Article by Bro Joseph

THE QUESTION OF AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT

This has been and still is a critical question in so far as the template for African development still remains the west. It is undeniably true that Europe is far ahead in terms of technological development. The technological development facilitates the economic development and vice versa. Before going any further it is necessary to define development so that we know exactly what we are talking about when we mention the word development. Being an African, on an African soil talking about African development, I would not hesitate to give recourse to Julius Kambalange Nyerere, the father founder to the United Republic of Tanzania. At the third world conference he defined development as “the building of a society in which all members have equal rights and equal opportunities, in which all can live at peace with their neighbor without suffering or imposing injustice, being exploited or exploiting, in which all have gradually increasing basic levels of material welfare before any individual lives in luxury”.

Of course this definition is very socialistic or perhaps associated to initial state planned capitalism. However, development in its fundamentals is human centered. So any development activity ought to aim at the transformation of a person instead of structures. It is only when a person is transformed can structures be transformed too. It is only a modernized person who can bring about modernized structures, not vice versa. It is in this line that Paulo Freire asserts that every development is modernization but not every modernization is development. In Africa this has been misunderstood a great deal. The confusion between modernization and development alienates a lot of us Africans from ourselves. It alienates us in the sense that we force ourselves to adapt to alien modern technology and accumulate it as much as possible so as to be part of the so called development. This adaptation kills our creativity to find home grown solutions hence home grown development.

Paulo Freire in his book Education for Critical consciousness, talks about two kinds of personalities; adaptive and integrated personalities. The adaptive person surrenders his freedom to decide and change situations to others and he/she has to adapt to whatever others say. Adaptive persons make an adaptive society whose social, economic and political decisions are made by outsiders. While an integrated person/society owns its social, economic and political decisions. It finds home grown solutions to local problems. It is in the same line of thought that Tom Mboya, a Kenyan Politician asserted in 1963 at the Annual General Meeting  at the African bureau in London that: “No people have succeeded in building a nation  except with their own effort and sweat, with discipline and resolution” . The adaptive person can never do such a thing because he/she is always looking for solutions outside himself/herself.  Freire asserts that the adaptive behavior is very animalish. Development is not for animals that are forced to adapt to situations and shaped by situations.

I’m not against the influx of the products of modern technology in Africa. But what I’m not at-home-with is the recent developments in some African countries, where they are making the hoipo loi (ordinary people) believe that development has reached them because computers and internet services has have reached the remotest areas of the country. Freire makes it explicit that in development language there is no terms as “Receiver and donor”. Development can not be given or received. It has to be the original product of the person or society. Development can not be given by the so called development partners. When given the recipient owe allegiance to the giver and remain under their tutelage on every issue at hand. When we cannot handle our local situation we call upon them to come in, left on our own we cannot manage. Sometimes there cases where donors bring machines that can only be serviced in foreign countries. We cannot say we are developing when we cannot go beyond operating foreign machines. Projects also that are being realized on African soil come with conditions because they are given under the framework of the giver according to their generosity. So there is no freedom of choice, we do exactly what the giver wants. Freedom is indispensable in a development; we can not say we are development if we are not free.

The misunderstanding of development has made most people believe that development is equal to owning a car or having a computer and knowing how to garbage- in and garbage –out. Of course one cannot deny that the products of technology are the signs of development of a certain era. So in this case modern technology is the sign of western development and a means to African development. So the most important task for the guardians of the hoipo loi (ordinary people) is the analysis of the means to development and see if they help in creating a society with equal rights and opportunities, a peaceful society where there is no injustice or exploitation whether attainable or not in this life, but it will at least set us on the road. It will make us (African nations) deserve the name developing nations.

However, following the definition of development given above, all nations are striving towards building a society as envisaged by Nyerere. The term developed nation is suggestive of a static reality, but if development is human centered aiming at transforming a person from adaptive to integrated then the tense developed is quiet mis-attributed to man who is consciousness. Consciousness is never a static reality.

Conclusively, we can say that the only true means to development is education that is transformative beyond the literal meaning of literacy with the denotation of reading and writing. This is the education for critical consciousness that transforms a person hence the society to deserve the name developing society. Therefore, the products of technology as means to development in Africa are only so if they serve as means to the formation of a critical consciousness.

By Bro Joseph.

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