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Culture and development in Africa

02 December 2015, 14:30 Dr. Mehenou Amouzou

Culture is one of the most significant factors of development.  The role of culture in development should not be understated, but treated as a complex multi-layered factor for long-term growth and success.

First, as an intrinsic value, secondly as a key factor of regional development leading to increased attractiveness of regions for tourists, residents and investors, and thirdly, as an active factor of social development based on knowledge, tolerance, and creativity. Culture provides the framework in which a nation sees, approaches, and ultimately resolves key complex internal and global issues that will impact long-term development and economic growth.

Some may attempt to reduce the understanding of culture to fetishism and other archaic and anachronistic acts relevant perhaps only for the museum. Others may consider culture to be just the meaningless drumming and dancing. Some more enlightened Anthropologists or Scholars have however given a deeper explanation of culture as those forms of behavior, practices, and thoughts that are nurtured, held, cherished and maintained as desirable and having importance and relevance for our lives.

Culture is the light of an entire society. People without culture are like a tree without roots or an unmanned aircraft. Culture is said to be the oil that keeps society running. Tradition and knowledge have also been described in certain quarters as the main pillars of development and sustenance of communities and that no society can progress in the absence of these two factors.

The purpose of this article is an attempt to present culture as a key factor of social and economic growth that some of the leaders in Africa have misunderstood or misguided for their own selfish interests which have contributed to the bankruptcy of their own countries.

-Culture as a key factor of social development-

In the Culture, a key factor to success is the training of citizens to live successfully within one’s society, which plays a specific role in the development of social capital and long-term growth and be a factor to enhance the intellectual potential of regions and provide the foundation for a more open and broadminded citizen society. It should be underlined that culture is a base for initiating cooperation and human communications, performing numerous education functions and thereby activating various layers of society.

Currently, demonstrated changes in the economies of highly developed countries highlight the increased significance of social capital as a significant element of economic development, which in large part determines the effective functioning of the economy. Culture also includes a bond of social integration, avoiding exclusions and social pathologies.  At the same time, culture helps to restore handicapped citizens to social and occupational life (e.g. therapy through culture, but largely by changing the mentality and overcoming prejudices).

It should be highlighted that the social capital of a country is also created by institutions and boosted by their ability to work collectively and effectively.  The magnitude and quality of these institutions impacts in part the building of a society based on creativity, innovation, openness to change, effective educational models and institutions which all contribute to permanent social engagement and increase economic growth. One of the foundations of building such a society is investments in culture.

By investing in culture, a nation can generate a more regional and global intellectual perspective for its citizens therefore increasing its human capital through a widespread cultural mixture and construct a responsive society guided by decent standards, openness and resistance to racial intolerance and avoid social pathologies.

Culture is also tied to social integration which is part of national identity and preserves local relationships.  In addition, culture comprises a basis of initiating cooperation, human communication, facilitation of gender equality, racial equality, religion equality, social solidarity, helps restore the mentally and physically handicapped to social and professional life. (For example therapy through culture, but especially a change in mentality and overcoming prejudices). Culture also reduces distortion of personal development of citizens and comprises a form and dimension of social advancement.

-Culture as a source of economic development-

Most westerners developed their societies based on their cultural values and knowledge. Culture was a key formation factor leading to the foundation for growth and sustainability.

Just to mention a few names, Adam Smith, was considered as the initiator of contemporary economics and  disputed in his classic work Wealth of the Nations (written in 1776) “that each individual, encouraged by the hunt of his private interests, contributes to the public interest a system that is self-regulating”. Smith also asserted that “to identify that the search of personal interests involved a great deal more than just creating money”. Adam Smith also stated in his writing Theory of Moral Sentiments, that “deals with what today we would call cultural values”. Some 70 years later, John Stuart Mill reiterated his point when he wrote that “cultural limitations on human’s beings could have a profound influence on them than the search of individual monetary motivation”.

In the early 20th century, the social German scientist Max Weber wrote an article or thesis that recommended more specific impetus on how cultural or even religious values could influence economic production. He argued that the Protestant work ethic, sustained by reformation teachings imbibed that the search of wealth was a duty, indoctrinated the virtues required for maximum economic productivity. On this ground, Protestants were more productive than Catholics right through Europe just think of Germany and Great Britain for example, compared to Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy to this day.

Investments agreed out in the field of culture have an economic dimension as well.  The quantum of financial support for cultural event is multiplied, owing to culture industries, which contribute to increased employment and enhanced gross national product value. 

The outcome of ventures embarked in the field of culture, can be recognized by the development of the regional economic base that includes an impulse for further expansion. This development is articulated by enhancement of the market and marketing situation of existing commercial entities (e.g. a positive change in a region’s image), improvement in the standard of living of residents (upgrade of cultural infrastructure and boosted access to culture), as well as an enhancement in the number of jobs associated with the investment realization process, and the functioning of new elements of a region’s fixed assets.

Culture industries are characterized by a high level of modernization and ingenuity in the market, where most goods and services cannot be properly substituted.  Culture industries generate jobs outside the public sector.  Various culture industry sectors, in which mid-sized and small enterprises dominate, have large employment potential and are strongly attached to local communities and regional networks.  Cultural industries are the sector of the economy with the highest employment factor.  They create a large number of jobs in an age of recession or in a stagnated world economy. 

In general, culture is a significant factor of economic growth that directly impacts housing and attractiveness of regions for residents and potential investors and promotes the development of tourism. (It is estimated that cultural tourism comprises nearly 70% of tourism traffic worldwide). Culture creates the labor market, is a significant contributor to GDP, helps creates culturally-driven industries, multiplies the economic processes jointly defined by development of the social infrastructure and jointly defines the metropolitan functions of cities conducive to the allocation of human resources in developing sectors which  creates a positive image.

Does Culture influence the cost effective outcome? According to David Landes in The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, “the success of National economies is driven by cultural factors more than anything else. Prudence, hard work, persistence, sincerity and open-mindedness are the cultural causes that create all varieties”. Max Weber supported the idea that social thoughts and values have the power to determine which economies will be successful and which will fail.

Amy Chua and Gregory Clark attempts to corroborate the culture weight on the economy in their publication Modern technology by itself will never be capable to rotate an economy and to enhance the average of living surrounded by a population. They assert that”the development of a state of mind, with additional values and habits, is a huge element of the equation”. Proper education may add to this, but probably not so significant because it inspires new thoughts and information and sharpen skills as it instills a new view of the world and simultaneous values.

In the earlier 20th century, Gregory Clark outlined the persistent move to improve the Japanese employee productivity in comparison with Indian mill employees highlighting the fact that Japan had a higher productivity rate than India and had appeared to take over the market. The Japanese workers’ solid discipline and their instilled national values further augmented their success.   

A gathering of cultural values and their integration in modern business appears to be a crucial component as well, even though no one has recognized these values with exactitude and not to mention anything of devising a pragmatic strategy for indoctrinating these values in developing populations. A rising number of authors appear to accept the fact that economic growth will acquire more than an infusion of investment capital, more than an import of the latest technology, still more than steady political and economic institutions. The integration of culture into modern business must be taught, adopted, implemented, and become essential principals and core values in the lives and hearts of the leaders and masses. 

Does culture matter? And how can we clarify the replicated collapse of African nations, even with open-ended support, to develop their economy? Why are countries, even with an enormous resource base and a well educated population, so resistant to development?

The African culture spirits have almost been destroyed and continue to go through several obstacles for centuries. From slavery through colonization and thereafter we have what Malcolm X referred as the House Negros and Field Negros dichotomy.

House Negros, are those blacks who believe their colonial masters are god and try to be like their masters. If the master is not happy, the House Negro is not happy. The master is sick, house Negro is sick. The house Negro is happy to speak better master language than his own master. House Negros continue to collaborate with the colonial master rather than consider the development and the well being of his own nation.

The fields Negros is different and is driven by freedom and the universal desire and right to self-govern. The field Negro’s primary concern is the betterment and growth of his own community, its wellbeing, and respect from all people.

Slavery is a negation; it is a denial of human rights with pets considered closer to a human being than the slave. The slave is denied of his culture which is the inspiration, knowledge, hope, and achievement of each category. When you have been humiliated and considered less than human for many centuries, sometimes we start to believe the lies that we are worth nothing, and that our impactful culture and history is systematically destroyed, we start to feel our lives do not matter, feel we are nobody and insignificant players in the global game, and a sense of lost and despair creeps in and engulfs and destroys our thinking, creativity, innovation, and impedes are development, growth, vision, and future.

There is not much difference between colonization and slavery. The intent of the Berlin conference in 1884 is attributed to Europe’s demand for materials and natural resources and decided to conquer and colonize the uncivilized people, who has the pretention and hegemony to call himself civilized and the other barbarian! Colonization is the continuation of slavery, the only difference other is now these countries are independent but 80% of the countries’ resources are detained by the former colonial masters. The countries are run by the appointed House Negros who are less cultured, with no vision and the country is run reminiscent of the time of slavery and colonization. The developing nation is engulfed by the lack of distinct identity. How you can run a country with less than 20% of your output resources (building social houses, hospitals, health centers, roads constructions, build schools, developing country infrastructure). This system has aggravated the corruption in the developing world to maintain the control of the resources.

It is normal for a country that has resources be used for the development of and wellbeing of its citizens. As an example, say an items’ product market value is 100USD and the former colonial masters decided to buy more than 95% of this product at price of 5 USD? And at the same time the Media describe this country the poorest country in the world and needs financial aid to survive, and people are dying! Do we really think that the country needs financial assistance? The country just needs to sell his product at the fair market value. This same chronic and ill-advised management style that existed from slavery, to colonization, to the House Negro, to the Presidents of today.

We are not here to defend or protect House Negros Presidents. In life we all have a choice to make and they have made their own choice and sold the present and the future of 99% of their own people for their own self-interests and some of their clans. Why couldn’t these House Negros President do anything without seeking permission from the Master INCLUDING THEIR OWN SHADOW?  A country without culture will not have its own currency and will leave in the hand of other countries to manipulate the way they want it and the control of the currency is like an airplane without a pilot just sit and have day dreaming.

African culture starts to be a lost cause; the country’s leaders are very complex and even embarrassed to speak their own languages. If you are not proud about the country that you are the head of the State, you do not need to run it because you do not believe in yourself and you have become a handicap for the development. The last Francophonie conference in Dakar, Senegal, there were at least 7 countries represented including Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali, and Guinea Conakry, whose populations speak the common language but why didn’t they host the Francophonie conference in Dioula? And the other guests and president could be wearing the head set and listen to the automatic translation! If Africa does not value its culture who is going to do it?

Do you need to change your constitution to be represented for the third or fourth time? When people are lost it is because the culture is missing. When you are elected President it doesn’t mean that you own the title of the country and the country belongs to you. You are elected to do your best for your own people and to be the guardian of the country, to protect and to serve the people. After two mandates, you just need to move on with your life and give other people the opportunity to serve. It is not how many years the President serves his citizens but it is his legacy left behind that counts and the quality of his years serving his people.   

Certain countries have been proclaiming we want to be ready or be prepared to emerge in 2020 or 2030!!!

It seems to be another utopia or we are merely day dreaming! To be ready to emerge in 2020 or 2030 as a global economic power is a great goal, but is it just an illusion?? Are we taking the necessary foundational steps as a country in order to emerge? Example, the United Nations issued an alarming report since 1998 which mentioned that we are going to have a shortage of drinking water but we are doing nothing about it even though the body constitutes 60 to 70% water. In order for a country to emerge, the infrastructure must be established and able to develop and consistently deliver basic services (e.g. water system and purification, utilities, highways, technology, communications, healthcare, financial services and education. 

From Elementary school college universities are parked like sardines. The teachers and professors’ salaries have been on the bottom of the ladder and the cost of living has increased to 60% to 70% of their salaries. In Universities there are no computer rooms for students in Science disciplines and inadequate materials for the Biology students.

Has something changed between the times of slavery, colonization, and House Negros? Unfortunately, it is basically unchanged, the illusion has been cosmetic and the people are breathing artificial fresh air. Do we think that anyone who wants to become a President has to be approved by the former/current country colonial master to be blessed before becoming a Head of the States? These kinds of people Malcom X call House Negros who feel they are incompetent but still want to rule by the mandate/ procuration given by the former colonial master. Africa has been so call “independent” for more than half century but their universities, lab or countries lab are incapable of taking a sample of medication, serum, or bottle of water received from overseas to process and analyze what they contain before administrating them to their own citizens, same thing for the food industries! Anything regarding these mentioned above need to be sent to Europe and get the result back, the question is why?

How will the country progress and emerge as a major economy by 2020 or 2030, when people of today do not have hope or endeavor for a better tomorrow and who is going to be alive for this momentous 2020 or 2030, just to drink clean water is a very serious problem. They clean/purify water with chloride and flour which creates asthma, eczema, bladder cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.

We are talking about emerging in between 2020 and 2030; we are still incapable of mass producing health and inexpensive foods. The processing and development Agro industry rely on Monsanto food assistance with the consequences on human health, only House Negros could allow such things not Field Negros. House Negros run election campaigns with the tagline ‘trust me’, I have my European address books of people who are going to help us bring democracy and businesses into the country, they do not have projects, or vision, both the same face of the coin. How people run for election with no program and expect to have assistance from countries economically broke which are starving themselves?

-Culture, democracy and religion-  

Democracy is not an “import and export” democracy, part of the culture where role and regulation have been in place for many years. Others like the Asians, the Indians, and the Europeans found their inspiration and hope based on their culture, improving and expanding their heritages which are the foundation of any new development. We cannot impose our view, vision and culture on others believing they are going to change and be like the imposter, this mentality setting us back to the stage of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism doctrine.

Which country is the most civilized country in the world? None! Which is the country who is the most democratic in the world? Again the answer is none! Pretending to give a lesson of democracy to the rest of the world is just an illusion and utopia.  Democracy is part of the culture, which is the development of each society. Bringing democracy to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, etc. are just manipulations for imperialistic self-economics interests. Did Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen become a Western democratic State? These countries have been there for many thousands of years before the Westerner “word” democracy has its meaning in the dictionary. People of Iran have been there for many thousands of years before some of the westerners countries were created.

Let’s assume that Afghanistan or Iran of today began preaching and imposing                                                         their form of Democracy on westerners based on their own culture views and principles. Would westerners accept it? The answer will be NO! Why impose it on others?

Libya under the Colonel Gaddafi was not the perfect President but was not the worst President in the world and did things that benefited its citizens. The current coalition is supposedly bringing freedom and import democracy to the people of Libyan with more than 200,000 deaths, country destroyed, hospital bombed, infrastructure destroyed and central bank vandalized and destroyed. Libya has become an outlaw country with mercenaries that create zones of instabilities in Africa and became the same “experts” to advise other countries on how to deal with the terrorism they have created!

Does Libya enjoy democracy and have freedom today? Could Democracy be imported or exported? Democracy is part of a culture and nobody has a monopoly on it.   

-Culture and religion-

In Africa, the country of Sudan which will become Sudan North and Sudan South, Ivory Coast and Libya just to mention a few, for many years have managed to live and co-exist with its own people who may have different religious beliefs. But today none of the religious groups live together because the religion is part of the culture. The extremist religion come from the manipulation by a third party organization or a foreign country that attempts to destabilize a sovereign country by creating subversive game plans including the provision of financing and arms which destroys the country by creating division and political and economic instability within that country using the news media as a tool, for example, destabilizing a sovereign country.


The country of Sudan was only one country for many years living together but when large oil reserves were discovered things drastically changed. As the country of Sudan geared up to produce oil, interest from other countries (mainly western countries) started to take hold. Between the North and South of Sudan lie significant oil fields which garnered much foreign interest leading to                 internal fighting (civil wars) about control of the oil. The wars have devastated the country over the years with many casualties. Different religious beliefs contributed to civil wars but the main culprit is oil. Influential foreign countries began inviting themselves into Sudan with false intention to help but with the main objective, to get control of the oil. These same countries started to finance the civil war which has lost over 1 million people to war related deaths and starvation. We are not here to support the country of Sudan but if there is no oil do we think Sudan is going to have wars killing its own people leading to the division of Sudan into North and South?

After more than 1,000,000 deaths by mass murder and starvation, Sudan South became an Independent country. A few years later the President, John Garang, was killed and replaced by the current president Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit. After a few years, the Vice President joined the rebellion with the administration and another war started between the same South Sudanese, leading to more killing and starvation. The sad news is none of the Westerners’ oil appetite ever raised a finger to condemn this coup. The United Nations which is involved in the resolution of the crisis has been caught transporting arms to the former Vice President who became the rebellion chief fighting with the South of Sudan current administration. Where is the South of Sudan rebellion getting the funding, the arms, the logistics and all the support from? Why were their assets not frozen? Is it possible someone is benefiting from the war?

The strange thing about all this is The Republic of South Sudan has been sustained and advanced by the same countries or organizations to become independent and recognized by the United Nations, in comparison to the on-going Ukrainian political conflict whereby the same groups or organizations do not want the East part of Ukraine to secede and become independent. 

Ivory Coast:

When the former President, His Excellency, Felix Houphouet Boigny, led the country for more than 32 years, he was called the wise man, the good man with all the flatteries. During the reign of the former President Felix Houphouet, nobody ever heard about democracy from the colonial country because he did more than whatever he had been instructed to do. In 2000 with election of a new President who wants to think for his people first, has been obstructed during his presidency with numerous coup attempts. Ivory Coast which was a united country never had problems between Muslim and Christian, both lived peacefully. Then things changed. The religions had been manipulated to divide the country just for slavery, colonialism and imperialism.  In the end, the country has been divided by the rebellion and finally the former colonial country, United Nations branch ONUCI and certain mercenaries joined the dance and instigated an election validated by a United Nations employee which is not an elected member of the Ivorian Constitution. Could a United Nation employee declare or anoint a president in one of the European countries or United States? Why in Africa? Does Africa need a President or a Leader? If there is election dispute there are several methods to resolve the issue or to recount the vote as many other countries have done in the past including the USA.        

Only a few African Presidents had the guts to criticize the Ivorian election procedure, the rest had their mouth sealed because they were scared of their own chair. If they had legitimacy from their own people not to be a House Negro they could stand on their feet and speak out but it was not the case.

The possibilities of causes of the collapse of African nations, even when support is given to develop their economy, renowned Pan-Africanist, Scholar and Professor Ali Mazrui has also stated that one strategy for Africa to transcend its state of underdevelopment is to follow a policy of indigenization. This process, he explains, includes the identification and development of greater utilization of indigenous techniques, personnel and approaches to purposeful change.

If development can be regarded as the enhancement of our living standards then efforts for development cannot ignore culture. The United States of America are said to be where they are today as a result of management and development of their cultural values. For instance, the traditional communal spirit that caused our forefathers to live together as one another's keeper is invaluable today as a tool to combat crime and foster unity. It also serves as an unconscious check against selfish, ambitious individuals who owing to their uncontrolled desire for material and monetary gains plunder the resources of the nation at the expense of the majority.

- MyNews24

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