Remarkable material development in Africa, according to Busia, can only happen if Africans begin to radically alter their cultural values, especially with regard to the premium that many an indigenous African places on productivity vis-à-vis ceremonial and/or leisure activities; likewise, there ought to occur a radical move away from conspicuous consumption and splurging, or profligate spending, on relatives and friends as a means of status acquisition and the maintenance of the same, and personal influence, to one of occupational diligence and frugality and wise investment of one’s monetary and other capital resources:
“Some of the cherished values of these cultures must change if a social framework favorable for industrialization is to be created. In the agricultural subsistence economies of Africa many are self-employed. Though productivity is slow, the men have much freedom in the use of their time. They make their own decisions about when to start work, when to stop, when to take time off; they work when and as they please. The use of time is governed by a scale of values in which income and productivity do not rank as high as they do in an industrial society. Visiting relations, attending funerals and participating in community festivals often rank much higher than increasing production or accumulating wealth. Industrialization calls for a revaluation and a new hierarchical arrangement of social values. In particular, the desire for wealth and the will to economize must rank high. Such changes are already taking place in Africa. A greater incentive to work and effort now springs from the desire to acquire material wealth, for material wealth has become an avenue for social prestige and power. This is one of the indices of change in traditional evaluations and cultures. ¶ Traditional positions of power and prestige are rivaled by new roles (with higher status) that can now be achieved through success in economic activities. Consequently, the transition toward an industrial society is marked by a change in which there is a closer correlation between income and wealth and social status. ¶ This and other changes have to take place if industrialization is to be successful. The people must learn new ways and accept new values. A counterpart of this change is what some economists refer to as the need for ‘commitment.’ They point out that if industrialization is to proceed successfully, there must be a labor force fully ‘committed’ to industrial work. This really means that workers must learn not only new skills but also new ways. They must accept the cultural values of an industrial system, the discipline that industrial work imposes, and the rewards it offers as an incentive to work. This implies changes in the cultural values of a traditional African society, where prestige attaches to spending, where the obligations to generosity and hospitality, especially to one’s kinsfolk, encourage spending rather than saving, where conspicuous consumption rather than productive investment is the avenue to social esteem and prestige”(The Challenge of Africa 130-131).
The “Challenge of Nationalism” in the postcolonial era, according to Busia, has primarily been in the area of democratic freedom and civil liberties, even as many of the leaders who rode on the heady crest of racial equality into the attainment of sovereignty for themselves and their people, increasingly, have come to resemble the very colonial masters whom they overthrew, and replaced, in the cynical use of repressive political tactics: “The demand for emancipation from colonial rule is a demand for national independence; that does not by itself give personal freedom to the individual citizen. The challenge to provide the kind of government that guarantees individual freedom is one thrown to the rulers of the independent states of Africa by their own compatriots. The challenge is also thrown by those outside Africa who, observing the trends in independent African states, contend that democracy is not suited to Africa and that the peoples of Africa themselves prefer authoritarian rule. ¶ That challenge cannot be lightly brushed aside. There are trends that give cause for contention. One who surveys the independent states of Africa can make an impressive list of these trends: in some states, no opposition parties, or only emasculated ones; a marked growth of monolithic one-party rule; countries in which ruling parties are swallowing up the trade unions, youth organizations, farmer’s councils, women’s federations, civil servants and other associations – and where one must hold a party card before one can expect to be employed; trends toward one-man rule, and even a personality cult; government or party control of the media of communication, particularly of the press and radio; arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of political opponents without trial; attacks on the independence of the judiciary, or interference with the impartial administration of the law”(The Challenge of Africa 139-140).
Furthermore, the greatest challenge facing the African nationalists, intimates the foresighted thinker and author of The Challenge of Africa in the wake of the wholesale granting of sovereignty to African nations by the Western colonial powers, is the capacity of these African nationalist leaders to fully recognize and appreciate the fact that the inalienable right to freedom, liberty and the dignity of their people is paramount; and that there is something over and above the individual opportunities and privileges granted these new rulers to lead their newly independent countries into a presumable new future. And, of course, the aforesaid “something” is the dignity of their fellow countrymen and women: ¶ “Independence is coming to Africa at a time and under circumstances that make it easy for governments to be authoritarian and even totalitarian, if they choose to go that way. But none of the prevailing circumstances that are favorable to the establishment of authoritarian rule are unalterable. Personal freedom constitutes a challenge to African nationalism. ¶ The principles of democracy – freedom of speech, including the right to criticize and to propagandize against the government; freedom of assembly and association, including the freedom to organize opposition parties and to propose alternative governments; freedom of the people to choose their government at general elections, and to change them peacefully; freedom of religion; freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trial; the rule of law; guarantees for human rights and civil liberties – all these principles of parliamentary government are universal. They can be adopted and applied by any nation that chooses to do so. They can be institutionalized in any culture. ¶ The choice has to be made by the African states. There are leaders of African states who have accepted these principles and are determined to adhere to them. It is a challenge to African leaders to justify their claim for freedom and to give evidence of their maturity by making their states citadels of freedom, national and individual. African nationalism demands of others, in the challenge it throws for emancipation of Africa from colonial rule, justice, respect for human rights and human dignity, wisdom, tact, patience, and integrity. The establishment of democracy in Africa, the guarantee and extension of human rights and personal freedom to the citizens of Africa, justifiably call for the display of the same standards of conduct from Africans. It is a challenge that cannot be evaded; but it must be admitted that those who are trying to meet it are in the minority. ¶ ….¶ ….¶ The vision of a united African nation can be traced back to the yearnings and dreams of Africans who were exported as slaves to work [on] plantations in the United States and the West Indies. They dreamed of repatriation to the homeland, which in their dreams was just Mother Africa, one homeland, not many nations. With the abolition of the slave trade, and the manumission of slaves in America and the West Indies, the return to the nation of Africa became more than a dream. It became a quest for something realizable. Over the years, the quest has gathered momentum, and with the emergence of many more independent states in Africa, and the compulsions of larger unions, it has now come to constitute a challenge of African nationalism. ¶ …. ¶ There are independent states in which the component groups have still to be mobilized into a nation; colonial administration has given us an administrative framework but not that inner unity of nationhood. This task has first to be completed”(The Challenge of Africa 142-144).
Finally, in a well-targeted tirade against the African Show Boy, Busia warns against overweening self-centeredness: ¶ “The problems of a nation, even a small one, cannot all be solved in the life span of any one man, or even in any one generation. The problems of Africa belong to many generations of men. The mountains that loom so formidably today will be distant hillocks behind the generations of tomorrow. But overweening ambition to erect what they think will be their own immortal monuments drives some men in tempestuous haste to telescope all [of] history into one lifetime, and they seek to destroy in the process all who will not submit to their imperious will. So they sow the seeds of discord, suspicion, and fear. In human history[,] the seeds of discord bear fruit in conflagrations in which not only overweening ambition but also precious lives are scorched or burned out. It is not given to man to make himself immortal. It will take more than a lifetime to build a united nation out of the states of Africa. The vision was seen 300 years ago, in the darkest days of slavery. It has come nearer to reality since then; but it is not the Hitlers who could build things that endure”(The Challenge of Africa 149).
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005).
The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of www.africanewsanalysis.com and www.africa-forum.net