Authorship Misstep for Africa – Failure to Document Knowledge (Brian Prince)

Debate By Brian Prince

As the debate on what makes western content seemingly superior continues, it becomes almost inevitable to make a comparison between African authorship and Western authorship. The truth is that Africa was weaned mostly on Western literature and the way of thinking. So African writers just have to compete at that level if we are to move humanity forward.

The beauty is whereas truth is constant, revelation is progressive.

The African worldview is yet to make its mark on the world stage. Vusi (South Africa) says one of the biggest lies Africa was told is to open a small business, (in slang Swahili ka-business) instead of going for big business. This keeps us small.

One of the biggest missteps for the African people was the failure of past generations to document their contributions to knowledge. We know that an idea is not ‘real’ until it’s documented. The Wahengas (Swahili for elders who sit on native councils or who are trusted to give sound advice) who should have updated some of their ideas as time evolved and the context changed are nowhere to be found as they left no forwarding address.

The failure to document Africa’s past knowledge created a vacuum that was exploited in a rewriting of its history among other ills. More importantly, it has created the psyche of the African person that his ideas are not that revolutionary and that all that needs to be thought about has been thought about. This is problematic. When people see no value in their intellectual property, it does not favour new ideas. This then becomes a vicious cycle because now even those who bother to think and innovate are not compensated in proportion to their contribution.

Another problem that we have to contend with at the moment is the thinking that because everyone has a right to have an opinion, then all opinions are equally valuable. This is a false truth that hopefully the world and especially African figures out soon.

Having said that, I think the time for Africa’s contribution to the knowledge base is now. There is a current obsession with Eastern/oriental world view and concepts e.g. karma, stoicism et al but soon the world will be listening to Africa for its ideas and not just natural resources.

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