Defending the African psyche

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LAST week I drew from the Great Indaba (ZIBF Harare 2018) to highlight one special presentation on children and reading in their own song.
But there were other presentations that were of relevance to Africa and Zimbabwe because they defended the African psyche — that the African can.
Professor Peter Wasamba, from Kenya, who gave the keynote address blazed a trail which showed how and why Africa is the future and how Africans can ensure this.
Dr Eliamani Laltaika, born in the Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, reminded us how Africa was ahead of everyone until we were left behind in the scientific revolution, and only then was it possible for the whiteman to colonise us. In a time we are swamped with a ‘Zimbabwe cannot’ message from some quarters, Mr Nhakura’s presentation was a voice of sanity: “Zimbabwe is making it, if only you would turn the page….”
Kenyan Professor Wasamba hailed Zimbabwe, underlining our common history, with Kenya’s Mau Mau struggle against the British and Zimbabwe’s Chimurenga also against the British armed robbers which he learnt of in his school books and the current struggle for ultimate justice.
With 1,2 billion people, Africa is the 2nd largest continent in the world. Africa is the fastest growing population set to take on the world; it is the future, he said.
By the turn of the century, it is estimated that Africans will constitute 40 percent of the world population. On the other hand, Europe’s populations are dwindling with women paid incentives to conceive.
In Germany, where he studied, women at university were paid 250 Euros to conceive, with the university providing fully paid childcare.
They even have to import labour from Africa.
The huge, fast-growing African population is a great mass of human potential, an incredible resource. Africa has everything it needs, but he cautioned, we have to industrialise correctly.
If we allow others to choose technologies for us, they will select those which will undermine the African boom and leave most of our population marginalised and hungry and yet it does not have to be so; we must take charge of our destiny.
Given that Africa has the greatest mineral wealth in the world, it should not surprise us that those who seek our wealth will only want to use those technologies which will allow them to maximise extraction of our mineral wealth.
The onus is on us to boost indigenous technologies and where we must borrow, we have to select technologies compliant with who we are and what our goals are.
Professor Wasamba warned about the increasing erosion of our cultural values by technology from the West because we do not command the technology but are just consumers.
He accused Africans of ‘co-parenting’ with Google and in most cases leaving Google to have the final word.
We have opened ourselves to abuse by the West. They make expensive cars and phones which they do not use but which Africans are besotted with spending millions of dollars on.
We have bought into the world of conspicuous consumption, ostentatiousness, while the majority wallow in poverty and severe deprivation.
Not only do they make billions from us for these toys, they also use the phones to track us, unbeknown, a great tragedy, bemoaned Prof Wasamba.
He called on Africans to write books which celebrate the African ethos.
Dr Eliamani Laltaika, from the Nelson Mandela Institute in Tanzania, further defended the African psyche by underlining that it is not about race, it is not about the African DNA that we were colonised and made to suffer so much by Europeans, it is not because the Creator designed or desired it so.
Hailing from the Olduvai Gorge, where the remains of the first ancestor of the human race were discovered by Professor Leaky, which also is in close proximity to the area where the first tool-making ancestor of the human was found, Dr Laltaika said Africans are not second class, they were leading in all fields until ‘the whiteman discovered gunpowder.
When the whiteman overtook us scientifically, that is when the rains began to beat us.
He said the situation could be rectified through the scientific advancement of the African.
Science crafted and engineered to make us our own masters ready to take on the world on our own terms is the solution. In the end, if Africans can catch up, no-one can overtake us, he said.
Pursuant to this, Dr Laltaika is involved in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programme to promote science education in schools in Tanzania and other African countries, to restore African confidence.
At the Harare Institute of Techonology (HIT), something special is going on.
Students at HIT are being trained to be scientists and engineers who use existing knowledge, without recycling what others have come up with, but creating new technologies.
Some of their innovations have been absorbed by our local industry.
At the end of four years, HIT students do not hand in theses but projects they have designed which can be put to practical use. Students have opened their own companies and are developing cures for chronic illnesses such as cancer.

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