Defining development for Africa - This Is Africa  

BlackCredible Afrikan Registered

To begin to answer the question around democracy and development, we need to start within the context of Africa’s history and all the elements that have shaped the continent into what it has become today. And when we look at this, another question arises: who defines development? The concept of development as it has been universalised now is one deeply rooted in a Eurocentric world view.

It’s like a game of catch between a mistress and her dog. The dog will be focused on the competition, namely to get the bone that its mistress is about to throw. The dog’s mistress, on the other hand, who is the ‘bone thrower’, is not concerned about the competition. This is because she operates in a totally different sphere ˗ a sphere of power where the dog’s competition is not relevant to her reality. Because she throws the bone, she is not a part of the competition. She has a higher realm of operation and preoccupation. I use ‘higher’ because whereas the dog, whose only focus is to meet the standard its mistress has set for it by catching the bone, the mistress, on the other hand, is the one setting the standards.

My reflections on development and democracy are within this context. The concept of ‘development’ is a neocolonial tool and, as it has been universalised now, is one deeply rooted in a Eurocentric world view. Rooted in 19th-century evolutionism and 19th-century social technology (processes of Western change, not African change), development theory and its standards as defined today for Africa do not originate in Africa. Evolutionism is a Western concept that implies a certain process and succession of events that a society must go through to reach a certain stage of wellbeing; this stage of wellbeing is inherently decided by the lens of who defines it.

Thus, in Eurocentric development lingo, we have ‘developed’ and are ‘developing’ (essentially ‘Third World’, but someone thought to change this to ‘developing’ so as not to offend African sensibilities). Implicit in the descriptions of ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ is the notion that to reach the higher stage of ‘developed’, an African country must look, feel and act like a Western state. It assumes a singular Eurocentric discourse in the language of development, totally disregarding the reality that European processes of social change will not be the same as the processes of social change that have defined what Africa looks and feels like today.

In short, if the concept of development is defined from this Eurocentric view of the world, lensed in a European history and European evolution, Africa will never match up. This is because there is a crucial missing perspective: Africa’s. This continent’s social-change processes have not been factored in, recognised or respected in this universalised Eurocentric concept of development. In terms of this Eurocentric world view and its accompanying criteria, we would therefore be regarded as ‘developing’ countries, and would remain so for a long time.

Proof of this is evident in the young and fledgling democracies in Africa: Zimbabwe and its current cash crisis (among other crises), Nigeria and Ghana and their almost systemic state of corruption, South Sudan and its prism of violence. The list goes on. Why are these countries defined as ‘young’, though? This is because we start counting from a Western development calendar, where Ghana was only born 59 years ago and South Sudan is a mere six years old. What if we looked further than that? In fact, why do we consistently ignore a past further than that in a continent that housed the oldest civilisations of the world?

Worse in this conceptualisation of development is the tendency to regard Western development and democracy as the ‘ideal’. This ‘ideal’ stage of development, for instance in American democracy, is one that carries with it the heavy baggage of racism, which is part and parcel of the Eurocentric ideal of ‘developed’. Consider police brutality as well as racial stratification and its accompanying social, economic and political counterparts. And then, of course, there’s the current surge of ill-feeling against immigrants in Britain. I cannot fathom where Africa would have a place in this ‘ideal’ of democracy and development.

What are the African processes of social change that have been imperially ignored in this Eurocentric definition of development? Firstly, there’s the destruction of many African civilisations by Arab and European invasions. Empires such as the Kemet, the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire and many highbrow cultures in Africa operated on complex philosophies and social systems (Yoruba, Ibo, Ashanti, Masai) that were evidence of what are by today’s standards highly ‘developed.’ Many of these systems were at a point in time slapped with the tag ‘primitive’ in this Eurocentric concept of development.

Secondly, there are the systemic institutions of Arab and European occupation, colonialism and slavery, and the subsequent disruption of African processes of social change. Lastly, there’s the schizophrenic state of Africa that is ‘reeling’ from a past characterised in the last 1 000 years (if I may hastily measure) by systemic interference and disruption of African processes of social change.

This ‘ideal’ stage of development, for instance in American democracy, is one that carries with it the heavy baggage of racism.

If these factors were considered in a definition of and criteria for development, ‘development’ as defined today would look and sound very different. I would not argue for an inclusion of Africa’s historical processes of change in the current criteria for development. To do so would be a futile attempt at fitting square pegs into round holes.

Instead, I suggest that we reconstruct the language of development. We need to redefine development solely from an African perspective with an examination of the various African processes of social change and a study of African social systems. In doing so, we need to take into consideration the stages of disruption, studying its repetitive consequences across the continent. But we need to ensure we do not do it through the lens of the “coloniser’s model of the world”, as Aram Ziai put it.

Only from this lens of development would Africa be able to set its own standards and from there begin to effect the much-needed social change we all crave in our societies.

Sent from my SM-G935F using Abibitumi Kasa mobile app

Posted : 07/10/2016 3:23 am
Most BlackNificent Afrikan! Admin

BlackCellent and incisive analysis. No wonder the imbeciles, I mean, embassy didn't want to publish it. As you are well aware, they only have one goal and they try to quash that which runs counter to that objective. Please keep these original writings coming!!! :afrika:

Ma ku Mbôngi, ka matômbulawanga za ko. "The community's political institution does not borrow foreign dialects to discuss its political matters or to educate its' members" – Kikôngo proverb “The history of Africa will remain suspended in air and cannot be written correctly until African historians connect it with the history of Egypt [...] The African historian who evades the problem of Egypt is neither modest or objective, nor unruffled, he is ignorant, cowardly, and neurotic.” – Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality "African champions must break the chain that links African ideas to European ones and listen to the voice of the ancestors without European interpreters." – Jacob Carruthers, Mdw Ntr
Ọbádélé Kambon, PhD Email: Skype: obadele.kambon Paypal: Abibifahodie Family of Websites: | | | | | | | | |

Ọbádélé Kambon's Personal app for Android
Abibitumi Kasa Social Education Network App for Android
Abibitumi Chat App for Android
Abibitumi Chat App for iOS

Posted : 07/16/2016 3:08 am

Leave a reply

Preview 0 Revisions Saved