Sunday, November 6, 2011

African Development

A Facebook friend of mine from Ghana asked me what I thought about "African Development." That's a tough question...given the fact that I don't know very much about Africa or the various nation states that currently dominate political discussions. But like most philosophers, I won't let my ignorance of the facts stand in the way of participating in that discussion. That's because there are philosophical issues that I can help sort out. The following is my edited and expanded response. 

First, what do you mean by "African development?" It could mean many things. Philosophically, the concept of development signifies progress toward a desirable goal via some means. So to talk "development" we need to identify both a GOAL and the MEANS of achieving that goal. Also, we need to clarify what you mean by "Africa." Are you referring to the entire continent of Africa as a whole or the nation-state of Ghana? There are also "long-term goals" and "short-term goals" and various means of achieving both. Some "goals" are realistic (means are known and can be implimented) and others are idealistic (imaginable but impossible to realize). Of course, we don't always KNOW with certainty which goals are "realistic" and what's "idealistic." Right now, it's hard to set long-term or short-term development goals for Africa as a whole because there's very little social, cultural, or political unity. Even national identity in many African countries are currently in a flux. Do you envision African unity, where all the various tribes, religions, and nation states "cooperate" toward a specific ENDS? If so, by what means MEANS to you plan to to impliment in bringing about that end?

Having said all that, let's return to the original question: "What do you mean by African development?" I assume that you are referring to "economic development." Does your vision for African economic development refer to the ability of Africa to operate (survive or thrive?) independent of the rest of the world (autonomy and self-sufficiency); or,  do you want Africa to develop the capacity to participate in the global economy? Both goals have implications for one's vision of the future of African identity. If economic autonomy and self-sufficiency are your long term goals, then what social, cultural, and political traditions do you embrace, and how do you instill those values? How do you reject the old values? In short, how does economic development relate to sociopolitical development?

Now if your ultimate goal is for Africa to participate in a global economy, you'll have to promote social, cultural, and political traditions that are not hostile to participation in global trade. First of all, Africa would have to embrace rule of law; that is Africans will have to obey rules (that apply to everyone) not what leaders say.  Africans would have reject violence, theft, fraud and breach of contract. If Africa is unable or unwilling to monitor and enforce these basic moral rules, then other nations will not willingly trade with Africa. If you want Africa to be "autonomous and self-sustaining" those same moral and legal rules would have to be enforced. In fact, I would argue that any nation on earth (at any time or any place) that wants to "develop" will have to follow these rules.

 I wish I could say that the United States provides a useful role model, but our society has fallen far short of the "ideal." In fact, much of the economic recession can be attributed to our own failure to uphold these values. So...back again to your original question. What is your vision for Africa 20 years from now? Do you seek a unified Africa (one single sociopolitical entity), or many different competing and cooperating states (like the US and European Union)? Do you want the everyday lives of future Africans to revolve around work, religion, family? Do you want Africans to own a lot of stuff (homes, automobiles, airports, trains, Chinese food, McDonalds food, Western clothes, Western music, Western art etc.)? Or, would you rather revive lost traditions, such as tribal association or subsistence agriculture? What do you think? What is your long-term vision for Africa and how might that vision be realized? What must you do in the sort-term to realize this goal?

1 comment:

julia dokashenko said...

I think that following a philospher is a trusted way unlike political system. I considered on this topic in my essay Plato’s Republic