The con­ti­nent ur­gently needs to change its mind­set

Mail & Guardian - - Comment & Analysis - Kholek­ile Mnisi

Thought lead­er­ship is im­por­tant for a re­newed Africa be­cause it can en­able the con­ti­nent to re­alise a new so­cioe­co­nomic de­vel­op­ment par­a­digm.

In his writ­ings, Steve Biko re­it­er­ated the need for Africans to tackle the chal­lenge of “men­tal slav­ery”. A colonised mind­set has pro­duced a colonised ap­proach to de­vel­op­ment.

But thought lead­er­ship alone is not enough for a re­newed con­ti­nen­tal out­look. To cre­ate a pos­i­tive and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment out­look, which ad­dresses the eco­nomic and so­cial co­nun­drums, is at the core of this process. Ev­ery­one needs to be in­volved in un­learn­ing, re­learn­ing, un­think­ing and re­think­ing the op­pres­sive and dom­i­nant thought philoso­phies and pat­terns of their in­ter­ac­tions with colo­nial forces over the past five cen­turies.

In the pur­suit of thought lead­er­ship for Africa’s re­newal, the con­ti­nent has an op­por­tu­nity and re­spon­si­bil­ity to tap into the un­mined wealth of Africa’s for­mer lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ences — the Mfe­cane, the Great Trek, the youth, new trends such as African fem­i­nism and digi­ti­sa­tion. We need lead­ers who will eval­u­ate lega­cies such as de­pen­dency on for­eign aid and for­eign in­ter­ven­tions.

Post-colo­nial African lead­ers have lacked the ca­pac­ity and vi­sion to pro­cure and trust the role of thought lead­er­ship for a re­newed Africa. Our lead­ers have for­feited their pow­ers to the Global North and be­trayed the hopes and as­pi­ra­tions of the very peo­ple who elected them into power.

Pan-African­ist so­lu­tions cen­tred on the African de­vel­op­ment prob­lem need to be crafted, im­ple­mented, mon­i­tored and re-eval­u­ated. PanAfrican­ism has the op­por­tu­nity to de­colonise the colonised African mind. But it is im­por­tant to em­brace the emerg­ing trends to see an Africa vested in the in­ter­ests of its peo­ple, yet also re­main glob­ally rel­e­vant. For fur­ther anal­y­sis, the roles of cul­ture, lan­guage and gen­der need to be looked at as part of a new Africa.

Africa has no ho­mo­gene­ity in terms of its devel­op­men­tal ap­proaches. De­vel­op­ment on the con­ti­nent is ar­guably Western­cen­tric. The trends of most de­vel­op­ment in Africa are in­con­sis­tent. Africa needs uniquely African so­lu­tions.

Thought lead­er­ship, thought lib­er­a­tion and crit­i­cal con­scious­ness should be the main ingredients and an­chor for eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

Var­i­ous devel­op­men­tal ap­proaches (from the Global North and West) have been im­ple­mented for Africa’s case. But Africa needs more than just so­lu­tions from else­where.

Ev­i­dent to this day, from a devel­op­men­tal per­spec­tive, colo­nial­ism has mis­led African his­tory, marginalised African cre­ativ­ity and done away with na­tive crit­i­cal think­ing ap­proaches. The ef­fects of this have been a con­ti­nen­tal psy­chol­ogy dom­i­nated by an in­fe­rior ex­pres­sion of African and pan-African­ist ideas, a con­sum­ing and not pro­duc­ing con­ti­nent and an un­lib­er­ated thought class of African po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

Lead­er­ship and not just eco­nomic mod­els should shape the fu­ture of where the con­ti­nent is head­ing. African cit­i­zens need to be vested in what makes us African and to tap into in­dige­nous sys­tems to re­alise the pos­si­bil­i­ties of how they can move the con­ti­nent for­wards.

Africa, its peo­ple and its re­sources are ca­pa­ble enough to change the cur­rent shape of how we are viewed. It is in the in­ter­est of the con­ti­nent’s fu­ture for lead­ers to be ac­count­able and have a keen in­ter­est in the role that peo­ple in ru­ral and ur­ban set­tings can play along­side in­sti­tu­tions such as the African Union and marginalised groups such as women and the youth.

Many lead­ers have ar­gued that Africa is ca­pa­ble and aligned to achiev­ing goals such as those set out in the AU’s Agenda 2063. But Africa doesn’t need Agenda 2063; Africa needs Agenda Now!

Sig­nif­i­cantly though, not all un­der­de­vel­op­ment is the result of Western doc­trines. Africans still feel in­fe­rior to, in­ad­e­quate and less in­tel­lec­tu­ally ca­pa­ble than their white coun­ter­parts. Con­se­quently, this leads to a Euro­cen­tric way of think­ing and act­ing, and cul­tural di­lu­tion.

Do­ing away with tra­di­tional ap­proaches and em­brac­ing “mod­ern ways” is not the core de­vel­op­ment so­lu­tion for Africa. In­stead, mod­ern ways are lim­it­ing and con­tra­dic­tory.

Moderni­sa­tion­cen­tric ap­proaches to de­vel­op­ment have pro­pelled a sig­nif­i­cant gap be­tween the haves and the have-nots in the con­ti­nent.

Western­cen­tric ap­proaches to de­vel­op­ment over­look the building blocks that form the core traits and char­ac­ter­is­tics of the lesser de­vel­oped na­tions, such as cul­tural be­liefs and re­li­gion.

An ex­am­ple is the Western­cen­tric pre­scrip­tion of the lin­ear stages of growth. In some African states, the in­jec­tion of cap­i­tal cou­pled with gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion has meant an in­crease in cor­rup­tion and un­fair dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth and in­come.

Struc­tures such as so­cial wel­fare, the po­lit­i­cal eman­ci­pa­tion of cit­i­zens, in­creased lit­er­acy rates and gen­der par­ity and agency, to name a few, should be seen as building blocks that need to be present to foster and fast-track de­vel­op­ment.

Africa needs more than po­lit­i­cal sys­tems to guide its fu­ture. Strate­gic lead­er­ship is needed as the core building block to­wards eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and so­cial eman­ci­pa­tion.

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