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Unformatted text preview: Parhami 1 Essay #3 African Culture Although for centuries, and even presently, African countries have been denied their sovereignty and cultural expression, the countries of the African continent have advanced cultural systems. The myths created regarding the African people unravel the sophistication of their culture, provide justification for control, and a means of oppression. Many viewed the African people as lacking a "capacity for improvement" and lacking any formal education. The people had "no idea of duty or religion." Indeed, "The Negro exhibits the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state" (Hegel, as quoted in Olufemi Taiwo). In sum, the African people were "human nature in its crudest state." These statements of fallacy were unduly imposed upon the African people and provided the justification of imperialistic control and the denial of humanistic rights. Even today, African nations are struggling as they reestablish the culture that was stripped from them and attempt to keep up with the economic advancement of the modern world. In their respective papers on national culture, Amilcar Cabral and Frantz Fanon explore culture and its role in civics. Knowledge of the importance of culture in establishing a nation state, development of a nation, and even the breakdown is essential in an understanding of the African continent and its economic history. Cabral on Culture In his paper on culture, freedom, colonialism, and domination, Cabral states the importance of national culture as being determined by history and a factor in shaping history. According to Cabral culture is the decisive element that determines the outcome in a national struggle, whether it be nation building or degenerating for the purpose of domination. Culture serves as a factor of resistance to foreign domination. Therefore, domination can be maintained by the "permanent and organized repression" of the cultural life of the people concerned. The Parhami 2 cultural repression that serves as a precondition for material domination can be achieved by two means: either a gradual assimilation of the peoples' culture into the culture of the dominator or by a physical and practical elimination of culture altogether. Whether the dominator employs an imposition without damage to the culture of the dominated people, that is, progressive assimilation, or eradicates entirely the culture of the people they are essentially neutralizing and paralyzing their culture life. Cabral argues that in reality there is no difference between these two means as it is "no more than a more or less violent attempt to deny the culture of the people in question" (140). Regardless, practical elimination of culture is necessary to ensure the perpetuation of foreign domination, "For as long as part of that people can have cultural life, foreign domination cannot be sure of its perpetuation" (140). Just as culture is a necessary condition in material domination, it is too necessary for national liberation and therefore a need to own ones culture becomes important. Modes of production are influenced by the developmental status of a nation and the complexities of the systems governing modes of production, specifically social utilization and ownership: "The level of development of the productive forces and the system of social utilization of these forces determine the mode of production" (142). Thus, culture becomes an essential element of the history of a nation because culture forms the productive forces, social utilization, and therefore modes of production: "Culture has as its material base the level of productive forces and the mode of production" (142). For instance, culture will determine whether ownership is private, public--owned by the state--or not owned by anyone which in turn determines the economic, social, and political productions and development of a people. Thus, culture becomes essential for a people's survival and progress. This necessity reaffirms the need for foreign domination to oppress cultural expression in order to perpetuate its control over the people; for cultural Parhami 3 domination inhibits the survival and developmental processes of a people and thus makes them dependent upon the dominator for existence, eradicating desires or attempts of rebellion. Therefore, in order for liberation of a people to occur this dependency must by ended by reestablishing and owning a cultural life. "Study of the history of liberation struggles shows that they have been preceded by...an attempt to assert the cultural personality of the dominated people by an act of denial of the culture of the oppressor" (143). Thusly, the aim of liberation is to regain national productive forces and modes of production "usurped by imperialist domination" in order to regain "all its capacity to create progress." Noteworthy to mention, regaining that which has been usurped by foreign domination only creates a capacity for liberation and progress; establishment and progress of a liberated people become possible when these aims are achieved, but is by no means guaranteed. The process of "re-culturalization" is confounded by two complexities: first, a single simple culture does not exist for a group of people, rather there exists the popular or dominant culture and the secondary culture. Often, these cultural pluralities may exist along class lines, class culture, and have been placed in by the oppressor as a means of establishing control over the mass of people. Second, no culture is perfect and not need of dynamic improvement, therefore the liberalization movement must be mindful and seek to reassert the positives of the culture while redefining or eliminating the negative aspects. Fanon's Cultural Struggles Fanon's paper is recognition of the fact that the way the independence struggle in any colonial space is fought will determine the character of the new state that emerges after independence. Fanon saw much of the problems and outcomes experienced during decolonization through a psychological lens. "The claim to a national culture...is responsible for Parhami 4 an important change in the native" (170). Colonialism goes beyond holding a people hostage and delaying them of progress, for colonialism undoes the history and culture of a people: "it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures and destroys it" (170). In the process, the colonizer inhibits self-sufficiency and convinces the native people that "before the advent of colonialism their history was one which was dominated by barbarism" (172). Hence, when the native people finally muster the ability to reclaim reminisces of their culture there is a seemingly absurdity. That is, the native has become dependent upon the colonizers culture. So much so, that in the process of liberation he feels a void and degradation of his being. This causes, according to Fannon, the native to "seek his culture elsewhere, anywhere at all" (177). Ultimately, the native may take up the most superficial of national culture, which Fanon calls exotic and likens to the outer garment of culture. "The man of culture instead of setting out to find this substance, will let himself be hypnotized by these mummified fragments which because they are static are in fact symbols of negation and outworn contrivances" (180). The native may become lost in his struggle and unable to reestablish any aspect of coherent national culture, especially since the original culture has been altered by time and assimilation. Thus, the redefining of culture will be affected by the struggle for liberation: "A national culture takes its place at the very heart of the struggle for freedom" (188). "The conscious and organized undertaking by a colonized people to reestablish the sovereignty of that nation constitutes the most complete and obvious cultural manifestation that exists...culture is not put into cold storage during the conflict" (197). In fact, the struggle for freedom determines the new culture because in its progression the struggle reforms and redefines culture. Towards Decolonization Parhami 5 Cabral and Fanons' constructions of culture and its functions in national development help us to understand how and why economic development in African nations has proceeded along its current state. As Fanon and Cabral clarify, decolonization does not necessarily constitute a retaking of one's culture. Liberation in the strictest sense is a formal means of defining the fact that foreign nations no long have a direct hand in the processes of the nation state. Foreign nations are still able to influence and inhibit the culture of a nation state though decolonization has occurred. In controlling the culture of the newly liberalized African state, these foreign nations have been able to stunt growth, progress, and the development of a selfsustained economy. Following the 1960 period, during which most African nations were decolonized, emerged the new period of colonization through a state of dependency. Colonized for 80 or so years, the economic progress of African nations had all but seized; the colonists focus on reaping the natural resources had left capital and industrial advancement out of African nations. By the time of African liberation, a dependency on imports from economically developed foreign nations was the mode. Without the capital means of production, African nations became dependant on international trade as a means of sustenance. "This is what explains why sub-Saharan Africa, with some 650 million people, over 10 percent of the world's population, has just 3 percent of its trade and only 1 percent of its Gross Domestic Product" (Saul and Leys). Their struggle was confounded by the arising competition of agricultural and raw goods. Latin America and Asia has emerged as exporters of many of the same goods that were coming from Africa: "competition from much more productive capitalist agriculture in Asia and Latin America is intensifying" (Saul and Leys). This has caused downward pressure on African export demand and prices, leaving the African nations in a much bigger bind. Thus, Cabral's idea of the necessity to own ones mode of production becomes essential to economic Parhami 6 development of Africa. Not being able to provide the capital or industrial needs of its economy, meant that African nations could not own their modes of production because they were forced to import from foreigners. International Capital International organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have attempted on numerous occasions to provide aid and economic planning to African nations. The IMF has engaged in activities that have promoted foreign capital investment in Africa. Further, neoliberal Stabilization Programs (STABs) and Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) have attempted to open trade barriers so that as "African countries become more competitive they attract foreign investment" (Hentz). The underlying problem with these methods is they fail to take into account the fact that individual African markets are fragmented and small. Indeed, the structural weaknesses of the African economies are "best treated by regional economic cooperation and integration" (Hentz). These attempts of attracting foreign capital however cannot solve the development problem or the national question because they do not allow the African nations to control their mode of production. Further, a crucial lack of national identity and cultural integration has thwarted attempts of economic advancement. Drawing Non Cultural Lines In his paper, Hentz alludes to a vital reason for the struggles in economic development: the fragmented cultural plurality of the African nations. The cause of this struggle is rooted even before African nations first began regaining their sovereignty. During the Berlin Conference of 1884, European nations divided Africa along arbitrary and non-cultural lines as they portioned the African continent for colonization (DeLancey, 104). In doing so, cultural and the boundaries that defined unified nations were undone. Going forward to the redevelopment era, these new Parhami 7 boundaries were the cause of cultural fragmentation and destabilization of unifying attempts. Thus, it is not surprising the impact this has had on economic development. Without a national culture serving as the unifying medium, the liberation of African nation states will be fruitless because attempts to redevelop national systems are faltered. Struggles of Efficiency The implications for the fractured cultural dynamic of the African nation run deep into economic development attempts. As discussed by Hentz, the fragmentation of African markets has hindered economic advancement because of its impact on economies of scale. Small individual markets are incapable of integrating together to create synergies that exist in scale and scope. Without the ability to do so, gains in efficiency become impossible. This can be applied both to the production sector of the economy, the "technological aspect," but also to the market side of the economy. Without enough demand, created through large markets, the benefits of competition are unattainable: "Larger markets that can accommodate competitive firms are necessary" (Hentz). Thus, the role of culture in facilitating large integrated markets becomes paramount to whether efficient markets are attained. Hentz proposes three tenants to any policy for economic advancement in Africa of which one states that the new governments of the African states must too take a more active role in economic policy: "almost nothing is said on what new government might do, or not do to promote private investment" (Hentz). Government Shortcomings While good faith attempts by political entities of the African nations were implemented, the public governments faced many issues that prevented significant success in economic advancement. The lack of a national culture made it difficult for the governments to establish efficient public service. Further, this fragmentation made collecting public funds difficult and Parhami 8 meant underfunded budgets of government projects. The government was limited in the support it could provide because of the scarce resources at its disposal. Further, public initiatives are an important aspect of developing a national economy, thus, the inability of African governments to do so, served a role in hindering economic development. Furthermore, cases of corruption within political systems have further brought development attempts to its knees (World Monitor). The Food Shortage Carrying out the programs aimed at developing and modernizing the economies of the African nations, had detrimental effects on the existing economy especially in the agricultural center. Labor migration was induced from rural areas in the urbanized cities, yet "there were insufficient jobs in the cities to absorb those who left the countryside" (DeLancey, 107). These migrations helped fuel the decline in the agricultural sector because labor supply became limited. Further, focusing on the creation of industrial economies and urbanized centers drew attention and resources away from the agricultural economy that served as a backbone to African sustenance and food production. Lagos Plan of Action The Lagos Plan of Action identified actions that needed to be taken to successfully develop the African economies. The Final Act of Lagos (FAL) reaffirmed the importance of national culture and regional integration as the center stone to creating self-sufficiency: "The FAL pressed for sub-regional economic integration" (DeLancey, 109). As Hentz had explained, and as can be explained using the cultural theories of Cabral and Fanon, the importance of creating a unifying national culture was essential to the struggle for economic independence. The Accelerated Development in Sub-Sahara Africa: An Agenda for Action, commonly called Parhami 9 the Berg Report, was a report written specifically about the economic problems of the subSaharan region. The Berg report "maintained that African countries should pursue their `comparative advantage' by striving to improve production of their export products...should continue to export primary commodities...and use foreign exchange earnings to import essential manufactured goods and even food" (DeLancey, 111). However, they would have meant an indefinite perpetuation of the current economic dependency and lack of ownership in the modes of production that has already been discussed: "African governments believed that implementation of such a policy would most certainly leave their countries in a permanent state of dependency and poverty" (DeLancey, 111). Oil, Then and Now The impact of the oil industry on economic development and progress has been significant during the crisis of 1973 and the present day. In 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) dramatically inflated oil prices. This had an "immediate affect on the supply of foreign exchange of African countries" (DeLancey). While a few oil-exporting countries in Africa were benefited by this price increase, most experienced negative effects from it. As DeLancey points out, there was an immediate affect on foreign exchange capabilities, that is, the higher prices meant that Africans, who were dependent on oil imports, now had less financial resources to devote to the import of manufactured goods and food. This too led to an increase in the debt of many African nations. However, the implications of the oil crisis of 1973 are far-reaching. The industrialization of Africa meant that oil would be required in mass quantities, and thus an increase in oil prices stunted economic stability and growth. The reliance on foreign production of oil is yet another example at how by not owning their productive factors and modes of production, that is being self-sufficient, African economies were impeded from Parhami 10 gaining true independence. This runs true even in the modern economy today. With near record high oil prices caused by demand shocks from rapidly developing countries, India and China mainly, the implications to African economies are clearly detrimental in nature. Debt Crisis The inability of the government to generate revenue through taxes, given the fragmented nature of African nations as discussed, forced government agencies to take on international debt to finance internal operations and projects for economic development. Increasingly, however, these debts accumulated into a debt crisis. "The debt crisis is not unique to African countries; however, it has affected their economies particularly severely" (DeLancey, 117). As discussed previously, the indebtedness of African countries was confounded by the unexpected increase in oil prices by OPEC in 1973 and again in 1979. "These price increases...were a catastrophe for the majority of countries...it led to huge balance of payments deficits for most of the countries that had to continue to import oil to keep their economies on a growth path" (DeLancey, 118). Thus, a reliance on debt, due in part to a lack of national culture as a unifying force, is another example of impediments faced by African nations as they attempt economic advancement and independence. Even today, Africa continues to struggle in attaining economic prosperity and growth. Their struggle has been infused with numerous challenges, impediments, hardships, and failures. Undoing the damage caused by the many years of colonization will take many more years and will face many more barriers. As the world economies trudge along Africa finds itself struggling to sustain itself let alone keep up with the rest of the world. Low education, poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDs are all affected by the economic struggles of African nations. Ironically and sadly, they too feed into the obstacles of advancement in a perpetuating cycle that Parhami 11 seems to have no immediate end. The struggle for economic prosperity and unity cannot be achieved without first creating a national culture. Unfortunately, creating a national culture is a formidable task on its own. Nonetheless, attaining one's national identity, one's national culture, is essential to establishing the independence and self-sufficiency of the African nations. Furthermore, African history has been a demonstration to Cabral's argument of a need to control one's own productive forces and modes as being paramount to creating independence, economic or otherwise. Africa's struggle in economic development has mainly been in this area, of freeing itself from the bonds and grip of foreign exchange dependency and creating a national and/or regional system of support. The aid of foreign organizations such as the United Nations, the IMF, and other NGO's is capable of providing the guidance and support Africa needs in attaining economic equilibrium, however, ultimately it is the African nations that will need to build and form their independence for it is they that must own it. Additionally, in the process and struggle of developing their own economy, the African nations will be reformulating their national culture. This process is essential because the self-devised culture will support the economy and will provide protection from other occurrences of foreign domination and dependency. Sources & Citations Parhami 12 Bloom, Canning, and Chan. Higher Education and Economic Development in Africa. Massachusetts: Harvard University (2006). DeLancey, Virginia. "The Economies of Africa" in Understanding Contemporary Africa (3rd Edition) edited by April A. Gordon & Donald L. Gordon. Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers 2001. Pages 101-142. Hentz, James J. "Economic Stagnation in Sub-Sahara Africa and Breaking the Implicit Bargain" A Journal of Opinion, Vol. 25, No. 1, Commentaries in African Studies: Essays about African Social Change and the Meaning of Our Professional Work. (1997), pp. 32-34. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0047-1607%281997%2925%3A1%3C 32%3AESISAA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-L Saul, John S. & Leys, Colin. "Sub-Saharan Africa in Global Capitalism" in Monthly Review. Volume 51 Number 3. Taiwo, Olufemi. "Exorcising Hegel's Ghost: Africa's Challenge to Philosophy," African Studies Quarterly. Accessed: September 20, 2007. Waterson, Sam. "Africa: A History Denied," narrated by Sam Waterson. Time Life Video and Television, 1995. Author Not Listed. "Sub-Saharan Africa" World Monitor. Stable URL: http://www.worldmonitor.info/regions/ssafrica.html. Accessed: November 15, 2007. September 2006 Regional Economic Outlook: Sub-Saharan Africa. Washington D.C.: International Monetary Fund (2006). http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/reo/2006/ENG/02/sreo0906.pdf. Accessed: November 18, 2007. ...
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