Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Effects of Colonialism haunt Africa

from the African Executive

he argues many of the psychological problems of dependency/colonialism stand in the way of true development

In many African nations, there is the notion that "foreign or white is better." Many Africans will bend over backwards to help a foreigner, but find it hard to even grant audience to a fellow African who might have a new idea. At first glance this phenomenon might seem innocent and harmless. But in societies where communal values formed the foundations of their existence, the current contempt and disregard for contributions from fellow Africans holds grave significance. As the Pulitzer Award winner, writer and historian Will Durant noted, "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." The "divide and conquer" tactics used by the colonists during the "Scramble for Africa" in the 1800s is one that literally played with the minds of its victim countries and has left them confused ever since.

The level of contempt that many Africans hold for their own people has increased to the point where it is even labeled the 'pull him down' syndrome. Countries like Ghana are known for being very hospitable and welcoming to foreigners. But does this hospitality translate onto the local scene? Does it make Ghana's tourism industry one of the most dynamic? Does it in any way improve the development prospects of the nation? The answer to all these questions is no. Although development opportunities in African nations have increased over the course of time, the struggles continue because of this inferiority complex. African governments would rather grant contracts and make risky concessions to foreigners than give a citizen the opportunity to prove him or herself. The main argument given for this reluctance is the relative lack of experience on the part of the citizen. Even if this might be the case, how are individuals expected to garner any experience in their respective fields without being given a first chance?

There are many other scenarios in which this inferiority complex has played out. In 1998 the then-U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Ghana for seven hours. He was scheduled to spend his visit in the capital city, Accra. I vividly remember the hurried efforts on the part of the government to ensure that Accra was clean and renovated enough to receive its distinguished visitor. This brought to question not only the priorities of the government, but also the view of Ghanaians as undeserving or unimportant enough to live in a clean environment. Instead, they had to wait for a foreigner to visit in order to enjoy a couple of hours of cleanliness....

As the famous Bob Marley says in his Uprising album track "Redemption Song," the emancipation of a people and nation starts with breaking the chains of mental slavery.

By Jemila Abdulai

This article was also published in the Mount Holyoke News

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