Africa has had both indigenous and exotic cultural institutions for a long time. These have been developed a long time since the African started roaming the world or Africa became both an internal and external destination. The cultures are perceived to be important to, or traditionally valued among, its members for their own identity. From time immemorial these became fixtures and instantiations in form of: catering, ideology, entertainment, social-political organization, urbanization, rural development, poetry, cinema, sports, science, norms, fork-lore, sexism, gender roles, cuisine, music, literature, Art, nutrition, medicine, home-steading, agriculture, lifestyles, religion, relationships, education, agriculture, pastoralism, governance, war, peace-making, skills development and initiation rites.
This paper is an attempt to construct a story on role the “cultures” play in defining who an African can be and what it takes to improve on levels of development. In the paper I have deconstructed attributes that are negative. If Africans are able to distance themselves from these negative attributes, that is when they will be able to see themselves as contributors to the beauty enjoyed by many in the world.
General examples and themes have been drawn from Europe, Asia, Africa and America. The assumption is that an African will continue redefining her/himself using the primary cultural touchstone. But, at the same time will also embrace newer cultures wherever she/he may go . Be it among northern Europeans, southern Europeans, Arabs, Chinese, Native Americans, Asians, Africans from other cultures or Australia.
For there to be a cultural aspect, certain practices have to continue repeatedly. The repetition in turn brings about accumulated knowledge and wisdom. There must be those who pass on information and those who are receptive of this. The continued grooming, education, training in skills and dialogue sessions, knowledge and information is what creates what will be passed on to next generations. One can also say culture is a depository of skills and know how. There are technologies created. There has to be a big number of those who engage in this kind of techno-development.
Culture can be a fuel through which society is able to sense critical economic independence, nationalism, language, symbolism, identity and uniformity. Distance and time create identity. Identity in this case can be a level of material accumulation and the size of political institutions or standards. Africa has seemed to be left behind when others are moving their communities into sophisticated societies and well organized nation-states. There are some reasons brought forward to explain this. One has root in the way the partitioning of Africa was made. Africa became a testing ground of different European countries at a time when these European countries where competing with each other. This competition was passed on to the colonies. Unfortunately, the divisive structures have long since been stripped away in Europe but not in Africa. This has continued to be the bane of development in Africa. Africa has been lost between the tempest of embracing western styles and the calmness of some obsolete traditions. No one seems to be deciding on an African style. Yet, catering, entertainment, social-political organization, poetry, cinema, sports, fork-lore, cuisine, music, literature, Art, nutrition, African medicine, home-steading, agriculture, lifestyles and social media, education, nature and the wild, peace-making, skills development and initiation rites are a starting point in Africa. These can even be pop-commercialized. After all such activities like: car washing, soccer, American football, Halloween, Christmas, Ramadhan, fast foods’ preparation to name but a few have taken on industrial proportion in the Western world.
The other is the change in commerce after the 12th Century. These two scenarios changed the perception about Africa among the then powerful Europeans, Arabs and Asians. Africa was looked upon as a source of raw -materials that enriched all other nations. A period of extraction begun and by the late 60's, all Africa had to show were gaping mines, depleted soils, modernization that looked like pin point patch work over large tracts with minimal infrastructure. Once one left the cities, one was not assured of piped water! It is still the case to-date. The African who was once upon a time was the originator of civilization, was assigned lower positions. At one extreme were those who are developed at the other were the primitive. The tendency to stereotype and ridicule certain communities by those that are more materially endowed has now become the culture we all need to undo. Our coming here is one way to break ourselves from chains of lethargy and lack of plans for development. It is little known that Africa actually had many very old and well organized city-nations. One such is Kerma in Africa. Recent excavations have uncovered an old civilization that flourished beyond 5,000 years ago: http://wysinger.homestead.com/kerma.html
Victorian philosophers slapped the label on Africans as backward. According to late 19th century science, human development took place in three stages: savagery, marked by hunting and gathering; barbarism accompanied by the beginning of settled agriculture; and civilization, which required the development of commerce. Scientists of the time believed that Africans were stuck in the stage of barbarism because they lived in a place with such good soil and climate that it provided "tropical abundance." The ease of life in Africa made Africans fat and lazy. Africa contributed and provided the template on which religious organization thrived. That was the door to other forms of social organizations that have passed the test of time. Africa had several Kerma scattered all over the continent. I come from a region that sits on past ancient civilizations. One such place is called Bigo-bya-Mugenyi. It is clear that Africans of old time were hard working and as mothers and fathers were able to provide for children, train them well enough to go out and roam the world.
Africans have all that it takes to create development institutions. In West Africa, Samory Touré of Senegal made powerful alliances with "the business community" of long distance West to East traders. The Great lakes regions were set up as small kingdom states and this made the area a long standing bread basket in Africa. These areas were destinations for long distance salt routes. There are other examples in North and Southern Africa. The elements that made this possible involved technological confidence. This can be popularized and made available again in Africa. We can see a resurgence of technological sophistication. Investments in built infrastructure, railroads, communication technology today can enable a raw material producing rural African community remain in touch with processors in USA. Advances in medical science, particularly in the field of tropical disease, make it safer for USA citizens and investors to go to Africa. This means that it is easier and cheaper to have American experts in Africa. The rule of law that is becoming vogue in Africa sets the stage for tourism and investor confidence.
As I conclude, the fixtures and instantiations in form of: ideology, entertainment, social-political organization, poetry, cinema, sports, science, norms, fork-lore, sexism, gender roles, cuisine, music, literature, Art, nutrition, medicine, home-steading, agriculture, lifestyles, religion, relationships, education, pastoralism, governance, war, peace-making, skills development and initiation rites are the same raw materials Africans, Americans or anyone should use to promote critical enterprise. They can not be treated in isolation but in unison. These are the areas of investments. They have to be factored in long term plans. That way they will be the enduring cultural development factors. They will produce a more practical African who will be able to support her/his home or hold court with the best entrepreneur from Europe or America or China.