Wednesday, October 31, 2007
How can a country benefit from its Overseas Nationals?
A few weeks ago, we examined the possibilities of mobilising remittances from nationals abroad to help generate wealth creation and improve the general well-being of citizens excluded and deprived due to structural dislocations in the economy. On this occasion, we will make the case for a dynamic and sustainable programme that encourages the investment of skills from overseas citizens, an action that is both conducive and regarded a prerequisite for advancing national priorities and programmes, apart from meeting the terrible shortage of high-order skills in key sectors of the economy.
Prior to Political Independence, Guyana lost hundreds of citizens per annum and by the 1980s when the country attained Republican status, the average figure for nationals migrating was over 10,000 yearly. Migration is not a new phenomenon, but when it involves countries with small and dwindling populations, it is no a longer a casual issue; it is an impending catastrophe.
Current demographic numbers suggest Guyana population is around 751, 223 living within 83,000 sq miles (214,970 km²) radius of coastal plains, hilly, sand and rocky habitat, with the same number scattered across the globe; mostly in North America, Britain and Europe, with some in various Caribbean states, while a handful reside elsewhere. Over 90% of citizens live on the coastland where population density is acute, and where imminent threats from natural disasters such as flooding and man-made interferences, are real. The remainder of the population live within hinterland areas that are still virtually under-developed by modern standards.
During much of the 1970s and 1980s, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other smaller Caribbean territories suffered an acute brain drain; the loss of skilled professionals such as teachers, medical personnel and engineers who sought a better life in the industrialised North. The risks were enormous; some nationals left to join families became economic migrants while others went on to study and later applied for `naturalised citizenship’ in their new `home’. Many did menial jobs to survive and in the case of `students-workers’, they did a minimum of two jobs to pay fees and maintain themselves and dependents at home. Even those who eventually settled continued with their `day-night’ employment run to maintain their financial commitments, as well as upkeep their general lifestyle. The findings of a mini-poll conducted 15 years ago, revealed that a large percentage of Guyanese and Caribbean nationals were once senior managers of state or parastatal corporations and other public sector agencies who became disenchanted by the system and left in droves.
As is the case, migrants from the developing world have `noble’ aspirations and expectations of their `new home’. They perceive their hosts to have a highly developed and enlightened governmental and private apparatus well-endowed populace with respect to cultural, economic, social, scientific and technological competencies. Such levels of advancement are both perceptive and real and have been channelled through Western media institutions in the developing world for decades.
However reality is different when migrants experienced multiple `culture shocks’ beginning with difficulty in accessing information and data to survive on basic amenities, racist insults and taunts - either silently or openly- cultural deference and other social problems involving language meanings, accents etc. Depending on the age, experience and cultural knowledge the adjustment or maladjustment phase of migrants can take almost a lifetime. Over 50% of Guyanese and other Caribbean citizens have countless experiences to share about economic and social plight in the metropolis, and yet, their experiences are not dissimilar to other migrants in (strangely) industrialised countries.
One example of this situation is the UK where it was reported that in 2005, more than 200,000 people left for the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Anecdotal evidence suggests they left because of poor salaries, high stress levels and poor quality of life. One suspects too, that the influx of citizens from other lands is another contributory factor which is often `played up’ by politicians who use issues around immigration and race as fair game at election time. This situation is prevalent in France, Germany, Holland and other European countries where minority communities are involved in either asserting their rights through direction action to bring about change or creating independent organisations to sustain their communities.
Universally, there is ongoing debate on the efficacy of skilled overseas nationals to boost the productivity gap, while enhancing a pool of high-order skilled personnel for a sustainable developing world. Depending on the axis of the argument, suggestions vary from the temporary use of contracts for overseas nationals, and the collaboration of international agencies to help in recruiting suitably qualified personnel, to the introduction of a national skills investment programme to include citizens worldwide. Then there is the issue around incentives – accommodation, salaries or consultancy fees and technical resources – to support and generally meet the broad expectations of returnees. It is a dilemma for many countries, but one that requires an effective resolution, not quick fix solutions.
We would like to suggest that Guyana implements (even if it has) a Skills Investment Programme (SIP) that consists of the experiences, skills and general competencies of all able-bodied citizens. This initiative must have huge investments of political will, economic prioritization and social responsibility objectives, all of which must be the guiding factor in the equational process of recruitment, selection and placement. By their very nature of exposure to Western cultures and economic civilisations, overseas nationals will have expectations of their Government, public officials and others, on their return to their homeland including:
(i) Expectations of national confidence in their ability to perform in the respective role or roles assigned;
( ii ) They expect to be treated fairly and professionally based on their qualifications, experience and exposure to a Western-type environment for many years;
(iii) They expect remuneration comparable to their occupation status (this of course is entirely negotiable and may not necessarily pose a real threat to either Government or returnee);
(iv) They expect to be given the necessary resources such as back-up staff, proper accommodation and technical materials and equipment to make their job effective and efficient;
(v) They expect to find proper systems in place and procedures to effect positive outcomes so that they are not unduly blamed for inherent systematic weaknesses;
(vi) They expect accurate information and data in cases where key projects require such strategic input; and
(vii) They expect to be taken seriously and not be regarded as an `outsider’, a `meddler’ or a national `foreigner’ at odds with the country they once knew.
These expectations should not be construed as overwhelming or overly ambitious on the part of returnees, wanting `too much too soon’, since they are willing to contribute to their country’s development at great sacrifice and expense in most instances. Through the encouragement of expert dialogue and open discussion, officials may find that there are shared expectations between themselves and overseas nationals. Confidence building measures are important in this mix of expected patriotism on the other hand, and national priorities to be understood on the other.
Moreover, it is awfully undesirable for one to expect that returnees can quickly readjust to their former home-surroundings after being `clinical adapters’ and cultural change-agents in their `second home’ environment for an extended period. These adaptations would obviously have varying degrees of impact – ranging from the initial shock of actually returning home to the trauma of leaving one’s overseas `home’ where everything appeared materially secure; in other words, the feeling of uncertainty prevails while the returnee, psychologically is carrying out a balancing act involving proud nationalism and material expediency. In this matrix of somewhat odd similarities and differences, there are indisputable facts on the value of migrant skill utilities that could confound critics and cynics alike; they are:
(a) Governments utilise the skills of foreign expatriates all the time;
(b) Deals are made with international donors to hire competent personnel;
(c ) Governments are compelled by agreements, to recruit the best brains to implement key projects; and
(d) Resources are allocated for projects that have significant donor support.
Consequently, officials and returnees can arrive at a compromise; that is, an arrangement mutually acceptable and beneficial for all parties. It should be noted that Guyana has a scarcity of project management skills and this, among other factors, is impeding growth and sustainable development in many areas of national life. This situation has partially resulted in low productivity in key sectors of the economy, added to the demoralisation of managerial and supervisory staff, unable to cope with the demands of their occupational portfolio.
Developing countries that aspire to modern nation-state equivalence have to demonstrate their capacity for maximising human, financial, scientific and technological, as well as other resources. In Guyana’s context, therefore, the question is, how can the Government implement an effective Skills Investment Programme without unduly jolting its scare finances? Is this initiative a real economic necessity, and how can the country benefit from this venture?
For one thing, Guyana does not have time on its side; ignoring the current underinvestment climate could only worsen the situation. It seems that the country will have to go for the proverbial `broke’ situation, by pushing the boundaries of international relations, by partnering with funders, inter-governmental institutions and Diplomatic Missions abroad. The latter’s importance should not be underestimated, since missions are expected to be channels of command between nationals and their Governments. Let us look at a myriad of important ways in which the SIP could be pursued to achieve the proficiency of international standards.
1. Firstly, a profile of potential, existing and future projects should be properly prepared and published, setting out project title, aims and objectives, funding requirements, general project description, beneficiaries' involvement, skills required and implementation of scheduling arrangements.
2. Secondly, a list of projects in order of local, regional and national priorities (not only those with vote winning potential) and their problems associated with their implementation should be drafted.
3. Thirdly, the identification of key skills for all projects is vital. For instance, type of managerial skills, supervisory, technical and project management competence required. Are there partnership ventures involved as a basic requirement? Is there a problem with funding, is funding delayed or is there general uncertainty in this area?
4. Fourthly, a list of liaison officers to communicate with inter-governmental agencies and commercial institutions should be prepared. These personnel are important since they can help to determine the outcome of resources needed for key projects.
After this exhaustive process, projects should be discussed at length with a broad-based committee comprising representatives from the Office of the President, the External Affairs Ministry, the Ministry of Education, the Department for Trade and Industry and other participating departments. A roll-call of nationals abroad should be summoned and interested, as well as suitable returnees should be invited to submit applications, tenders, or ordinarily, interviewed directly.
Perhaps one way of enabling returnees to feel at home again, is to conduct an induction-type re-familiarisation programme to acquaint them with changes that took place while they were abroad. Updates are important – they help overseas nationals to come to terms with their comparative reality of what home is. It is likely too that if nationals are allowed to engage with their preferred original birthplace this could have a psychological boost for returnees and a great advantage for public officials, who may difficulty with understanding the `overseas nationals’ mind.
As a result of continuous developments over an extended period, there is a general view that urban landscapes are more likely to lose their original selves. They give rise to new political cultures, complicated economic systems and forms of social engineering that disunite original forms of `indigenous’ traditions of assimilation and practice among various communities. Contrary to this urban situation, in suburbs and rural areas, there is still a `pride of place’ involving smaller communities who despite affected by dramatic changes to the economic landscape, may still possess attributes of their former selves in areas of culture, code of conduct and communal existence. It is here that overseas nationals may find comfort in their apparently changed, but yet familiar surroundings – communities and places they readily appreciate, less the trappings of a Western habitat.
These considerations are by no means infeasible, in view of the fact that they are the very fulcrum of any skills remigration programme at the national level. It means that the overall aims and objectives of the SIP should be synonymous with the need to close the productivity gap affecting public and private sector agencies in Guyana. Accordingly, they should be clearly defined as suggested below:
(a) To provide nationals an opportunity to invest in the growth and development of Guyana;
(b) To close the productivity gap in both private and public sectors of the economy;
(c) To strengthen and boost a pool of highly skilled labour force;
(d) To provide expert knowledge and technical support to national priorities;
(e) To encourage and stimulate human and social investment in regional/national programs;
(f) To implement a cost efficient labour recruitment policy to achieve national outputs;
(g) To develop a database of global nationals to help co-ordinate/implement projects; and
(h) To institute relevant measures to enhance production and productivity in Guyana.
In addition, architecture of measurements should be integral to the routine appraisal and evaluative process. This is crucial if projects are to be carried out effectively based on original requirements versus actual outcomes or targets. The following prototype measurement is therefore recommended:
(a) Number of projects in the pipeline to be approved;
(b) Number of projects to be implemented 1-3 years;
(c) Number of projects in need of expert assistance and support;
(d) Number of actual projects to be carried out;
(e) Total number of years for projects to be completed;
(f) Total budget requirements or allocation for projects;
(g) % of National Expenditure allocated towards hiring returnees;
(h) Number of nationals taking part in local, regional and national projects;
(i) Number of nationals for each project implementation phase;
(j) % of project implementation success;
(k) Number of public sector projects to be completed;
(l) Number of private sector contracts to be completed;
(m) Number of project evaluations done in each sectoral area.
These target measures are invaluable to the success of project implementation and a high level of management skills would be required to carry out this much-needed Herculean task. Initially, even if policy experts consider the prospects for the Skills Investment Programme or SIP as daunting, in economic and financial terms, altogether, it is a feasible policy initiative that, if allowed to work, could improve national morale and boost international confidence especially where donor countries are concerned. This programme should maintain a dynamic stature of its own rather than be a `seasonal’ affair. It must embody the hopes, aspirations and the multiple talents of nationals – both home and abroad.
Funding to Fail or One at All!
There has been persistent clamour for equity and fairplay in the allocation of funds for minority producers in the creative industries in the UK. Apart from their overall consumer spending power, African and Caribbean audiences help generate tens of millions of pounds in revenue to arts and culture, yet black producers receive a tiny fraction of these proceeds.
Funding has always been a contentious issue and despite pledges from the Arts Council of England and the British Film Council for increased resources for black cultural products, the level of sustainable funding remains perilously low. Minority segments comprise the performing arts (on-stage and street theatre), dance, music, publishing, video production, television production, visual arts and carnival arts among other creative endeavours.
Since the 1960s the works of playwright, Horace Ove, the grandfather of black British cinema, whose film, Pressure, made a compelling case for the black cinematic landscape in the country, was followed by other famous stars – Desmond Beaton, Carmen Munro and Ramjohn Holder of Desmond’s TV fame. Rudolph Walker and others like him popularised the presence of black people in sitcoms, and through their general participation in mainstream productions. According to a leading female film producer, "what is most disappointing is the absence of contemporary work from the diaspora as well as locally. The British Film Institute’s world is a very selective and narrow world. Its diasporic span does not seem to include Europe or South America and the Caribbean is only a passing gesture to the US” (Shabazz 2005)
Generally, the value of the black contribution to the creative industries is estimated to run into millions of pounds per annum, but this fact is virtually unknown due to a lack of profiling of key creative segments in the BME community. For instance, there is no real published information and data on the extent to which African and Caribbean creative producers operate in the English Regions, as well as their involvement in cultural regeneration in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. And most evaluations tend to cover entertainment aspects rather than highlight the latent creative and enterprise features black producers are renowned in the entire country.
Employment in the film and video production sub-sectors are valued at roughly £2.3 billion, total creative employment over 60,000 and exports just under £1 billion, coupled with more than 8,000 businesses in the sector (The Work Foundation June 2007). Black firms have a small but significant market share in video production and documentaries and these include small budget films featuring cultural, social and other welfare themes. Documentaries are produced in leading cities: London, Birmingham, Leicester, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and elsewhere in England. A sizeable number of short films are produced for Black History Month celebrations and are publicised for selected audience – students, social organisations and other groups inclusive. Education resource packs are often made available to primary and secondary schools with large concentrates of BME communities.
As a whole, the film industry is largely fragmented and it is difficult to obtain a consistent and reliable picture of segments and sub-sectors owned and managed by black operatives. Nevertheless, there are four key stages in the film chain; namely, development, production, distribution and exhibition all of which are under-resourced. The development stage is supposed to be resourced by film makers who in the main, act as joint directors and producers because of shoe-string budgets or none at all. Quite often, black film producers can only raise 5% -10% of finances to develop a full-length film or documentary.
Ordinarily, independently-produced films are financed by licensing the rights to the film to distributors in return for advances. But while the British Film Council has pledged to offer assistance and technical support to minority film producers in order to defray overheads, this pledge has been limited to paltry sums. In one case, a West Midlands producer was promised £10,000 for a film festival but was frustrated when he learnt that a measly £500 was agreed as a donation to the project, after the authorities conceded (subsequently) that the project was perceived of having no artistic/commercial value. And yet, an offer was made by an official to send a group of technical volunteers to assist in the organisation and production of the local film festival.
In principle, black film makers should benefit from direct subsidy or subventions from the public purse. Tax relief or concessions are rare and neither do producers benefit either from broadcasting (air) time and other forms of gap finance. For the most part, banks are not keen on lending money to non-white cultural programmes because of their perceived non-commercial value, never mind the artistic quality, the cultural diversity and the tangible social benefits that could be accrued for local communities experiencing economic deprivation and social exclusion. (Interview with cultural producers 2000-2007).
The mantra of social harmony and community cohesion rings hollow and is tantamount to political sloganeering, since the principle of equity and fairness does is not verifiable in practice when it comes to black cultural activities in the UK. Interestingly, each year, thousands of pounds are allocated for Black History Month celebrations. The routine imitation of African-American pioneers in the field of science and technology and limited inclusion of inventors and innovators of African and Caribbean background in the UK is also cause for great concern, in terms of importance and relevance. Evidence pertaining to the funding of black films is a mixture of challenge and opportunities, even though the problem is compounded by stereotyping and ill-conceived notions of whom and what black people are in Britain 21st century.
Some years ago Parliament was informed about the saga of under-investment in black filmmakers and black-owned production companies in the UK. It was revealed that the Film Council, BBC Films and the National Lottery Franchises receive hundreds of millions of pounds of public money and therefore have a responsibility to ensure that black creative organisations access sufficient funding. The evidence presented to legislators was startling; out of a total expenditure from the Film Council of over £40 million, a mere 2% or just over £900,000 was disbursed to black film-makers and black-owned production companies. (British Film Council 2003).
The New Cinema Fund has a particular remit to nurture black film-makers and yet it offered nearly three quarters of a million pounds to one company which represented a staggering 50% of the total investment given to black film-makers across the country. BBC Films has a track record of engaging black film-makers, but there are no strategies or initiatives to address its own record of under-funding. There are no black professionals in senior positions at BBC Films and the Lottery Franchises have failed to maximise the growth of film makers in minority communities. Neither do they employ black creative producers despite having a budget of £90 million plus in public funds.
The Film Council literature suggests that it is funding more black film-makers and black-owned production companies than obliged. The perceived wisdom of authorities is that increasing access to training will solve the problem of the under-employment of black people in the film industry. However there are generations of trained and skilled black-film producers and actors in the UK whom the industry refuses to employ. Such is the contradiction between (theoretical) perception and (practical) reality.
The Arts Council of England set up the Decibel Initiative - a one-year scheme aimed at promoting cultural diversity in the arts. The long term aim is to change the landscape of arts forever, moving the arts towards a place where it is more representative of the society. The scheme invested more than £5 million in artists. In a later survey, the data showed that 72% of black people read for pleasure, 7% had written stories or plays in the past year compared to the national average of 4%, plus more than 25% of African and Caribbean people represented a sizeable section of the minority community that used a public library compared to the national figure of 10%. (Cultural Diversity in Book Publishing Today 2004).
It appears that the cycle of funding discrimination by stealth is set to continue unless there is a radical or paradigm shift in the ideological thinking of public arts and cultural bodies. No amount of government platitudes and equalities legislation will suffice. The industry has to be proactive in all this. A memorandum submitted to the House of Commons in 2003 suggested the following:
· Publicly-funded film organisations and companies should be called to account over their failure to invest in black film-makers and black-owned production companies.
· There should be insistence on a radical change in employment practices at the Film Council to make it at least racially diverse as the public it is there to serve.
· There should be advocacy for a minimum spend on the work of black film-makers and black-owned production companies to ensure that they receive a fair chance to tell stories from their perspective and contribute to making the British film industry a success (House of Commons Memorandum 2003).
The consensus among minority film makers is that the system should act fairly and decisively in maximising the breadth and scope of artistic and creative talent in all communities in the UK. Equally, producers ought to organise themselves into a national `strike force’ to make appropriate representation to government officials and public institutions, whilst developing appropriate alliances and industry partnerships with major film companies at home and overseas, in the process. The authorities and industry operatives should carry out joint reviews on the organisation and performance of all minority creative enterprises across the English Regions since this sector has both commercial and social benefits which should be celebrated, recognised and adequately resourced.
More importantly, black producers should capitalise on market opportunities in Africa, Asia (including the Indian sub-continent), the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and North America as viable options to break the vicious cycle of under-investment in a segment of the creative industry that was built (and still being) by people of colour. With the necessary will, African and Caribbean artistic and cultural producers can change the rules of engagement – from one of disproportionate funding to one of equitable resourcing for the creative industries for all minority communities in the UK.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Since the abolition of slavery, Europeans have sought to maintain racial hegemony by propagating false notions of African inferiority based on pigmentation and texture. Later, selected forms of genetics premised on emotional and mental structures, have been applied uncritically. These approaches were used by colonisers to justify invading Africa in the 15th century and later, the heinous Transatlantic Slave Trade, all under the pretext of `civilised freedom’. That is precisely why the geneticist, James Watson’s theory on `Africans are less intelligent than Westerners’ is not surprising or at worst, shocking, though it should be utterly repudiated.
The Science Museum in London cancelled his speaking engagement on the ground that Watson’s views went `beyond the point of acceptable debate’ and yet two British professors received a grilling interview on the Today Programme on Radio 4, as they expressed concerns about the `freedom of speech’ doctrine `floated’ by the press versus the `scientific incompetence’ of Dr. Watson’s theory.
It is absolutely right that the views of such an eminent scientist be condemned for its false and delusionary nature, particularly since there was international outrage after the Iranian leadership challenged the historical truth about the Holocaust. On that occasion, the allegation of xenophobia rose to a crescendo and the world was engulfed by this controversy.
Reading Watson’s theory in both The Independent and The Times on Western intelligence versus African `less’ intelligence (translated as white supremacy), bore a striking resemblance of the infamous The Bell Curve, by Charles Murray and Richard Hermstein. These authors also applied IQ and DNA constructs to justify claims of African inferiority even though the basis of their conclusions was far from clear. And since science alone, cannot be the final arbiter of reasoning and truth, as well as freedom of thought and action, other factors deserve consideration. Science itself is fraught with danger (signals) and indeed if it is perfect, then why Western democracy has inherent fault-lines? Why is the global economic system pregnant with inequalities in both the industrialised and non-industrialised states, since the last century? Why is military force or `gunboat’ diplomacy still viewed as the guiding strategy for political compliance and economic obeisance, when soft power or traditional `human’ diplomacy has proven a viable alternative for peace and stability, for instance, in South Africa and the Caribbean? Quite contradictory, although the recent Burmese conflict was condemned by the international community, the military-intelligence dared to suggest military intervention similar to Afghanistan and Iran.
In addition, the recent troubles in the medical profession in America, Europe and Britain involving the pharmaceutical industry, misdiagnoses and the outbreak of infections in hospitals due to poor hygiene control measures, all beg the question, whether European systems are that intelligent or sufficiently adaptable to modern technology. Indeed, if intelligence is to be measured by `civilised’ action and a system of governance, then essentially, (Western) justice should for the many and not for the few, as is the case today. Again, the volatility of financial markets also questions the competence of global establishments and their integrity in dealing with trends particularly in a fluid, free market culture. If Watson’s theory is supposedly sound, did human intelligence contributed to the 1930s Stock Market Crash and subsequent economic recessions in the US and Britain in the 1970s and 1980s, coupled with the BCCI, Maxwell and Enron scandals respectively? Could Watson’s racial theory of intelligence prevent endemic corruption in Western democracies?
The other aspect of Watson’s theory is premised on African economics – raw material production versus the industrialisation principle. He argues that Western aid is counter-productive because of corruption and other ills, yet he fails to consider these historic truths about Western interference, domination and manipulation leading to trade distortions (particularly in export prices) that favour the industrialised North at the expense of the non-industrialised `South’. The fragility of African democracy is partly due to years of militarization, trade protectionism and cultural imperialism. Much of these episodes are well documented by World Bank/IMF and other international institutions, as well as independent observers, though little of this information is publicised. It is also interesting to determine whether Watson’s theory resonates with Africanised stereotype or it reflects a wider melting pot of African peoples; those from a generically Black, White, Indian and/or other mixed heritage. A large section of African people –at home and abroad- are Westernised; culturally, academically, professionally and socially, so the debate about natural or applied intelligence, requires `opening up’ rather than be limited to polemics and divisive hysteria.
Besides brutal conquest, post-colonial aggression helped galvanise protracted conflicts in central parts of Africa and elsewhere. The civil wars in the frontline states of Angola, Mozambique and Namibia for instance, were fuelled by external belligerence; manipulating national resistance movements and circumventing duly elected governments such as the one in Ghana. Apartheid in South Africa was bolstered by Western economic and military intelligence underpinned by a brutal racial ideology that almost destroyed two generations of black South Africans. Had it not been for Nelson Mandela’s magnanimity and political adroitness, plus the support from peace-loving people the world over, South Africa would have become a failed nation-state. Caribbean stalwarts such as Marcus Mosiah Garvey, CLR James and George Padmore were among leading pan-Africanists who enabled the process of African political independence, starting in 1957. It was these three, along with civil rights activist, Claudia Jones, who was a victim of the Jim Crow laws in the US in the early 20th century. Garvey was ostracised for his Black Star Line (shipping) initiative because of its long-term value in cementing trade relations between Africa and the Diaspora.
Watson’s supposition also failed to take cognisance of other economic truths. Apart from foreign meddling, according to former Ugandan President, Yoweri K Museveni, "the present-day situation in Africa resulted from centuries of disruption of non-integrated economies that concentrate on producing unprocessed raw materials for foreign consumers. Many of the manufactured goods we need come from outside Africa at very high prices. The result is that we cannot balance our export earnings with our import bills.”
In his penetrating analysis regarding a blueprint for African peoples, African- American author, Amos N Wilson, asserted that, `it is worth noting that compared to the 500 year rise Europe and the 200-year rise of the United States, even the lifetimes of the Greek, Roman and Holy Roman empires are but flashpoints of time relative to Egypt’s 10,000 years, the ancientness of Ethiopia, the thousands years of Ghana, and the thousand years of and independence of a plethora of African kingdoms and empires – free, virile, ingenious and independent,’ until the arrival of the European conquistadores (the writer’s emphasis).
Contrary to the media hype, Africa has been praised for embracing democracy whilst stabilising national economies. Travel brochures are replete with colourful messages of Africa’s tourist attractions, economic vibrancy and fertile culture, bearing in mind that the continent has untapped natural resources that could be transformed into commercially viable industrial products and services, to replace perpetual aid and related `hand-outs’. Equally, African scientists are among the world’s leading thinkers and many could be found in the capitals of America, Britain, Europe and elsewhere. Nigerian Chief, Emeke Anayoka was a successful Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and more recently, Ghanaian diplomat, Kofi Annan, also had a distinguished career as UN Secretary-General. Africa’s first woman leader, the President of Liberia, Ellen Sirlief-Johnson, possesses a honed financial mind with World Bank credentials. Nigerian financial expert, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, became the first African woman to be appointed as Managing Director of the World Bank in early October this year. She is one of many trusted Africans leading a campaign for an African economic renaissance.
Indeed, if these men and women were so `less intelligent’, how could they be entrusted with such prestigious offices and enjoy respect from the international community, in the process? Commentators have even suggested that Africa could be the world’s next economic superpower based on phenomenal growth rates averaging between 2% and 4% in emerging democracies in the Eastern, Western and Southern regions of the continent. Resource limitations aside, the African Union is a potential security force for good contrary to persistent criticisms from biased media houses.
Moreover, the increasing trade links with China, India, Japan and other Asiatic states, is a comforting thought for many in the developing world, predicting Africa’s once `cradled’ civilisation with that of a resurging continent. In light of Dr. Watson’s racialized theory, it is worth questioning his mindset along the following lines. Was his selective use of DNA measurements validated, and against what? Who were the `guinea pigs’ in the experiment? What prototype was used to achieve and sustain the results? Was there any prior corroboration or cross-referencing of reliable data used to arrive at existing conclusions? What were the processes used to pre-determine or determine the efficacy of the existing racialized theory involving Europeans and Africans? Is this theory supposedly valid based on modern technology that lends itself to instantaneous gathering of facts and figures to process intelligent (human) processes?
The African intellectual project is a work in progress and Thandika Mkandaw’s book, African Intellectual: Rethinking Politics, Language, Gender and Development, makes interesting reading. It provides insights into the challenges and successes, as well as the future prospects of a continent where human civilisation began. As the Bicentenary commemoration on the legal termination of the Slave Trade and Black History Month observances, we will continue to denounce the European racist agenda in every shape and form, by publicising the enormous contribution of men and women of colour to human civilisation. It is patently obvious that Dr. Watson’s assertions are unwittingly, part of a campaign to destabilise the advancement of Africans in the Motherland and in the Diaspora. We must resist the temptation of such machinations and instead, work harmoniously across the divide, to achieve political deliverance, (unfettered) economic liberation, social unity and cultural unification to make the universe a better place for all.