African Politics and Policy

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Culture and greater Africa

Not once has African Politics and Policy discussed the ways for Africa to overcome the underdevelopment. However, to a surprise of the readers, solution is neither in accepting Western ideas, plans of economic regeneration of Africa presented by various international organizations, nor in commodity-based industrialization.

All Africa is need is not to waste time on creating novel approaches and not to work with strategies extraneous to the continent, but rather using advice of pan-African scholar, Prof. Ali Mazrui, who was cited many times when the experience of Ghana, Gambia or Rwanda was discussed by their leadership, “to follow a policy of indigenization”.  In other words, to give culture more space to work – go beyond its ‘popular’ understanding as “mass-produced consumer and leisure goods”, but go deeper to its anthropological meaning as a source of knowledge and practices.

Rather than introducing new and exotic concepts, political, economic or social, it is much better to deep into state’s own history and culture in order to find the practices time-proved and intrinsic for its society that could create a platform of understanding and acceptance and fill the ideas with meaning and sense. Turn to culture could lead not only to more attractiveness for the tourists, but also provide a basis for political and economic changes and boost the development of cultural and creative industries: “in the cultures … people have shown the capacity to be creative, to be active in seeking alternative solutions to various problems, and to adapt to imported ideas and objects” (Toyin Falola, The Power Of African Cultures, 2008, p.2).

For example, Protais Musoni (http://allafrica.com/stories/201608010025.html) discusses how Rwandan society can benefit from Umaganuru festival, institutionalized in the 9th century and popularized by King Ruganzu II Ndoli during the 16th century. The author takes into account not only the celebration’s entertaining aspect. The Harvest festival traditionally brings all people together and through dances and songs introduces such practices and ideas of belonging (identity: we are together, it is a result of our labour), planning (open discussion: to assess the result of this year harvest and to plan how to improve the next one), sharing (how to distribute the harvest among the people). Thus, the festival favours the strengthening of civil society and social integration, ‘opens window’ for discussions and solutions.

In other words, it would be much more fruitful and productive, instead of alienating itself from its own older traditions and blaming culture as causa prima of the continent’s backwardness, obstacle to modernization, to turn to its culture, the mine of wisdom and information, and think how to adapt the knowledge generations have for the benefit of greater Africa. And it is important to note, that culture has already been taken seriously in Agenda 2063, where Aspiration 5 aims to promote and strength African cultural identity, values and ethics and open the era of African cultural renaissance.

Kristina Bekenova

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