Kumasi Workshop on Culture: A Good Start
Published on 7th August 2009
Fifty-two years on, the Kumasi workshop on culture and development planning for district planning officers not only revealed the shallowness of Ghana as a development ideal but also demonstrated lack of intellectual detail of project Ghana, the “Black Star of Africa.”
The Kumasi workshop also disclosed a nation that has discovered errors in its development philosophy and is now making amends towards its correction. As Y.K. Amoako will tell you, Africa (Botswana is an exception) is the only region in the world dominated by foreign development paradigms to the detriment of its rich cultural values and institutions.
African intellectuals such as George Ayittey (of “African solutions for African problems” fame), Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe have strongly argued for equilibrium between African sensibilities with the global prosperity ideals in Africa’s progress. On his recent trip to Ghana in July, US President Barack Obama said that African traditional values and institutions should be considered in the overall schemes.
Although the Kumasi workshop rode on the back of these growing thoughts, it sounded like a Western anthropologist teaching Ghanaian policy-makers what their own culture is at times. Still, at some point, it sounded more like textbook recitations than the practical nitty-gritty of the Ghanaian culture used by Ghanaians in their daily living. While all Ghanaians were born and socialized into their culture, some have a vague sense of it as a result of the eroding forces of globalization. Colonialism demeaned the Ghanaian/African culture, leaving African elites, as directors of progress, weak, confused, shallow and autistic in the face development challenges.
Although the Kumasi workshop and similar ventures nation-wide would help right this glitch, the higher harmonization of this trend rests with the new generation of Ghanaian elites as drivers of development, the National House of Chiefs as key custodians of culture, and the Ghana Civil Service as key radiator of national planning.
The Kumasi workshop should have brought in as part of trainers, those who deal with everyday practical cultural matters, the likes of Asantehene Osei Tutu 11, Agbogbomefia Torgbui Afede Asor XIV, and Okyehene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin.
How do you fathom this, you don’t understand me from within my values but you want to save me, you want to develop me. That’s the situation between the Ghana Civil Service and Ghanaians’ development process in relation to their traditional values and institutions.
Culture and development workshop for policy planners? That’s a superbly new proposal as Ghana wakes up from the slumber of its development process by projecting higher thinking and balances wheeled by its on-going democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedoms. Despite the acknowledgement by participants that the Ghanaian culture has failed to informed policy-making over the years, the Kumasi workshop was more about the positive aspects of the Ghanaian culture, failing to discuss the inhibiting aspects of the culture that have blocked progress for long, long time.
President John Atta Mills, in line with current thinking, has told Ghanaians to extricate themselves from aspects of their culture that impede progress. The Kumasi workshop should have worked around Atta Mills’ advise and discussed some negative parts of culture that have made the Ghanaian less progressive over the years – the pull him/her down syndrome, the big man syndrome, witchcraft as responsible for misfortune, extreme paternalism, excessive reliance on juju-marabou mediums, strange and erroneous believes emanating from the culture, human sacrifices, among others.
The Kumasi workshop is however a welcome start as Africa increasingly discovers itself as a development project from within its traditional values and institutions in relation to the global prosperity principles.