Is a poem by Langston Hughes. He writes
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
So while I am an African
, and maybe proudly
so, that poem is relevant in the discussion we are about to have. Africa interests me in many ways than one. In an earlier post, I did ask if an African philosophy exist
? Today I want us to revisit the topic by addressing a different question, the challenge to African philosophy. As Hughes says in his poem, I want to say with him that tomorrow, Africa will be part of humanity and history and that her philosophy will be worthy of study.
In the Journal of African Studies Vol 1
, Taiwo argues that Africa’s philosophy is haunted by the ghost of Hegel. This ghost is to be found in his, Hegel’s, seminal work, the Philosophy of History
in which he claimed to treat the philosophy of the world.
Hegel’s work begins thus
The subject of this course of Lectures is the Philosophical History of the World. And by this must be understood, not a collection of general observations respecting it, suggested by the study of its records, and proposed to be illustrated by its facts, but Universal History itself.
And one might think with such a bold introduction, the world does not mean northern Europe alone but the everywhere he human spirit is to be found. This however is not the case with Hegel. To Hegel, Europe is absolutely the end of History.
According to Hegel, we are told
Africa must be divided into three parts: one is that which lies south of the desert of Sahara–Africa proper–the Upland almost entirely unknown to us, with narrow coast-tracts along the sea; the second is that to the north of the desert–European Africa (if we may so call it)–a coastland; the third is the river region of the Nile, the only valley-land of Africa, and which is in connection with Asia
And I think it is this view of Hegel that has lived on to present day, where pundits talk of Sub Saharan Africa. In Taiwo’s view, Hegel does this to make Africa safe for History. Since Egypt is no longer in Africa but the middle East, it can now be considered as making part of history. While placing Egypt in Middle East, North Africa is in Europe!
If Hegel is to be believed, the Negro
“exhibits the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state and has no knowledge of an absolute Being, an Other and a Higher than his individual Self.
One wonders then why others writing about Africa argue that it is littered with gods. That the Yoruba have a pantheon of 400 plus 1 gods if he, the Negro, has no knowledge of anything above his individual self. One wonders if this lack of knowledge is what led the colonialists to argue the African had no religion.
Taiwo concludes his piece thus
Until it is taken for granted that Africa is part of History, that the study of anything cannot be complete unless it encompasses this significant part of the world, no amount of iteration of what Africans have done will move the victims of Hegel’s ghost. Until they get rid of the voice of the Hegelian ghost whispering in their inner ear that Africa is not worth it, that Africa has nothing worthwhile to offer, they will continue to botch the challenge that Africa poses to philosophy.
Africa interests me also in its paradoxes; so rich yet so poor. Take DRC for example. It is a mineral rich country yet so poor in terms of human development, infrastructure, is insecure and has leadership challenges or Kenya for example where the ruling class are thieves and the ruled are idiots, following the thieving class blindly without question.
The second question then is what must Africans do to change their situation? My first answer is education. And no, I am not saying we are not educated, that isn’t it. Our education has failed to produce engaged citizens, thinkers and revolutionaries. It has failed to produce a people that demand accountability of their leaders. It is an Africa where the wife of a 90 year old president can proudly say the country will, if it comes to that point, be led by her dead husband. It is a shame.
The second solution, is that Africa must become less religious and more skeptical. The idea that whenever calamity strikes, everyone from the president to the poor fellow in the village hopes some god will do something must change. We must begin to question what is it in our system of doing things makes us so vulnerable. We must ask why our leaders, our research and development institutions are not coming up with solutions to some of these problems. Drought should not mean we start starving. Why are we not investing enough in foodstuff. We have a storm and floods everywhere in our cities. Why have not improved the drainage systems and so on.
On the economic front, Africa must demand fair trade agreements with her bilateral partners. Trade between African countries must go up and finally, value addition. Africa must manufacture. It must industrialize. It cannot produce cocoa and import chocolate from whatever or produce coffee beans and import processed coffee at double or three times the cost. That must change. This is the Africa I want.
Lastly, I dream of an Africa where Africans will emigrate not because of conflict but because they can afford to live elsewhere. They will not be looking for work or security but maybe for bad weather, you know like cold climes or tornadoes and such.
A man can dream.