Saturday, November 13, 2010

Africa needs African Renaissance, badly

An African Renaissance is ultimately the elixir for Africa’s stagnant and never ending ills, despite the criticism of the concept, it remains the only formulae available to Africa to tackle its ills which range from ill governance through the effects of climate change to perennial armed conflict.

In this discussion, the notion of African renaissance will be defined; its background laid bare an argument developed in support of the African Renaissance as a panacea for African protracted maladies.

The “African Renaissance” can be said of as a “concept that African nations can solve their problems and achieve cultural, social, technological and economic rebirth. ” the phrase was alluded to by Nelson Mandela in the early 90’s but it was clarified, expounded and publicized by Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa.

Evidence is there that even Mbeki was only quoting from history because the term was spoken of by the likes of Pixley Seme in as early as 1906.

To others it’s a philosophical and political movement to end elitism, violence, corruption and poverty which Mbeki sees being attained by encouraging education, reversing brain drain and developing pride in African heritage .

These are closely linked to those aims laid out in The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). Of course some see it as an extension of Ali Mazrui’s call to end Afro-pessimism and still some see it as a desperate attempt for Africa to have a formula of its own especially since none has been in Africa since Independence while formulas like the Marshall Plan have been successfully implemented elsewhere.

The notion has reportedly been induced by some events in history chief among which are: the 1957 independence of Ghana; the 1989 collapse of Socialist states; the end of the cold war and the dawn and crave for democracy that hit the pinnacle with the 1994 restoration of majority rule in South Africa .

Mbeki laid out the elements and goals of the concept and listed them as the attainment of social cohesion, attainment of democracy, attainment of economic rebuilding and growth, establishing of Africa as a global player in geo-politics with an aim of breaking the debt trap that Africa is ensnared in .

The climax of the move came in 1999 with the establishment of the African Renaissance Institute with its secretariat in Gaborone and which focuses on development of African Human Resources, Science and Technology, Agriculture, nutrition, culture, business, peace and good governance .

The term has since lost its glamour and the hype it generated but it has been accepted by many a leader who continue to use it in their party manifestos (African National Congress) and use it in their various speeches. These include the likes of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Abdullahi Wade of Senegal, and it has even been alluded to by the likes of Bill Clinton.

The argument offered by the pro-African Renaissance group led by Mbeki is not only plausible but powerful as well. It is by far the most effectively coordinated action plan since Africa’s independence, so at least it’s the devil Africa knows as there is no Angel in sight yet.

If one looks into the history vista, it is clear to see that the colonizers cannot be trusted in solving African problems, for example Muhammad Ali of Egypt tried to engage the Britons in his development plan but they only managed to colonize and plunder Egypt.

Along came the Partition which saw the likes of Leopold 2 personally owning pockets in Africa, even in Post -Independence times, the North has continued to undermine African problems with its Washington Consensus ideologies that are harming the continent. Exploitation aside, the North continues to pollute the environment and atmosphere that leave Africa even more disabled. Is it not time to search within Africa for a sustainable cure?

Some criticize the champions of the notion as betraying the core values of the renaissance. They cite Mugabe, Wade and Gadaffi, who cling to power and their rule is quasi dictatorial. This, if closely analyzed, is not the reason for rejecting a good idea that will outlive any dynasty. Would the renaissance only benefit Zimbabwe?

What about Botswana where democracy thrives? Should they wait for a Western Messiah? In the interest of many Africans who have been let down by the West, the need for the elixir of the African Renaissance outweighs the criticism of the few bad men in the proposing side of the debate. This is what the Jamaican poet Mutabaruka asks in one of his poems “if not us who? For they have killed and plundered us for 400 years… ”

Some critics say the violence across Africa has rendered the move towards an African Renaissance futile. These people cite cases of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Nigeria and others. They can be best be summed up in Wole Sionka’s statement that “there can be no renaissance in slaughter. ” this is a na├»ve and pessimistic way of looking at Africa.

According to William Rostow the Development theorist, every society passes through stages and where Africa is now is where Europe was when the likes of Alexander, the-so-called-great lived, the wars are just a stage in the long road Africa has to travel to achieve prosperity.

It doesn’t follow that because a continent is plagued by war and strife then there should be no action plan. The Marshall plan was called for at a time like this and by far there has been no action plan developed so far that truly speaks of preserving the Africanness while advancing it technologically, even Rostow never said that.

Critics of the concept see it as a myth and lie or what George Orwell would call “doublespeak.” Alick Shahadah has had this to say about it: “the phrase was promoted by then president Thabo Mbeki, a typically Western educated and influenced African leader. And when your entire centre of knowledge is European, it forces the mind in an attempt to feel valid to assert the African reality based within the cultural context of Europe. [Sic] ”

NEPAD, another of Mbeki’s drives, has faced the same criticism of playing the game according to the Washington Consensus prescriptions . Sad as the picture might appear, it is the right thing to do.

There is one undeniable fact that no one cannot ignore: Africa needs the North. And since the North is partly responsible for Africa’s ills and since it has the finances to fund some of the things outlined in the African Renaissance plan, it is only right and proper to seek it’s guidance after all they have been where Africa is and have the know-how.

Lastly critics of the notion say it is too idealistic and better left for the future. They argue that Africa is not ready to face such a bold move before it sheds its crises first. This idea seems to have been developed before looking at the contents of the NEPAD charter or the elements of the African Renaissance as laid by Mbeki.

It was clearly stated that the renaissance is aimed at ending the ills that the critics highlight. So how can War end first then a renaissance come later? Shouldn’t Africa use the renaissance to end those wars? The conclusion is easy to see for any logician.

In conclusion, the discussion has defended the idea that Africa needs a Renaissance as an elixir to its perennial maladies. This renaissance is best envisioned by the ideas of Thabo Mbeki and others plus those schools that support the idea of NEPAD and ARI.

The discussion has wavered off doubts by critics of the move and assured them that as far as the bleak horizon looks; the only flicker of hope is enshrined in the African Renaissance: a Panacea and Messiah of Africa.

Shahadah, 2010. History of Africa Restored. Article retrieved on 28/05/10 from:  

Myakayaka-Manzini (unknown year) quoted in Lotter, 2007. African Renaissance: The Renewal and Rebirth of a continent. (Online article) retrieved from: . accessed 26/05/10

 ANC, « Statement of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress, Delivered by President Thabo Mbeki, on the occasion of the 88th Anniversary of the ANC », 8 January 2000

Shahadah, 2010. History of Africa Restored. Article retrieved on 28/05/10 from:

Mutabaruka (1993) “Check it” Album released by Tuff Gong Records.

Cliffe, L., quoted in William T.Z. & Frost D. (Editors) (2002) Africa in Crisis: New Challenges and possibilities. Pluto press: London.(passim)


No comments:

Post a Comment