By far, one of my favourite African intellectuals, the outstanding Professor Mda, Bra Zakes, spoke to me through one of his lectures. During one of the Mohlomi annual Lectures, held in Morija every year, Mr Mda spoke on the malaise of Africa, its dependence on foreign grants for its survival, while it maybe widely publicised that Africa is a poor continent, a question I would like to ask is, “When did Kemet become so poor, and also, is it really poor, or just merely mismanaged.”
I, however, cannot deviate from the fact that out of twenty of the poorest nations in the world, only two are not from Africa, Haiti and Nepal.., this is a fact, however, the state of African affairs has been greatly affected by colonialism and apartheid.
In his widely acclaimed account of the factors and influences that still keep us in chains and enslaved, Frans Farnon, in the “Wretched of the Earth” states that during the colonial period, the “mother country” via its officials, would hand pick, individuals amongst us “lowly” negroes, kafirs, Bantus etc to study in the colonisers backward.
Once one of our own was there, he/she would be trained in the norms and customs of the “mother country” thus “whitewashing” the individual to identify more with the ways of his coloniser than those of his own native origin.
When this took place, those that were trained in “western” culture and educated likewise would be given a higher status and class than the rest of the native populations and would thus form a “black elite.”
This black elite would undermine and segregate those that they perceived to be of a lower class, which was the majority, and they would actively disregard their wants and needs as they would regard them as backward and lowly.
This continues to this day, especially in a country like “Basotuland” where the elite, in our case, officials, seem to have a huge pool of resources, while the rest of the country has an over 50% poverty rate.
So what does this mean, well in essence, you could say that there is an elite class present in most African nations whose sole purpose is to promote the elevation and safeguard the interests of former colonial powers while at the same time undermining the interests of the poor majority…the rich get richer, and the poor…?
Is there a solution? Maybe. But what I know for sure is that we can start just as easily from our backwards, start with whatever we have.., Bra Zakes insists that it would be improper to villainize history and past colonial powers, if ourselves, as the formerly oppressed can not do anything about our present circumstances.
In essence, now that we have been conscientized about our past it is only fitting that we fix our present to make way for a better tomorrow. For instance, China and India were once in the same boat as Africa, as highly oppressed nations, however, by taking full control and stock of their own resources, they were able to turn the tide to become the Asian powerhouses they have become today.
I believe that there is a bright future for all of us as Africans, because the loss of hope is the loss of life. I however cannot be as confident as to say how this paradigm shift can come about, I do know though, that for one in order for us to reclaim our continent, we as the African youth need to reclaim our identity.
Not in the sense of moving backward, but in a way that fuses our essence in today’s ever changing world, I would like to use Nigeria’s popular sound, AfroBeat, a music genre that uses the Pidgin slang, and Africa’s love for drums and dance, a genre that is still heavily relevant in today’s world.
Also I believe that in order for us to move forward, each one of us will have to decide what it means to be African to them, far from using outdated notions and at times myths that serve to demonize us and paint us with a bad brush, for instance, for me, I do not believe that my Africa is patriarchal and oppressive of women. Because we as today’s youth have the power to change that narrative.
I however believe that to be identified as an African, one would have to appeal to a spirit of Ubuntu/Both, unity and love for one’s neighbour. I choose to make that my African narrative. I have a firm belief that once we can consolidate aspects of our culture that serve us and do away with those that destroy us, we can become a powerful continent.
As I write this, I think of the Japanese and Swedish, whose well known love for discipline and efficiency has led them to become powerhouses in world economics. The Swiss are so known for their preservation of timeliness that they produce world renowned time pieces.
It would also not serve us to repress our own progress by referring to old, archaic and no longer useful cultural references which no longer serve us and still claim them as part of our culture, “African time” is one such outdated principle.., while they may have been such a notion in the past it no longer serves us today, and thus to refer to it as an African ideology, only serves to demean our efforts for progress.
As Bra Zakes (Mda) might say, culture is never stagnant, because it is the way people react to their environment in order for it to better suit their needs. A changing environment, a shift in cultural perspectives and ideals.
Once we can identify the cultural beliefs that serve us, we can move forward, for the Chinese I believe this was ingrained as their respect for hard work and productivity, hence the market is flooded with Chinese products.
A profound knowledge of self, the cultural beliefs that we share, our mineral resources, our TRUE history, our advantages and disadvantages will serve to consolidate our collective power.