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  • Writer's picturerutendo matinyarare

Africans Need To Start Documenting.

I spent the whole day looking at this image, observing how the Chinese are taking notes and the Zambian burearcrats are not.

I have been consumed with trying to understand the meaning and implications of the relationship playing itself out in this image.

The first thought I get drom looking at this image is that the culture of not documenting events is a predominately African behavior. It’s not only practiced by our politicians but our business people, technocrats, professionals, waiters and employees.

Albeit, I was pleasantly surprised to meet two Russian businessmen who also never made the effort of taking notes or write minuting during a business trip to Zimbabwe this December [2018].

Nevertheless, the image is still concerning. It would seem that we Africans are repeating the same mistakes made by our ancestors who relied solely on memory to store information, depriving future generations of knowledge.

We behave as if we will live forever and be omnipresent to pass on information to those who will need it in future as an when they will need it. Yet the most dominant races find it important to document and transcribe meetings for recall and sharing.

It is very critical for us to start teaching each other as a people that documentation and record keeping is not only about individual memory but institutional memory and sharing knowledge.

By not documenting events, we lose detail, insight, historical leverage, records and the ability to share and pass on information on demand to those who need it.

This results in us limiting our ability to develop because we are not passing on ideas or knowledge to each other for the progression of the race.

Why Record Events

The first reason for taking notes is institutionalization of information. By taking notes you make the information noted in meetings the insights [intelligence] of the institution and not the individual.

This is so that if something happens to the individuals attending the meeting, a record remains in the institution in perpetuity because it just didn’t exist in the mind of one individual.

Know Your Trade Partner Intimately

Another reason being, through notes the note taking team get more insight of those they are sitting across. In a negotiation process, clever note takers can note observations: character, body language, verbal language, responses to questions and the way parties relate to each other on the opposing panel.

This gives the note takers an intimate understanding of the opposing side, equipping them with intelligence to strategize. Through these notes they can build individual profiles and relationship maps to understand who holds the power, who makes the decisions and who is most influential in the group their are engaging.

Won’t Read Ts & Cs

In fact a team not taking notes can be perceived by note taking party to mean that the other side does not prioritize documentation, information or detail. This is likely to point to people who don’t pay attention to fine print in contracts.

From the notes collected, they can study, gather insights and tailor their negotiation tactics and ideas accordingly. It wouldn’t even be surprising to discover that some on the Chinese side are intelligence officers, psychologists and linguists recording what is said and unsaid for future exploitation.

History Is Always Recorded

I hope one day our people get to understand the importance of documentation because where there is no documents there no reference point or baseline to expand or share.

From a historical and culture perspective, fifty years from today, the only account of any meetings or events taking place today will be the ones documented. While the long term benefits of those negotiations will accrue to the side that kept binding records.

Our Mutapa Records

From a historical perspective, Zimbabweans have been trading with the Chinese since 1300, however, Zimbabweans have no ancestral records on those encounters.

The ones that exist were written by the Chinese, Arabs and Portuguese which means we have no institutional memory of these engagements; no records of our ancestor’s thoughts, lessons they learnt from these experiences and the impact.

Boers often claim that 400yrs ago when they got to South Africa there were no African people in the area at the Southern tip of Africa. Sadly, there are no written accounts from our ancestors the Khoisan to dispute this assertion accept those of the Portuguese.

Nevertheless, 700yrs later after all these negative events that marginalized us we are still repeating the mistake of not documenting our encounters. We haven’t learnt from the past because we didn’t document the mistakes of that past.

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