15 May 2007

BOOK REVIEW : AFRICA : WE OWE IT TO OUR ANCESTORS, OUR CHILDREN, AND OURSELVES

by Prof. Michael Ba Banutu-Gomez

Book reviewed by:
Dr Pierre Gomez

Senior Lecturer

University of The Gambia






This mighty work, Africa: We Owe it to Our Ancestors, Our Children, and Ourselves is composed of twelve chapters of which the first four focus on the pressing need for us Africans to identify ourselves within our culture and traditional values.

Today, we readily accept the music, behaviour and medicine of others at the expense of ours. In these early chapters, Professor Gomez equally admonishes us to place great value on commercial solidarity. A first hand experience of this way of life convinces him as to the greatness of its results. In addition to this, these chapters re-echo in a rather oblique manner, Chinua Achebe’s wonderful opener in Things Fall Apart which he himself adopted from ‘The Second Coming’ of W.B. Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart;
the centre cannot hold!

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world


And he himself has this to say:
Western education turned traditional rural African social structures upside-down. Instead of status based on age, hard work, and dedication, status was based on literacy”. P.77

Dr Gomez blames the moral anarchy that characterizes many an African society today on the divestiture of the elders of their supreme hold on the youth. In the days of old, elders assured the responsibility of shaping and guiding the conduct of the youth and so there was respect and order in our various African societies. But the elders have lost their voice and are nothing more than scarecrows, shadows of the pre-colonial elders.

In there early chapters, Dr. Gomez does not only invite us to bemoan this loss, but to sit together and re-empower the elders. This is the point of departure if we should ever hope to move forward in the restoration of the lost order.

The opening chapters also lay emphasis on the urgent need to overhaul the educational system in Africa. It should be restructured in a way to enhance sustainable social, economic and moral development. The new African child should be equipped with the knowledge to cater for the social, economic, scientific and technological needs of the continent. It is only when this is achieved that our Independence will cease to be dependent.

In short, the first four chapters seem to hammer home this point: Africa should work concertedly and earnestly to retain and maintain what is positive of traditional Africa and do the same to sale to acquire what is positive outside our continent.

In chapter 5, 6, and 7, Professor Banutu-Gomez makes a thorough diagnosis of the causes and problems posed by the rural-urban migration and proposes cogent situations to this problems. Here, he manifests himself as a very strong advocate of the development of small-scale rural industries and calls upon principal actors to design policies that include the development of regional “cities”, which are to serve as centres for efficient exchange of goods and services.

Here he also stresses the need to promote biodiversity as this will serve as a boon to eco-tourism and ultimately boost African economies. And not surprisingly, he sheds a lot of ink (perhaps to avoid shedding tears) trying to point out to his readership the economic injustices we impose on ourselves by importing far more than we export even though a substantial percentage of the world’s raw materials come from our continent.

And from chapter 8-11, the author renews the call made by the early African elites – Kwame Nkruma, Kenneth Kaunda, etc.. to build a strong and proud Africa. The present boundaries should be seen as an accidental creation made to settle the territorial conflicts of our brothers with the opposite skin colour. These frontiers should be ignored, at least economically, so that African unity will grow deeper roots. And as regards the existing African countries, he admonishes Africans to work towards doing away with ethnic prejudices. To this effect, he writes: “when we longer view a person who is from an ethnic group that is different from our own as an enemy but instead as potential ally, we can more easily understand their world and thus it will be easier to discover what they value and need”. He believes, I believe and all of us should believe that it is only when national and intra-continental unity are attained that we can start talking about sustainable development.

About The Author


Michael Ba Banutu-Gomez was born in the 1960’s, in Bakalar village, in The Gambia,
West Africa. He is currently an Associate Professor of Management at Rowan University, New Jersey. He teaches courses in International Business, Global Leadership and Organization, and Organizational Behavior. Professor Banutu-Gomez received his Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University. He has published numerous articles on business in scholarly journals such as The Business Review and Cross-Cultural Management: An International Journal.

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