Despite colonialism having been abolished for almost 50 years, African leaders still blame it for the economic and political problems in their countries. Ruminating on the past and ignoring the present is viewed as nothing more than a psychological burden. There are no justifications for the immorality and crime of colonialism, and doing this is not a means to hide it.
Similar to this, it would be incorrect to suggest that colonial control in Africa brought civility and wealth to the region. However, postcolonial African leaders have the chance to go back in time and restore colonialism while establishing a decent level of living for all Africans. Moving the blame on the colonial past in the absence of such a fact is merely an effort to hide the failure to produce an appropriate governance structure and functional system.
Some scholars believe even if colonialism were to disappear, Western powers or former colonizers would continue to exert significant influence on the African economy and government.
To such an argument I would respond by asking “What is the point of “independence” if Africans cannot free themselves from Western dominance?” With similar reasoning, I am convinced that Africans, like everyone else, are human and capable of thinking, and that they can change their circumstances.
I am well aware of the economic and political advantages enjoyed by Western nations, as well as their manipulative practices through bilateral and multilateral institutions.
However, Africans’ future will be doomed unless their leaders devise collectively ways and means to reverse such an unjust advantage. It reminds me of my April 2017 assertions.
“Our collective commitment will be measured by our collective success, not by personal glory.” In other words, the current international political order can only be challenged collectively by African nations.
The preceding argument is strengthened and will be applicable if and only if Africans, first and foremost, do not dwell or live in the past. This means that an outward mindset that thinks outside the box is critical in changing reality.
The second step is to prioritize socioeconomic challenges in order to overcome political obstacles, and to complete all homework without procrastination. Third, it is critical to ensure that Africans have the internal processes and self-efficacy to address economic and political challenges. Otherwise, perpetual blaming of a third party indicates that Africa has ceded its intellectual capacity to foreign powers.
Criticism of oneself and evaluation of Africa’s development challenges necessitate critical thinking on the part of Africans. In most national, sub-regional, and continental arenas, postcolonial African leadership will bear the lion’s share of failures.
In light of the significance of empiricism, allow me to describe a situation that influenced how I view and perceive my worldview.
In the early 2000s, I was invited to visit Germany by one of its universities and the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE) to participate in a research study on the differences in muscle and skin density between races.
The research was extensive, but one aspect particularly piqued my interest. The researcher explains why Caucasians outperform Negroids in swimming while the latter exceled in athletics, particularly short and long-distance running, in this study.
The researcher emphasized that the body mass index (BMI) was used based on the physical structure of Caucasians but stated that he was unable to find important information on other races, specifically Africans.
The study’s implication is that we must investigate how the African mind is wired. The research provided a solid foundation and point of comparison for my ongoing studies, which culminated in two lessons.
The first was that duplicating policy frameworks and other areas does not significantly help any development initiative succeed. Second, even within Africa, we must thoroughly investigate the local context before conducting research. Even if a few details must be examined separately, this does not imply that all African problems are unique.
African leadership flaws manifest themselves in a variety of ways, some of which can be seen in our public hospitals, schools, and streets, among other places. Other social ills include unemployment, criminality, and household impoverishment.
The majority of Africans are currently not only impoverished, but also live below the poverty line. Corruption, poor management, and a lack of pragmatic socioeconomic and structural planning at the national level exacerbate these challenges.
There is no need to look any further to see these social disasters when the failure of leadership in Africa continues to hit home. Johannesburg’s central business district (CBD) has deteriorated from a world-class city to an uninhabitable slum. Public hospitals in Lagos, Nigeria, are woefully understaffed and underequipped. In Uganda, public schools have deteriorated, making learning difficult.
There are no adequate public restrooms in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which has a population of at least four million people. Accra, Ghana, is plagued by poor road conditions and traffic jams. This problem affects the vast majority of African countries, not just the ones mentioned above.
Given the prevalence of socioeconomic ills on the continent, African politicians’ behavior baffles me, particularly the manner in which Africans celebrate Independence Day, the military’s salute for official visits to African nations, and the narrative of an African man.
These ideas may appear insignificant, but they are critical for examining the trauma of colonialism, the use of time, and working to change damaging African myths.
How do African countries feel about celebrating Independence Day year after year? How would someone like to remember their past colonial enslavement in a celebratory spirit rather than burying it in history and moving on?
In contrast, the majority of African countries do not observe the African Day of Unification on May 25th as a national holiday. When African heads of state visit one another, the military parade and salute is the second most surprising drama in African leadership.
How do you honor your African leaders when they visit colonial-era sister countries? With this approach to the military salutes, what message or signals are you sending to the rest of the world?
The historical context of military parades and salutations demonstrates the might and strength of your military. In reality, the parades are an imitation of the colonial past or the way Europeans behaved centuries ago, rather than an expression of African culture.
However, unless it is a specific military memorial, Europeans no longer exercise it. Africans, on the other hand, are unable to break free from this time-wasting culture.
Every September, I attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York. None of the world’s leaders, including Africans, will receive an official welcome ceremony akin to Africa’s. They must either use the Embassy’s facilities or take a taxi with no time to waste.
Delegates from the head of state or the foreign ministry attend the summit, hold bilateral and multilateral talks, and return home in a similar fashion.
Whether we like it or not, this approach demonstrates civility. Part of the reason for African leaders’ military parade and extravaganza is that they have a lot of time and nothing urgent to do. There are numerous ways to express fraternity succinctly because simplicity denotes sophistication.
The other narrative that baffles me is how Africans are portrayed by outsiders.
I’ve unwillingly come to the conclusion that most non-Africans stereotype Africans as only being interested in “food, sex, and dance.” They implicitly want to give the impression that Africans are solely interested in food, sex, and dance.
These attributions underline that Africans do not have complex mental processes, but rather primitive ones. The assumption and reference points maintain that Africans are incapable of innovation and technical growth, and that they do not want to live high-quality lifestyles.
Even if there is some truth to it, I have to disagree with this viewpoint. However, Africans, including me, enjoy rhythmic tunes and dancing.
When it comes to sex, it is tough to judge because it is a personalized performance, holy, and I would not object to Africans receiving a higher grade. In any event, these claims are unsubstantiated by research and are instead based on assumptions, chance experiences, and adverse bias.
Without a doubt, the western political and economic systems are fundamentally designed to maximize their advantage. It is only natural that if Africans were given the opportunity to run the world economy, they would do the same.
There has never been an enduring empire that has lasted. Similarly, no empire is working to fail; rather, Africans are working for equal collaboration rather than working to bring down any empire.
In order for Africa to thrive, equitable partnership must disassociate itself from previous colonial undertones. It is impossible to form an equal relationship with a submissive mindset.
The second reason is that any association with past colonial masters, whether through clubs, “development,” or language and cultural preservation programs, should be assessed.
It offers a distinct viewpoint on the colonial endeavor, in my opinion.
It makes little difference how we refer to the Commonwealth after six decades of freedom; the colony remains impoverished, despite colonials enjoying a great level of living. Such an unmatched standard of living is deserving of the name “Common-shame,” if not worse.
To achieve a good quality of life across all social and economic groups and classes, I believe Africans must look inward. There is no “silver bullet” solution for this problem; instead, a holistic strategy is required and two key features must be highlighted.
First, the approach should be organic and based on indigenous knowledge systems; second, similar efforts are needed to change unfavorable perceptions about Africa. Knowing these concepts and adopting the proper mindset will assist Africans in overcoming hurdles and reaching their full potential.
Africa, wake up! Virtual colonization is real, and it is happening in our homes rather than at our front doors.
(Seife Tadelle Kidane (PhD) is a senior research fellow at the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for Pan African Thought and Conversation.)
Contributed by Seife Tadelle Kidane (PhD)