Recently, I was reading an article on Africanisation, containing the thoughts of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of my alma mater, The University of South Africa, Professor Mandlenkosi Makhanya. This article got me thinking about the concept of Africanisation and its relevance or lack thereof, within the context of globalisation.
The concept itself has various definitions which are all to some extent inextricably linked. According to Prof Makhanya, “Africanisation means acknowledging and introducing knowledge systems that are rooted in and relevant to Africa next to other knowledge systems in the quest to discover, explain and produce knowledge.”
Prof Barney Pityana defines Africanisation as, “an African system of knowledge production and a generation of ideas that intentionally engages itself and other systems based on African epistemologies which affirm the relevance of learning from experiences, languages, symbols and communities.”
The African philosopher M.B Ramose defines Africanisation as, “a thought world enveloped in African idiom and symbols, recognition of a diversity of ways of knowledge and alternative epistemologies and a variety of ways of learning and understanding the world of experience and of constructing a future.”
Of the three definitions, the one I liked best, was Prof Makhanya’s definition, because it posits the quest for Africanisation within its rightful global context and endeavours to show how Africa and Africans can use knowledge production systems that are unique to them to contribute to the development of the human race as a whole, and not just that of the African. In other words, the goal of Africanisation, is to become contextually and globally relevant whilst also becoming more innovative in order to solve the problems that face the world.
Contrary to what has become popular amongst contemporary African so-called scholars and intellectuals, Africanisation does not imply simply replacing a Western approach by an African paradigm. To promote Africanisation also involves being willing to venture beyond our local contexts; being creative, imaginative and attentive to not just Africa’s, but the world’s future as well.
It entails the centering of Africa and African intellectual thoughts, knowledge systems, epistemologies, innovations and technologies whilst not neglecting understanding and learning from the knowledge systems, philosophies, epistemologies and insights that derive from other contexts, regions or the broad global community. Africanisation is under-girded and framed by endogenous expressions of indigenous knowledge to the extent that they assume an ascendancy in Africa and ultimately take their rightful place as equals, amongst the canons of the rest of the world.
The call to Africanise entails balancing contextual relevancy with global impact. It is about the African making his contribution to the betterment of humanity at a global level, whilst not neglecting his local context and its rich intellectual heritage and potentialities. Africanisation is key to the development of humanity within a globalised context because it is all about promoting African thought, philosophies, interests and epistemologies as relevant in solving critical global challenges.
Africanisation is not about romanticising Africa, African history, African cultures, its peoples etc. It is not about opposition to Western/European thought and traditions as some would mistakenly interpret it to be. It does not mean a lack of engagement with other knowledge systems , but rather calls for an awareness of the location of the production of knowledge in Africa. Africanisation is about improving our ability to innovate as a continent and apply research and other skills and methodologies to address not just the critical needs of Africa but of the world as a whole.
It is thus clearly obvious that Africanisation is integral to the development of humanity because it is not about being parochial and closed-minded but rather giving the African the ability, the opportunity and the wherewithal to make his contribution to the improvement of humanity at large.
In short, the call to Africanise can be summarised in the ideals of the deconstructive philosophy of Negritude which was pioneered by great African thinkers such as Aime Cesaire and Leopold Senghor, “we Africans need to know the meaning of an idea, to be able to choose it and believe in it freely , and out of a sense of personal necessity, to relate it to the life of the world. We should occupy ourselves with present questions of world importance, and, in common with others , ponder upon them in order that we might one day find ourselves among the creators of a new order.” In the end, at its heart, Africanisation is fundamental and necessary in a globalised world, because it ultimately aims at the creation of a “new world order” which will be kinder and more accommodating to all its peoples.