IT’S TIME FOR BIG BROTHER TO STOP WATCHING
An important but often overlooked precursor to partnerships is an attempt by the partnering parties to have an in-depth understanding and resultant appreciation for each other’s initial positions and situations prior to the partnership, and how such positions necessitate and shape the imminent or existing partnership. In this essay, some problematic foundational premises for partnership between Africa and Europe will be identified and discussed briefly setting the stage for a conclusion that identifies intentional cross-cultural education, as requiring urgent focus in order to guarantee greater global gains from the partnership between Africa and Europe.
To begin with, some African leaders (Paul Kagame most recently), have expressed their disapproval of Europe’s disposition of being ‘adult supervisors’ over political and social happenings in Africa. There is a possibility that this is done in good faith; that Europe’s attempt is to ensure a viable social and economic climate in Africa in order to protect and sustain the partnership between the two continents. And there have been occasions where such interferences have been helpful but there are also instances where they have been counterproductive. Even without particular references to any such instances and the unlikely possibility that they are myths, there still remain some conceptual and practical challenges with Europe’s informal role of ‘over-lord’ over Africa. Such an elevated posturing on the part of Europe, signals a distrust on the part of Europe for the leadership in Africa and by extension, the social-cultural contexts within which the leaders were nurtured. This would suggest a reluctance on the part of Europe to familiarize itself with the cultural and philosophical nuances of Africa and its people. The crux of the argument here is that, Europe’s operation from such an elevated position would have been from a certain conception of the European ideals as superior and hence an imagined moral obligation to direct and shape the African narrative towards the attainment of such ideals. How this poses a problem for partnership between Africa and Europe is that, without a unique and distinct sense of identity for Africa as separate from Europe or imperial influences, Europe is but only in a partnership with itself or at best, its clone.
It is interesting to note that the formal education of an African child is more European in its prescription than African. Many of the texts read and courses studied in African schools are geared towards meeting up with western standards which is in sharp contrast from the situation in western schools. Although there remains existing literature written by African scholars that cover several philosophical and technical academic subjects, they are few. These books are only occasionally and scarcely highlighted by pre-tertiary curricula in Africa and even at the tertiary levels, these are reserved for only students within some specific academic disciplines (notably African Studies).
If the overarching argument of partnerships is that they are greatly improved by a better understanding of each other’s initial positions and visions, then between the two continents, then Africa has paid its dues, perhaps even overpaid. African leaders, however, are very familiar with European literature, western ideals, and socio-political vision because of their exposure to Eurocentric education. How much of Africa does the European understand? And how much of Africa does the African understand, and how is that relevant to African-European relations?
If Africans do not understand themselves and have sufficient awareness of their potentialities and visions outside of European chaperoning, then the partnership between Africa and Europe will not yield the best results in the global scheme of things. Europe cannot understand and profile Africa better than Africa would for itself if given the necessary tools and opportunities; a self-discovery that would hopefully liberate Africa from an over-dependence on Europe and hence making Africa and Europe worthy partners. Europe should invest in the education and re-education of the African in suitability to the African context. This would again require a renewed and express interest from Europe in African literature and the worthy ideals of African culture.
More specifically, Europe can build institutes similar to the Confucius institutes built by China in some places in Africa; ‘Euro-Africa’ institutes where young leaders from both continents can share ideas in the wealth of each other’s culture.
Africa’s young population require skills training and development to contribute towards economic growth. A great awareness of their individual uniqueness and strengths as Africans cannot be substituted by any form of education. A renewed interest by Europe in African thought, philosophy and culture is the sounding board to cross-cultural cooperation. It is on this foundation that all other partnerships whether economic or political will sprout purposefully and organically.