Fahamu (Oxford)

29 May 2014

Africa: Circa 2065 - Age of Africa's Gatekeepers

analysis

Today's young African adults--'digital natives'-- have begun looking to Africa's own existing potential to solve problems and propel the continent forward. The new knowledge systems they are creating will make the Africa of 2065 independent of foreign burdens and confident in its own momentum.

Predictions are risky but necessary, and could promise a certain percentage of fulfilment, especially when drawn from rational analysis; available evidence and emerging trends indicate that the generation that will be in charge of Africa's social, political and economic action spaces circa 2065 will be a knowledgeable generation. With the rise of the Internet and the direct access to news from eyewitnesses, young Africans can afford to shun the misinformation presented as facts by Western and other media about Africa, and instead build on the reality they know. With the rise of the Internet and the crumbling of the impenetrable walls of Euro-American libraries, which previously locked out hundreds of millions of knowledge-hungry Africans, knowledge, as packaged by the West has been demystified and adjudged incomplete. Africans will begin to search out and revalidate their own indigenous knowledge, and explore homegrown approaches to advancement.

Young Africans committed to the advancement of the continent are asking questions of their elders and demanding answers from the world. In the place of answers, Africa's young people have uncovered ignorance in their elders and have come face-to-face with scorn from the outside world. Young Africans' teachers and parents are lacking the wisdom needed to address the myriad of challenges facing the region; so are the United States, China, World Bank, United Nations, CNN and other representations of global hegemony. Therefore, many of the responses to the inquiries of present-day young Africans will be self-taught and self-deciphered, and in them will lay the rock-solid foundation for the coming generation that will rebuild Africa based on internally generated knowledge, processes and systems.

The majority of the inhabitants of Africa are not yet rising with the so-called 'Africa rising' because at present, the real, homegrown and people-centered knowledge the continent needs to transform its institutions and sectors is lacking. On what foundation then will 'high rise' Africa rest? Africa cannot rise outside of authentic African knowledge generated by committed, curious and dedicated Africans. Nations whose civilizations have germinated and endured were built on authentic national values and knowledge systems, well located in ideas selectively borrowed from other nations. Japan's transformation began during the Meiji era and with the mantra 'Western technique; Japanese Spirit'. Western ideas were scrutinized against authentic Japanese knowledge and needs and selectively borrowed or rejected. In India, Mahatma Ghandi impressed it strongly upon the hearts and minds of his countrymen that mental independence must form the basic foundation for the political independence being clamoured for. The whole nation of over a billion people focused on that truth during and after the liberation struggle. In fact, quite a bit of what has been scientifically researched and authenticated as Western knowledge today can be traced to folklore and indigenous knowledge of Europe. This ranges from the governance systems to pharmacology, architecture and geography. The stability being experienced by the aforementioned countries can be directly traced to the grounded knowledge system upon which innovation, creativity and advancement are founded.

Africa's current struggle lies in the absence of the liberal utilization of its authentic ideas in the development of the continent, but the digital natives and the generation they will raise will change that. Western knowledge was introduced to sub-Saharan Africa with a package that included disdain for authentic African ideas, processes and systems. The curriculum that was designed by the West for Africa came with a clearly defined, if subtly hidden, message that knowledge, creativity and innovation belonged to the West alone. Since then, Africa's generations up until the immediate digital natives have been lacking in access to a wide platform of knowledge necessary in order to transform their minds and society. But fifty years from now, Africa's young people will have learnt from their elders who are currently the digital natives that no knowledge in the world is better than one's own knowledge. That an educated mind is that mind that can decipher solutions to the challenges of his immediate environment using easily accessible materials. Today's digital natives are trying to scratch through the surface of the gold mine that is Africa's own knowledge system, but the generation they will birth will 'beat them hands down,' in fact, they will 'not see the back of their children' in creativity and innovation. True, from Nairobi through Kampala to Lagos, young Africans are already developing software, forming organizations and building structures based on what they know to be the need of their environment, rather than what they are taught or are being taught in their schools. But wait until the children of the present teenagers and under-30s come of age. By 2065, the generation mentored by Africa's digital natives would have taken the continent to far greater heights in terms of innovation and creativity in different sectors. To an analysis of a few key sectors we now turn.

TECHNOLOGY

Africa's technological needs would have been addressed to a large extent in 2065, not by the much hyped and consistently failed technological transfer, but by homegrown solutions. African trained engineers would have utilized indigenous knowledge-based, homegrown and therefore inexpensive and easily accessible mechanisms to address Africa's energy, water and even access road challenges. The Mining and extractives sectors, for instance, will no longer be left in the hands of foreigners and big businesses. The same way Internet publishing has freed writers from the clutches of global publishing conglomerates, so shall Africa's extractive industries be freed from the suffocating hold of multinationals. Simple, locally fashioned equipment will surpass and outperform the imported expensive machinery that had been used by foreign corporations to hold the continent hostage for several decades.

AGRICULTURE & ENVIRONMENT

Some young Africans unable to find jobs are shunning the disdain of their parents for cultivating their own food, and throwing themselves fulltime into agriculture. As they browse the Internet with their phones in the different areas where they are located, they are bound to come across websites extolling the virtues of organic farming. Puzzled, they will wonder why their government is promoting the use of synthetic fertilizers as against the organic farming their great-grandfathers practised while living to ripe old ages. The next generation of African farmers will not only begin to explore indigenous farming techniques but will be open to combining them with knowledge selectively gained online from India, China, the ancient Inca civilization and the modern American farmer. The result will be a variant of knowledge that is rooted in reality, but enhanced by foreign inputs. The same goes for animal rearing. After having lost relatives and friends to cancer and other diseases traceable to Western food processing and preservation techniques, Africa's young people, although still craving the progress of the West, will hunger for and explore the wisdom of their fathers who lived strong till good old ages. A foundation laid by knowledge gleaned from the past, combined with homegrown and selectively borrowed foreign technology, will make plant and animal farming in Africa a widely advanced and innovative sector.

GOVERNANCE

The high cost, unfamiliarity with, and therefore failure of Western copied and other imported governance strategies in Africa is well documented. The colonial generation up until the present generation is at wit's end on how to bring about effective governance without going cap in hand to the World Bank and other developed countries and their agencies. The result is a continued dependence on these nations whose coffers are steadily running dry and who are now looking to Africa for natural resources to sustain their global positions. But this will change. As young Africans begin to control their resources more and to study other successful systems, there will be the tendency to denounce and depart from the present unworkable governance system under which the continent is laboring. Inexpensive and homegrown knowledge-based governance mechanisms will be designed and instituted across Africa in the coming decades.

Rwanda is a country that is already leading the way in instituting several indigenous knowledge-based and homegrown strategies to bring about effective governance and public administration at the grassroots and central levels. Rwanda's indigenous justice system, the Gacaca, has achieved what no Western-based justice system will ever even dream of achieving. Other successful indigenous knowledge-based systems practiced in Rwanda include the Ubudehe, Abunzi, Umuganda, and Girinka, to mention few. Rwanda's successes in efficiently maximizing its scarce resources by resorting to well-known, understood, appreciated and therefore inexpensive indigenous strategies to manage its affairs is already being studied by other African nations and will most likely be adapted by the next generation. The gatekeeper generation will understand that governance systems are very much dependent on the people who are being governed and therefore must be generated from among them, and not superimposed from some other society's experiences.

HEALTH

Africa's health in terms of diseases could take a turn for the worse. With the rise of sexually transmitted diseases among the younger generation, and a penchant to snack on Western foods and to sip fizzy drinks while browsing the Web or playing video games, perhaps there is need for alarm for the generation of 1965. But improved hygiene and access to preventive information will reduce deaths from diseases such as malaria. On a brighter note, however, the inability of Western medicine to treat several diseases has rekindled interests in traditional medicine. African young people will be able to subject traditional medicine to tests and verification and offer such remedies to mankind. However, intellectual property rights and the rights of communities will become a huge question that must be addressed in order to ensure an all-inclusive benefit for traditional medicine.

TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Africa's gatekeeper generation will liberate the continent from the shackles of the agreements that had held Africa back for decades. Several agreements signed by their predecessors in ignorance will be revoked and renegotiated on terms that will be hugely beneficial to the masses. Intra-African trade will be at its highest since it last thrived in precolonial times. With the dismantling of tariff and non-tariff barriers, the increasing role of regional economic blocs and the possibility of a single-currency continent, a united Africa will speak with one voice in global affairs and explore areas of mutual benefits among member states, while shutting out powers of exploitation.

EDUCATION

Every sector listed above depends on education to succeed. The challenge with Africa's educational system is that it lies firmly in a curriculum filled with irrelevancies and misinformation. Fifty years after colonialism ended, African countries still depend on consultants from the former colonial masters to review the dependency-inducing curriculum handed over to them during the eve of independence. Even when Africans themselves have to review the curriculum, it is based on a made-to-measure approach that relies almost exclusively on foreign and therefore ill-fitting knowledge. It does not seem that African governments are willing to transform the curriculum in the next ten years, but that notwithstanding, present day digital natives are independently searching for knowledge and trying to explore the world; that will be the greatest legacy they will leave for their next generation - they will be remembered as the gatekeepers of 1965.

CONCLUSION

The author did not set out on a pretentious effort to present an accurate and exhaustive analysis of the Africa of approximately 2065. If at all, the article only presents a table of contents for what trajectories can be explored in trying to understand where Africa could be in the next fifty years. Suffix it to note that Africa has not been immunized against the rest of the globe; the region will also be affected by emerging realities including the rise in incidents of terrorism, cybercrime, sexual predation and perversion, social upheavals and perhaps rising global inflation rates. These things Africa must prepare for and adequately guard against in cooperation with other nations of the world. But in all, Africa's hope for the next fifty years lies in the right kind of knowledge that, from every indication, will be generated by and from the digital natives and their descendants.

Chika Ezeanya blogs at www.chikaforafrica.com You may follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/chikaforafrica

THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR/S AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM

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