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Opinions of Saturday, 30 March 2013

Columnist: Brako-Powers, Austin

Developing an African Soft Power

– the Final Emancipation Agenda

Article by: Austin Brako-Powers (Former Press and Information Secretary – NUGS)

A continent of gifts – yet lack many gifts; a people of history – yet fails to look up to history for direction; and a continent of many resources – yet thousands of millions of its citizens are malnourished and dying of common curable diseases. This is a perfect eulogy of the continent we inhabit.
We have a very solid ancestry. This continent is the home of man – which history, anthropology, biology, and sociology books speak of as the first home of man. Our forebears did not play second to none but here we are crying unto a people who exploited and duped us before building their nation for some “crumpled biscuits” on their dining table.

We are the protégé of the noble men that built the pyramid of Egypt. We are the sons and daughters of the Nkrumah’s, Kenyatta’s, Lumumba’s, and the Mandela’s. The Timbuktu’s and the other education institutions in the continent have pulled many people around the world to learn from our many scholars. However, checkered our history has been and no matter how it has been dented by our past experiences in the hands of the Europeans, Africa is still Africa. Our place in history cannot be traded for any other “momentary” pleasure and wealth. This is the continent that sparked the emancipation “fire” of the world.
Recently, the French Ambassador to Ghana advised Africans during the one month long celebration of the Alliance Franciase (the French School in Ghana) - to learn to market and also impose their culture and traditions onto the world.
I in particular find this piece of advise very shocking and homely. This is because, the French are selling their language to the world and recently the Chinese are doing that. Today, in some tertiary schools in Ghana, with special mentioning of the University of Ghana, Legon, the school officials have introduced the study of Chinese as part of their language courses. This is what a determined country can do to ensure its solid place in the history of the world. China has many languages yet the leadership of the country resolved to “market” the dominant one. And it is surprising that, the Chinese officials understand the English language we are so proud of yet in their diplomatic relations with other countries, they communicate in their own language. And this gives them much power.
We have an enviable culture and traditions incomparable to non in the world. Our festivals are the talk of the world as a result of the pomp and pageantry effects that comes with it. Our movie industry is a fiercest competitor in the world movie industries - struggling for dominance position in the world. Today, Nigerian, South African and Ghanaian movies are sold across the world and are being watched by both Africans and Westerners alike.
What is holding our leaders from reaching a consensus on the part of our culture to market properly as a soft power of the continent to the world? The United States of American has developed its both soft and hard powers making it the super-power of the world. Today, the US is envied, hated, liked and loved by few nations for casting its protective cloth on them - shielding them from terrorists and imperialist-minded nations. We have many languages spoken in the continent. Our leaders can agree on a dominant one to trade to the world and this would have to take the place of encouraging foreign nationals to learn those languages if they want to trade with us.
However, I must cautioned that, the achievement of this would mean that, our individual national Government would have to put an end to the habit of foot-dragging that is pervasive in this continent where the prosperity of one nation is envied even by its neighbors. And also, the lazy attitude some of our past leaders attached to the formation of a continental Government must not be countenanced at all.
The world has dreaded our unity since the days of the formation of the Organization of African Unity – now African Union. Our forefathers even had this vision before the Europeans dreamt of joining their forces in the now European Union. Today, the European Union fights on a common platform with the United States of America while Africa is left behind. This was not the vision our founding fathers envisage for us. They would shake in their graves in protest of what we have become – slaves in our own homeland.
For Africa to walk into the next millennium with confidence, we have to reconsider our actions and focus our attention on developing our aspect of soft power through our culture, traditions, and our languages. We can use the three pillars above to build our movie industries; reform the language of our leaders on diplomatic platforms and to endeavor to encourage the study and use of our language in the world.

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