By Aya Chebbi - 01 December 2014
How can we not think about the future for Africa if the future is Africa itself?
Looking at the past and the future, Africa becomes a crucial part of this reflection. Africa developed the world's oldest human civilization and moving forward, it defines the world’s future. With a comprehensive timeline of at least seven million years, Africa is home to the first tools, jewelry, mathematics, astronomy, fishing, and art, among other essential humankind developments. It gave humanity the use of fire around two million years ago and made all nations rely on our land for their markets.
However, as much as Africa has given to the world, it has been abusively exploited by colonial and postcolonial powers, and dictatorships. The status, privilege, and wealth of the colonizers were often maintained and upheld through the use of policies that violated our rights. Unjust colonial practices and policies as a means to preserve their dominant status, subjected us to the loss of our lands, resources, identities, and sometimes even our lives. Yet, marginalized under colonial occupation, we continue to be marginalized under postcolonial governments.
Moving forward, we need futures thinking of Africa’s values, power and youth.
So, if the roots of humanity come from Africa, then true African wisdom will help us understand people and their organizations, inclusiveness, and deep respect for the other. Including everybody in the thinking of the community has always been part of Africa’s culture.
The Somali proverb says “wisdom is like a baobab tree, no one individual can embrace” - it requires a diversity of people holding hands in an effort to embrace the tree.
“Mahala” is the traditional African practice which teaches that it is proper to give to others without expecting anything in return.
The value of Ubuntu, indeed, is a basic foundation of each individual. It’s the value that one cannot exist, manage or lead in a vacuum because human beings are social and were created to live together in harmony. Ubuntu definition is, but not limited, to the promotion of co-operation, love, respect, togetherness and solidarity. I met Prof. Rob O’Donoghue last week and he said that “The value of Ubuntu has been taken away, like most things were taken away by academics like me”.
Ubuntu needs a revival because it can become that which will bring people together, but it is a vanishing practice, a value of the past. So, the aim in African culture is for a better community, which will, in turn, provide a better environment for the individual. But do we actually practice Ubuntu and live in harmony with others and ourselves?
We used to believe in our wisdom. Our teaching and proverbs used to be very common, but now we are trading our traditional wisdom for a handful of candied Western slogans broadcasted by television. Our ethics are turning into metaphysics; our group and common wisdom is turning into individual and elite wisdom. Are we on the right track or is Africa going Western? Our wisdom is poorly understood and so little appreciated in the West.
Therefore, the West has disbelieved in African thought for so long that Africa is starting to disbelief itself. Considering the future, we need to challenge the Western disbelief, as the tenets of the African cultural systems and practices form the fundamentals of living with others and with nature in harmony, which can teach lessons to humanity worldwide.
Besides, our African wisdom will enhance our decision-making. We have forgotten how to be human beings, and we must go back to our indigenous knowledge if we are to save our culture, people and future.
We have all become aware of our society’s social, economic, environmental and political problems, to a certain degree. However, we are still not sure on how exactly to go about fixing these problems because we’re underestimating our power. The solution is in the saying ‘kopano ki maata’, which means “togetherness is power”.
Another essential part of the conversation of futures thinking of Africa is youth. Africa’s population is the world’s youngest because half of our continent’s inhabitants are under the age of 19, while 70 per cent of the population is under the age of 30. More than 200 million people in Africa are between ages 15-24. By 2035 Africa’s working-age population, those aged 15-64, will be larger than that of China or India. Yet, one of Africa's greatest untapped resources is its young people.
As the youngest continent, we are not only important for Africa but also for the world. As we are growing faster than any other continent, we are the ones who lead innovation; we are a source of labor force of any economy. But until African leadership realizes that we are the solution not the problem then Africa will “rise” with its youth. Despite advances in education and economic growth, progress remains fragile; young Africans face major difficulties in finding decent jobs, participating in decision-making and fighting inequalities.
The lack of such freedoms in Tunisia was among the factors that led us to take to the streets demanding change and fulfillment of our legitimate aspirations for better lives. Empowering youth is essential for sustainable economic growth, political progress and management of the earth's ecosystems and resources. The world has to recognize the people, youth and promise of Africa. The continent has just experienced a decade of rapid economic growth. On the other hand, we Africans need to strive to overcome threats to peace and development, by building an environment conducive to democracy, social justice and peace based on our values, power and youth.
An award winning Tunisian blogger and activist.
Read her personal blog Proudly Tunisian at http://aya-chebbi.blogspot.com