in South Africa right now, and I understand a little better due to immersion. However, even when I make observations, I am unable to visualise what a viable solution would be. Similar to how it’s incomprehensible to try and solve the Israel-Palestine conflict.
But there are also those that leave one scratching their heads:
What do Africans do for fun?
No answer as yet.
Can you own a giraffe as a pet in Africa?
Unanswered as yet.
Could Ethiopia invade and conquer Eritrea?
This question about one of Africa’s most passionate rivalries elicited a joke about the extreme militarisation of Eritrea:
God looks upon Eritrea and asks the angel Gabriel, “Why is Eritrea so green? I made that country dry and yellow.”
And Gabriel answers, “My Lord, those are military fatigues.”