Intellectuals Needed for Africa's Development

Cape Times (South Africa), May 28, 2015 | Go to article overview

Intellectuals Needed for Africa's Development


On May 6 I had a meeting with former president Kgalema Motlanthe. Upon reading my articles, mostly published by The New Age and The Star, Motlanthe decided to host me to construe contemporary developments in South Africa - and Africa at large - in relation to a generational mission he would like to pursue as an elder statesman to advance Africa's developmental prospects.

Although I consider myself as an independent public philosopher-intellectual with no political party allegiance, I accepted the invitation because of the ambivalent position which results in the suspicion of African intellectuals and the underutilisation of African intellectuals in advancing Africa's agenda.

It is the latter point which this open letter aspires to promulgate to the community of African leaders as we are approaching the closure of Africa Month.

Dear African leaders,

Africa is one continent which stands a great chance of establishing itself as a major roleplayer on the global stage.

Despite enormous natural resources at Africa's disposal, Africa is still lagging behind, according to major developmental indexes, and for as long as African leaders do not value the role of African intellectuals in charting Africa's road map towards the path of development, then Africa faces the risk of descending further into the abyss.

It is within this context that Professor Wole Soyinka's speech, delivered at the African Development Bank, which sought to reinforce the role of African intellectuals as key drivers behind Africa's development, becomes relevant.

Soyinka aptly noted that the development of the human mind was the first developmental constituency - given that intellectuals are a factory of ideas, they are central to the expansion of human horizons.

Thus given the former point with the latter point, and the objective historical reality confronting Africa, it is envisaged that African leaders realise that until Africa places a premium on the role of its intellectuals, Africa will always suffer.

Furthermore it is instructive to note that there is no country or a continent which has downplayed the role of its intellectuals and simultaneously scored high points in development indexes.

Africa is no exception to this logic, which informs the trajectory of development.

Intellectuals throughout the world act as foremost agents of development, they are a key driver behind the pursuit of development.

Development represents new contradictions for each state in each historical stage of its development. …

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