18 September 2012

Africa: Agaciro As the Next African Philosophy


I had always wondered how one experiences the concept 'Agaciro.' It is a powerful phrase that we Rwandans use to define our self-worth and dignity, but exactly how does one know when they are in an Agaciro state of mind?

The West may be where all the money is, as she stated, but nowhere does that justify being defined by others, nor one's standards being compromised to be deemed acceptable or more 'courteous.

On an individual basis, when does one realise that this concept is part of how they deal with the world? I am sure there are varied answers to this, but for me, it took a random conversation with a stranger to connect a couple of dots between how she viewed my world, and I hers.

It was part of an interview I had agreed to do, to help the Oxford-educated young lady with her thesis. After a series of questions, we veered of track and began talking about partnerships between young entrepreneurs in Africa and those in the West.

It was her next statement that threw me off completely, as we spoke of the flourishing artists on the African cultural scene. Quite innocuously, she stated that some of these artists didn't really know how to seek partnerships with the West, and according to some of her professors, some of these artists often came across as overzealous, and sometimes discourteous.

Overly energetic, if you will. In short, they needed to learn how to approach the potential partnerships they had in the West, relevant to the manner of the West.

Begging to differ, I asked whether it ever occurred to her that at the other end of the spectrum, these African artists probably regarded the potential partnerships in the West as lacking in dynamism and energy.

Also, what happened to cultural differences? In seeking out partnerships with their Western counterparts, was it necessary for African artists to drop qualities unique to them so as to appear more acceptable? "Well," she said, as if stating the most obvious thing in the world, "but that's where all the money is."

Before I could answer, her next question steered us back to the interview, which I calmly had to answer, even though there was a series of explosions in my head.

That was the end of the increasingly animated debate, but it definitely served as food for thought. What was reflected in that simple debate was a time-immemorial concept of the relationship between the West and Africa. Whatever partnership it was, Africa should know that her role would always be secondary.

The difference with that picture today, is that we, in Rwanda, realise it is skewed and needs to be straightened. The West may be where all the money is, as she stated, but nowhere does that justify being defined by others, nor one's standards being compromised to be deemed acceptable or more 'courteous.' If anything, this should serve to generate solutions on self-sufficiency, looking inwards, as we have done in Rwanda.

I have been accused of waxing poetic over this Agaciro concept, but it really has the potential to become an emerging ideology that we in Rwanda can export to Africa. The rest of the world, even. It is a philosophy that has the power to bring people together toward self-confidence and dignity - something that this generation really needs. We missed out on the infectious ideas of Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara and the whole Pan-African movement. Perhaps African countries to remember these times, and believe them - times where defining our destiny really seemed to be in our hands. A lot more noise needs to be made and a lot more conversations held, on Agaciro.

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