Over the past six years we have seen, very clearly, that there are many African scholars eager to participate in the debates of the social sciences. Our view, expressed in previous editions, is that African scholars are faced with many challenges to effective participation in a dialogue with scholars in the world, although advances in technological communication have facilitated the matter. The ease with which a growing number of scholars can communicate via e-mail is, in fact, a revolutionary development that, with each passing day, brings new hope to growing numbers of scholars from Africa. For certain, the debates that take place among social scientists of the world have not been truly global; the internet is challenging that historical norm. We readily admit that this journal has followed that wave of technological advance, yet we also acknowledge that the ease with which a growing number of scholars can communicate does not mean that there now exists equal access to scholarship: barriers of all kinds persist. Participation in scholarship, as any academic knows, is closely tied to resources available. Moreover, wonderful, creative, well-researched, and informed scholarship can sometimes be hampered by the now long-established challenge of communicating in another language, often perceived as the unwelcome residue of a colonial age. Many, if not most, African scholars are multilingual and have sometimes emotional reasons for keeping a distance from all that stems from the colonial era, including expressions of local ideas in only English, French, Portuguese, and others. So study in the colonial language is viewed, from the start, as practical, necessary, linked to survival, options in life, to include ‘speaking truth to power,’ but somehow, for many, understandably alien. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, at all times of the day, one sees school age children walking to and from school; one is struck by how early they are on the roadsides, often in school uniform and very often barefoot. Supported by families and whole communities, Africa’s children are taught to value their education, to learn the skills that are required for a better future for all of Africa. The drive to learn is visible and omnipresent; it is an essential component of hope amidst the many other challenges that rural and urban families face on a daily basis.
There was a day, throughout Africa, when we heard that there was a severe shortage of college graduates; Africans could not be expected, we were told, to govern their own in an effective way. Development, in all its forms, would have to be delayed. Decades of African despair followed. When the first wave of African scholars reached the global scene, it was the Cold War; they were therefore viewed by many as impractical, radical, and ‘devoid of ideas.’ For decades, academic publications on African affairs would describe African social and political chaos as a temporary disorder (Huntington 1968) or due to the Marxist orientation of African leaders. In fact, many early Africanists sympathized with the decidedly leftist orientation of African ideas on politics and policy. But then something happened at the end of the Cold War. Suddenly, anyone with leftist ideas was viewed as backward, moronic, or worse, as leaders embraced the virtues of privatization and the free- market. As we have discussed in previous issues, this is what Bates, et al. (1994) suggest that the problems are with African scholarship – it is ‘devoid of ideas.’ Once African scholars have ideas of merit to contribute, Bates et al. suggest, these will naturally ‘break through.’
We know otherwise. Improvements in communications technology do help but merit is certainly not the only reason why ideas become popular and, sometimes, persist. It is naïve to suggest that the global exchange of ideas is, in any way, democratic and open; it is an ideal we can all strive for, but let us be clear: the forums in which scholarly debate take place are filled with egos, pride – ethnic, national, religious – and agendas of all kinds. Alas, to this day, many of the ideas held by scholars from all over the world are based on various subjective experiences in their respective lives. In spite of the objective and rational pretense of so many, the very hypotheses that arise and theories that are developed, are usually the direct result of some kind of personal bias. Scholars do not pick notes on ideas from a proverbial hat of objectivity; they pursue research in one or another direction because of their own subjective experiences on this earth. And, as indicated above, in their quest to make themselves heard, scholars are greatly aided or hampered by the resources made available to them.
It is with the aforementioned challenges in mind that Africana was started. We share the ideal of Hegel but we also understand the materialist reaction of Marx to Hegel’s methodology. We are for the free- and-open debate of ideas but acknowledge the various contexts within which these debates take place: inherently biased, constrained, filled with personal pride of all kinds and, dare we say, when it comes to African area studies, filled with emotion. The era of free-market obsession, more of us are understanding in retrospect, temporarily forgot the prospective ‘other’ costs of what is now termed neoliberal reform. As has happened at other periods, it was a period of rationalism, when solutions seemed straightforward and easy; if only, its advocates maintained, others would follow. But the realities of that reform, while rational, were not necessarily reasonable, that is, they sometimes neglected the impact on humanity, the environment, and other significant factors. Like all of us on this earth, Africans strive to find the appropriate balance between what might seem to work, or seem ‘rational’ at any moment in time, with what proves to be ‘reasonable.’ Neoliberal reform, come hell or high water, has in the eyes of some, already happened while scores of social, environmental, and human challenges remain unanswered.
With our hope of improved access by African scholars to the debates and our hope of greater inclusion of African voices, the observer will readily see that there is much at stake as we contemplate this and future issues of Africana. We believe that the inclusion of local concerns must happen in countless ways, for it has not been the mark of self- assured world powers, now and historically. And, again, inclusion of local voice is necessary for achieving mutual understandings of reasonableness, in all social and political relationships. With our own limited time and resources, we reiterate that with every issue of Africana, we are faced with the challenge of making decisions. How well polished, for example, is a contribution? Should this journal, as so many have done, summarily dismiss African scholars’ contributions due to awkwardness of expression in the colonial language? How much editing should be done? How, why, and where, on balance, should we place emphasis on the author’s content over style? At the end of the day, or publishing deadline, we understand that a certain ‘rawness’ of expression may enter into play, that the dialogues over who or what should be included can continue endlessly. All said, we choose to do something, to make decisions, to publish at least some, and to move this initiative forward. It is simply too important.
In this vein, we are pleased to share the work of Dr. Akeem Ayofe Akinwale entitled “Digitisation of Indigenous Knowledge for Natural Resources Management in Africa.” Like others before him, Dr. Akinwale understands that there is wisdom in the thoughts of local populations that remains, in mainstream scholarship, largely untapped. With methodological rigor, Dr. Akinwale considers ways in which the thoughts, ideas, and practices of local indigenes can be documented, even digitized for future research. With a clear understanding that the prevailing norms have led to much environmental damage and local hardship, Dr. Akinwale considers whether other local ideas might help manage environmental resources in a more effective and sustainable fashion.
Largely due to the legacies of the colonial era and the cold war, sub-Saharan states remain highly centralized. Through the years, various initiatives on strengthening local governments have come and gone, with varying degrees of success. Those of us who have been following the literature and policy debates on local governance will find the study entitled “Local Government Administration in Nigeria: A Review” very helpful. In it, Michael B. Aleyomi explains why local governance matters to democratic and other forms of development.
For those who follow the global debates over human rights, we have included a piece by Dr. Oladele Abiodun Balogun & Ademola Kazeem Fayemi entitled “Human Rights in a Multiculturalist World: The Myth and Reality in Continental Africa and Afro-Diaspora.” Here, the authors consider the perspectives of the Ifa in relation to the Universalist claims made by human rights advocates and ask if and when they are compatible. We leave their conclusions for the reader to discover and applaud the authors’ efforts to have us all think through the ongoing challenges related to our global understanding of human rights.
In this era of growing concern over global terrorist networks and threats to human security, we thought Dr. Victor Egwemi’s contribution entitled “Boko Haram, Terrorism and Failing State Capacity in Nigeria: An Interrogation” to be especially relevant. With great urgency, Dr. Egwemi describes the growing Nigerian (and other) concerns regarding Boko Haram and other terrorist groups within the context of Nigeria’s weak and failing state capacity.
This is followed by an expression of concern by researchers Richard S. Maposa, Tasara Muguti and David Tobias, in “Mass Deception or Reality: Reflections on the Politics of Sanctions in Zimbabwe, 2000-2012,” who argue that, in the Zimbabwean political context, political rhetoric does not always match on-the-ground realities. In many ways, the words of politicians have been used to appease the concerns of either Zimbabwean citizens or outside observers, who pay little attention to realities, while policies such as (internal) land reforms and (external) sanctions continue to be improperly administered. The authors argue that true engagement with the international community would be a more effective path toward finding policy solutions that actually work.
Expressing a theme found above, Dennis Masaka & Agrippa Chingombe argue that we need to work “Towards a Fusion of Western and Traditional African Educational Systems in Zimbabwe’s National School Curriculum.” Here again we find that local voices are not always being heard and the view that they need to be, if both external relations and local policies are to be improved.
Much is said of road accidents in African contexts from a range of perspectives, much of it fearful and hostile toward someone, including local drivers and/or local governments. Here, Edwin Mhandu and Takawira Kazembe study the issue in a piece entitled “Urban Myths Pertaining to Road Accidents in Zimbabwe: The Case of Chinhamo Service Centre along Seke Road Linking Harare and Chitungwiza.” They consider the various factors that might be at play, including the views of the local Shona, who argue that there may be some spiritual mischief at play.
Finally, we consider a piece from the internationally recognized authority on Nigerian politics, Ibaba S. Ibaba entitled “The Roots of Terrorism in Nigeria: Exploring the Poverty Connection.” As always, Ibaba has carefully researched the matter, provides data and tabulations, then draws conclusions. To him and to all contributors to this issue, thank you for being a part of Africana. We cap this issue with a Book Review by Aaron Mupondi, Sign and Taboo: Perspectives on the Poetic Fiction of Yvonne Vera, and remind readers that we welcome relevant reviews.
We were privileged, with this issue, to have had the prodigious and skillful editing talents of Anne Serafin, one of the two members of Africana’s Advisory Board. Anne lent a great deal of her time and a tenacious effort to our production regimen, during which she was plagued with a mysterious and frustrating problem with her e-mail which, somehow, she managed to surmount. Anne, on behalf of the executive team and our contributors, I extend a warm and grateful ‘Thank You!’
It is now, with great pleasure, that we present to you the December 2012 issue of Africana. As always, your comments and feedback are very much appreciated.
A. Curtis Burton, Editor-in-Chief Washington, D.C. USA
Christopher LaMonica, Ph.D., Managing Editor Boston, MA USA