Feature: Tribalism, ethnic hostility slow down Africa’s growth

Tribalism, ethnic hostility slow down Africa’s growth

TRIBALISM is a pain in Africa's neck because it has stymied several positive decisions that benefit the continent. Africans are viewed as murderers of fellow Africans, dehumanising Africans, aiding and abetting against Africa, and antagonising Africa's values and morals due to their self-avowed tribal supremacy.

In fact, social and political marginalisation, continuous neglect, a lack of security, inadequate administration, and bad state-citizen interactions are the key issues in many African ethnic wars.

Competition and the idea of a shared threat frequently serve as the fuel for these negative characteristics of tribalism. They encourage fear, anxiety, and prejudice, which all increase our susceptibility to conflict, false information, and propaganda.

In today's world, tribalism can take many different shapes. Cultural standards that are the result of social pressure and collective tribal life may lead tribe members to uphold their cultural commitments through unethical practices like favouritism and nepotism.

As seen by the deportation of Ugandans of Asian heritage from Uganda in 1972, xenophobic acts have long been rampant in post-independence Africa.

Since 2008, post-apartheid South Africa has been plagued by xenophobic attacks on Africans. The authorities did not frame the attacks as xenophobic in either case.

Xenophobia, and its effects on policies, practices, ideas, and attitudes, results in societies with fewer prospects for inclusive and sustainable human growth, jeopardising future generations' living conditions.

For many years, xenophobia, particularly against low-income African and South East Asian migrants and refugees, had been a staple of South African politics.  In 2008, for example, xenophobic violence killed over 60 individuals and forced at least 100 000 to flee their homes. Xenophobia is frequently clearly racialised, focusing on low-income Black migrants and refugees, as well as South African nationals accused of being “too black to be South African”.

The violence is frequently provoked or linked to discussions about a weakening economy and rising unemployment.

How does xenophobia affect South Africa's economy? This will depress potential employment development for low-skilled South Africans, who could gain from cross-border consumers, like tourists, who spend money on entertainment, lodging, and other baubles. It may also make it difficult for townships to capitalise on the same economic activity.

According to the UN Human Rights report news release dated July 15 2022, United Nations (UN) experts observed that prejudice against foreign people in South Africa has been institutionalised in both government policy and wider South African society. They claimed that this had resulted in infringement of the right to life and physical integrity, as well as the right to an acceptable level of living and the greatest achievable standard of health, as well as increased dangers of arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and refoulement.

The UN experts further cautioned that the continuous xenophobic mobilisation was bigger and deeper, and that it had become the key campaign tactic for several of the country's political parties.

“Senior government officials’ anti-migrant rhetoric has fanned the flames of violence, and government actors have failed to prevent further violence or hold perpetrators accountable,” the UN states.

Africa's people have lost the dignity of constructing their nations on their own indigenous values, institutions, and heritage. The contemporary African state was created by Europe, not Africa. At this late date, attempting to revert to ancestral identities and resources as the foundations for establishing the modern African nation would endanger the collapse of many countries. At the same time, ignoring ethnic reality would be like building on sand, which is a high-risk endeavour. Is it possible to consolidate the framework of the contemporary African state while recognising and maximising the utility of the component aspects of ethnicities, cultures, and self-determination aspirations?

Traditionally, African communities and even states were run by an intricate structure centered on the family, lineage, clan, tribe, and, eventually, a confederation of groups sharing ethnic, cultural, and linguistic features. These were the social, economic, and political organisations, as well as the intercommunal relations.

During the apartheid era in South Africa, the system generated the xenophobic mindsets seen today, in that the subjugation of black nationals during the apartheid government drove some to be closed-minded, mistrust foreigners, and stay wary of them.

Apartheid culture's restricted, segregated nature regulated where one should reside based on skin colour and created a society incapable of dealing with strangers.

The stress caused by this can be tremendous, and some claim that it might lead to xenophobia. A few African states have a high degree of uniformity or, at the very least, insignificant diversity. Botswana, for example, exemplifies exceptional cohesion, democracy, stability, and long-term progress.

Post-colonial Africa is caught between rediscovering its roots — its indigenous values, institutions, and experiences — and adopting the logic of the colonial state in the context of universalising modernity, which is predominantly based on Western experience. The resultant tensions are not readily resolved.

However, an eclectic approach that creates a framework in which ethnic groups can play a constructive role in the modern African state could greatly reduce friction, increase cooperation, and facilitate the process of nation building.

Tribalism, in my opinion, is far worse than or on par with racism. It is the one most serious flaw that Africans have yet to address. It is the reason Africa does not operate on meritocracy and must put up with incompetent leadership. And it is one of the main reasons the continent has yet to unite against anything — corruption, poverty, hardship, and so on.

African nation-building efforts and the desire for a united continent have slowed down due to several instances of conflict between African governments and even within some of them. 

Africans' slow nation-building is a result of their lack of cohesion in managing their affairs; as a result, it includes a variety of activities, events, and initiatives aimed at preserving and securing the existence of their individual entities rather than demonstrating cooperation in initiatives aimed at enhancing, preserving, and securing the African continents as a single, distinctive, and enduring attraction.

Tribal prejudice in the African landscape led to this act of security and protection for distinct African entities.

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