Monday, September 26, 2005

Mobilizing for Change in Africa

The Changing Contexts & Paradigms


Africa has been impacted by two centuries of a checkered drive towards modernization. There is a noticeable absence of human, financial and working capital that makes life meaningful in other climes. Africa’s massive resource base remain largely un-deployed, un-developed and often times un-exploitable. It often serves little or no purpose in the desire to give the people a meaningful life. The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal shows that Africa’s children are the most exposed to all the negative realities of earth – more exposed than children in any other continent of the world.

The World of the African people is a challenging one. It is a world that has proven unfriendly to parents and children alike. It is a world where access to education is very difficult and access to health care and justice is more difficult still. It is a poor world, the only one in our universe where poverty rate and the number of the poor are increasing today (2005). It is the only section of our world where more than 50% of the population that are under the age of 15 years today, are guaranteed to spend their adult lives either in abject poverty or on the margins of survival within the global community. It is a world in need of a new way of thinking, it is a world requiring a proactive attempt to empower the Living Systems and fight for change.

Endangered Villages & Unsafe Cities
Africa’s urban areas are largely unsustainable. They are sites of intense congregation of human beings without any intentional long termed plan to manage the resources and people that exist within it. Africa’s Villages on the other hand are fast becoming monuments, ghost towns; they are places stripped of their relevance and denuded of their vital productive elements.

The Siren Song of the Cities have depopulated the countryside, rural life in Africa is often a complex demographic admixture of the very old, waiting to die, the infirm hoping to die and the very young asking for what life is all about. As soon as the very young get someone to explain life to them, either correctly or incorrectly; they begin the process of escaping the rural realities.

Africa’s rural areas represent an enigma, either too young to know or too old to care but yet it contributes between 65% - 80% of the GDP of virtually all nations of Africa. Africa is therefore saddled with the dilemma of the least effectively managed areas being the most productive! There is no wonder then that Africa’s growth has been largely in the negative in the last two decades.

Mission Africa International is convinced that the most effective segment in the population (young people) must be assisted to become its most productive component, and that the most productive areas of the land (rural areas) must be controlled by the most effective. Young Africans must become effective producers and rural Africa must become desirable habitations of Young People. This is a necessary step to reviving the continent and retarding the creation of hell holes called African City Slums.

The Seduction of Hope
It has been repeated several times that half of Africa’s population will live in cities by the year 2025. The reality of African population today makes one wonder why this should be the case. Why do people succumb to the systemic pressure to move to the city? The answer is based in the age old perception that opportunities exist within the cities and that there is helplessness and hopelessness within the rural areas.

When we do a comparative analysis of the African population however, it is clear that the greater percentage lives in rural dwelling places and that the greater portion of the productive activities are located in the rural areas. It is a tragedy to allow the greater percentage of the productive population to continue living under an illusion of hopelessness and helplessness.

Mission Africa International affirms a desperate need to fight hopelessness that covers a large portion of Africa like a cloak.

There is a need to consciously engage with Africa’ rural and Peri Urban areas and show that they are live-able places which are excellent for raising children.
Mission Africa International affirms the need to prioritize and revolutionize access to resource by the African rural and peri urban dwellers.

Africans hold certain believe system that Africans about the process of wealth acquisition. These believe systemsaffect and impact on the perception of rural and urban realities.

Before the advent of the White man, African economy was an agrarian economy; wealth was a direct function of your strength as a farmer. Your wealth was essentially dependent on your capacity to physically produce.

For instance, the Yoruba people have a population that exceeds 40 Million people and they are native to three countries. They are extensively dispersed over the face of Africa and in the Diaspora. Pre European Yoruba mind measures wealth by rows of stored yams that hang on someone’s barn or the number of livestock you are able to raise. It was also measured in the skills that you posses as an artisan. Everyone in the community was engaged in one form of practical and constructively productive enterprise. They have such proverbs as “Apa ni ara, igunpa ni iyekan.” This proverb translates to mean “your true relative is your own arm, your faithful acquaintance is your elbow.”

Yoruba cities were organized along the line of “guilds or Egbes.” Guilds were vocational choices that you made and you stick to. It is sometimes family based and sometimes referred to as “the way of the family.” In Oyo Ile, the ancient capital of the Yoruba people for instance; there was Egbe Alaso, Guild of Cloth Producers, Egbe Elepo – Guild of Oil Producers, Egbe Alagbede – Guild of Blacksmiths, Egbe Onisona – Guild of Carvers, Egbe Agbe – guild of farmers. All of these pathways have attached families, productive records, ancient lineage linked poems that describes their activities, codes of conduct and so on and so forth. The community was a practical and a productive community; you cannot exist without having a trade. Everyone was directly involved in agricultural productivity and Egbe Agbe, the guild of farmers was a guild that every adult was a part off,

Prominent in the society were consolidators who were usually large scale producers. They purchase goods from other smaller producers to build quantity for export beyond the boundaries of their community. The archetaypal representatives ogf this group were the formerly famous “Egbe Onidaruke” the league of women exporters who consolidate foodstuff and sell across the borders of the community. Feeding into the Onidarukes were the alarobos who focuses on animate objects such as fowls sheep goats etc and the alajapas who focuses on inanimate objects such as food items, fruit items and medicinal herbs. The critical thing to note is that all major traders launch their productive and distributive trade from the platform of effective agricultural productivity. Agriculture was such a force in the community that in the early days of the Christian mission in Ibadan city, the missionaries needed to build their churches; they could not procure labor either for love or for money because all citizens were needed on the farm! Traditional houses were built through the age group system wherein a day in the week was chosen to do construction and repairs within each age group. The missionaries were not in any age group so all able bodied skilled men were unavailable to them (gone to farm) when it was time to build houses!

There are stories among the Yoruba’s pointing to the fact that even the gods work. The primordial earth was created by the instruction of Olodumare (most High God, the Lord of the Mystery of the Rainbow). His agent was Obatala, the white revered one whose instruction was to plant the primordial forest with the help of an intergalactic hen. When Obatala failed in this enterprise because his equipment that was made of silver could not deal with the strength of the intergalactic forest, it was Ogun, the lord of the guild of the iron smiths that came to his rescue with his strong working tools.

All these stories were a metaphor pointing to the value of work and engagement with the environment. Enshrined in the psyche of the people was a clear paradigm that says productivity is a practical, internal and a very personal, local effort. It was also an effort involving trans-local agents. Trans-local agents interact with the system – not as key players; but as catalysts. When Obatala failed for instance, Olodumare did not come down to help him. He sent rather another paterfamilias – Ogun - to help him out. Olodumare was a distant catalyst not an active player.
roots of change

Linkages with Europe in the 14th century led to the development of a parallel economy. This economy was not dependent on the institutions and the pathways of productive enterprise. It actually opposed and undermined the tradition of productivity. It was an economic system that allowed for acquisition of massive wealth from purely distributive sources that has no local productive content.
Over time, there was a shift in paradigm and a re-processing of how the Yorubas viewed the productive enterprise. It created a systems wide perception that what is produced internally is not good enough and that resource acquisition is essentially trans-local in nature. Resource acquisition became a quality that must be sought beyond the borders of the local communities. It was a violent new thought that had impact in the local communities.

The ocean board became an attractive place; cities sprang up that were motivated by the need to service the non productive but distributive enterprise which caters to the need of the Europeans. A special class of Africans arose who do not need to produce anything, they just traded in what others produced and they did so with advanced funds from the European traders. These people knew what the white man wanted, they knew what their productive kinsmen possess; they knew the secrets of the impenetrable forests: they linked the white man on the coasts and the black man in the interior. They brought exotic produce that the locals have no clue how it was produced to the homesteads. What they brought to the homesteads created a false economy. It was not reproducible by the locals; it became the root of dependency that Africa has experienced for so many centuries.

If you fast forward the process 400 years ahead and project through the era of slave trade and all its implications and the destruction of essential Africa, if you project through the era of colonialism and look through its impact on the African psyche; when you come to the recent era: the only conclusion is that the false economy created many years ago has become a culture. There is a tendency for the people not to respect what is available in the community. The hearts of the people are drawn away from the productive realities of their own economic systems; they are drawn rather to a false promise of quick gain beside the oceans. On the beaches of Africa, the young ones desire a “better life” across the ocean in Europe, they fail to realize that five centuries ago, these same beaches were places of pain where their uncles and cousins wept as they were forced on the slave ships. The slave ships are still sailing; only now it flies. Only now it is a willing exodus that says what is here is not good enough, what is here cannot be productively developed; I must find out what is out there.

From the foregoing, it is imperative that those who work in Africa adopt a systemic perspective that is sensitive to the histories of the people.
Africa can only be helped as we integrate and interface every aspect of the community, we must be clear about the challenges and be willing to proffer solution that takes a long termed, historical view rather than a short termed utilitarian, meet - a - need perspective.

The primary thing needing to be changed in the Africa is the productive regime.
People must move from the distributive platform to a productive platform.
Rural heart of Africa must be re-engineered as a productive powerhouse that serves the needs of the local communities and from the platform of local responsive service, grow to engage with external communities.

Engagement with foreign resources must be defined on a platform similar to the “Onidarukes.” Internal productive endeavors must supply internal needs of the population first and then create an excess which is exported to the external community.

Access to foreign resource must be tied to an internal productive endeavor. It should not be on the platform of charity, it must be on the platform of productivity.

Productivity must not be defined by what the West needs. Any group that is not meeting the needs of the people locally but is focused on meeting the needs of external players cannot be said to be ethical.

Agric for export drive is an unsustainable model that does not develop the nation. Agriculture should first of all serve the people. Export motivated growth has never developed any nation. A strong internal engine that services its own people is necessary to assure long termed productivity of a nation.

Policies should be developed that says a certain percentage of people effort must contribute to local sustenance.

Foreigners – especially Christian mission leaders and donors must focus their strength on ensuring internal productivity of their African partners. They need to help their African friends to shift their eyes away from the coast and what is coming from over the sea to what is inside the land and how it can be harnessed to bless the people.

The point above is not a call to isolationism; it is rather a call to productive engagement that optimizes the strength of partners. Foreigners should not give money out of pity. Foreign mission organizations should not support ministers that their community cannot sustain. They should ask rather “what exist within your community that we can empower to sustain you?” “What can you do internally that will make you productively engaged and maintained?”

Access to resources must be conceived in an integrated fashion. It must promote a wholesome existence that targets the optimization of all facets of life. It is this proactive optimization of engagement that we propose and base in a vision targeted at evolving the Living Community Systems - LCS.

A Living Community Systems focuses on an integrated existence that is internally productive and possesses effective access to external platform. Its focus is to access resources from all sources and use it to develop and facilitate effective local productivity.

A Living Community Systems proactively applies the economic concept of comparative advantage. This concept says that every community has something that it can do better than other communities around it. For any community to become a Living Community Systems, it must determine what its comparative advantage is.
A strong sustainable economic foundation is necessary for any Living Community Systems. People will continue to exit any systems that does not address their basic economic needs

Community growth occurs when leadership is nurtured around community comparative advantage. Nurture of Leadership around Community Comparative Advantage must therefore be a focus of Living Community Systems.

Sum total of the activities of members within any community systems determines the comparative advantage of that community. Enhancing the activities that the community is comfortable with and developing innovative skills that makes them do well in such activities must be the first target of any organization seeking change.

Training and re-training is critical to the process for developing a Living Community Systems. An enhanced skills regime will provide effective leadership to the productive process.

Access to Capital, Health and education forms the tripartite cords that holds up sustainable development. Presence of natural resource alone does not guarantee development (remember Congo, remember Nigeria?).

Access to Capital
Development depends on the capacity to convert natural resources into modes that can be utilized, and transferred and converted to capital. Utilize-ability and transfer-ability is critical to any development endeavor.

Utilize-ability, transferability and convert-ability always require access to capital. Utilize-ability in particular is affected by the concepts of portability and present-ability. Can the product be easily carried? Is it packaged in such a manner that people want to have it?

Access to capital resources to implement the goals of the Living Community Systems is critical.

Every instance of access to capital requires the establishment of a crucial participatory platform. If this platform is not established, development becomes patronizing and less than desirable.

Capital released for the development of Living Community Systems should always be viewed as retrievable capital. This is based on the assumption that the true productive capital exist within the community. External input is simply a non consumable catalyst that must be retrieved after a successful reaction.

A true Living Community Systems is a reproducible system. It should give birth to another. Conscious effort should be made to write this process of reproduction into the DNA of any Living Community Systems initiated.

For instance, Community A has a comparative advantage in maize production, it is assisted by Group X to jumpstart its development process. Community A should be made to understand that the process is not complete until they assist Community B with beginning their own development process focused on cassava as the product of comparative advantage.

Access to Health
Community health and individual wellness is always strongly correlated. Whenever a group of people are granted access to healthcare, their productivity increases many folds.

People within the Living Community Systems should be made to pay for their health care on a graduated basis. Units and levels of payment must be determined by local realities. It is the responsibility of the leadership of the health system to think about possible ways to make the services affordable.

It is important to note that people have never objected to paying for health care services, it has just not been effectively conceived, managed and distributed.

Access to Education
Ideas live in the heart and ideas can be transferred anywhere there is an idealist and a willing receptor.

Teachers by their calling should be idealists and young people all over the world have been proven to be eager receptors of ideas.

Living Community Systems requires the mobilization of Teacher – Idealists who will take their wards on a journey into the mysteries of learning.

Teaching where children actually learn is the focus of Living Community Systems. So what to teach has to be carefully conceived and systemized.

In Africa, teaching must be focused on facilitating change. Teaching must be an ideological tool, a place where active worldviews are communicated to the young ones.

This concept opposes the idea of a bland non – intrusive teaching philosophy that describes life as a pot-pouri within which you can choose what you will. The Choice of A Way must be taught.

For the Christian Mission program, education must be a conscious, active communication process that is driven by Christ Value.

The historical context of faith, the current context of commitment, the future implication of choice must be the pegs on which education hangs its theories.

What does AIDS Epidemics teach us about fidelity for instance? Or about commitment? Or about grace? Or about mercy? What does poverty teach us about creative work? What is the difference between working hard and working smart? How do we harness and optimize the ebbs and the flows of the seasons? What do the seasons teach us about pro-activity and innovation?

How does God see our communities? How does God matter within our situations? Pythagoras theorem must be made to show how Jesus is the Lord (and it does!).

There are many things in which Africa needs change:
1. Our perspective on work
2. The ethos that we bring into the work place
3. Our perspective on wealth and our strategy for creating it.
4. Our perspective on the future and our strategy for sustaining it
5. Our perspective of current situations and our resilience in dealing with it.

Africans are extremely adaptable. We are specialists in hope but when it comes to the arena of faith, we are often low on gas.

Hope says it will come when it will come, but faith says it will come.

Faith says because I believe it will come, I plan for it, I work towards it, I save, I strategize, I look for opportunity to make it come, I create alliances to bring it to pass; I refuse to sit on a spot, I refuse to be walked over..

Mission agencies need to investigate the multidimensional power of faith that does
practical work.

Hope on the other hand says, because it will come when it will I have no control over it. Why should I plan for change, I have no control over the elements, I am powerless I am in fact defeated. I must needs escape! One day after all my experiences, it will come... I just don’t know the date and I am not willing to wait and ask.

Hope looks good on the surface but when it does not transition into faith, it is a deadly killer; it is not true biblical hope.

This is why it seems African are so hopeful but are yet faithless because what is termed hope is in fact fatalistic abandonment.

This fatalistic abandonment is due to historic experience of continuous disappointment and leadership failure which teaches the people not to trust.

Faithlessness therefore is a function of long term abuse and misuse experienced at the hands of historic leadership.

Restoration of faith will be a function of restoration of historic justice in leadership. What will be the systemic experience of the people if they truly experience justice and fairness in leadership? How will they react? These questions cannot be presumed upon, it must be discovered by experience; there must be a journey into trust.

The natural assumption in embarking on a process of systemic change is that you will be challenged and this indeed is true. There must be another consideration however or we will fall as a victim to the concept of fatalistic abandonment.

We must ask ourselves the following questions and keep their possibilities always before our eyes:
What if the Lord honors us in our attempt to bring change?
What if He heals the hearts of the people and teaches them to trust their leaders again?
What if there is a revolution of attitudes in the homesteads? What if men are given the power to rise above systemic and generational pain?

Anyone seeking to deal with the issues raised must assume that he will fail to make the mark– in some ways. But can we also believe also that we will succeed to change a few?

Can God turn a few into a group and a group into a community and a community into a nation? Can God create righteous nations?

I as an African believe passionately that HE CAN. Nations can arise in a day to serve the Lord: and what a joy it will be!

Faith must be at the root of every consideration for the work of change. It must be faith in a person, the person of Jesus our precious savior. God had faith in a world that was totally messed up and that has perfectly rejected him. It was a world where the killing of prophets was a sport and the name of God was a money making scheme. God had faith in people that rejected him despite the fact that he has spoken to them directly. He planted a righteous seed among these same people that rejected Him; He sent his only begotten son to bring healing through a people that could care less.

God will not stop challenging us to have faith for Africa. He wants us to believe in His ability to bring change into the seemingly hopeless situation. God believes still that Africa can be saved and we believe too. We believe that if we do our little bit in our little corners and we are faithful, God with His mighty hand will bring to pass a mighty touch and cause His light to shine to the Nations.

And to them that live
in the valley of shadow of death,
the light has shined.


Hadjo Shibkau said...

Hadjo Shibkau said....
Hello, this is an excellent idea and please keep working on it. But, you need a long term strategy to work on changing the attitude of African people... good job.

Dr. Ernie said...

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