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Decoloniality vs mental re-orientation

18 Feb 2024 at 23:52hrs | Views
PART of the duty and responsibility of today's academics and intellectuals is to find answers to Africa's development challenges.

This is because the post-independent African State has done nothing, but inherit the colonial political-administrative and political power structures that have not helped to advance the development aspirations of Africans.

In any case, they have served to perpetuate the oppressive coloniality with limited or no agenda towards improving the lives of the people.

Decoloniality is one such school of thought that has assumed the role of attempting to delink from Eurocentric knowledge hierarchies and enable other forms of existence in this world.

It critiques the perceived universality of Western knowledge and the superiority of its culture, including the systems and institutions that reinforce these perceptions.

Decolonial perspectives understand colonialism as the basis for the everyday function of capitalist modernity and imperialism.

Decoloniality started in South America as a movement examining the role of the European colonisation of the Americas in establishing Eurocentric modernity or coloniality.

Decolonial theory and practice have recently been subject to increasing critique, and it has been criticised as analytically unsound, that coloniality is often conflated with modernity, and that decolonisation becomes an impossible project of total emancipation.

When seeking answers to everyday problems, there is a huge difference between being academically theoretical and being practical. Regarding the development of countries and societies, pragmatism tends to be more efficient than academism and theories, which is why the decolonial theory has struggled to take off.

The main objective of decoloniality is to delink from Eurocentric knowledge hierarchies and ways of being. This means that it has a target that it seeks to delink and possibly dismantle, an approach that takes much longer than addressing the development needs of countries and societies.

The focus for developing countries must be to advance their development objectives by drawing from their capacities and resources and learning from everybody around them including former colonial powers.

The goal is to enhance the progress of their people through local initiatives not necessarily to delink from former colonial knowledge. Knowledge is neutral when acquired outside the premises of power and interests.

The key to development is largely who is driving it — the power and the political will. If it is driven internally, it allows local ownership, and the issue of knowledge acquisition becomes one of necessity rather than imposition.

Over the past four decades, the world has witnessed how China acquired and domesticated some of the Western knowledge and enculturated it to become what it is today.

The China example teaches us some lessons. First, knowledge is not the problem and its acquisition can be a solution to advancing the development agenda.

In that context, the focus on delinking from Western knowledge becomes irrelevant to addressing the poverty problem.

Second, it teaches us that what matters is the political intentions of the leadership of a society that determines the development course of a country or society.

This teaches us the role and importance of how power is used to drive the development agenda.

In short, lack of development in any country is a sign of a lack of political will by the leadership.

Third, it also teaches us that the same knowledge in the hands of former colonial power can be acquired, domesticated and used by former colonies but what determines how a country performs is the political will and the investment of resources required to realise the development dreams of a nation. So, in short, knowledge is not the problem but the power behind it.

Fourth, the China and the Gulf examples teach us of the importance of reconfiguring the systems that inform the target market of the means of production.

The Chinese people and those from the Gulf earn and invest their incomes back into their countries and yet in Africa, the best of what is found or produced is used to impress Western markets no matter how small or big the reward.

Africans still do it for the West because the West has remained the prototype for everything good in their lives.

That shows that it is not a knowledge issue but a mental orientation one. Therefore, the focus should be on the mental re-orientation instead of decoloniality.

The difference lies in that decoloniality targets Western knowledge, while mental re-orientation focuses on changing the mindset and inculcating a sense of self-love and nationalism, aspects that underlie Africans' inability to utilise what they have for their advancement.

For example, the best bet on all the natural resources African countries possess is how much they can get on the global market and not so much how they can use the same resources to enhance the lives of their people.

The mindset imposed by colonialism on Africans is that everything they produce must be sold to and rewarded by Western markets.

The proceeds from the sale of such produce must be saved in Western banks and then they come home empty-handed while celebrating the documentation as proof that their efforts have been acknowledged in Europe.

African victories are not determined by the applause from the people but by Western institutions. It is the same with elections.

A European endorsement of elections gratifies African leadership more than the will of their people. That is a mindset issue rather than a knowledge issue.

    Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.

Source - newsday
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