The Possibilities of Technological Development in Africa: An Evaluation of the Role of Culture

Article excerpt

Introduction

No nation can produce all the technology that it needs for social progress no matter the level of their civilization. Given this premise, it then follows that the critical point of view, held by some scholars, that Africa is nothing to write home about when it comes to technological innovation does not hold sway. Although there is undeniably obvious challenges in regards the evolving of sophisticated technologies for Africa, those challenges are not enough grounds to assert that Africa is on a downward slope to perdition (1) as far as technology is concerned (Bright Simons, 2010). There seems to be the general agreement that the real difference between the developed nations of America, Europe, Asia, the Far East, and the underdeveloped nations of Africa rest on their technological ability. This ability refers to the extent to which nations access, utilize, and exploit science and technology for solving socio-economic and humanistic problems.

Notwiths, with the prism of judgment that led to such unpromising conclusions, there is a considerable possibility of the development of technology in Africa--that is, if necessary attention is given to those aspects of culture that are forward looking. In fact, there are certain elements of Africa's rich cultural heritage that has led to the evolution and mastery of technical knowledge with respect to the textile industry, arts and craft, music technology and food technology, in which most African societies have made measurable progress, and have attracted cross-geographic exchange and interaction. This, however, refutes the critique of critics that Africa is on its way to hell, technology wise.

Hence, this emphasis on culture is based on the idea that technological advancement without the skillful exploration of a people's culture is impossible, because culture is the driving force that fuels and inspires technological accomplishments in human society. And unarguably, every technology within a social praxis is a product of culture, since culture is a phenomenon which encompasses all the material and non-material expressions of a people; it affects the way people interact with nature and therefore varies with the environment. To take advantage of science and technology for development, therefore, African societies must reconcile their traditional cultural environment with the different circumstances of the modern international environment which has so far been largely shaped by science and technology (A.A. Adegbola, 2003:124). Also, it is important to note that technology is not just a catalogue of tools and the expert demonstration of its usage. It is forthrightly, a culture mindset that ensures the acquisition and usage of techniques, methods and skills acquired as an integral part of the society. In order to grapple with this issue efficiently, it is important that we pursue a conceptual clarification of key notions forthwith. Let us begin by defining culture.

The Concept of Culture: A Cursory Look

In a most anthropological sense, culture is regarded as that complex whole and a compound phenomenon that includes all aspects of life that give definition to human membership in society. Since culture is values and norms people have which make them live in a particular way, it is therefore the sum total of all things that refer to religion, the origins of people, symbols, languages, songs, stories, celebrations, clothing, and dressing, and all expressions of life. It thus encompasses food productions, technology, architecture, kinship, the interpersonal relationships, political and economic systems and all social relationship this entails. (Obioha, 2010). From this definition, it follows that culture is fundamental to any form of human creativity. That is, human beings must exist first in a cultural setting as a culturally-enclosed being before they can begin to explore the possibilities within the environment and the productivity of human mental capabilities. …