Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Editorial: Re-Mapping Africa

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Editorial: Re-Mapping Africa

Article excerpt

The National Geographic reported on November 20, 2002, that 11% of a sample of Americans aged 18-24 (that is, high school graduates, undergraduates, graduates, or working adults) could not find their own country on a map of the world. Is that embarrassment of 'geographic illiteracy' behind the recent rash of Mapping reports from the National Intelligence Council of the US, in which largely unnamed 'experts' avoid locating any country on the map but proceed without shame to offer what they admitted are 'fictional' scenarios of the future? The only difference is that the authors pretended that what they wrote about Africa had no fictional scenarios but was completely factual. What do you make of a document that was issued by the National Intelligence Council with a disclaimer on every page 'Discussion paper - does not represent the views of the US Government' (a disclaimer that was not present in the Mapping Global Futures report)? Perhaps, the authors were just kidding around but after some African leaders took the report seriously and rushed to the national legislative assembly with a request for a national response to the document we cannot but weigh in on the 'discussion' of the paper.

'Mapping Sub-Saharan Africa's Future', the report of a January 2005 one-day conference of US experts on Africa, sponsored by the National Intelligence Council to discuss likely trends in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next 15 years, was prepared under the 'auspices of the National Intelligence Officer for Africa' and was published on March 02, 2005. Since then, some scholars and some journalists have responded to the paper but I am yet to read a criminological response especially from among African criminologists regarding the paper. I think that African criminologists should join this discussion and bring their expertise to bear on the mapping of the future of Africa. The title of the paper refers to mapping and not to a map, it suggests that the paper is part of the efforts to structure the future of Africa and we cannot afford to be silent in this process of social structuration -an on-going process in which social structures are always far from finished but continue to be formed, transformed and reformed through human agency (Giddens, 1984).

What the title of the document suggests is not just map-reading but the more authoritarian cartographic task of map-making, more authoritarian because this appears to be the reserve of conquerors or colonizers although the Americans may deny any suggestion that they were trying to impose their preferred future on Africa. Theirs is only an attempt to predict the future as intelligence experts are supposed to do but with the modesty to declare that these are only 'likely trends' and not the destiny of Africa. The paper talks about 'structural obstacles' without identifying them but with enough indication that the experts subscribe to structural functionalism as a tool for analyzing the process of modernization, meaning westernization or what the document calls globalization.

One radical Nigerian journalist and mathematician, Dr. Edwin Madunagu of The Guardian, saw the document as a wishful thinking that dreams of an Africa that is completely depopulated, leaving only oil, gold, diamonds and other minerals for the international community, which he consistently identifies as imperialism, to exploit at ease. He admitted that the doomsday scenario painted in the paper for many African countries is not news given that many Africans have also warned of the collapse of many of the post-colonial regimes in Africa but with the exception that patriotic Africans have always remained optimistic that the people will find a solution to the many problems facing us. Mapping Sub-Saharan Africa's Future is full of doom and gloom for the majority of Africans while singing the praise of a few settler colonial locations. Other journalists writing in the same Nigerian newspaper saw the document as a timely warning to the countries that were identified as failing states to put their houses in order or face imminent collapse in 15 years. …

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