Worldwide, economic globalization shreds the fabrics of societies. It divides and weakens the majority in nations across the globe. Confronted with civil discontent, its leading proponents are now in hasty retreat – America to “America First” and the UK to “A Global Britain” as it grapples with the Battle of Brexit. For Africa, the moment to “take the current when it serves” is now, set out on an expedition, a visionary enterprise that focuses not on the present global civilization that is in decline, but seeks instead to create a “New African Civilization,” a massive socio-political revolution that ignites the flame of the cradle of humanity.
It will create continent-wide rebirth, initiate a unique African renaissance and build African-enlightened societies that assert the most cherished, noble ideals of the African heritage. Yes, Africa can do it. Africa built humanity’s first civilization, through the Egyptians, and left the world the legacies of the 365-day calendar, mathematics and engineering. Again, we are in “Africa’s Millennium,” and the 21st Century is lift-off time.
The civilization initiative is all encompassing, comprehensive and long term. It presents Africa with unique opportunities of this information and knowledge age to share a new expansive, strategic and inspiring perspective that will mobilize the social world of all Africans across the globe: the vision of a great leap forward, on a long, thousand-mile trek to a new, advanced civilization where everything works.
The vision will be designed to generate enthusiasm among the people, especially the youth, and serve to engage the present and upcoming generations for the rest of their lives. For this new civilization to remain strong and endure, it must be well grounded. It will place its highest premium on the family institution as a prized possession. Family is, after all, the foundational building block of society as well as the repository of the unique DNA of Africa, the cradle of humanity. Therefore, the family institution will be at the core of the evolution of the new civilization. From above, the civilization enterprise will embody a strong spiritual character.
The huge challenges of the continent require that Africa goes beyond itself, draws from supernatural resources well beyond human capabilities, to attain the extraordinary – the miracle of a new advanced civilization. Great Britain and the U.S. did this to attain their super greatness. The U.S. adopted its official national motto “In God We Trust,” while the UK titled its national anthem “God save the Queen”.
The spiritual reference present in both is no coincidence. Africa needs to move expeditiously and deal with the most critical challenges that are currently retarding her progress, the very weak social structure, matrix and fabric that encapsulates the economies, the politics, and the organization of its societies.
This requires social development engagement. The continent has a most pressing need to address the low-level of development of its fragile social substructure, infrastructure and superstructure that, for now, are not sufficiently robust to support the highly competitive economics and politics of the prevailing modern and global, intense and dynamic, disruptive and transformative, information and knowledge revolution. Africa’s development challenge does not lie with its economy. Generations of our forebears traded globally and successfully in commodities and even humans. Also today, Africa can boast of men and women who rank among the 1% of the world’s wealthiest people.
What holds Africa down is its defective social structure and character that need urgent revival. Without sorting these out, its single-minded pursuit of economic development will remain an exercise in futility. Truly, if Africa is to rebuild itself, properly reconstitute its presently defective social structure, matrix and fabric, and realize the new dream, it needs to adhere to the natural social order. Africa is being confused and destabilized. Its societies are compelled to function under a capitalist economic order when Africa fails by far to fit into the models of Europe which underpin the order. Africa is yet to successfully ride the wave of the agricultural revolution.
It is yet to rise to the industrial stage as the continent commands only about 1% of global manufacturing and 2% of world trade. Again, it needs to confront directly and resolve its complex matrix of negative legacies of history that hold it back such as relative immobility, slave trade, the partition of Africa, colonialism, and more recently, military rule. For Africa to resolve these challenges, it needs to count on Nigeria.
Being Africa’s largest economy and its most populous nation, Nigeria will lead the long march and be the first fruit of emerging, advanced societies that will be built all across Africa. It has the greatest potential to contribute to building a necessary and sufficient, continent- wide, critical mass of citizens with higher education and special skillsets that will serve to push and pull the rest, as the continent’s new, globally competitive societies emerge on the world stage. Starting with the superstructure which oversees the continent’s development, Africa needs to press for speedy and total overhaul of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to make it agile, responsive, and non-bureaucratic so that it can fully identify with Africa.
ECA serves as the overarching, supranational organization of the United Nations for development coordination, collaboration and integration. Unfortunately, it is largely unresponsive and is indeed distractive and disruptive to the continent’s speedy progress. It sits like a dog in a manger. A University of London research came to the disheartening conclusion that “the ECA cannot play a meaningful role in development.” The ECA appears to lack the knowledge of the secret of development.
But, its counterparts in Asia and the Pacific do not. The sacred secret is that of the fundamental driving role of social development in societies. Hence, the most pressing need in Africa is to restructure the ECA for a well-balanced devotion to both social and economic development, with an even greater emphasis on social development. This restructuring will begin with a change in this commission’s name to “Social and Economic Commission for Africa (SECA)”. ECA appeared not to be aware of the decisive steps its counterparts in Asia had taken with regard to social development. As a result, to date, no similar resolutions have been passed with respect to its work and designation.
This inaction has resulted in the fact that the social development foundation, the roots that nourish Africa is weak and fragile. Hence, the African continent has performed very poorly in virtually all indicators of development. Historically, eras of intensive social mobilization and development have sparked major advances in human condition. During the Classical Era, Greece, between the 4th and 5th centuries BC, exerted a great influence on the Roman Empire and on the foundations of emerging western civilization. Such great minds like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle provided thoughtful leadership in literature, theatre, philosophy, architecture, culture, science, and politics.
The intellectual minds of Greece blossomed during this period to yield, among others, the political legacy of democracy that many modern societies highly prize today. Later, during the Early Modern Period (1500 – 1750 AD), Europe experienced diverse intellectual and social movements during the Renaissance, the Age of Discovery or Exploration, the Protestant Reformation, and the Age of Enlightenment.
These gave birth, towards the end, to the Industrial Revolution, from about 1760 to between 1820 and 1840. Also, these events generated several political upheavals, the most notable of which was the French Revolution of 1789 – 1799. Democracy was further entrenched, and Europe was transformed into industrial societies from which emerged the practice of capitalism.
In more recent times, China experienced the socio-political movement of the Great Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976. This event served as the prelude to the economic leaps and bounds that have seen China become the world’s second largest economy today. Intellectual and social movements that advance social developments precede major political and economic events in history.
Therefore, Africa of today cannot be the exception. Africa, you cannot “have your cake and eat it too”. “Rome was not built in a day.” Africa has to go through the grit and grind, and pay the price before it can emerge as a developed new civilization. There can be no half-measures and no cutting of corners. Again, from Shakespeare: “To be, or not to be: that is the question.”
Yes, for Africa it must be. It must be a future that holds the great promise of the “New African Civilization”. After all, as the cradle, Africa built for the whole of humanity the earliest civilization. Africa can do it again for the post-modern world. •Abara is a competitiveness advisor and former investment banker.
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