African leaders tend to be blamed for almost every problem on the continent. It’s almost a cliché. But should African leaders take all blame for every problem on the continent?
The tragic failure of the African intellectual community has been due to the fact that they mostly see their role as that of endorsing western ideas other than providing solutions to the continent’s problem.
Africa is a poor continent with huge problems. Often and times again, it is Western experts who design solutions to these African problems. The trouble with such an arrangement is that, due to cultural differences, most of these Western-based solutions are inevitably based on a stereotypical understanding of Africa. Thus, they are flowed and cannot work.
Unfortunately, the African intellectual who is in a better position to critique and direct these Western-oriented remedies fails to do so, and instead endorses each of them. This tendency has rendered Africa unable to solve any of her problems. As a result, millions of dollars have been wasted on flawed projects. If African intellectuals could think and act independently, some of the continent’s problems would be solved.
The tendency by African intellectuals to endorse European views is firmly rooted in the history of the continent. Through Euro-centrism, being an intellectual has been defined in a way that makes it a synonym with being pro-Western. Based on such a view, an intellectual is the one who supports British/European opinion, who thrives to be like a European, to look like one, or dress like one. In fact, back in the day, you would not be regarded as a complete intellectual until you have gone to Scotland to marry a girl from Edinburgh.
Such thinking subjects the development of Africa to its submission to Europe, since every action undertaken in the continent has to be weighed in terms of Western interests. Nevertheless, this is the philosophy that has been widely taught in schools across Africa. Accustomed to endorsing European views, African intellectuals have become inept at thinking for themselves. This has resulted in a form of ‘dead’ intellectualism, whereas African intellectuals, though highly educated, sit and wait for Westerners to put forth opinions so that they can endorse them in turn.
Africa is almost exclusively dominated by negative news. This holds true even in African countries like South Africa where the front-page news is usually reserved for positive stories about Europe and the West in general; they talk about the European royal families and footballers such as David Beckham. And then the negative stories are all about Africa. Such propaganda has also helped shape African intellectualism.
As a result, it is not uncommon to see Africans looking down at themselves. For instance, when a case of domestic violence occurs in an African community, the first reaction from our intellectuals is often to blame the “African culture”, whereas when the same incident happens outside the African continent, only the culprit is blamed. The same is true with the unfortunate cases of infidelity. When President of South Africa Jacob Zuma fathered a child out-of-wedlock, the intellectuals and commentators immediately blamed the entire African culture for this sort of behavior. Whereas when former senator John Edwards fathered a child out-of-wedlock, only he as an individual was blamed, not the whole “American culture”.
What is the role of African intellectuals on the continent? Have they lived up to the standards expected of them? Developing Africa will not be possible until we hold EVERYBODY accountable, not just the politicians.