Pan African Connection
Bringing Literacy, Education and Development to disadvantaged communities across Africa
I have encountered the following question in the lips of both citizens of developed nations and native
born African people: "Why is it that Africa has not developed like the other countries in the world?"
The road to get to this answer may be a little circuitous but let us take a look at several factors that while
interrelated, each merits a closer look, as follows:
1) Historical precedent
2) Indigenous populations
3) Inherited mentality
4) Lack of knowledge/information
5) Lack of access to finance
The idea that the historical precedent bears very much in the mindset of economic realities is based on
observation of two distinct lines of thought. In the first hand we have the history of the colonization of
Africa which happened right as the west was moving into industrialization. In fact, right around the time
that the United States was re-evaluating slavery in that country, around the mid 1800's, that is the same
time frame that the European powers in the "Berlin Conference" on Africa (to which no African head of
State was invited) decided to apportion amongst themselves the vast, resource rich areas of Africa.
Development for sub-Saharan Africa under colonization was simply a matter of what was required by the
ruling powers for their own benefit back home, not the needs of the native populations. That has always
been the case for colonialism where ever it set foot. The additional negative trait here in Africa was the
master's prevailing mentality that these people where somewhat less than human, "certainly not
While not actually enslaved per se; the populations here in Africa where held to a virtual slavery of
dependence on the white man for guidance and empowerment. For generations it was thought to the
black man that he must wait for the white man to give him direction. Remnants of this mentality exist
today, it is the mentality of dependency.
What colonialism and its racist overtones engendered for Africa therefore was:
i.) Masses of uneducated people
ii.) Underdeveloped communities
iii) Inherited mentalities of colonialism:
The other line of thought has to do with the very fabric of African culture. While the makeup of that fabric is
ideal for family togetherness, community fellowship and sense of belonging; the flip side to this coin is
ugly tribalism, totalitarian tendencies and a rigorous adhesion to traditional ways that in many ways run
counter to the needs of the information age: innovation, adaptability, grasping of opportunity and loosely,
a changing environment.
Evidence of these tendencies can not only be seeing in Africa but were (to some extent are) present in
South and Central America; in feudal Japan and the closed China of the 13th through the 15th centuries.
The above stated is the historical context, it could be sub-headed the "Inhumanity of man over man". But
what the future holds, is absolutely based on another human trait; the quest for reward!
Once a given person or group of people learn the value of their work; namely, that knowledgeable
exercise of labor towards a given outcome, will reward them with an increased standard of living, i.e.,
more disposable income, more leisure time, more access to amenities and better health, they will want
to make it sustainable themselves, that is they will want to reproduce the results.
It will be their choice to opt for better economic conditions for themselves that in reality do not have to
destroy the honor and dignity to which a tribal leader was held to, it simply can be put in the order of
community relations not economic subjugation. The path for better economic conditions will not be
centered on the vision (or lack thereof) of the tribal leader, but on the procurement of the individual for a
better life for himself and those around him.
Lastly, the indigenous populations of any given continent tend to adopt a survival mode that works for
them and often times ingrained traditional ways prevent the uptake of new ways of doing things. It takes
time, measured in generational changes.
This gives rise to two last observations on this topic: in areas of dense vegetation and inaccessible lines
of communication in many parts of the world it can be shown that the impetus for development came
from the outside sources not indigenous populations, strongly attributed to the survival mentality and
dependence of traditional ways as has been stated. But there is one more proper observation.
These areas of high uptake of traditional ways also give rise to a mentality of contentment. By this is
meant the idea that the vast majority of people living in what we may classify as "under-developed" or
"under-served" or even "vulnerable" communities are very happy with their lives!
This may come as a shock or be just unbelievable to the western mind; it can even be dismissive: "Well,
they don't know any better". But the reality of this observation is important to have in mind as we try to
bring a "comprehensive plan of action" into these communities.
Truly, it is no secret; they really do not know better, few would be the ones that understand what "climate
change" is, and even less that last year's drought or flood was very much influenced by the activities of
man over the last 150 years! Not many perhaps realize that every child born to them should expect to
have an adequate education, access to a decent job, peaceful surroundings and the freedom to act and
think for him/herself. So while we should respect their sense of well being, we also have to gently
sensitize them to the current realities of climate change, globalization, free trade and the need to develop
their own local economy.
In closing this section, note is made of the need to increase the level of uptake of the idea that the
individual, is the ultimate responsible party for the well being of the person; not the tribal leader, the
government, the NGO or someone else. The person is responsible to himself/herself for whatever goals
he/she makes and responsible to take advantage of the opportunities that will be presented to that
individual. It is a counter balance to the mentality of dependence surviving in Africa in many sectors of the
community at large.
It is the final uptake of the idea that the individual is the one responsible, at the end of the day, for his/her
well being, for their own education and ultimately for their own personal economic condition. We can
leapfrog over the generational time lag of old paced development and unsound tradition.
Please read the page on Human Capital that deals primarily with this issue.