Imagine an atmosphere where political leaders, at various levels, operate from a single core philosophy of being and mind-set. Again, imagine an atmosphere where business leaders, from the CEO to the cleaner, operate from a single core philosophy of being and mind-set. Imagine the atmosphere where religious leaders, and their congregations, operate from a single core philosophy of being and mind-set.
All African states, with the exception of the people in Western Sahara, have by now achieved political independence and freedom. Yet, there is still widespread suffering in most of the free and liberated African states, especially with regard to socio-economic conditions. The wise and the learned have advanced many reasons as to why this is the case. One proposition often suggested is the failure to develop and entrench a core philosophy that matches the new-found political independence and freedoms in most African countries. In truth, the question is this: Is there an African country out there that succeeded after independence to develop a core and concrete philosophy that is distinct and unique from the imposed philosophy of colonialism, apartheid and subjugation of people’s rights from which it liberated itself?
The necessity for developing, inculcating and entrenching a core philosophy
The development, inculcation and entrenchment of a philosophy of mind-set and being might contribute to betterment of conditions and prosperity in Africa. Such a philosophy must be made known and propagated by its disciples and evangelists to the majority of people. African philosophy you ask! Some of you are cursing and laughing at me at this point for daring even to suggest an African philosophy as solution to the problems on the continent. You argue that an African philosophy means corruption, theft, diseases and suffering. I argue that those are manifestations of the confusion arising from an imposed and configured African mind-set and being. Authentic Africanism desires to reclaim, re-define and re-configure an African who needs not to sacrifice authenticity in order to embrace Western ideals, practices and behaviours. One way to re-colonise, re-define and re-capture an African identity might be to make known and propagate the core African philosophy. A person, who is inspired, has to come up with a philosophy that should be propagated (sold) to a significant majority for buy-in, inculcate and entrench the philosophy. A philosophy can be defined as basic set of beliefs and worldviews that guide people’s action in a given context.
But what is the core African philosophy that cut across, almost, in all African countries?
The interior constituents of an African philosophy and its spirit
First, it is useful to state from the onset that there was, as Duze (2012:54) argued, a core African philosophy before colonialism but was declared “primitive” by the colonisers. Before Africa’s peace and quiet was disrupted by the entry of wealth, money, alcohol and drugs, African humanism was at the core of thinking and behaving toward self and others (Mangaliso, 2001:23). Humanism is the interior constituent and spirit of an African philosophy of mind-set and being. African humanism is about authenticity as evidenced through “a light within” (inner voice and conscience) that can be learned and attained not automatic or natural behaviour. Once attained, African humanism should be maintained and nurtured. African humanism is not just about enacting laws and developing policies but about acceptability in the hearts and minds of people (Nussbaum, 2003:5).
African humanism in the Southern African context is generally referred to as “Ubuntu”, and broken down into forgiveness, reconciliation, friendliness, respect for others, neighbourliness and helpfulness (Pietersen, 2005:54). It is interesting to note that the elements of an African humanistic philosophy cited by Pietersen (2005:54) connect to some aspects of Christianity (a religion which some wrongly suggests to be foreign to Africa). For an example, Galatians 5:22, in the Holy Scriptures, lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, which links to the humanistic aspects listed by Pietersen (2005).
The exterior constituents of an African philosophy and its spirit
Exteriorly, African humanism is evidenced through what the former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki (2006:1), referred to as a good, a moral, a humane and a caring society, which, as it matures, progressively guarantee the happiness of all its citizens. African humanism is evidenced through harmony, hospitality, respect and responsiveness. African Humanism is a philosophy opposed to war, tyranny, unjust and oppressive systems, environmental exploitation, hierarchy, autocracy, inhumane treatment of people and any policy rule, institution or form of conduct detrimental to human dignity, integrity and well-being (Pietersen, 2005:54).
What will it take to entrench an authentic African philosophy?
It will take a genuine decolonisation of the mind (which Bob Marley referred many years ago as freedom from mental slavery), to reclaim and entrench a true – not fake or degraded – African philosophy. The sad reality is that the true and authentic African philosophy is unknown to most Africans. It is unknown to many and practised by very few. Only a few devout people know of it and it is practised and appreciated by fewer still. For an African philosophy to take root and be established, it will require fervent disciples and evangelists in different spheres: politics, business, education and religion: Africa’s gift to the world is humanistic values and management by human relations philosophies.
*Matthias M. Ngwangwama, originally hails from the Kavango East Region. He matriculated in 1988 at Rundu Senior Secondary School. His educational qualifications include National Diploma in Accounting, a Bachelor of Technology in Accounting and Finance and MBA. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. His area of specialisation is Organisational effectiveness, with focus on organisational development and design, organisational culture, leadership and African Management Philosophy.