The Ideas That Shaped Africa

The tyranny of ideology is real, and perhaps more pronounced in Africa than in any other place in the world. Although scientific socialism or one of its many variants is not practiced anywhere in Africa, well at least not manifestly, the vestiges of the insidious ideas that beguile the whole body of work behind socialism are still here with us.

The ideas that were very grain of socialism are making abrisquecome back, well maybe they never went away, but there are calls by many a contemporary Africans to go back to the ‘good old ways’ the good sweet discipline of socialism. The ideology has never lost its allure and sexiness, that is why many a people would wish for a return of the days of old; the days of Nyerere’s Ujaama , and Nkrumaism, the ones who are do not want the days of old back are ambivalent at best and do not know what idea-engine should drive development on this continent.

Therein lies the problem, the many off-shoots of Marxism and particularly the ones that found currency in Africa were not growth oriented, they were not pre-occupied at ways and means of growing Africa or bringing it abreast with other global economies, they were much more oriented towards re-distributing miseries as widely as possible. That is why when Asian tigers were gaining considerable eminence at marshaling populations out of poverty, African countries could be described as ‘scared serval cats, tiptoeing in fear in the global market environment.’ The construct of socialism was in its redistributive anchor not growth or regeneration that is why when economies elsewhere were growing, African economies were mark-timing or worse still regressing.

The main issue here, is not that socialism gained utility in Africa, it is that it did not have competition of note. The tyranny of socialism was not challenged, in fact it has never been challenged. It was the bedrock upon which African academia and practice of academia was built, it influenced: literature, political science, economics it almost influenced science. The curriculum was and still is imbued with heavy doses of Marx, the practice ‘mostly public practice’ is heavily laden with offices who swear by Marx but acquire and stash billions in foreign accounts.

That is the ideological waddle that Africa finds itself in, waddling in shallow ponds of poverty and destitution, with no real alternatives for respite and relief.

What then happens when you realize that your life, academic life has been a lie? Not really, but what happens that you have been tunnel visioned to think in an acute sense? Adulate Marx and socialism and all that he stood for? What happens when you discover that the only purpose of your education was to turn you into an ebullient socialist cheerleader? What happens when you get that epiphany, have a vision like the one that Saul had on the journey to Damascus, subsequently became Paul? What happens when you realize that there could be a redeeming alternative to that lie that you have lived for so long?

It is simple; you win yourself first, you look to win others in the process, you appeal to the neutrals, and you take on convention. You develop a substratum upon which the redemptive theory will challenge the dominant theory. You throw your heart in the ring and offer a few ideological punches, you challenge conventional wisdom. You do not win against the ideological tyrant by resigning to fate, do you?

That is what we set out to do, to: challenge and query conventional wisdom; to unearth how deeply the African political system has been under the yoke of socialism, we can only do this by coming up credible options for development and alternatives to the ideas that have kept Africa down for the better part of the last half century.

Alex Ndungu Njeru wrote in from Kenya