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Opinions of Sunday, 20 August 2006

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Challenging The Asantehene's Thinking

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, back in Ottawa, Canada after spending six months in developmental work in Ghana, says the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, should go beyond the talk of preserving African customs and traditions and use his immense influence to let policy makers appropriate African customs and traditions in policy development in Africa’s emerging new development thinking
While there is nothing new in the Asantehene (King of the Ghana’s Asante ethnic group), Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, telling African traditional rulers to preserve Africa’s traditions and customs in monarchical Morocco “as means of keeping their cultural heritage,” the advise comes in the climate of African and non-Africans increasingly talking of appropriating African values and experiences openly in Africa’s progress so as to harmonize the disharmonies in Africa’s development process. Yet still, while in addition to the Asantehene other African elites such as Sampson Kwaku Boafo, Ghana’s Minister of State for Chieftaincy and Culture, counseling traditional rulers to join forces with government to better the lives of Ghanaians, they are not telling African policy makers that Africans, will live better if their traditions and customs influence decision making in the overall progress of Africa.

In the larger scheme of African progress, the relevance of the Asantehene helping to correct many an African developmental distortions is to expand his thinking, in terms of Africa’s policy development, by influencing policy makers to appropriate the enabling aspects of African values and experiences in national policy development and, in the process, help make national development much more relevant to the average African’s progress. This will make the policies driving Africa’s development process acutely reflective of the African environment and not the other way round, which has been the case for almost 50 years, and which has partly been responsible for some of the confusion in Africa’s development front.

Currently, there are massive distortions in Africa’s advancement fronts because unlike other parts of the world Africa’s innate values do not heavily and openly drive her development process but rather Western development ideals and experiences because of the advent of colonialism. African elites who came after the colonialists instead of appropriating African values openly and seriously in national policy making did not do so unlike other ex-colonies such as Japan and Malaysia. The result is developmental distortions.

Why should the Asantehene help change the thinking of both African and international policy makings in the grand scheme of African progress? The idea is both personal and custodial. For a good part of his almost 56 years life and the fact that he has had training “not only as a prospective king, but pursued a career in personnel in the UK and Canada, before starting his own business in Ghana in 1989,” as the BBC writes of the Asantehene as one of the most powerful kings in the world, the Asanthene is both traditionally equipped and globally exposed to help correct many an African developmental distortions by influencing African policy makers to appropriate African values and experiences in the continent’s progress. Unlike past years, today’s climate gives the Asantehene, who became King of the Asantes in 1999, much better leverage to facilitate the heavy inclusion of African values and experiences in national/continental policy making. From his powerful Golden Stool, a potent Asante/Ghanaian symbol, which gives him immense prestige and weight both locally and internationally, to recent African development talks from such African thinkers like Kenya’s Prof. Ali Mazrui to Ghana’s Dr. George Ayitteh to international development gurus such as America’s Dr. Jeffrey Sachs to international institutions such the World Bank, the Asantehene has the unique platform to influence a new sense of direction in which African values and experiences dictate policy development in the grand progress of the continent. The Asantehene can borrow a leaf from the World Bank. The World Bank, a great reflection of Western development values and experiences and a friend of the Asanthene and which has given his developmental venture, the Asanteman Council, millions of dollars in foreign development aid, is increasingly appropriating African values and experiences in its African development missions unlike yesteryears. It is not just enough for the Asantehene, a darling of the international mass media and who has immense global coverage in his projection of African traditions and customs internationally, from the South African National House of Chiefs to the offices of the World Bank to the campus of Harvard University to the National Parliament of Sierra Leone, to just argue for greater involvement of African traditional rulers in Africa’s progress but also, in the deeper scheme of Africa’s progress growth, he should assist influence policies that are first of all informed by African values and experiences in the context of the continent’s colonial legacies and the enabling global values.

To help affect policies that acknowledge African values and experiences, it is not enough for the Asantehene to operate from the Manhyia Palace, the seat of the King of Asantes, but also use the his enormous weight in Ghana’s National House of Chiefs to influence national development policies that respectively appropriate Africa’s traditional values and experiences in the continent’s development process.



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