An original essay
by Edward Fagan
The problems experienced by African-descended people cannot all be attributed to their enslavement by others; those problems also can not be blamed totally on any racial discrimination that continued after the abolition of slavery.
It is clear that the choices made by Africans in the various areas of national development, from the beginning and continuing through time, did not serve their national development interests. The choices they made contributed to their becoming seriously disadvantaged in all areas of national development, including social, economic, political, military and other forms of development. (Two examples of the point made above is that, during and after the Bronze and Iron Ages and well after the industrial revolution, Africans continued to fight with wooden weapons. Africans also never established and maintained clearly defined, tribal/national borders.) Later, the failure of Africans to achieve a significant level of development in those areas mentioned above not only placed them at a disadvantage but was successfully exploited by others in their quest to enslave and colonize Africans.
In order to achieve an appropriate level of development in the important areas of life that meets the needs of African people (on the African continent and elsewhere) African people firstly must admit that they still contribute to their current plight by continuing to think and behave in relation to national development as they did prior to their enslavement and colonization. (An example of this point is the non-existence, both before slavery and after its abolition, of: long-term economic and other planning, an infrastructure for economic and other development including complex systems for, tribal/national financial accounting, large scale agricultural production, extensive land and sea communications, inter-tribal/national commerce and trade, and tax revenue generation, to name a few.)
African people secondly must create a body of experts for the long term planning of all aspects of development and create an infrastructure for the implementation of the long term development plans of that body. They also need to realize that because of the non-existence of fundamental and long-term developmental planning and an infrastructure for economic and other development as mentioned above, the changes made and the progress achieved since abolition, colonization and independence are always going to be superficial, fragile and of a relatively short-term duration.
It is necessary too, that Africans identify the changes in their thinking and behaviour they are required to make at the personal level (both individually and collectively) that will contribute to their personal development and achievement. They must understand the close interconnection between and interdependence of personal development and achievement and the common good; they must therefore personally commit to the common good. This personal commitment to the common good must include understanding the importance of, and practical commitment to moral values (especially the value of honesty, which is necessary for the reduction of certain crimes and the elimination of corruption). Without upholding these moral values in practice, there can be no real development, national or personal.
The history of the African people prior to their enslavement took the unfortunate turn that it did and continued along that path because Africans failed (for whatever reasons) to follow certain courses of action, to create certain institutions and to adopt certain corrective measures, of which some are mentioned below:
A strong sense of identity of ethnicity and race: Ethnic groups (nations) never took themselves seriously as nations and, consequently, as preservers and defenders of their race.
Strong, ethnocentric political ruler-ship, sense of absoluteness (sense of relationship of rulers and people to God); know importance of role in, and purpose of, leadership; development or borrowing of efficient and effective political, military, legal and economic systems: they fell very short in these areas but could have borrowed ideas and practices from others, as other races have done. (Example, Africans fought with wooden weapons far too long, up to, during and after the colonial period.)
Identification and preservation of ethnic legacy, heritage, culture, history, language (Realize importance of creating or borrowing alphabet, grammar, literary tradition) They failed miserably in these areas also, but again, could have borrowed from the other races. (Example, Africans did not create or borrow any alphabet or grammar, their languages did not develop and they remained non literate.)
A Permanent commitment to establishment and preservation of tribal/national homelands (realize importance of patriotism, nationalism) they failed here totally, too, but could have adopted the better approach of other peoples. (Example, Africans failed to establish and maintain clearly defined tribal/national borders.)
It is hopeful, but not expected in several generations to come, that Africans on the continent and in the diaspora will make the changes suggested above and below for the alleviation of many of the problems from which they are suffering.
The democratic political system with its various institutions and checks and balances for the prevention of abuse, corruption etc, though not faultless, is second to none; and its accompanying capitalist economic system, though not faultless likewise, is also second to none. The principal and outstanding feature of this twin system is the freedoms it affords the societies who adopt it and those freedoms include freedom to choose which development goals to pursue, and freedom to determine how and when to pursue those development goals. This democratic-capitalist system then, would seem to be the ideal system for African societies.
That salient feature of the democratic-capitalist system, freedom to choose (in politics, in the economy and in other areas of societal life, within the law) is the very reason why the democratic-capitalist system is not the ideal system for development in African societies. African societies, when left free to choose between development and underdevelopment always choose the latter, some evidence is given above to support this position.
What then is the solution to the problems of African tribes/nations’ persistent underdevelopment and their constant refusal to freely work toward achieving development? The solution is one that has never been tried before, and one that will never be tried at anytime soon by any African tribe/nation. The solution is a two sided system comprising of a political dictatorship and a non-political, central, economic and social planning body. A sensible, efficient and effective political dictatorship will manage only the political affairs of the tribe/nation; and an independent, non-political, central planning body of experts will formulate economic and social policy; the economic and social policy will then be implemented by the various parts of a well developed and extensive economic and social infrastructure as planned.
(The standard used by this writer throughout this observation to measure the performance within various areas of activity of the African tribes/nations is met by Biblical Israel and Historical Germany.)
By Edward Fagan