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Anyiam-Osigwe on Culture and Economic Development

Ebun O. Oduwole

7 Ebun O. Oduwole

Anyiam-Osigwe on Culture and Economic Development in Africa

Introduction There is no doubt that Africa today is faced with a lot of problems bordering on social and political instability, human rights abuses and economic underdevelopment. These problems are begging for urgent solutions and it is in an attempt to resolve the problem of economic underdevelopment in Africa that Anyiam-Osigwe identified the traditional African culture as offering viable solutions. He construes the problem of Africa’s economic underdevelopment as largely culture based. This paper identifies the principal aspects of African culture which Anyiam-Osigwe sees as essential for the attainment of economic development and an all round development in Africa. He argues that the rich aspects of our culture which include the extended family system, communal living and the traditional role of women in the family and society are major factors that would enhance economic development in Africa. However, to fully understand how precisely African culture can help in achieving economic development in Africa, the paper starts with an examination of the notions of culture and economic development. What is Culture? The word “culture” has many definitions and meanings. Construed in a narrow sense, Thompson (1991:4) affirms that culture is “the way of life of a given society or the universe of values and artifacts in which a given people live or standardized and expressed behaviour within the framework of a given system of social organization”. This definition points to the fact that culture is about people, their values and the way they relate to their environment and with one another in society. In its broadest term, culture 104

may include but not limited to customs, traditions, folklore, music, the day to day life of a people, the family groups, social and political organisation, how they approach productive endeavours and how they react to various experiences of life. According to Anyanwu (1983:21), human beings are a product of culture in the sense that it is culture that made people what they are. Culture, he further says, cannot be separated from human experience, and it is this experience that produces it. It can also be considered as a common living experience shared by the people. All forms of experience, whether personal, impersonal, scientific, religious, political or economic, shared by a people form the basis of culture. Anyiam-Osigwe (2005:30), in his understanding of culture, asserts that it establishes the rules of conduct in society, defines the moral institutions of society and also provides the framework for their preservation and sustainability as sacrosanct aspects of society. However, it is important to note that culture is never static but always dynamic because man changes with his experiences in life and it is by being dynamic that culture is able to satisfy human needs especially as these arise within the context of their social relations. This way, it is also able to modify or jettison those elements that have become anachronistic. Aluko (2000:41-43) identifies some of the functions of culture that are germane to our discussion. First is that culture is the basis of the identity of a people since it is about their values. It is also the means by which they communicate both with themselves and with others. It is also a basis upon which a people can be evaluated and judged. Second, culture determines the social and political arrangements of a people. Thus, issues pertaining to human rights and justice as well as how the political system of a people is ordered can be discussed within the framework of culture. Third, and very importantly, culture defines and gives shape to the system of production and consumption of a people. For example, the capitalist system of production has evolved from a Western culture. When culture performs the above functions, it makes the experiences of life more meaningful and can also enhance the economic development of a people. The dynamism of culture can lead to development in all spheres of life: economic, social, educational and political. 105


Anyiam-Osigwe on Culture and Economic Development

Ebun O. Oduwole

What is Economic Development? Development can be classified into the physical, technological or scientific, moral, economic and social dimensions. However, our focus is on the economic dimension of development. By economic development, we may mean an increase in the standard of living of a nation’s population with sustained growth from a simple, low-income economy to a modern, highincome economy. It has to do with a change in the way goods and services are produced, not merely an increase in the level of production achieved using the old methods of production on a wider scale. Its scope includes the process and policies by which a nation improves the economy. Economic development does not necessarily mean economic growth. While economic growth implies only an increase in quantitative output; it may or may not involve development. Economic growth is often measured by the rate of change of gross domestic product (GDP), which is the aggregate valueadded by the economic activity within a country’s borders. Economic development takes place when economic growth yields positive results in the lives of people in society. It is not merely about the modernisation of a society from a peasant to industrial one but more about how the standard of life of members of society is affected for the better. Indicators of economic development include improvements in literacy rates and life expectancy, and a reduction in poverty rates. Thus, a country’s economic development is related to its human development, which encompasses, among other things improved access to good health services, qualitative education, decrease in poverty rates, increased leisure time and social justice. Anyiam-Osigwe emphasizes the human factor as the primary constituent to all developmental initiatives. The human factor involves the moral element which can be expressed as the ability to moderate the propensity to pursue self-serving goals at the expense of the common goal. According to Anyiam-Osigwe, for a community to record economic development its members must excel in fundamental human values such as honesty, integrity, honour and propriety in all their conducts. It is in this regard that Anyiam-Osigwe opines that moral development is a prerequisite for economic development.

Contemporary Africa is grossly underdeveloped when compared with some countries hitherto referred to as third world countries. These include Japan, China, Brazil and India. They have all recorded an impressive reduction in the rate of poverty and social degradation. Sadly, however, the African condition as noted in the ninth session of Osigwe’s Lecture series (2007:23) is such that its contribution to the global Gross Domestic Product is said to account for less than two per cent and its contribution to world trade has declined from four percent to less than two percent. Most countries in Africa are import dependent consumerist economy, hence, they have had to devalue their currencies. In fact, most African countries have become dumping grounds for foreign products. One wonders why Africans, in spite of their being hardworking, intelligent, strong and even innovative, still live in abject poverty. Why, in spite of all the mental and physical resources in African, we still lag behind in development? What could be the cause or causes and how can we tackle underdevelopment in Africa? The missing link definitely is not just the lack of credit, nor markets, nor access to technology, nor lack of skills, nor lack of managerial discipline or human resources. What then is this missing link? This question shall be addressed in the subsequent sub-sections.

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The Effect of Colonialism on Africa’s Economic Development In Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe’s view, there is an intricate connection between culture and economic development. He says that the crisis of Africa’s underdevelopment is culture based and culture driven (2005:37). A major factor that led to the economic underdevelopment of Africa is colonialism. The impact of colonization on African culture has affected the mindset of the African in that the mind of the African has been colonized. According to Anyiam-Osigwe, the subversion and destruction of our culture and the imposition of counter–cultures on African culture, to a large extent, accounts for the chronic political and socio-economic failures and absence of industrial and technological advancement (2006:15). If the crisis of development is culture based then culture will be in the best position to solve the crisis. 107


Anyiam-Osigwe on Culture and Economic Development

Anyiam-Osigwe says overcoming the challenges toAfrica’s development then is: dependent on imbuing the individual with the appropriate mindset: a mindset that would elevate him beyond the subjective limitations of the encumbrances of colonial incursion, to perceiving and exploring the new opportunities that the process of colonization, decolonization and globalization offer (2005:41).

This, in essence, is the major key to Africa’s development. From the above, we can say that colonisation is the greatest challenge to development. In the first instance colonisation limited the African man and led to the crisis of identity. What do we mean by this?

The Crisis of Identity Anyiam-Osigwe acknowledges that Africa is very rich in resources, culture and history. Colonization, however, imposed a pseudo-foreign culture that brought about an hybrid Euro-African culture as a replacement for a systematized and coordinated indigenous cultural perspective of pristine African societies. According to Anyiam-Osigwe: The colonial adventurers fundamentally malformed Africa’s spiritual, cultural, socio-political and economic tapestry; and, in that process, left behind fragmented, distorted or decimated cultural patterns in Africa ( 2005:30).

Colonization left Africans with a perverted mindset .The process of amalgamation in which the bases of grouping people together were neither natural boundaries, nor historical origins, nor compatibility, made African development worse. The amalgamation did not give adequate consideration to the question of African development. Rather, the primary focus was on the economic and political intention and aggrandizement of the colonizers. This, no doubt, led to a loss of identity and apparently a loss of culture on the side of Africans. Colonialism led to the crisis of identity and we no longer live a life of our own. 108

Ebun O. Oduwole

According to Osigwe Anyiam Osigwe : the destruction of the African metaphysical worldview, carefully crafted and delivered through a Euro-western curriculum forms, appropriately eroded the cultural perspective and the moral premise of the society, leaving the people in a limbo of ambiguous identity (2007:20).

Thus, with the dominance of Western hegemony assisted by Western education, Africans began to hear their own history from strangers. A situation that marked the beginning of the loss of African identity and incoherence in the African man’s perception of himself. The first thing to do, then, is for Africans to discover their authentic history because it is a roadmap to their genuine identity. Africans must strive to give authenticity to our lives by living the life that is genuinely our own; integrating our cultural values, historical values and sociological perspectives in their proper and concrete forms (2008:4). Authentic history and genuine identity will make Africans contribute to global issues in all areas of development. A lot of scholars (Anke Graneb:1997, Wiredu:1992) have argued in line with Osigwe’s view on the negative impact of colonialism on Africa’s identity and self-definition. They agree with Osigwe that colonialism had a negative effect on our identity. Wiredu, for instance, posited that: “What is required of authentic identity is that belief, decision or choice should be based on one’s own conscious reflection” (1992:70). In other words, to maintain self identity is not to remain the same as ancestral times but to make a conscious and deliberate attempt at change especially by looking at that which is good in our traditional cultures and borrowing what is good from other cultures too. Although this kind of change, which would amount to a decolonization of the mind, may not be easy given the fact that the minds of most Africans have been deeply colonized, the fact remains that it is still possible.

Leadership and Culture Another factor identified by Anyiam-Osigwe as responsible for economic underdevelopment in Africa is corruption. This, to a large extent, 109


Anyiam-Osigwe on Culture and Economic Development

Ebun O. Oduwole

hinders economic growth. In Anyiam-Osigwe’s view (2007:20), the African society was largely without the disposition to corruption while crime was rare and devotion to community was total. A part of African culture emphasizes a metaphysics that strengthened the basis of religion and morals. A metaphysics that provided the community with the ideal of an unblemished existence and proffered the unseen hand of Supreme God, albeit through a pantheon of deities, by which members willingly surrender themselves to the sovereignty of the community . Modern African states according to Anyiam-Osigwe became bedeviled by the crises of corruption, dereliction of duty, dishonesty and illegitimate accumulation of wealth through abuse of office. Corruption is seen as one of the tools employed by the colonialists to subdue the African culture. It can be described as a counter-culture which the colonial masters sponsored, canvassed and enthroned in Africa (2005:33). The intrusion of corruption in the African mindset, no doubt, breeds several negative elements that impair African development. According to Anyiam-Osigwe:

of this on majority of Africans is an attitude of helplessness. Africans became lazy, objects of welfare by donor countries that are quick to extract far more valuable obligations from Africans in return. Sadly, it is this attitude of laziness, on the part of Africans, that restricts them from tapping and making use of their potentials and abilities to the fullest. Osigwe advocates that local knowledge must be employed in resolving African economic problems. He draws attention to the failure of imported solutions that are Euro-centric and the occidental economic recovery policies that are, for all intents and purposes , lacking in an African perspective that is requisite for addressing Africa’s underdevelopment (2004:39-40). AnyiamOsigwe will not favour economic moves such as The Baker Plan, The Brandy Plan, and HIPC initiatives. Rather the NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) is more of a wholly African initiative for development in Africa. He affirms that as Africans are blessed with all material, human, physical and natural resources, all we need do is tap into them for our economic development. On the issue of corruption, a lot has been done and a lot still needs to be done. The Economic Finance and Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria, for example, is making some progress. However, there is need to do more. Oyeshile rightly noted that government should ensure democratisation, give people their rights as at when due, put measures in place to alleviate poverty, provide security, allow citizens to know the limits of government, promote rule of law and engage in human welfare programmes, and education (2002:59). Although a critic may say that these suggestions are good but appears Utopian given that, as Osigwe rightly noted, corruption is not only limited to the leaders but also deeply rooted among the followership. The question is: where do we start the reform from? From the leadership or the followership?

The lack of honesty and probity in the management of public affairs and assets, the disposition to unlawful acquisitions, falsehood, hatred, envy, jealousy, and lust are all manifestations of a spiritual impairment which adversely affects the appropriate configuration of the mindset(2005:20).

As such, the larger percentage of the society that is affected by this negative configuration of the mindset functions with a limited and distorted perspective in their contribution to national development. They are more or less occupied by personal interests and gains rather than developmental goals that will benefit all. The wealth and resources of the nation is seen as a national cake that is to be shared. Still on the question of leadership, Anyiam-Osigwe says that there is no way Africa can attain genuine development with the current trend of selfcenteredness, corruption, greed, ignorance, mediocrity, rabid quest for political power on the part of our leaders as well as deep seated apathy and sense or resignation on the part of the populace. He also noted that post-colonial African leaders became fond of dependence on foreign aids. The implication 110

The Community, Self and Economic Development The African man because of colonialism acquired a new way of explaining and interpreting existence. This new view places the self or individual above the community and emphasizes the materialistic aspect of life as fundamental. The Western culture moves from the individual to society whereas the African 111


Anyiam-Osigwe on Culture and Economic Development

Ebun O. Oduwole

culture moves from society to the individual (1984:180). This new interpretation of self is contrary to the African cultural interpretation of self. The African culture is averse to self, individualism and materialism. Rather, within the context of the African culture, the self operates in the midst of the family, community and it operates to bring about common good and not the good of self alone. This is the essence of the family and family ties. Thus, for Anyiam-Osigwe “the building of the total man upon whom society rests her quest for economic enhancement, commences from the family” (2000:67). In Anyiam-Osigwe’s strong view, “the pristine family structure of the traditional African societies that plays out as the extended family system can be identified to be largely supportive and sustaining” (2000:69). Sustaining in the sense that the weaknesses of one member of the community would be covered by the other. This idea of communal values does not in any way mean the rejection or repression of individual values, hopes, aspirations, achievements and rights. But it is expected to bring together individual talents, qualities, strengths and assets for the good of the whole. Since man is a social being, an individual will be better developed within his community. Although, it may be difficult to maintain a balance between the individual and community but balancing the two means avoiding the selfish or self - centered nature of individualism. It will avoid amassing wealth for self and self alone but with considerations for the community and others.

and above individual interest and, in that context, responded to community duties with unrivalled diligence and rigour (2005:33). The family in the traditional African society has all the potentials for making positive contribution to the alleviation of poverty but this has not been the case in contemporary times. In most cases, the people classified as poor are either under-utilised or rendered productively impotent by conventions, beliefs, value systems and psychological states that are not in concert with the order of the existential scheme. Thus, the advantages of the family system are not well explored. One of the benefits that family system is supposed to generate is to bring teamwork and synergies among individuals and groups of that society in which the combined total yield is greater than the sum of separate strengths and aptitudes. So if the individual potentials are not well maximized, the total good will not also be maximized. This will on the long run affect the poverty level of the social system. In other words, there is a need to give priority to an all round development in order to maximise the potentials of every individual in the family and, consequently, society. So, to achieve economic development, an all round policy must be maintained to ensure that all individuals cultivate the right mindset by tapping their abilities to maximum capacity. The way to achieve this is to allow all individuals identify and develop their innate abilities and potentials and put them to practical application for the collective well-being of all in society (2005:25).

The Question of Poverty and Family Anyiam-Osigwe (2005:17) in his quest to unravel the puzzle about the endemic poverty of Africa in a world of abundance raised some pertinent questions. He asked what the missing canons in our developmental initiatives are. What initiatives must humanity evolve in resolving the contradictions of poverty in the emerging world order? In an attempt to answer this question, he postulated that the major setback to the attainment of holistic human development is the limited application of the potentials and abilities of a larger section of the human family. In African society, the human family is an important aspect of our culture. African cultures encourage placing the interest of their community over

The Role of Women in African Culture To have a full grasp of economic development in Africa, Anyiam-Osigwe suggests the need for a thorough understanding of the role of women in society. Anyiam-Osigwe notes that women constitute half of the world population and they are largely dormant due to the subjugation of women by a chauvinistic male-dominated social order. In order to achieve economic development, there is a need to tap the resources and ability of women in society. In developing countries, rural women are major food producers and generate a large part of the cash income for their families. Rural women contribute to socio-economic development in three ways: at the household level, at the community level, and at the national level. So, ignoring the

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actualisation of the potentials of women is like ignoring the possible contributions of a large percentage of society to the economic development of society.

References Aluko B.A., “Philosophy, Culture and the Quest for Social Order in Africa” in

Agriculture and Economic Development Another area identified by Anyiam-Osigwe as beneficial to Africa’s economic development is food security by agricultural investment. He sees agriculture as a complex venture between God in heaven and the farmer on earth. A hungry man is an angry man, so the adage says. If Africans can secure their belly, then there will not only be economic empowerment but also peace. This is because instead of engaging in endless wars, we will be busy with agricultural productivity. If Africans can emulate Israel in terms of her strong agricultural investment then we will make more progress in economic terms. Israel, unlike some African countries, does not have oil to depend on, for its economic sustenance. Yet, it is one of the leading industrialized nations in Europe and the world. If Africans can invest on land, rather than buying ammunition and depending solely on oil, then we are bound to attain economic progress (Proceedings of the 5th session of the EOOAO: 2003). Conclusion In Anyiam-Osigwe’s opinion, the crises of Africa’s under-development are, culture-based and culture-driven. Africans need to develop an African personality that is nurtured with faith in the self, faith in his antecedents, faith in community through the family and competitive intellect. This does not mean we are to re-invent the African past rather we need to distil the requisite African personality from the present amorphous pseudo-modern African personality created by colonization. This will lead to an appropriate mindset of a dynamic and sure-footed African that is competitive and adaptive to the emerging world order.

Issues and Problems in Philosophy. Ibadan: Grovacs (Network) 2000. Anke Grane B., “The Problem of Identity in African Context” in Studies in Intercultural Philosophy 3,1997. Anyanwu K.C., The African Experience in the American Marketplace. New York: Exposition Press, 1983. Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe, Excerpts and Quotes of Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Philosophical Fragments. Lagos: 1999-2008. _____, Advancing The Cause for A Holistic Approach to Human Existence Development . Lagos: Proceedings of the Second Session of the Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Memorial Lecture Series, 2000. _____, Women as the Salt of the Earth: An Improved Understanding of Womanhood . Lagos: Brief on the Third Session Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe AnyiamOsigwe Memorial Lecture, 2001. _____, Books of Reference on Concepts and Definition, 2002. _____, Introspectionism: Green Grasses of Home :The Key to Development is Within and Around You. Lagos; 2004. _____,The Mindset Factor in Creative Transformation: All Minds at Work: All Minds on Deck. Lagos: Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation, 2005. _____, As It Was in The Beginning Synthesis for Africa’s Socio-Political and Economic Transformation Lagos: Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation, 2006. _____, Harnessing Africa’s Capital that the People May Have Life and Live It More Abundantly. Lagos: Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Memorial Lecture Series, 2007. _____, Man, The State and A Better World Order. Lagos: 2004 Oyeshile A.O., “Corruption and Underdevelopment in Nigeria”, Recall, Number 1, January, 2000. Thompson L.A., “Origin and Development of the Concepts of Culture and Civilization” in Culture and Civilization Ibadan : Afrika- Link Books, 1991. Wiredu Kwasi, “Problems in Africa’s Self -Definition in the Contemporary World” in Persons and Community in Akan Thought in Ghanaian Philosophical Studies 1, 1992.

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Osigwe Development Philosophy-Vol 3 Chapter 7  

Osigwe Development Philosophy-Vol 3 Chapter 7

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