Culture and Politics, play a significant role in enhancing the development of a society. Africa has a rich cultural system whose dynamism has stood the test of time. Harnessing culture and politics stands a chance of bringing Africa out of its current developmental problems.
Before the arrival of the Whiteman, Africa had its own political systems which were woven into the cultural practices of the people under their leaders. The British colonial administration endorsed a traditional ruler or chief, through whose traditional institutions they administered the local people. Chiefs performed some of their traditional functions and were sometimes charged with extra duties such as tax collection. They were thus part of the decision making process, though not as powerful.
Chiefs served as the bridge between the colonial administration and the populations of Africa. Through them, colonial policies were transmitted to the people and the peoples’ feedback expressed. Recognition of the importance of politics, culture and the chiefs made the colonialists to give them places to serve in institutions such as the Legislative Council. In Ghana, under the then Gold Coast 1925 Constitution, six seats were reserved for chiefs in the Legislative Council. In Nigeria, the post of President of the Native Authority Court was filled by an indigene. In the Bamenda Region of Cameroon, the Divisional Officer (D.O.) acted as the final Court of Appeal.
Common sense told the British that the only way out was to rely on traditional leaders for a meaningful co-existence, if not domination. Even the assimilation policy adopted by the French presupposed that the African resources could well blend with that of France for mutual benefit. The French Policy of Assimilation was designed to make the francophone colonies more French through education. In Senegal, Mali, La Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo, the French opened schools that taught both French culture and language with a view of making Africans adapt themselves to France, their colonial master. There is no doubt these two unrelated policies have done great harm to the economies of Africa.
Africa still has the largest resource base that, if well channeled, can be a powerful weapon towards its emancipation in the 21st century. The continent of Africa is indeed, blessed with natural resources such as huge deposits of diamonds, copper, bauxite, manganese, gold, and petroleum. The continent also has a valuable forest area stretching across West Africa, Eastern and Central Africa, for timber harvesting, food and products of medicinal value. Its underexploited water bodies and rivers such as the Nile, Niger, Volta, Senegal, Limpopo and Congo could be used to produce hydroelectric power and fish for the local market and export.
Africa’s problem is partly on economy and politics which are alien to the African communal system. Many African leaders have not been able to handle the economic, political and social problems that the Whiteman handed over at independence, consequently creating room for military takeovers. Sanni Abacha of Nigeria, Idi Amin of Uganda, Mobutu Sesseko of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) abandoned the African system of governance and sadly used miniatures of colonial administrative heritage to haunt their own nationals. Even where military dictatorship was not the rule, a single political party emerged out of the democratic process by leaders suppressing the views of minority parties. Burkina Faso, Uganda, Gabon and Zimbabwe have had their own stories to tell in this instance. Today, ethnic rivalries and territorial disputes continue to threaten the stability of Africa. Instead of channeling human resource into economic wellbeing, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Gabon, and La Cote d-Ivoire have had their brain power directed to wars. This state of instability is obviously advantageous to Europe and America, since they are unbending in carrying away Africa’s economic resources through the unfair World Trade Order, high tariffs of goods and services, and subsidies to their own farmers.
Most African leaders live ostentatious lives at the expense of the poor masses. Sale of custodian land, putting up mighty buildings in the cities, sending their wards to better schools abroad, and opening of fat bank accounts both at home and abroad are instances of misuse of the African resource to the sad advantage of the privileged few. Some African ruler, in the name of tradition, force women and young teenagers into marriage. Other traditional rulers are known crooks.
There is potential in our traditional systems that have stood the test time. Africans should realize the capability in their culture and promote it in the midst of rampaging globalization. In addition,
there is need for an environment that will ensure economic growth.
Training the people on ethical values
Ethics is a set of moral principles or values. It entails following laid down rules and standards in a society. Ethics will counter those who are perpetually interested in making Africans say or do whatever it takes to achieve non-African goals. Youths should be challenged to embrace, adopt and adapt themselves to the uniqueness of African ethical values, so as to be in line and thus in tune with communal order.
Development of Traditional Science and Technology
Science and technology play vital roles in utilizing indigenous minds to harness local endowments, both natural and artificial. A lot of resources in Africa remain un-harnessed, making it the richest continent in the world. The great traditional earthenware in potteries, cloth-weaving, gold- and iron-smitheries, and the various preservative methods of our foods could be revisited if the necessary training and facilitation of such natural and acquired knowledge and skills were tapped to our advantage. Our traditional medical practices that emphasize more on prevention than cure could be of tremendous advantage in containing numerous diseases. Policy makers should churn out a framework that ensures that schools, from the basic to tertiary levels, carry along teaching/learning modern African science and technology.
Africa has survived under its time-tested communal system. Governments and traditional authorities should reclaim this spirit. People should be incorporated into decision-making. Traditional leaders should mobilize their communities to undertake development projects in their areas. Traditional leaders could easily be referred to as the engine of development to give meaning to the oft-said maxim that the private sector is the engine of growth. Being a chief is not only a matter of staying in the office and putting on regalia to celebrate festivals, but to seek business opportunities and investment both within and outside the country.
Political Courage and Good-will
Without a political leadership that is bold, courageous and willing to sacrifice political expediency for the sound economic and social development of its electorate, Africa will continue to wobble in the appendaged policy framework of the cold-north. The tremendous good-will of Africa’s people is often disappointed by political leadership. Can we easily remember leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela and others who sacrificed their personal lives and comfort for the sake of Mother Africa? Political leaders should have the goodwill and political courage to show-case what Africa can do for itself rather than what Africa can copy from the industrial world. After all, the Asian tigers looked inward, blended their cultural heritage with those imported from outside; and now, they are hailed by those who are telling us to forget our Africanness. This is unacceptable and suicidal.
By Daniel Akwasi Aforo
A student at the Africa Institute of Journalism and Communication,
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