Sowing Seeds for the Future

Published on 9th February 2010

The last decade saw remarkable rise in thinking by Ghanaian elites about their progress.In the spirit of a promising African renaissance, the gradual but rapidly budding Ghanaian/African enlightenment movement seeks to use African traditional values for sustainable progress by employing their enabling parts for policy development and refining the inhibiting aspects.

Thucydides would say that the shadows of the coming African enlightenment was graced with George Ayittey of the “African solution for African problems” fame and the 2009 nominee of the US-based Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the world’s leading thinkers  "shaping the tenor of our time" and influencing the African rebirth. Still, as 2009 was about to end, Mensah Otabil, a prominent evangelist, blessed the selfless thinkers by stating that “a generational thinker is one who is able to sows seeds for the future.”  

If  Otabil’s “sow seeds for the future” is anything to go by, then today’s new generation of thinkers are reasoning that Nkrumah and associates’ nation-building architecture wasn’t done deeply enough from within Africa’s culture. African leaders should develop Africa from within African indigenous cultural values and institutions and the tenets of democracy. This doesn’t mean blind appropriation of African values, but using democracy, the rule of law and freedoms to enhance the enabling parts and refining the progress-resistant aspects of the culture. 

When George Benson, then Minister of Ghana’s Upper West Regional, noted that female genital mutilation, early marriages, widowhood rites, defilement, child trafficking and child labour continued to impede the development of children in the region and called on traditional rulers in the region to abolish all “obsolete cultures” that partly gave rise to these unconstructive practices, he was helping to open up the African culture for progress. 

The little town of Bongo, in Ghana’s Upper East region, rolled a noteworthy enlightenment dice for its progress when its district chief executive, Clement Abugri Tia, charged that there is “no scientific evidence” to support the primordial belief in witchcraft as the cause of death, accidents and other misfortunes that has seen the accusers terrorized, harassed, threatened, killed, banished or physically assaulted. Tia said witchcraft accusations will be met with “arrest and prosecution.” A new thinking by a new generation of elites convinced of undoing the progress-resistant aspects of the African culture!

Ghana’s Chief Justice, Mrs. Georgina Wood, has boldly taken on churches to give their members enough time to labour to contribute to Ghana’s progress, as most churches’ activities cover the working hours of the day. In Mrs. Wood, the relationship between the Ghanaian’s spirituality and progress is profoundly puzzling. It touches on Ghanaians’ propensity for doom-mongering, a cultural peccadillo that is impulsively rooted in the progress-resistant aspects of the Ghanaian culture.  

As Fukuyama and the German sociologist Max Weber explain, while Europe’s progress cannot be discussed without its positive spiritual origin, in Ghana it is the opposite, with churches openly stifling progress and creating perpetual anxiety by cleverly playing on Ghanaians’ traditional cosmology where evil spirits/demons battle the Supreme Being (God) (to cause misfortunes) that saturates the Ghanaians “social space of everyday life. 

It isn’t only the progress-resistant parts of the culture that have occupied the minds of the thinkers for the past decade; it is also how to appropriate the enabling aspects of the culture for progress via policy development as Botswana and other societies in Southeast Asia have effectively done.  

Due to long-running colonialism that created Ghana, the country’s development planning has been done from the ex-colonial, Western development paradigms as observed by Y.K. Amoako, the former chair of Economic Commission for Africa. The dilemma with PV Obeng ( chair of the newly constituted National Development Planning Commission) and the need for ground-breaking development planning cooked in Ghanaian traditional values was made clear when he gave a post-appointment interview with the Accra-based Joy FM. PV said his commission will espouse a “participatory approach in planning and in development and ensuring that all political stakeholders in national development process.” He was quickly taken to task for not mentioning the participation of Ghanaian cultural institutions and values such as the National House of Chiefs as part of his “participatory approach.” 

Whether described as the African Renaissance or African Enlightenment, it is a good epitaph for a decade where the new generation of thinkers was “able to sow seeds for the future…”

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