Africa will develop after getting rid of colonial remnants


ONE scholar once opined that African scholars are great at analysing problems on the continent. He was referring to the continent’s academics. He further argued that African academics’ analysis end at problem identification and do not offer solutions. He concluded by positing that this is one of the reasons the continent’s academics are great at explaining the history of the continent and what went wrong but when it comes to solutions, African governments pay millions of dollars to Western consultants to develop their economic policies.

While this is a fair assessment of the situation in Africa to some extent, it needs to be understood within the context of the colonial project to establish a profound baseline that can help in proffering solutions.

Colonialism was not a one-season event that could be overcome by a one-off solution. It was a comprehensive, holistic, and very long-term project of socialisation designed to achieve several objectives at different phases of our time. Colonialism continues today though it is safer than decades ago.

The first phase of colonialism was to invade and conquer and acquire resources that would be used to prop up the colonisers’ economies. This first phase was characterised by what came to be known recently as shock and awe (technically known as rapid dominance) — a strategy based on the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyse the colonies’ perception of the battlefield and destroy their will to fight. It was characterised by brutal force.

The second phase used coercive and persuasive force to enslave colonised societies. After they were dispossessed of their means of production, the only way the colonised could survive was to trade their labour to the colonisers for a wage. You could call it ‘starve to enslave’. As they say, if you cannot beat them, join them. Harsh as these phases were, they did not have lingering, lasting and damaging effects as the third phase. Africa is what it is today because of the third phase.

The third phase was colonial socialisation — a process by which colonised societies were domesticated and reconfigured by being forced to internalise and adore the ways of life, norms and ideologies of the colonisers. The process encompassed the use of coercion, learning and teaching and this is how the adoption of colonial social and cultural assimilation was attained. Scholars link socialisation to developmental theory and that human beings need social experiences to learn a culture and to survive.

Socialisation essentially represents the whole process of learning and unlearning throughout the life course and is a central influence on the behaviour, beliefs and actions of societies. Their rights and dignity were lost and stolen at this stage.

The current definition of colonisation centres around the first two phases by limiting the definition to the process of establishing foreign control over target territories or people for control over the management of resources of a colony. It does not go beyond the negative implications of colonial socialisation and how that has impeded what we now know as weaker societies from developing, including those that are the most natural resource endowed on the face of the planet. The reason for this is simple. It makes it easy to blame Africans for not taking responsibility for their own development.

The real impact of colonialism lies in three factors. First, it tempers with the mindset by creating a deficit of confidence and creating a people who can no longer think or decide on their own without the approval or endorsement of the colonial system. The colonised African mindset aspires to be European in one way or another and this includes those who purport to liberate Africans. For this dependent mindset, the European lifestyle is the prototype.

The second factor is that the colonial system has imposed knowledge frames that have blinkered the African mindset and created a hunger for it such that Africans have an insatiable desire to conquer the European knowledge plains. Because the mind idolises European knowledge, Africa wants to know more of what Europeans know instead of investing in knowing what they need to know to address their problems. This is why today wealthy Africans invest in the acquisition of knowledge from what they believe are the best universities, instead of investing in knowledge generation to address local problems.

That is also why our good academics are not solution oriented.

The third factor is the establishment of cultural systems that have entangled Africans beyond escape. A cultural system is the interaction of different elements in culture, and it is known for establishing an order that cannot be challenged. It defines how things ought to be done as well as the hierarchy of things. What are we talking about here? Religion, trade, education, politics, law, justice, economics, culture and others.

The inequalities Africa is experiencing today are because of these factors. A tempered mindset that has lost its local identity and assimilated a foreign-manufactured persona that submits to a colonial system; a mindset which feeds from the jars of foreign prescribed knowledge and a person that thinks they are trapped in a system simply because they are loyal to the same system.

  • Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.


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