The African dilemma of wrong perceptions

Any person who comes to Africa, more often than not, held in high esteem by the people who live here.

Any person who comes to Africa, more often than not, held in high esteem by the people who live here.

Sometimes this high regard with which people in Africa hold foreigners is not only laughable but perplexing.

A white man or woman will automatically become an expert on African affairs after a two week vacation in one of the many countries that make up this continent. When they go back, they will talk authoritatively on African affairs as if they have lived here all their lives.

It is apparent this negative development emanates from some kind of “shock and awe” in which some of our people, let alone people in responsible positions, hold these fellows.

A student intern from a backwater college in the west, say Europe or America having a vacation and also doing internship, is, more often than not, made a supervisor in a firm in Africa.

This occurs despite the fact that there may be people with more than a decade of experience than that person in the field.

 This stems from the false perception by Africans that all white people are more enlightened than themselves (Africans).

It is a deliberate ploy to keep Africans in the perception that they are not good enough compared to Europeans or Americans.

Timothy Kalyegira, a weekly columnist with the Uganda’s independent Daily Monitor, has written at length about the “curse” of Africa.

In his many different pieces of literature, he tries to attribute Africa’s miserable destiny to the predeter   mination of higher spirits.

This is hardly convincing, the working of spirits and God to derail Africa not showing enough empirical evidence to this effect.  What is apparent is the fact that this awe and high regard, punctuated with empty supplication that most of our people in Africa want to accord westerners, is derived from a false self inferiority complex.

Many years of slavery and oppression here served to break the proud spirit and back of what was, in the old ages, a hallmark of civilisation’s cradle land.

The colonial education that most of Africa’s elites received was not only inadequate, but remains irrelevant to the development process of Africa.

The colonial education system was always punctuated by religious services in schools. This was aimed at the production and churning out of a meek and subservient people. These would make up the colonial cadre of clerks and low level paid civil servants, always ready at the beck and call of their colonial masters.

 This in part explains the basis and origins of Afro pessimism that not only informs the thinking but also directs albeit negatively the actions of many products of such systems that found themselves in positions of responsibility after independence.

That is why many in our midst, despite having reasonable levels of education, will, in most cases, always feel inadequate in the presence of semi-educated Westerners whose intelligence levels can be found wanting on close scrutiny.

It is this same perception that forces many people – educated elites – to migrate to Western countries for what they believe is a better life.

In the end they negatively impact the possibilities of making Africa better by offering their services to Western countries instead of their own homeland.

After independence, most of the progressive governments on the African continent were deposed by the colonial trained military. Leaders like Nkwameh Nkrumah of Ghana, Milton Obote of Uganda, and Partrice Lumumba in Congo were removed from power in military coups masterminded by western intelligence services.

These were replaced by clumsy and illiterate dictators like Mobutu Sese Seko,  Jean Bedel Bokassa,  Idi Amin to mention but a few. 

They went on to preside over state collapse in their countries. What followed were long periods of dictatorship, prolonged civil wars, and the decline of general social welfare of their people.

The collapse and subsequent retreat of their states from providing services led to a situation whereby many Africans resorted to charity organisations and churches for sustenance and survival.

These charities are normally Western sponsored and staffed. Moreover, many Africans employed in the same organisations have had a stint in Western institutions.

This serves to reinforce the Afro-pessimistic perceptions of most of our people. Africans need to learn to be positive about themselves especially when it comes to what they are capable of.

Hope for Africans, however, still rests in their inner strength of character. It is within our people’s capacity to overcome such self-deprecating perceptions and gain a respectable position amongst other peoples.


Subscribe to The New Times E-Paper

For news tips and story ideas please WhatsApp +250 788 310 999    


Follow The New Times on Google News