An important but often overlooked precursor to partnerships is an attempt by the partnering parties to have an in-depth understanding and resultant appreciation for each other’s initial positions and situations prior to the partnership, and how such positions necessitate and shape the imminent or existing partnership.
In this essay, some problematic foundational premises for partnership between Africa and Europe will be identified and discussed – briefly setting the stage for a conclusion that identifies intentional cross-cultural education as requiring urgent focus in order to guarantee greater global gains from the partnership between Africa and Europe.
To begin with, some African leaders (Paul Kagame most recently) have expressed their disapproval of Europe’s disposition of being ‘adult supervisors’ over political and social happenings in Africa. There is a possibility that this is done in good faith; that Europe’s attempt is to ensure a viable social and economic climate in Africa in order to protect and sustain the partnership between the two continents. And while there have been occasions when such interferences have been helpful, there were also instances when they have been counterproductive.
Even without particular references to any such instances, and the unlikely possibility that they are myths, there still remain some conceptual and practical challenges with Europe’s informal role of ‘Overlord’ over Africa. Such an elevated posturing on the part of Europe signals a distrust on its part for the leadership in Africa – and by extension the socio-cultural contexts within which the leaders were nurtured.
This would suggest a reluctance on the part of Europe to familiarise itself with the cultural and philosophical nuances of Africa and its people. The crux of this argument is that Europe’s operation from such an elevated position would have been informed from a certain conception of the European ideals as superior – and hence having an imagined moral obligation to direct and shape the African narrative toward attaining such ideals.
How this poses a problem for partnership between Africa and Europe is that without a unique and distinct sense of identity for Africa as separate from Europe or imperial influences, Europe is only in a partnership with itself – or at best, its clone.
It is interesting to note that the formal education of an African child is more European in its prescription than African. Many of the texts read and courses studied in African schools are geared toward meeting western standards, which is in sharp contrast to the situation in western schools.
Although there is existing literature written by African scholars that covers several philosophical and technical-academic subjects, they are few. These books are only occasionally and barely highlighted by pre-tertiary curricula in Africa; and even at the tertiary levels, these are reserved for only students within some specific academic disciplines (notably African Studies).
If the overarching argument of partnerships is that they are greatly improved by a better understanding of each other’s initial positions and visions, then between the two continents Africa has paid its dues – perhaps even overpaid.
African leaders, however, are very familiar with European literature, western ideals and socio-political vision because of their exposure to Eurocentric education. How much of Africa does the European understand? And how much of Africa does even the African understand, and how is that relevant to African-European relations?
If Africans do not understand themselves and have insufficient awareness of their potentialities and visions outside of European chaperoning, then the partnership between Africa and Europe will not yield best results in the global scheme of things. Europe cannot understand and profile Africa better than Africa could for itself if given the necessary tools and opportunities; a self-discovery that would hopefully liberate Africa from an over-dependence on Europe – hence making Africa and Europe worthy and more equitable partners.
Europe should invest in the education and re-education of the African in suitability to the African context. This again would require a renewed and express interest from Europe in African literature and the worthy ideals of African culture.
More specifically, Europe can build institutes similar to the Confucius institutes built by China in some places in Africa: ‘Euro-Africa’ institutes where young leaders from both continents can share ideas in the wealth of each other’s culture.
Africa’s young population require skills training and development to contribute toward economic growth. A great awareness of their individual uniqueness and strengths as Africans cannot be substituted by any form of education. A renewed interest by Europe in African thought, philosophy and culture is the sounding board to cross-cultural cooperation. It is on this foundation that all other partnerships, whether economic or political, will sprout purposefully and organically.
>>>The writer is a serial entrepreneur and consultant based in Accra. He works at the intersection of sustainability, education and finance. He is the founder of Ghana for Startups, a community-driven initiative for young entrepreneurs and host of the Change Africa Podcast. He can be reached on either 0207547604 or [email protected]