During my studies in the late 1960s, I appeared on a weekly African news program on the BBC’s “African Talking Point”.
One day, the producer, Chris Cuthbertson, asked me to prepare a review of Kwame Nkrumah’s new book titled Neo-Colonialism, The Last Stage of Imperialism. Although I cannot remember the details of what I told my listeners on the African continent, one point still comes to mind.
I emphasized that Nkrumah’s book was not for those who hoped to increase their income from coffee or cocoa by tapping into its wisdom. The book was full of philosophical platitudes that had nothing to do with our daily life.
After his overthrow as President of Ghana in February 1966, Nkrumah moved to Conakry, Guinea, where he engaged in deep intellectual reflection and wrote a number of books.
Nkrumah was not the first African philosophical leader; this merit goes to Léopold Sedar Senghor, who, after a stint as a member of the French National Assembly, became the first president of Senegal in 1960.
Senghor established “negritude” or dignity in the dark and African socialism as the cultural, political and economic ideologies of his government. Senghor with his West Indian friends had developed his philosophy of negritude in the 1930s.
Perhaps inspired by Nkrumah and Senghor, other post-independence African leaders presented their philosophies which were based on their concept of what they saw as African socialism. There was the Ujamaa of Nyerere, the African Brotherhood of Kaunda, the Common Man’s Charter of Obote and Kenya’s Sessional Paper # 5 which was withdrawn as soon as Parliament passed it.
African socialism viewed the state and the ruling party as the engines of their country’s development, which in fact led to one-party systems.
Unlike Senghor, most African leaders saw our cultures as an obstacle to their attempt to develop their country. They sought to erase our cultures which they saw as expressions of tribalism.
For example, the Ugandan Constitution of 1967 went so far as to prohibit the use of all cultural titles, which led to serious nonsense. For example, in Buganda it was unconstitutional to call a father of twins named Salongo or in Acholi to name a twin “Okello”.
The 1995 Constitution changed this by providing that “The State shall promote and preserve cultural values and practices which enhance the dignity and well-being of Ugandans”.
Such a culture is represented in our standards, languages, festivals, rituals, food and architecture. It gives us our identity which is a necessity for all human development and creates the fundamental building blocks of our personality as well as provides us with pathways to sociability.
According to an expert, there are three main paths to sociability, the first based on family and kinship, the second on voluntary associations and the third on the state. In Chinese, Italian, French and Korean societies, families play a central role in economic development, while in Germany voluntary associations play this role.
In family-based societies, we are told, “virtually all economic activity begins with family businesses, that is, businesses that are both owned and managed by families. The basic unit of social cohesion also serves as the basic unit of economic enterprise… .. ”
After 60 years of independent experimentation with African socialism, Africa has failed to lift its population out of poverty while using their socialization paths, the countries of the Far East have moved out of poverty. to the countries of the first world in 30 years.
Perhaps the time has come for us to pay more attention to our cultures in our development strategies.