Since the days of colonization, it has always been Africa versus the West. Many have divergent opinions about the relationship between the two regions. While majority of Africans appreciate the need to relate with other regions, especially the West, many fear that the West may not, after all, have Africa’s best interests at heart.
A closer look at the century-long friendship between Africa and the West reveals serious inconsistencies in how the two worlds have benefited from each other. It is these discrepancies that make a majority of Africans feel shortchanged. Whether these concerns are valid or not is another debate altogether. Even so, it is quite in order to take stock of what has happened over the years.
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Many have accused the West of cultural imperialism, arguing that the West has for a long time imposed its culture on Africa, consequently making Africans feel inferior. They say it is due to this cultural imperialism that some misguided Africans view the Western culture with admiration and respect while despising and rejecting their own African cultures as inferior.
However, it must be understood that Africa was in touch with outside civilization way before the arrival of Europeans. Arabs alone have been an established presence since the seventh century AD.
In some quarters, westernization is viewed to be synonymous with development in relation to modernization – industrial-technological civilization. Through westernization, the African continent has experienced significant developmental changes.
But in the process the African culture continues to be eroded. African languages, for example, are being overshadowed by Western languages such as English and French.
Even the biggest fool knows that much of the developmental transformation that Africa enjoys today has been realized through foreign donations. Diseases like HIV/AIDS would have wiped out the African continent were it not for the West.
Even today the West continues to support Africa through donations, but the question is: For how long? The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have been offering loans to poor African countries, enabling them to develop. However, the funding comes with conditions, most of which seem to favor the West.
The banks require their African beneficiaries to privatize their economies and allow western corporations free access to their raw materials and markets, which has continued to rob African countries of the needed bargaining power to compete with Western nations. With this arrangement, Western corporations are bound to continue to flourish while many Africans in their host countries continue to languish in poverty.
It’s no secret that democracy is considered to be the main ingredient for social and economic development, something that most African nations are struggling to achieve. However, many have argued that the continued imposition of the western model of democracy will only lead to Western frustration and African rejection.
Many African economists and scholars have always argued that the Western style of democracy is possible but not suitable for Africa. According to George Ayittey, a Ghanaian economist and author, the western style of democracy ignores views of the minority.
“Democratic decisions can be taken by majority vote, which is the Western form. It has the advantage of being transparent, fast and efficient. But the downside is that it ignores minority positions,” George Ayittey once said in a special report CNN.
The Ghanaian economist also believes that the alternative to a majority vote is to take decisions by consensus, which has the advantage of taking all minority positions into account. According to Mr. Ayittey, the only problem with the latter model of democracy is that it is quite slow and can take long to reach a consensus.
Whatever the case may be, it is true that Africa has and will continue to be influenced by the Western world both negatively and positively. The most important question that both worlds should deal with is: Will these influences help to build or destroy Africa?