Culture as an Indispensable Tool for Development

African symbols set
Picture Credit: Crestock

“I do not believe that the quest for African development could survive the complete disappearance of African Culture … If African culture goes, the whole of our development goes. Then we must start painfully again, and we cannot put on new development ready-made. We must wait for the grass to grow to feed the sheep to give the wool out of which your new coat will be made. We must pass through many centuries of underdevelopment. “

The above quote is an adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s quote from one of his works. I came across it while writing an essay on religion and it sort of summarised everything I had written. I have this theory about arrested development i.e. that Africa was interrupted at a certain stage of growth and since then been forced to abandon its cultures that have developed over time in order to take on a new one(s) that it has no idea about. I’m not talking about culture in the sense of circumcision or wearing of skins, I am talking about the economic activities and skills that Africans had mastered but have slowly died out. I’m talking about herbal medicine and other traditional industries that have become stunted when they could provide a foundation for homegrown development.

At the heart of Africa’s underdevelopment is the loss, degradation and desecration of its culture. The problem is that we are not looking inward for development, we are looking outward. In any case, how can we look inward when we do not realise that we have anything of value? We have been reduced to playing the catch up game. We have left our treasure and are trying to achieve development without our own roots. We are following the roots of western civilisation. We are looking west for everything because we have been taught that it is the source of development.

Can anything good come from Africa? Sure, if we could look back (on pre-colonial history) where we were interrupted and find where we are coming from, otherwise we must learn and unlearn from our mistakes and as history has shown us, poverty and conflict will continue to dog us until we get it right. By then, a lot of resources will have been wasted in trial and error governance and human life will have borne the brunt of trashing our cultures.


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