1. We still depend on our colonisers to be our liberators
Following “independence”, one would have thought that we’d have all used the opportunity of our colonisers’ departure to indigenise our cultures and societies. However, what we found was that their departure left the continent psychologically traumatised, economically destabilised and struggling to catch up with the industrialisation of societies that other parts of the world were already benefiting from on our account. On paper, Africa was ‘free’, but with the colonial powers still in the picture dictating behind the scenes we soon realised that they never intended to let Africa go and the assassination of pan African leaders from 1961-1973 was a clear message to anybody else who wanted to resist this.
With the resulting political instability and our countries heavily assimilated with the metropolis ways of our former colonial rulers, many Africans began to develop a dependence mentality rather than steering towards an African Renaissance as we began to believe that we couldn’t help ourselves. We began to believe that with so much interruption in our developmental history, we needed them to ‘guide us’ as they did when they led us into ‘civilization’.
However, whether it was due to fear or ignorance or a combination of both, our resistance to, or procrastinated belief in, the African Renaissance meant we created a culture where we came to rely on foreign aid rather than maximising the productivity and efficiency of our economies with the proceeds from our natural wealth. Billions of Dollars in development aid with more being campaigned for, yet nothing to show for it. In some countries it even made things worse (read Dambiso Moyo’s Dead Aid, 2010). On top of which the more we believed we couldn’t do without aid from the west, the more our belief blinded us to the billions more headed in the other direction.
It’s not the white man, it’s not the government and it’s not witchcraft
While the dependency on development aid always varied from country to country, and in general has fallen significantly in the last few years as it is supplanted by private capital flows and revenues from the domestic private sector, why are any of our economies still dependent on aid at all? Why do we still depend on handouts from those who used our hands to labour for their own benefit? Why is Nigeria – the African Giant – still receiving development assistance? Why is South Africa, which will continue to receive aid from the UK until 2015? As Mugabe told the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August, “Our continued over-reliance on the goodwill of our co-operation partners compromises our ownership of SADC.” The same applies to the rest of the continent. Dependency on aid keeps us as slaves and if Africa cannot be autonomous, it will never be free from colonialism.
2. We seldom teach our young people their history
‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’ (which means raising a child is the responsibility of society) is probably one of the most well known African proverbs. The current education system in Africa predominantly emanates from Western ideologies and accounts of history or schools of thought from European colonialism. Meanwhile young Africans in the Diaspora (in the UK, for instance) are taught history as far back as the Greco-Roman tradition and Judeo-Christian tradition. They learn about the contributions of Asian and Arab civilisations, but the history of Africa, if taught at all, will begin with slavery or post-colonial Africa. So whose responsibility is it to teach them our history?
When our children are fed European versions of history but taught very little about their own heritage and history, it creates and perpetuates an inferiority complex and awakens a desire to embrace other cultures at the expense of their own.
For young Africans in the Diaspora, one month a year in the form of black history month is not enough for them to understand or appreciate their history and culture.
3. We leave everything in God’s hands
For many Africans, religion is the solution for everything that is wrong with Africa. So we turn to the supernatural to help us reclaim our lands, because we feel inadequate to do so in the natural realm when in fact religion played a pivotal role in Africa’s oppression, and continues to play a role in the maintenance of the subjugation of African people (Steve Biko, I Write What I Like, 1996), as we crowd inside religious institutions seeking solace whilst outside is still plagued with poverty and extortion amongst other things. Many have become complacent and accept the current state of their country as ‘God’s will’.
My question is why is this: Has our passive resistance towards our indigenous beliefs, traditions and spirituality made it harder for us to completely grasp the concept of a ‘free Africa’ because the so called world religion puts us at the mercy of something that was brought to us by those who subdued and dominated us? What happened to the warriors and kings?
It’s only a matter of time before we are so blinded and distracted by religion that we will no longer have any claim on Africa.
4. We seldom understand each other’s cultures
Ignorance is bliss, but only until you know better. Africa is brimming with a rich mix of cultures and traditions that are yet to be discovered by Africans themselves. Many Africans – especially those in the Diaspora – still fail to understand each other’s cultures as they don’t often mix with Africans from other cultures, be that in church or in the local communities, and have consequently recreated mini versions of their countries in their country of abode. This opens the door to prejudices, myths and erroneous views that foster pointless competition between Africans.
Why is Nigeria – the African Giant – still receiving development assistance? Why is South Africa?
Some of the Africans in the Diaspora bought the “American Dream” vision before moving to the “land of milk and honey”, only to find on arrival that we were lactose-intolerant. However, due to the lack of communication between Africans from different cultures, we were unable to share these experiences with other Africans and our progress abroad became much slower in comparison to, say, our Asian counterparts. Cultural cohesion amongst Africans in the Diaspora is what will strengthen the social organization of the African community and enable us move forward as one while cooperating with those back home to build a united Africa. The African Union does not have to consist only of those who sit at the round table on our behalf; it could also be a metaphor for us all embracing, learning about and cooperating with one another across all cultural boundaries.
5. We’ve bought into the international media’s idea of Africa
The revolution will not be televised, but it will be tweeted and on Facebook. Despite our best intentions, the image that many people outside of Africa have of it is still that of a skeletal child with a swollen stomach being fed biscuits by a white aid worker.
For years the Western controlled media gave us a perception of the Africa that they wanted us to see: poor, helpless, in constant conflict with one another and in need of outside intervention. The media also caused much division as they sensationalised the notions invented by the West such as the Belgian creation of the ‘hutus’ and ‘tutsis’ in Rwanda which led to the 1994 genocide. TV documentaries such as the BBC’s Branded a Witch don’t help either when they present this as a depiction of Africa. The current reporting on the outbreak of Ebola has also shown just how far the media can distort our perception of Africa. When a white person is shown in Africa, it is always to do with offering some aid or solution to the ‘African problem’; the white man saving Africa.
Fortunately, the rise of social media has meant that we can show the world the beautiful continent we know it to be. However, years of this negativity have created an image even in the minds of Africans themselves. I’ve spoken to some, especially those born in the Diaspora, who refuse to go back home because of what they’ve seen in the media. They find it primitive, backwards and unstable when in fact most of the continent is peaceful, and many of our economies are booming. It is our responsibility to change the face of Africa in the media and influence the portrayal of our own people.
Africa can only be changed in the ways we desire by Africans, and if we all share a passion for our continent, then we need to change our thought patterns on the above, because there is no excuse for being enemies of our own progress.