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Opinions of Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

The Asanthene and Confidence Engineering

Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, King (Asantehene) of Ghana’s Asante ethnic group, observation that Africa’s development is entangled in confidence challenges once again raises the continent’s progress as to how to psychologize self-confidence into Africa’s progress. The psychology is that the greater self-confidence needed to further fuel Africa’s advancement should come from the continent’s innate traditional norms and values, with the Asanthene, key carrier of greater traditions, norms and values, as the reality thresher. The higher confidence coming from the Asantehene’s traditional Stool (or institution) is very instructive in the emerging psychological battle to reinvent Africans’ confidence in their development process.

The urgent need to raise the confidence level in Africa’s progress is both historical and cultural. Colonialism demean African culture, described it as “uncivilized” and Africans as intellectually and morally “deficient,” propagandized the African culture as “primitive” and so not fit as paradigms for greater progress, and imposed European development values/paradigms, deemed “developed” and of “higher stock,” on Africans to “civilize” or “develop” them. In the years leading to Ghana’s independence, the Asante Empire itself signifies the running battle between the Empire and the British colonialist – all for the necessary space to develop from within the authentic Asante traditional values. Historian Jim Jones’ “The British in West Africa” (2004) reports that “the British fought the Ashanti in 1826, 1873, 1893-1894 and 1895-1896, and quelled a final uprising in 1900” and that “the first Anglo-Ashanti War began in 1823 after the Ashanti defeated a small British force under Sir Charles McCarthy and converted his skull into a drinking cup.”
Despite various defeats, and loose of over 3000 Asantes deaths, in the years that followed, the Asantes recovered from years of psychological bruises and confidence injuries, and kept their developmental act intact. The resurgence of the Asante confidence and traditional values in the years before and after Ghana’s independence in 1957, the appropriation of Asante values as a rallying cry for progress, and the global prominence of the once battered Asante traditional institutions, as the Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11’s invitation to attend African Heads of States forum at the German-Africa Dialogue in Wiesbaden in Germany, among other long list, shows, essentially indicates that the once demeaned and battered African traditional values could be awakened as a confidence fodder - psychologically, logically and materially – for progress.
By recouping Africa’s confidence from its foundational norms and values, as used by Africans’ forebears in their progress, many an historical damages and distortions will be corrected. Also, such an African traditional values driven confidence process for the continent’s progress will be a bulwark against some of the negative effects of cultural globalization, with its dominant Western neo-liberal imperialistic undertones, that, as the Asantehene said in Germany, have made the average “Africans sacrificed their culture and tradition on the altar of foreign culture… We have allowed ourselves to be persuaded that there is nothing good in our tradition. As a consequence, we have almost jettisoned our tradition and culture, thinking that everything African is bad and everything foreign is good” (Daily Guide/Ghanaweb.com, 6 November 2007).
The multi-ethnic make of the African nation-state means the skillful appropriation of the long-suppressed African traditional values as a confidence booster or for any confidence project will be the ability to weave African traditional values into policy-makings, consultancies and bureaucratization for progress. First President Kwame Nkrumah’s “African Personality” concept was superb but fell far short of achieving its intended goal because it wasn’t weaved enough into policy-makings, consultations and bureaucratization in the entire development process. The recent attempts to insert Ghanaian traditional values into the education curriculum are a case in point to correct such an earlier shortcoming. The strategic answer to Africa’s confidence dilemma lies in how African elites would be able to skillfully appropriate African traditional values in the development process. There is no other way and any other way will be uncivilized.



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