Africa’s governments had not taken the necessary time to allay the deleterious eﬀects of colonialism. The violence, hatred, humiliation, exploitation and other practical impacts of “divide and rule” policies were simply ignored.
During the colonial era, Africans were taught that everything from Europe was good – whether ideas, people, goods, or politics. Christians were taught that Jesus was white and the devil black. The population was so indoctrinated that they felt themselves incapable, unpopular, ugly and worthless, and often still do. An entire generation internalised this mistaken and pernicious belief.
During colonisation, the school systems of the colonial rulers were duplicated in their colonies. However, the curriculum was of limited relevance to solving the daily problems of the locals. Rather, for the most part they served the economic and political interests of the “mother countries”.
In Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk modernised the entire educational system with the aim of initiating those social and cultural changes in which learning played an signiﬁcant role. He closed the Madrasas (the Quranic schools), choosing instead to emphasise the value of vocational training.
In this absence of this process of transformation, many sub-Saharan African countries failed soon after the departure of their colonial rulers. Some of their North African neighbours, including Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, had done much to change their societies and cultures after independence. But others continued with the school systems of their respective colonial powers for decades, despite the systems’ intention of socialising the Africans as French or English subjects. From the start, through the principle of “divide and rule”, eﬀorts were made to suppress any national identity, thereby preventing the emergence of Africans’ own self-esteem.
This remains today one of Africa’s great dilemmas. The favouring of an ethnic, religious, racial or cultural group over other segments of the population within colonial society helped foster intergroup rivalries. These continue in the present through the unequal distribution and control over national resources, giving rise to numerous conﬂicts.
This then raises the question: What sort of democracy do African countries need?
Recent events in Nigeria following the peaceful and successful transfer of power give us reason to hope that their example could oﬀer an alternative to other countries. It is to be hoped that the country’s political and economic structures, which have thus far failed to bring justice to the majority of Nigerians, may now also be changing for the better.
After independence the experiences of many Africans failed to instill feelings of loyalty to those countries artiﬁcially created in 1884 on the drawing boards of the Berlin Conference. Despite fertile soil, after more than 60 years of independence many African countries are still unable to produce enough food to feed their populations. Fuel must be imported, even in a oil rich nation like Nigeria. Across the globe, Africa is synonymous with poverty, war and dependence on foreign aid. Many Africans themselves no longer believe in their ability to control their own destiny, instead seeing themselves as passive and dependent. Intellectually, they feel demoted to beggars and their feeling of inferiority, rather than lessening after the colonial era, has instead intensiﬁed. Unfortunately, the development of too many African countries has come to a standstill. Colonial era divisions, violence and hatred among the citizens, have left a deep mistrust. It is imperative that reconciliation and healing processes now take place, otherwise it will be increasingly diﬃcult to build sustainably democratic nations which guarantee equality and respect for the traditions and cultures of the various population groups.
In my opinion, the nations of Africa need a social culture grounded in solidarity, respect and regard for one another, empathy, honesty and justice. Current societies are but a reﬂection of the elites which produced them. This is why I believe in the need for a intellectual transformation of the societies in each of the respective countries. A societal discourse on the decolonisation of mentalities, and of the political, social and cultural structures in sub-Saharan countries is unavoidable.
Dear readers, as you see, there has been progress in some areas, but others still stagnate. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that each country will discover their own suitable solutions.