The Invisible Hand of the Family in the Underdevelopment of Africa Societies: An African Perspective
University of the Witwatersrand
The main thrust of the argument in this paper is that underdevelopment of African countries lies with the differences between the Eurocentric and African values. As Eurocentric values informs the development paradigm and planning models in African societies, the models of development have become conformist depriving African societies of self-reliance and self-determinism. The result has been dependence and underdevelopment of African societies through exploitation on the basis of cultural deprivation. Therefore, the dependence and underdevelopment of African societies is a function of the marginalisation and undermining of African values to an extent that underdevelopment of the African societies becomes a function of capital penetration and affluence through unfavourable division of labour, trade and exchange systems that are informed by world dominating values which are inimical to African values.
For a long time African studies have sought to identify the causes of underdevelopment of the continent and the third world in general such that the whole intellectual quest has become a cliche. However, as the crisis of underdevelopment deepens the exercise for intelligible knowledge about this melancholy has been far from waning. This article explores the contrast of family value systems of both Eurocentric and African societies in an attempt to offer an explanation about the genesis of African underdevelopment. The central argument in this paper is that eurocentric values informs the theory and practice of development models in less developed countries and thus, its values in economic, social, political domains have coercively undermined the development of those societies.
The basis of this argument stems from the fundamental differences between western and African family values. Whereas the former is atomic, individualistic, modernised and compatible with capitalist objectivised ideals, the latter is trustee, communalistic and traditional akin to socialised ideals. The modern is associated with complexity, heterogeneity, differentiation, secularisation and technological advancement whereas the traditional is linked with underdevelopment, the primitive, simple, homogeneous, undifferentiated and supernatural influence. The Western family also has materialistic, scientific and secular values whereas the African values are communal, socialistic, sacred and magical.
Oosthuizen (1987, p107) sees the western value system as pervious to the suffocating, dehumanising effects of the rationalistic, modern, techno-scientific approach and in contrast the African value system is resistant, traditional and conservative. Winifred Hoernle in Leistner (1968, p36) talks about a dual approach between the two. The former has a scientific approach and the latter a magical approach to the problem of control over natural and human environments." According to the former, modern technology and industrial life are based on results of modern natural science and functions because the observations and laws of natural science are objectively correct. On the other hand, for the traditional African society, the economic sphere is not something separate from family ties, structures of authority and homage to ancestors.
Attesting to this assertion is Wole Soyinka's critical work on drama, "Myth, Literature and the African world" (based on lectures delivered in Cambridge, 1973) where he challenges Western thinking stating: "Ythe difference which we are seeking to define between European and African drama as one of man's formal representation of experience is not simply a difference of style and form, nor is it confined to drama alone. It is representative of the essential differences between tow world-views, a difference between one culture whose very artifacts are evidence of a cohesive understanding of irreducible truths and another, whose creative impulses are directed by period dialecticsY"
Questions may arise about generalisation on western and African values and practices at this point. It probably suffice to indicate that the initial traditional standpoint of both African and Western values were similar among primitive societies. For instance, communal bonding was strong and the notion of the "nation as a family," the king and queen mother as father and mother of the nation respectively existed among other things. However, the shift from these notions has been drastic in the west than in African societies. Industrialisation, Urbanisation and technological advancement have removed numerous factors that nurtured the "bonding factor." From the industrialisation of the modern era (1500-1800) families started spending less time together as a unit. Husbands were stolen by the industry and women were custodians of the house.
In the 20th century, even women began to be absorbed by the workplace creating a space between family members. The introduction of formal schooling further created more space between the parents and children. In the process, the social forces (i.e. religion, social rules, mores, etc) of bonding family members were undermined. Eventually, industrialisation became a way of life and the order of progress. Similarly, urbanisation further weekened the social strings in the family. Strong sentiments for individualism started gaining popularity and became more meaningful to the economic life than social life of the urban environment. Materialism and individualism eventually became synonymous with urban life, a life that economises.
Collorary, the advancement of technology created so much faith on itself that religious and moral beliefs were downplayed by rational scientism. The various technological innovations have taken the world through various epochs of boom and bust. Each epoch has influenced the way people think, do and die. On the overall, industrialisation, urbanisation and technological advancement became strongly engraved values of western societies as determinants of development, progress and success.
The use of rationality, positivism and scientific truth became acceptable paradigm for development and became the dominant criteria for factual validity. These elements have evolved in the western background as part of its value system was proven to be effective, dynamic and productive. This became a great source of power against whosoever had less of these elements. Among western nation the struggle for power was not became a struggle for industrialisation, urbanisation and technological advancement through acquisition of resources. For instance, From the victorian period up to the golden age, there was a deluge of advancement in these areas in search for power among countries. The arms race and the world wars contested and won depending on the level of advancement.
At domestic family level, the power relations have been determined by the accessibility of a family member to these elements. In the 1960s industrialisation has advanced so much that most women got rid of the traditional domestic roles by joining the industry. Feminism started taking shape consolidating and becoming more rampant in the 1970s persisting in various forms up to the moment asserting the equal status of women. Similarly, the improvement in technology, rapid increase in industrialisation and urbanisation have increase access for children to information and technology and they exercise more power than before. The powers are recognised and defined in terms of western values. Most African countries and other third world countries are in the processed of redefining power relations in the family according to Euro-centric values.
Henceforth, colonialisation took place because of the "faith in science." The discovery of new Americas, the adventurous voyages, numerous innovations and explorations were driven by the power of techonology, industrial scientism and rational development (which was expressed in urbanisation as an organic process). Scientific rationality, positivism and objectivity have become standard ideals of measuring efficacy. Therefore, traditional values of African societies were undermined because they used religious rationality, subjective meaning and communal beliefs as measurements for factual validity. This means that the initial interaction of western values with indigenous conservative (communal) values in African societies was a clear uneven balance of power. The terms of values on which development was initiated was at the disadvantage/disfavour of African countries.
Indeed, after thirty years of independence, "millions of Africa's are threatened by famine, real incomes are continuing to decline, foreign debt is increasing at an alarming rate and socio-political institutions are disintegrating." (Maritz: 1987, p120). Exploitation, racism, poverty, Aids, war, inhumanity, sexism and alienation are some of the urgent problems of the moment that dramatise the shameful conditions of human underdevelopment in African families. The desolate outlook is depicted in Edem Kodjo's belief that, "the situation is all the more disturbing in that we can not say when our misery will end and there is no glimmer of hope in the immediate future. The end of the crisis is not yet in sight." (Leistner: 1981, p133).
Landell-Mills (1992, p543) observes that 'this sad state of affairs is not simply a consequence of an unfortunate coincidence of collapsing commodity prices and mismanagement, but rather because of a fundamental flaw in the prevailing development paradigms. As planning became widely accepted as a profession, mainstream planning became more sharply divorced from ethical theory. The cleavage reflected an erroneous shared principle that each discipline was technical in nature and would eschew value questions" (Harper and Stein: 1992, p105). As a result, "socio-political institutions such as the family have been taken for granted, ignored, shunted aside and expected to do the nation's patching and mending without reward or attention" (Waller:1951, p3).
Development agents, donors and western-educated African leaders unquestioningly or misguidedly bow to the stereotype of using planning models which are informed by western value systems such that the models of development planning were exogenous, often applied out of context and not compatible with the beliefs, attitudes and practices of the African people. In the process, the values of the African societies embedded in the family institution as a basic institution were neglected and sidelined by the overarching importance of exogenous models in development planning. Landell-Mills (1992 p543) argues, "Little attention was given to the possible enhanced role of indigenous institutions. The leaders led and the people were supposed to follow." In that way, development planning became a tool of insinuating and imposing western values of development in a linear, top-down fashion.
The compounding effect was brought about by "the ideology of scientism, the notion that all thought, action and knowledge can be reduced to the objective of scientific paradigm" (Habermas in Harper and Stein:1992, p109) and by the popularity of planning systems which are alienated from human-oriented development e.g physical and economic planning. In addition, urbanisation, technology and industrialisation further suppressed the developmental potential of the African family, despite it being the fundamental institution of development and the seat of social, economic and political values.
The belief in the use of empirical observations and the normative laws of natural science as the basis for objective truths also added impetus for the scientific approach to surpass the indigenous approach which was entangled with mystical and transcendental explanations of reality. Through education and higher learning, language, literature, art, architecture, mass media and bureaucratic practices, the African family value system was further marginalised and in some cases destroyed by the application of western values particularly by conquering the minds of the African leaders.
For instance, Talcott Parsons's (1964) notion of structural functionalism of the family went a long way in informing modernist development planning in as far as fulfilling universal functionality of the family as a prerequisite for the survival of human societies (Ries (1965). Sunede and Bozalek (1995, p64) ascertain that "familism as expressed in Western society assumes that the family is the natural unit of social organisation and implicitly posits the heterosexual, nuclear family as the desired norm." Therefore, the western nuclear family is taken as the norm in much of the world due to the hegemony of western imperialism which continues to form the basis of many social policies. Thus, the insinuation of western traditional family values into development planning models run into the flaw of assuming the universality of the nuclear family. And so, development planning in African societies has an irrevocable "conformist approach" because it operates under the presumption of western family values.
Since development itself is a culturally loaded term, ready to succumb to ethnocentrism Athe policies and economic system of society adapt to culture and culture to theme (Klitgaard,1992 p77). Therefore, the presentation of human development as a uni-linear change from simple primitive societies to complex modern communities was a diffusionist effort to submerge African societies into a dependency on Eurocentric values.
In that way, the modernist project worked as an agent of passing through western family values into African societies. Consequently, the diffusion of western values became associated with development. There was an equation of development with westernisation and adoption of western value systems became synonymous with development. Thus, under the unfailing control of the world dominating values, the African society has been transformed helplessly from the traditional communal humane (ubuntu) values by colonial and neo-colonial forces, now global governments (International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organisation) into adoption of global dominating Eurocentric values.
The Western view of family presented a novelty of enlightnement imbued with rationality, ideal, stability, superiosrty and democracy. In all aspects of life the western view of family was a carrier of modernist enlightenment, a symbol of success. This laid a demand and provided a model of a "mimicry agenda" among African societies. This "agenda" en-route the developing world in a process of "doing like Master." However, neither master fully understood the complex values of the servant nor did the "servant" absolutely captured the supposedly absolute objective verities of western values.
However, the nuclear form of family does not reflect the true conditions of African societies. Beyond the assumptions of objective behaviour at all times, there are major differences between the two. For instance, Whereas, the western family is atomic, individualistic and monogamous, most African families in the Southern African region (Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Xhosa, Ndebele, Shona, etc) were extended, trustee and polygamous. Although the notion of an extended family exist in the western society, it is perceived differently in the African context. Whilst an extended family is perceived in terms of including the grandparents and grandchildren and close persons of kin at the domestic level in the western context, the extended family in this region goes further to include those who are dead (ancestors) and those who are conceived.
For example, African societies speak and share food with the dead through ritual cults. The un-born are taken care of by giving the bearer drinks so that the baby grows well to show that they are part of the family. Mbiti (1975, p85) indicates, rituals are performed by the local medicine man or diviner, who also performs the purification ceremony for those yet to be born. Among the Swazis, the death of King Sobhuza II made every Swazi to cut hair to moan the King. Also, the death of any member of a family requires all people in an area to refrain from work for a day or more up until the person is buried (depending on status of the deceased).
Beyond this, the idea of an extended family is not confined within the "walls of the house" as the case may be in the western sense. It goes beyond the walls of the house to encompasses the domestic, chiefdom and kingdom levels. It is a tier system rather than being a unitary system. For example, development in Swazi society is engineered by the national family structure which has the King as the father and Queen as the mother of the nation.
In addition, the concept of children is defined differently in African societies highlighting the way in which this concept is socially constructed. Whilst a child in the western society categorically falls below a certain age i.e. eighteen years, the status of being a child takes a lifetime in most African societies. For example, in Swaziland, the child status manifests itself in various ways within the social hierarchy of the nation. At kingdom a level the King is the father and the Queen is the mother of the nation, at chiefdom level, the Chief is the father and his senior wife or mother is the mother of the subjects. At domestic level, every parent is a father or mother of every child in the country. A similar situation exists among the Zulus, Pedi and Baganda of Uganda.
Most African families have numerous indigenous and traditional structures which are central to the family and in the development of African societies i.e. Kings, Chiefs, Traditional Healers, land managers, etc. However, these structures have been left out in development planning and sidelined and/or patronised in project implementation. Usually, development is imposed upon them because they are understood and associated with being un-progressive, conservative, primitive, obstructionist and even non-existent. For example, Swaziland has a permeating traditional ruling system that is controlled by structures such as the King, Queen, more than 200 chiefs, deputies (tindvuna), runners (Bagijimi) or messengers and Land managers (Imisumphe).
The operations of these structures are not rationalised in blueprint in terms of identifying responsibilities, rights and privileges. The vast knowledge of what they do exist in oral tradition and it is often not given explicit relative positioning of their legal status against modern structures. Conflicts, confusion and complication emanating from the difference between the modern and traditional can not be overemphasised in this regard.
Traditional healers (tinyanga, tangoma, tayoni); traditional institutions of celebrating and rituals: Incwala, Umhlanga, Lusekwane; marriage (lobola, Umtsimba, bayeni, kuteka); kukhonta (procedures of acquiring land in Chief's area); kuhlehla (tribute free labour) are not clearly defined in terms of legislature and planning terms of reference. Most of these activities are "informal" and remain petrified in what appears to be a mystery of traditional values. They have never enjoyed equitable recognition in blueprint and are undermined in the mainline frameworks of planning, legislature and educational system.
Perhaps, the most ignored aspect of the African family in general is that it is not merely a social entity, but it also includes the environment and resources where the people live. Places give identity and a sense of belonging because the environmental is acculturated by people's icons, idioms and ideologies. The integrity of peoplehood with environmentalhood expresses a special unity between the people and the environment. For instance, an occurrence of a storm which destroys crops or livestock would be followed by stay away from work to 'fast' or sympathise with the storm stricken environment. In the local language it is known as kuzila (among Swazis), a similar term that is used to pay tribute to a dead member of a family.
Furthermore, polygamy is among the issues that are underscored by western family value system among African societies. This is reflected in the provision of maintenance benefits, access to loans, credit, insurance and medical schemes. Most of these schemes recognise only civil marriage certificates, civil adoption certificates, and chauvinist patterns and interpretations of various forms are not hard to find in these schems. This is compounded by the fact that the legal status of civil and customary marriages remain unequal (albeit recent recognition of customary marriage in some countries).
The process of formalising customary marriage is not yet formalised with the result that a majority of people married by customary rites do not have marriage certificates and their "invisible" certificates deter them from getting loans, inheritance and claim rights. As a result, the access of women in polygamous families to sources of investment, financial security and their human rights in general are grossly affected. In Swaziland, loans, credit, medical scheme, insurance do not accommodate all women in polygamous families in a husband's scheme despite the overwhelming preponderance of polygamous families because they can only accommodate one wife.
Whilst changes are taking place in general towards multiculturalism and recognition of traditionally obscured values, subtle attitudes and a hangover on Eurocentric interpretations lives on with us up to this day. For example, certificates, application forms, passports forms, demand name of one wife (singular) because of the universal assumption of a nuclear family. Nonetheless, the assumption of a universal nuclear family has also come under attack in the western world where the nuclear family has disappeared and new forms of family have emerged such as single parent families and gay families. For example, in Britain it is estimated that only two per cent of the population live in nuclear families (Fernades, 1993, p29).
Now, it is increasingly becoming clear that value-free planning is impossible where choices between divergent objectives and interests cannot be resolved by any technical means in an ever changing societal environment. These realities may not be an ideal for an ever changing society but for those who are part of it, it might be practical to accomodate them.
These processes are not divorced from the social, psychological and cultural realities that shape the specific patterns of production, consumption, investment and commercial exchange, etc. It forms the foundation for the marginalisation of the African value system which in turn created conditions of dependence and underdevelopment. As such, the satellite position of the third world occurs not as a result of economic tyranny of the first world but essentially stems from the tyranny of socio-cultural family value system of the world dominating values. The marginalisation of the third world occurs through the displacement of its people's value system and incorporation of developing countries into the world economic systems is secondary to its incorporation into the world dominating value system. Therefore, dependence is not a fundamental function of economic domination but it is essentially caused by cultural domination of one set of values by another.
This leads to the conclusion that prior to dependence articulated by the Latin American dependency schools of thought, was undermining of values in order to create conditions conducive to underdevelopment. Cultural dependence is a precondition and a cause for underdevelopment of one society by another. If one society manages to capture and captivate the attitudes, beliefs and practices of another the "object" society is bound to be dependent because their goals, visions and priorities are externally defined and the development models, production methods, exchange processes and consumption patterns are commissioned by external values. Economic dependence is a result of cultural dependence and underdevelopment evolves out of a history of cultural deprivation and/or marginilisation.
Therefore, the gateway for capitalism and socialism into African societies is through the infiltration of Eurocentric values. The success and failure of development of either capitalism or socialism depends on the level to which the eurocentric values are compatible with local values and the extent to which the penetration command it influence. Both capitalism and socialism accentuate their effects in a society that has been devalued by eurocentrism. For instance, the macro-success of capitalism in Western Europe occurred on the basis of the fact that they were operating on conducive grounds of western value system which was compatible with its eurocentric modes of production i.e. individualism and materialism. In South East Asia, the success of the East Asian Miracle, culminated from the contextualisation of western values onto the indigenous value system. The development of Japan which offers a model and lessons for most of these countries was inextricably bound with Japanese values.
In Russia, capitalism frustrated the attempt to impose socialism on a individualistic and materialistic society and capitalism has been a failure in Africa because development in Africa was introduced on the basis of a western value system which was inimical to African values. Socialism strived for survival in Russia, up until its collapsed countries such as China, Cuba and North Korea have been successful because they have blended it onto their cultures.
However, in Africa and the rest of the third world, as capitalist values got introduced, it accentuated economic classes, spatial imbalances and economic disorders the already existed in the traditional societies. The classes, gaps and disorders (injustices) among African people were not necessarily a creation of capitalist infiltration because it already existed but in a sustainable mode of relationship. However, they were social structures that had to do with the traditional social space of organisation. Capitalism accentuated these classes by disrupting the socio-cultural securities which were safeguarding against economic displacement and gave it an economic dimension. As Ahmad (1996, p14) in Monthly Review argues, "the logic of capital is to destroy the integrity of all use values and to impose exchange values upon all productions of value. Which means then that the cultural logic of capitalism is to produce a uniform culture of pure consumption, pure commodity fetishism....Capitalism is never able to resolve the contradictions that it produces. But I do think that the logical tendency of capitalism is toward subsumption of all cultural value under commodity fetishism."
For Rodney (1972, p10) "capitalism has proved incapable of transcending fundamental weaknesses such as underutilization of productive capacity, the persistence of a permanent sector of unemployed, and periodic economic crisis related to the concept of 'market' - which is concerned with people's ability to pay rather than their need for white racism, the tremendous waste associated with advertising and the irrationality of incredible poverty in the midst of wealth and wastage even inside the biggest capitalist economies, such as that of the United States of America. Above all, capitalism has intensified its own political contradictions in trying to subjugate nations and continents outside of Europe, so that workers and peasants in every part of the globe have become self-conscious and are determined to take their own hands."
Recently, a link between structural adjustment (operating under the auspices of the eurocentric global governments-World Bank, International Monetary Fund) and rising ethnic tensions in Africa has been noted. However, this does not imply SAPs is the cause but there is no doubt that SAPs have acted as catalysts by far and important exacerbators. In most cases, the conditions of reduced socio-economic resources and opportunities created by debt and adjustment have tended to intensify inter-group struggles and sharpened the divide between the "haves" and "have-nots." Superimposed upon pre-adjustment structures of inequalities this has exacerbated situations of conflict. For instance, when SAPs were introduced in Nigeria soon after General Ibraham Babangida came into power in 1985 in a coup, the London Financial Times saw the crisis as >IMF induced.
During the time, Nigeria went through some of its worst political, social, civil-military and intra-military discords, crises and conflicts. These included the Vasta coup plot of December 1985, and the subsequent executions; the acute tensions generated by the imbroglio over Nigeria's secretly arranged membership to the Organisation of Islamic Council (OIC); the bloody religious riots of March 1987 in Kafanchan, Kaduna state; worker's strikes and market women's demonstrations; intermittent revolts in the rural areas; the nation-wide university students' uprisings of 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1990; the violent Orka counter-military coup of April 1990: and agitations and protests by various associations of professional bodies, including doctors, lawyers and academics.
It is not only in Nigeria that the introduction of SAPs have been greeted with strikes, riots and demonstrations. The experiences of country after country, from Nigeria through Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal, to Sudan, Zaire to Zimbabwe and Zambia have followed similar patterns. Numerous authors have highlighted this phenomenon (Bangura, 1986; Gibbon et al., 1992; Herbst, 1990). They have shown in various strengths of arguments that Africa has plunged into economic crisis through the structural adjustment. To many, structural adjustment is synonymous with harsh conditions of exploitation, disintegration of humane values, corruption and corrosion of moral values because experience shows that it has left the continent in the shards of terror, trouble and turmoil.
Since the early 1980s, there has been the extension of the capitalist franchise into various countries descending with economic austerities supervised by the world governments through an unwavering well entrenched western value system which supersede any sense of human morality. Consequently, official and formal jobs are becoming more scarce due to adoption of capital intensive methods and increases in speculative investment among other things. Informal and unofficial means of gaining economic support are increasingly becoming the norm. Prostitution, homosexuality, pimping, crime, child labour and environmental scourge are some of the vices that mark social and moral decay among African societies. In particular, crime, poverty and child abuse and various forms of other abuses have risen up to inexplicable proportions.
As the global market celebrates the rootless and ruthless profiteering that eschew civic connectedness and national sacrifices as old-fashioned virtues, the valuable African family customary values (communality, kinship, etc) which checked against such vices have been uprooted by the epitome of the capitalist franchise in the entrapped western value system. To a great extent, the dislocation of African values has created a miscontruction of African societies since the embracement of capitalism and/or socialism is synonymous with anti-Africanisation as far as values are concerned. For instance, the celebration of postmodern social landscape which emphasises fragmentation, diversity and plurality within the auspices of the global governments has made prostitution, homosexuality and other similar issues to be miscalculated democracies of Africa today.
Prostitution and homosexuality albeit recognised in society have never been approved nor legalised in African societies and their legalising serves nothing other than the faceless eurocentric value of materialism. Much as political division, strife, competition, economic inequality and social miseries i.e. tenage pregnancy, morality and alcohol abuse are condemned in the African continent, prostitution and homosexuality have been disapproved as unfortunate incidences in society. Their existence have never warranted legalisation but instead called for strategies for reformation.
Within this tide of new democratisation, there is an emergence of the postmodern arguments which come together with notions of multiculturalism emphasising variety, diversity and tolerance particularly in universities and national democracies i.e. rainbowism in South Africa. However, multiculturalism as a concept is one that is full of rhetoric because it is celebrated within an already defined and entrenched value system which do not take into account the peculiarities of minorities. Given the African social structure that is bequeathed by intellectual imperialism, cultural alienation and exploitation, the position of African societies can not bid well in the multicultural contest because it has an already compromised background and its uniqueness can not be collapsed into generalities of multiculturalism.
As Ahmad (1996, p15) in Monthly Review notes, "this kind of relativism tends toward the obliteration of actual, historically given relations of power in favour of a levelled out notion of multiplicity and difference in which, everyone becomes sooner or later, everyones else's 'other' and by the same token a member of a minority and even of a 'subalten' group."
Associated with the notions of multiculturalism is the idea of a "world culture' that is tied to the process of globalisation which in practical terms is a euphemia for western culture. The intellectual argument for a world culture finds its support from the civil faith in universal rights, rational scientism and the general western defined principles of democracy but this has to a greater extent promoted the universal franchise of western values. This understanding get away with any normative sense of cultural value whereby judgements of right and wrong can be made in each culture according to a discrete ethnic sets of values. In its approach there is supposedly non-antagonistic society, differences are trivialised and the legitimising of traditional values (superstructure) of those in authority (europeans) is realised giving a false contentment to those who are traditional subordinate societies or condititioned adherents.
Similarly, socialism has been an ideological pathway for eurocentric values, albeit its historical reaction to the ruins of capitalism through revolutionary activities which at best managed to restore political power to African leaders. It also instil non-African values to the African elite leaving the rest of society enduring democratic rhetorics of the African struggle. For instance, leftist schools of thought in the form of socialism, communism, neo-marxism which emanate from the euro-centric enclave emerged as a counterforce to the ruins of capitalism. The likes of African socialism, Humanism, pan-Africanism etc are some of the variant attempts by African leaders to bring about development in the African continent. The first breed include: Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, Zambia=s Kaunda and Tanzania's Julius Nyerere and the new generation of the 1970s and 1980s which are: Mengustu Haile Miriam of Ethiopia, Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, Samora Machel and Edward do Santos of Angola.
At best, these leaders have developed their own classes, spatial imbalances and social disorders at the expense of the African values. Some of the these leaders confused Africa's strong sense of community with socialism, even communism. The whole crew of leaders managed to survive for decades in self-enrichment through capitalist investment, by capitalising on the mass illiteracy of their citizens. Now, all of them have dropped or are dropping from their power as their countries helplessly fall into capitalist or socialist created abyss of poverty. By and large their primus operandum has been defined by westen attitudes, practices, beliefs and habits beyond the African outlook which was mentained only to serve as facets for window dressing.
Therefore, although the leftist thinkers theoretically negates capitalism by principle, its values are not different. Both are objectivised and believe in rational scientism. The difference is in ideological orientation because neither capitalism nor socialism seeks to recognise African values. The ideological means of attaining dominance are different but the ends are the same. Wherever they have been implemented they have sought to uproot the indigenous values in self-justification of their ideals. Much as capitalism created islands of riches in the African aristocracy in a sea of poverty among its communal people, the left created its own pseudo-equalitarian class which drew support from the communal pool with a heavy penalty of wars, exploitation, genocide, massacre. As such, underdevelopment in Africa can partially be explained in terms of competition between capitalism and socialism. The struggle to balance the two is what has constituted suffering and bitterness in most of the African societies.
Since the infiltration of western settlers into African societies and the ingestion of colonial capital through a modernist approach there has been a practically translation into the destruction and uprooting of African family value system through either capitalist or socialist interests. The modernisation paradigm became a means for both capitalist and socialist ideologies to penetrate, colonise and underdevelop the African societies. In due respect, the frames of reference, language, idiom and culture began to be dictated by western values. Collorary, the advancement of the processes of urbanisation, industrialisation and technological advancement further transformed African attitudes, beliefs and practices became tools of alienating and incorporating African societies into the world dominating value system. As a result, the organisation of space, art, architecture and literature in the African land lost the instinctive and perceptive values of African societies. Instead, it got an artificial expression of African values which falsified the needs, processes and procedures of development which are divorced from the African sense of values, perceptions and frames of reference.
Development was disembodied, dehumanised, "lipless," lacking an African mouthpiece for its value expression and the symbolic flesh for cultural coaching. For instance, Mazrui, (1992, p129) ascertains that, "the indigenous languages lost the opportunity to the "scientificated" in such a way that they are capable of becoming languages of technology; so that diffusion and popularisation of scientific concepts in the wider population became a great aid towards creating a scientific culture." The dependence on foreign values transformed the symbolic imagery of African societies completely and immediately into a state of dependence. The African people lost vision, focus and version of Africanness such that they lost its capacity to interpret and appropriate external knowledge to their context. Also, the political clout behind scientific support and rational validity added impetus to the authenticity of western value systems and simultaneously drowned the African family value system into the history of oblivion.
Indeed, many African countries have spent millions getting the "right" expertise from the right people to come and sort African problems. They have come and explained the problems in the most Oxford and Yale of terms, but the solutions have frustrated their architects. Instead of solving the problems, they have worsened them and created new ones and left. Djibril Diallo spokesman of the United Nations Office for Emergency Operations in Africa in Timberlake (1985) puts it more bluntly, "Africa's problem - Africa's biggest problem- is too many people going around the continent with solutions to problems they don't understand. Many of these solutions are half-baked. But this is not to put all the blame on the North. Some Africans don=t understand African problems."
In that way, African societies at large got transformed radically, perceptively and socially onto the rearside of the development as a people who will always follow rather than lead. The situation is reflected by Adedeji Adebanjo's statement that Africans have become mimic people who mimic other societies and their lifestyles, use borrowed phrases, jargons and terminologies which have no real meaning to them and merely becloud the issues" (Leistner: 1981, p134). In Susan George's words, "It mimics without understanding and copies without controlling. Lacking roots in the local culture or environment, it quickly drops and withers if not sustained by transfusions of foreign capital, technology and ideas. It goes for growth usually without asking growth for what? For whom?..."
The result has been a multiplicity of uncoordinated development activities which tended to weaken the overall coherence among societies. The litany of failures that set rows disappointment in Africa include: Volta Dam in Ghana, Aswan Dam in Egypt, Rural Development in Swaziland (Sallinger-McBride: 1986), Betterment Planning in South Africa, Centralisation in Rhodesia, Villigisation in Tanzania and lately Zimbabwe (Robins: 1994, p9). Joining the spate of failures are the crisis ridden programmes that come in the variant versions of Economic reforms, Economic restructuring and Structural Adjustment Programmes.
The third world is subjected to culturally determined, characteristically Euro-centric values, vision, goals and priorities. The incorporation into the world dominating value system buttresses the alienation of the African societies from their value system. Such alienation deprives the third world of foresight, understanding and local interpretation of phenomena. Eventually, the translation, transformation and transplants of western goods and services, technology, expertise and models through capitalist and socialist modes of production at best condemns, confuses and contains the third world in a dependency position. Attempts to undo this situation strives in vain to cope with the changes and conditions of euro-centric determinism.
Under the determined control of both western and eastern ideological values in developing planning, there is a flow of capital and socio-cultural values in two different directions. Whereas capital accumulation flows from the periphery to the core, socio-cultural values flow from the core to the periphery. Therefore, although capital development does not result in a trickle down onto the periphery, socio-cultural values of the core diffuse down to the periphery at a rapid rate. However, the trickle down of the socio-cultural values has a marginalising effect to the periphery in terms of socio-cultural expediency and its capacity for self-determination and self-reliance.
Recently, the competition between the main left and the right ideologies have eventually tipped the scale against the left and the right spreads its wings to cover the whole world. As the environment increasingly become capitalist through a regulated deregulation system of global governance that is controlled by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation, the capitalist franchise extends and consolidates the Eurocentric enclave that is engulfing the rest of the world nations. This increases the urge to seek better means of survival in a world that is increasingly becoming competitive, volatile, uncertain and inhuman. As a result, there is a breakdown in values of African political solidarity, economic support and interdependency, social security among various societies in the continent. Regional integration presents capitalist form of defence as a result of the intense conditions of competition in the global economy. If at all it benefits any country, those benefits accrues for the elite created and nurtured by the europeans.
After a lapse of almost four decades since independence, the question still remains when are Africa's problems coming to an end? The recent World Bank report raises some hopes about Africa's economic crisis, however, the satisfactory mark is out of sight. Leister (1983, p170) applauded the effort made by the London magazine, South in 1983 in which it launched a series of articles under the broad heading "Decolonising the Mind." By changing the mindset, Aa better comprehension of the forces and circumstances shaping the perceptions, wishes and resolutions of people can greatly contribute towards meaningful developmental endeavour. This was an effort in the right direction, but at best a partial answer.
According to Adedeji Adebajo (1981, p134): Africa needs a development process that 'puts the individual in the very centre of the development effort'; process that is both human and humane; that does not alienate man from his society and culture; that increases self-confidence and self-reliance; and sustains the needs of the society in an equitable and just manner. Above all, he demands a break with the past and the evolution of truly indigenous patterns of development and lifestyles as the conditio sine qua non for the attainment of higher levels of living. These efforts, at best have tended to be rhetorical and sentimental. It is time to do away with tokenism. Academia need to move away from abstract grand theorising to more empirically-based and lower order theory by engaging in the praxis of bringing about tangible results.
Perhaps, the way out of this crisis is delinking from the wholesale values of the world dominating value nations through an Africanisation process revolution. There is a great need to engage in a meaningful research to dig into the archives of our history for those values that foster humane, sustainable and equitable development. Restoration of our values would bring back a sense of brotherhood, humanity and prosperity which the African desperately need. However, this process is not automatic, it requires well informed campaigns to resist and reverse the Eurocentric construction of our values.
There is a need for protection of African culture from abuse by capitalist and socialist ideals which has dehumanised African societies to a large extent. The African environment need to be made more human, habitable and less threatening. A humanisation of the environment should be undertaken through Cultural adjustment programmes (CAPs) NOT Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs). Etounga Maguelle Daniel: in Kitgaared (1992 p81) writes "Africa needs a "programme of cultural adjustment" carried out by Africans that would transform their "mentality" to one more consistent with values in the rest of the world." Since African underdevelopment is expressed through attitudes, beliefs and practices, cultural adjustment programmes should involve a rigorous defensive attack on these values through publication, workshop, symposia and infiltration of media with Africanness. This does not mean going back to the past, old customs and rituals so that Africa finds itself living in an African museum. It means that Africa needs to develop a global approach to its problems which seem to be now imposed by global governments.
Africa should africanise globaly: introducing its vocabulary, habits, interests and visions into the globescape.The continents' dominant languages such as Zulu, Sotho, Swahili, Yoruba and Hausa should be actively promoted by being taught and publicised so that Africaness enters the global fibre of values that are circulating/dominating the world. This will open the a wider choice of values at the same time affirm and expose the Africanness which is forever burried in the mystery of the history of African people due to the glamour of western logic, habits and materialistic interests. Beyond this, a regional integrated approach is necessary to support the African continent in the global bid to neutralise the cunning effects of the global franchise of euro-centric values.
In addition to supporting languages, state intervention should never dispense its role from supporting the development of social superstructure and infrastructure that enhance the development of African values. Developing institutions supportive to family life i.e. life time employment, creches, hospitals, management by consensus, national rituals and community institutions should be encouraged. Major investment should be directed into African literature, art, architecture and forklore should be supported. Film, radio, television should capture the glamour the romance, pride, science and technology of African society in order to increase choice and enhance exposure which is limited and marginalised by european values. Tribal and clanship may exist and will always exist however, a profuse campaign and presentations of our various values with all its variations and tensions will go a long way in informing and representing the black continent which has been marginalised for a long time. In time, the divisions and tensions between tribes and clans will be buried into the unison campaigns of peoplehood, brotherhood and Africanness in the globescape. An African age of enlightment may emerge (African renaisance)
There is no doubt that countries that have tended to be successful laid their economic success e.g. "miracles of the Pacific tigers" on an appropriate contextualised value system. They used the best of their cultural values whilst extracting from european cultural values. A reconstruction of values starting from the family should take place drawing attention to trust, communality, mutual responsibility, accountability and answerability. The family should not be something bound within the walls but should go further to engulf national familism in order to instil national patriotism, work ethic and responsibility. However, these values should be dampened within a democratic enclave that is tailor-made by its own people through an informed participatory process.
A humane and sustainable environment can only be realised in a society that has a set of values that sees the person as an end not a means and also one that sees 'a person as one of us that deserves the same' since Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (a person is a person through other persons -I am because we are). Therefore, there is a need to develop a communitarian culture in order to built a sense of trust, work ethic, responsibility, accountability and answerability which are so crucially needed in order to be humanable among not only African societies but also in the corporate world where it is desperately needed. These values should groom and capacitate our societies not only in their social life but in their businesses and various enterprises in order to make them successful global competitors.
Hari Srinivas - email@example.com
Return to the Scholarly Paper Series
Return to the Virtual Library on Microcredit