Excerpts from the Keynote Address. The 3rd Biennial Faculty of Arts International Conference, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, July 19, 2023
The global pandemic has taught the world vital lessons on the dynamism of progress and development and how it can successfully adjust to and react to challenges. When the pandemic first broke out, there were concerns as to what would be the fate of human existence, but alas, there was a successful navigation, and the world has carved another mode of living, a little departure from the normal; hence the new normal which symbolism of how the world has survived another major catastrophe. How the world reacted to the pandemic shows the importance of globalization and, at the same time, projects how Africa has been left behind in the scheme of global development planning. While Africa cannot be said to be the most affected, it was visible how it struggled to place itself on the pedestal of development and successfully wriggle out of the effects of the pandemic as other countries had. Until now, the continent has struggled to forge ahead and reposition itself on global affairs, especially as the pandemic has further compounded its myriad of problems.
Discourses on the development of Africa are not novel, as there have been prior discussions on it. At various conferences, African Intellectuals especially have consistently harped on the need for Africa to develop and liberate itself from the shackles of over-dependence on the West. Most of these calls and clamors fell on the deaf ears of African leaders. While it may be said that the theme of Africa’s development is symbolic of the various African organizations, not many efforts, have been placed to effect this. As it is commonly said, it is all talk and no action. However, the pandemic jolted the continent as to the need for massive development and overall civilization. It was realized that the need for Africa’s development is continuously dilly-dallied, then Africa should forget about being an independent continent.
It should be noted that the calls for Africa’s development are particularly hinged on the fact that it should be developed based on the available indigenous or cultural resources. Often, the common mistake in Africa’s development is the importation of what could be described as “Western ideologies of imagined progress.” African leaders think that adopting Western development planning initiatives would spiral into unrivaled growth and development of Africa, and in reality, the reverse has always been the case. It is pertinent to note that Western development ideologies have always failed in African societies, as some have proved nonfunctional in the African Climate. We have seen how, for instance, World Bank’s interventions have failed in African countries. If there’s anything this shows, Africa should toe the path of cultural development.
The global pandemic outbreak described the continent’s fate and position to the outside world, reiterating the theme of Africa’s indigenous development. It should be noted that the over-dependence of Africa on the West has made the attainment of indigenous or cultural development a dazzling mirage. African Intellectuals have harped on the indispensability of cultural development in the continent. Not only would cultural development resonate with the people, but it would also place Africa on the pedestal of unrivaled civilization. History is available so that we can learn from it. Available records show how pre-colonial African states attained global prominence by exploring their indigenous roots and traditions. Therefore, exploring cultural resources is the key to unlocking Africa’s potential. Toyin Falola remarked in his book The Power of African Cultures that development should toe the path of culture. Other African scholars also echoed this population.
We should also be conscious that Africa cannot attain cultural development without a disconnect in African consciousness and identity. It should be known that Africans would not need cultural development without these. The sense of African identity and consciousness is lost among the majority of Africans, the leaders, especially, which is why they see the need to always run to the West for help. Africans do not value what they have until they lose it, but we cannot keep building on foreign’s cultural development. The Europeans were the people who disrupted Africa’s indigenous development, and now, we run to them to develop our continent. Can Europe or the Europeans mean different things to Africa? Or have we just forgotten the history of colonialism and the growing threat of neo-colonialism? This happens because Africans lack clarity in their identities and consciousness, so there should be a recalibration of African identities and consciousness so they can develop culturally. One benefit of cultural or indigenous development that should be mentioned is that it resonates with Africans as they understand their progress and what it is all about. There is no confusion about the development paradigms. When progress affects society and the people, then it can be said that development has occurred.
Furthermore, Africa must embrace good governance, visibly absent during the pandemic. Africa seems to be blessed and cursed simultaneously; blessed in the sense that it is the home to a preponderance of natural resources and cursed in the sense that it is home to many kleptomaniacs. It should be noted that the continent cannot experience social transformation in the absence of good governance. Bad governance has been the major cog in the wheel of Africa’s progress, especially with the emergence of leaders who are only interested in public offices to pursue their interests at the expense of the masses. In Africa, governance has been an avenue to favor the few oligarchs at the expense of the masses. One should further include that good governance is the key to development.
For Africa to unlock its development, it must embrace good governance, especially post-Covid-19. African leaders need to learn from history so they don’t become victims. Leadership in African societies has always been geared toward social transformation. The people are the center of leadership, a fact that African leaders must acknowledge. Leaders are to ensure the creation of an egalitarian society, a society that is based upon the African philosophy of Ubuntu. However, governance in Africa does not resonate with the masses who elected their “trusted” representatives in government. African leaders are addicted to making promises and not delivering them, in what is known in Nigerian parlance as “promise-and-fail leaders.” The continent cannot aspire for development when good governance is absent.
African leaders must realize that they hold the key to rejuvenating the continent; it is their responsibility. They must similarly understand that ideologies for governance should be drawn from the repertoire of African leadership philosophies, and in that manner, they can drive the continent to progress. Also, government systems should be designed so that the masses enjoy the dividends of democracy. In other words, people-centric policies should be implemented to foster effective relationships between the state and the people. The absence of this relationship provokes the various internal strife that characterizes the continent. To lead, African leaders to understand the concept of followership. Having good and transformative governance in the continent is the surest recipe for cultural development.
One should add that both cultural development and good governance are the major parameters that would foster Africa’s independence. An independent Africa is needed to break off the Western hegemony. For the continent to be independent, it should be self-sufficient. This is achievable when there is an exploration of cultural resources. Africa cannot afford to depart from its culture if it dreams of achieving overall civilization. Through cultural exploration, Africa would harness development and find good governance. It would also successfully counter Western neo-colonial tendencies.
All in all, it should be foregrounded that Africa needs to place itself on progress to redefine its development post-Covid-19. This boils down to the fact that it needs to go the “indigenous way.” There is no other viable way Africa can advance its progress and prosperity except by looking inward for survival. Anything else brings nothing but an illusion. Also, Africa should learn from its past to address its current realities. The destiny of Africa lies in the hands of Africans, and there must be concerted efforts to catapult it to overall growth and development.