"You must treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It is loaned to you by your children." African Proverb
"Rigita thi wega; ndwaheiruio ni aciari; ni ngombo uhetwo ni ciana ciaku.” (Kikuyu, Kenya)
"Itunze arthi vyema; hukupewa na wazazi; bali umekopeshwa na wazao wako." (Swahili)
Africa is the cradle of humanity with a rich history, full of great natural resources and cultural diversity. This extensive inheritance informs our understanding of the environment and how we manage resources and relationships. Our heritage speaks of our history and collective identity which help to guide the present and future of our social fabric. I was greatly saddened to learn that much of the heritage contained at Timbuktu, in the form of shrines and manuscripts, were destroyed in Mali following the outbreak of violence in 2012 by militants in that region. Whilst there seems to be method in the madness the fact remains that these were senseless acts which not only robbed Africa but diminished the wealth of our collective world heritage.
We all need to thoughtfully consider the value of our heritage, the attributes of our cultures, including music, arts and craft, architecture, archaeology and the richness of our land, the abundance of plant and animal life, and above all the beauty of the people that inhabit our homeland, Africa. Careful and lengthy meditation on Africa highlights the fact that Africa is significantly blessed in so many areas and makes it easier to see all the possibilities that await Africa. The benefits of Africa’s abundance are not limited to the continent but can and will be embraced the world over.
What has become of our sense of community and value system?
African customs greatly promote the value system and concept of community, for example being connected and being of good character. However, it seems we have forgotten much of this general set of values and moral code of conduct as we often sacrifice values for the sake of personal pleasure and gain in the short term at great cost to others in the community and to future generations. The loss of values has indeed led to a situation where we value material possessions over human life and the well being of others, breeding a culture where truth itself is hidden and suppressed. When people are denied opportunity and allowed to suffer we are all affected as we lose out on the potential of their contribution to our society and communities.
To stand aside and merely observe or ignore the plight of others is tantamount to creating or allowing that suffering. Cultivating the right values takes effort, time and patience. Values are important to the character and standing of each individual, to the functioning of the family and to reinforcing the social fabric.
Where are we now and where do we want to go?
Contemplating the state of Africa would also naturally bring to mind the many challenges our continent faces. The continent is burdened with problems of corruption, hunger, poverty, ignorance, unemployment, disease, and conflict. It is hard to imagine, yet it is a reality, that in a land with enormous resources many people go without food, clean water, or good education. It is also sad that in a land where people are known for being so welcoming and kind hearted that there is so much conflict and strife. Such realities can easily lead to despair. However, any careful consideration must be joined with intention and a decision around the possibilities that become clear in our thinking. When the sad state of affairs affecting Africa is compared to all the wonderful things Africa currently has and that it could be it becomes clear that we need be to make a collective choice on the future we desire and to act decisively towards that desired state. Imagine an Africa in which we are an integrated and productive community. This can move from being a dream to a reality if our contemplation is joined with creativity, connection, collaboration, and celebration! We can all make a difference. This applies to parents in the home, teachers in schools, leaders and staff in organizations, leaders and staff in public service, and people across society.
“A Source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as essential for humankind as biodiversity is for nature.“ (UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, 2001)
Having reflected, we need to challenge, motivate, and to inspire a change for the better. As Africans we need to respect our respective identities, beliefs, and values. There is more that we have in common than that which sets us apart from each other. Modernization has brought great benefits for humanity however we should not be so overtaken as to disregard and lose our heritage. Let’s work together to preserve our heritage, both tangible and intangible, and to build for a brighter and better future!