Ubuntu: Africa Needs to Indigenize its Transformation Process — Prof Dele Layiwola

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In a lecture delivered on Wednesday, 26th June, 2019, at Lady Bank-Anthony Hall, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Prof Dele Layiwola (FNAL), a renowned scholar of African performance and media studies, and two-time Director of the Institute, enjoined the peoples and governments of African countries to look inward for collaborative principles of existence on which to construct a culture of development with embodied aims and objectives.

Speaking on the topic ‘How Can Africa Reinvent Sustainable Development Goals and Dreams?’, Prof Layiwola gave an account of the historical processes that resulted in the expropriation of African labour and natural resources to develop Europe and the New World in the eras of the slave trade and colonialism. He also called attention to the visible and subtle ways in which the expropriation of African labour and resources continues to this day in neo-colonial arrangements whereby Africa’s growth and development are subordinated to the interests of the West and domestic ruling elites, with the fatalities from the dangerous crossings of the Sahara and the Mediterranean serving as daily reminders of the dire consequences of these arrangements on people’s lives.

Prof Layiwola as well outlined and dissected the ways in which development programmes do not take cognizance of non-Western cultural contexts, as they are constructed without any intention of indigenizing them. He described the global system as one in which Africa may be the geographic centre of the world but has ironically been relegated to its periphery, and called for the African continent to be re-membered, that is, put back together, having suffered sociocultural dismemberment.

Prof Layiwola placed much emphasis on the philosophic concept of Ubuntu, on which he founded a proposal for invigorating development programmes with a critical cultural awareness of the goals and aspirations of collective society.

A very engaging discussion took place between the audience and the presenter during the question-and-answer session. The intellectual expropriation of Africa was one of the issues discussed, alongside the dislocation of African labour and natural resources. The sustenance of cultural development in the face of global homogenizing forces was considered. A note of caution was sounded against the arrogance of agenda-dictation by international agencies and experts, whereas sustainable develop, it was argued, comes from below and originates in the needs and ideas of people at the bottom. Much emphasis was laid on strengthening the interdisciplinary approach to African Studies, on account of its explicit commitment to researching and understanding the African situation.

Chair of the occasion, Professor Emeritus Pai Obanya, called on African intellectuals and leaders of thought to play their part by ensuring that they participate in the thinking processes that underlie the formulation of global development agendas, rather than squandering opportunities for making an input at international think-tank gatherings by spending much of their time on shopping sprees in the capitals of the world where such gatherings take place. With the active participation of our intellectuals in the formulation of these international instruments and parameters, he argued, an approach to domestication would be written into these programmes of action from inception.

The lecture by Prof Layiwola was the fifth in the bimonthly IAS-CODESRIA Staff Seminar Series, which commenced last year with a grant from the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). Lectures in the series are transmitted live via the internet to universities across Africa.

Dr Jimoh Prof Obanya Prof Layiwola
                                                     Prof Pai Obanya flanked by IAS Director, Dr I.A. Jimoh, and the lecturer Prof Layiwola