OPINION: IN DEFENSE OF AN AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY FOR DEVELOPMENT
By Raymond Erick Zvavanyange, @zvavanyanger3, Zimbabwe
The African philosophy for development is under siege. To counter this, our mental models must change. For instance, a lapse in news reporting last year by the Cable News Network (CNN) describing the East African country, Kenya as a ‘hotbed of terror’ prior to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit co-hosted by the United States President Barack Obama and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta created a global backlash for CNN. A senior CNN Executive had to fly in to Kenya with an official apology to President Kenyatta and the Kenyans following the incident. Contrary to CNN’s claim, Kenya is noted as ‘a hotbed of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship’.
Contrary to what is often practiced, global partnerships in development dictate what nations can achieve when solving the key challenges of our time. They spell out the perceived nature of the partnership, the partners involved, arbitration procedures, and conditions for dissolving the partnerships when the partnership is no longer beneficial. Global partnerships depend in part on an explicit and shared philosophy for their success. This philosophy for development is one that is based on mutual interests, shared risks and shared values. It is a “win-win” philosophy, where constituent members are equal partners. There should be an assumed recognition that each partner has a reservoir of alternatives pathways to development. The importance of partnerships was also emphasized in the recent United States White House Summit on Global Development. It takes a network of committed individuals, organisations and institutions to deliver on set targets in human progress/development.
In his article, “The Need to Go Beyond GDP in Measuring Development”, Zimbabwean scholar, Dr. Eric S.M.S. Makura, asserts the need to consider holistically the improvements Africa has made in its economic, social, political, cultural, and ecological dimensions when it comes to development since decolonization. The scholar argued that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is “narrowly focused since it measures formal production, and excludes informal production, underground economic activities, and illicit transactions.” He maintains that we should simply not focus on economic growth for economic growth is not the same thing as development. This as the paper states is a serious flaw in the use of GDP as an accurate instrument of measuring development. Development is clearly a multidimensional process, and should be regarded as such.
In my book, “Philosophy and The Logic of Collective Action in African Agriculture”, the central argument is on novel intellectual frameworks to create new knowledge and provide foresight capabilities in African agriculture. These are essential frameworks to how we perceive progress especially in contemporary times. I elaborated on collective actions as witnessed in the varied but related actions in African agriculture. The overarching point is that collective action elevates the common interests of stakeholders in African agriculture. We have as of now few documented evidence of opposition to collective action in African agriculture. What people think will gain or lose of any proposal is in part driven by their interests. The book also notes that there are certain instances when people can act out of other reasons than self-interests. Therefore, coherence among people and organisations involved in knowledge and foresight capabilities in Africa agriculture is critical, a failure of which, results in complete chaos.
I also assert that philosophical systems and their recorded histories enable people, communities, and scholars to view the world as well as interact with it. Philosophy underpins the actions of individuals and organizations. Individuals require an intellectual framework to guide their thoughts and actions. The book essentially argues that it is risky to exist without a philosophy though having a philosophy does not make one immune to problems for philosophy is not immune to problems.
Similarly, in his book, Africa Must Think, Dr. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, contends that “mind liberation is Africa’s greatest need.” “The ability to think and act differently” as Dr. Korangteng-Pipim urges, means recognition of the existence of an African philosophy for development. No one race is superior to others.
Valuable lessons are to be learned when the human species accommodate each other’s philosophies for development. Philosophies for development should never be seen to be in competition but rather they should sharpen our current and available mental models. We don’t always know whether philosophy actually counts or not. The challenge that remains is to ensure than should a philosophy for development become a story, it is not a single-sided story and that it is not immune to critique.