Alagi Yorro Jallow

(JollofNews) – One of the most annoying things about and African scholarship and academics, if one wants to do a thorough degree/undergrad/postgrad/PhD. studies in African Studies, one must go and study it in the United States or abroad because in African universities for some reason such a course seems (as we are told) absurdly useless (note the irony).

Then we have adults and leaders (people we are supposed to be looking up to here) stating on social media how decolonization and neocolonialism are being overstated as an excuse for laziness as well as the overuse of words like Eurocentric and Afrocentric.

The truth is these words have helped me to begin to unravel more of the collective African identity than the mere casual observation of the events around me in the past twenty years of my life. So, this line of reasoning is wrong.

We can’t just say Africans develop slowly because we are lazy. You can’t tell a depressed person they are not doing anything with their lives because they are lazy. What brought on the depression in the first place? They are sick and you must deal with the root cause of the sickness before any form of healing can start. If leaders aren’t leading well why is that? Is it because of the way we think? Our worldview? What brought on this worldview? You find colonization played a big role in how Africans began to view themselves in comparison to themselves, and, well, everyone else, thus the need to, as Ngugi Wa Thiong’o puts it, ‘Decolonize the Mind’.

Understanding why Africa is where it is, looking at its history, past mistakes and successes and learning from them is necessary to making any lasting change in a continent that has a lot of big talk about the leaders of tomorrow but which does nothing to prepare them to lead well.

Therefore, African Studies is important. Therefore, learning about people like Thomas Sankara, and Nyerere is important. Why reading Frantz Fanon’s book ‘Wretched of the Earth’ and seeing how he predicted things like tribalism and division becoming an issue after colonialism, is necessary. Because without knowledge and understanding of these things leaders will continue to lead in ignorance.

The author is founder and former managing editor of The Independent, the Gambia’s only private newspaper before it was banned by the government in 2005. He was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, a 2007 Nieman fellow and is the author of Delayed Democracy: How Press Freedom Collapsed in Gambia published in 2013.