For hundreds of years the African identity has been subject to what Europe and the rest of the world needed it to be. For a while Africans were barbarians and savages, heathen traders, then slaves. Then depending on which part of the world you found yourself after the slave trade a second class citizen or a colonial. Today many remain second class citizens in countries they helped develop in the diaspora. And the former colonies are now the lepers and beggars of the world. These lepers and beggars just happen to have most of the world’s known resources on their soil. Now the African is neo-colonial. It is independent politically, if it is even that, however an African struggles to create his/her own identity.
It is important for the African to realize that the African identity is not subject to the desires and whims of the west but to the needs and requirements of the African people. Unless we build and maintain our identity our desire and works towards development will come to naught. It will fall off like paint on a poorly treated wall. Our minds must set to African development by Africans. When on the 6th of March 1957, Nkrumah asked for the transformation of minds, he wasn’t uttering idle words or filling up space for a speech. That illustrious man recognized a need to break the chains of mental imprisonment generations of servitude and second class world citizenry had placed on the African. On that day when the leaders of Africa failed to build upon the vision of Patrice Lumumba, Sekou Toure, Haile Selassie and Kwame Nkrumah, the grips of those mental chains were further tightened.
Those chains are still present in many sons and daughters of Africa. The needless fear of the intellectual ability of the white man in comparison to the less capable faculties of the black man is “common knowledge” among the illiterate masses of the continent. It is for this reason that the Europe can unite and we cannot, that America and Canada can be a country of huge diverse states and provinces and we cannot. It is for this same reason the Japan and America can manufacture cars and the African cannot. This is nonsensical and dangerous thinking which only proper education can crush, and it must be crashed before through emancipation and liberation can take place.
Our education does little to release our students of these chains. Our systems of education serve mostly the interest of the west. The needs of Africa are not being met by most of the systems of the continent. China, Japan, India just to name a few are among the Asian tigers who to enhance their national development, created an educational system to produce the experts they needed. The African lion must realize this and act now to secure its future. The amount of input invested in the African education is comical to what our aims are. Our Pan-African forefathers did not value education just for its name sake, no; they knew what benefits and educated and literate population would bring to the continent.
Our identity is also very much connected with our history. To know who you truly are it is important to know from whence you have come. If I cannot re-tell my history I am lost, if I do not know my history I am a stranger and my future will near testimony against me. For it is in that history that we learn honour and plan for tomorrow. In his Independence Day speech, Patrice Emery Lumumba, first prime minister of the Congo, entreated his countrymen not to forget the struggles which they had to endure or the hardships they had to live through. This was a key asset in moving forward and creating a true identity.
I recognise that it is hard for the true history of Africa, untainted in anyway to be acquired. What we have available most often is the tales of darkness and primitive acts and hopelessness which is said to engulf us. Nothing is told of the horrors that had to be born and blood that had to be shed for forge a non-colonial Africa we have today. Lumumba said “The day will come when history will speak. But it will not be the history which will be taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations. It will be the history which will be taught in the countries which have won freedom from colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history and in both north and south it will be a history of glory and dignity.” It is this history which must be written and learnt.