A Critical Appreciation by Alfigio Tunha, OFM
A thesis Authored by Br. Innocent Evason Muchawa.
This work has undoubtedly presented a strong argument in support of African Socialism as the perfect ideal for human relations. In persuasion of this argument, the author has argued that African Socialism is both ideological and historical. These are two interesting narratives that provoke a philosophical approach to the statement of the problem. Attributing African Socialism as an ideology entails that it is a political movement that encompasses a wide range of social systems that are characterized by social ownership of the means of production. It is historic in the sense that it can be traced back in time and space and has visible landmarks as far back as the times of Plato and the Greek city-states.
Traceably, Socialism has a remarkable record in political history with its peak in the 19th century. Consequently, in time and space Socialism evolved and one of such manifestations is the African Socialism which the author has alluded to. Socialism has attained various definitions in its progression but according to the author, he delineated and confined his argument to the merits of African socialism as a perfect ideology for human relations. Progressively he demonstrated how African Socialism is an ideal for human existence especially on matters concerning human relations and well-being- Meaning the social and economic aspect of a citizen. In other words, African Socialism is relational, it speaks more of human bonds and the economic societal common denominator.
On the other hand, the author has illustrated how and why this ideal form of human existence is overlooked and despised in favor of ideologies that disregard the human values as enshrined in African Socialism. To bolster his argument, the author cited some great proponents of Socialism with special reference to the founding fathers of African states the persons of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania to mention but a few.
In his Conclusive deliberations, the author extrapolated that civilization is not integrative since it alienates the roots of the sets of beliefs into which human values are grounded. It is therefore inevitable that the condemnation of Africa’s way of life has practically distorted some basic human values in the form of modernity.
My submissions: As this thesis was being defended, there arose a few interesting questions that needed some clarification. The first arises from the concept of African Socialism as a philosophical concept. If philosophy is defined as the study of the ultimate principles of reality using the rational epistemic faculty which is the mind- Can this definition allow us to qualify any philosophical thought with an adjective? Ultimate principles are either necessary truths or Universal truths they are not either temporarily or spatially bound. Be that as it may, it is logical to say Socialism in Africa than to say African Socialism. This distinction is very important because it attributes rationality to humanity not to places. There is no African truth per se. Truth is truth. So, Socialism can only be exercised in Africa according to the surrounding conditions which may be different from other continents but still hinged on the same essence.
Secondly, this thesis has particularized the universal by attributing civilization to the West, America, and Asia. Civilization is a human phenomenon that once again cannot be restricted to places. If there are people in Africa, there is civilization as well. The only difference is the degree or the pace at which different societies are evolving.
If Socialism in Africa has such profound human values, what can be the philosophical reason as to why it is being rejected? Remember every human person is a designated goodness. Why is the collective approach to economics and human welfare failing to attract a following? If Socialism in Africa is a way of life, how can it be elevated into a school of thought that appeals to humanity universally? As the wind of globalization blows throughout the global world, how can a particular way of life survive without the dents of the ravaging forces of globalization?
As it is said, think globally and act locally, Africa needs the ideas of the whole world from which she can chart her way forward. Modernity is no longer a luxury but a need. I am because we are. We are a humanity residing in different locations but directed by the same dictate- rationality. It is no longer about our pre-colonial existence or our obnoxious colonial epoch, rather it is about logical innuendos about where we are and where we want to go.
In as much as African Socialism offers profound values, citizens of Africa need to transcend the confines of a way of life to seek the ultimate principles of reality. In other words, Africa needs to philosophize more and do less fossilization.