The return of Africa’s stolen artifacts by the West will be one of the most direct pointers that the latter is not paying lip service to the development dilemma of the continent. Otherwise, there appears to be profound hypocrisy in the West’s use of aids, grants, trade concessions, and other supposedly development inducing packages to enforce development in Africa.
Rather than assigning hundreds of millions of dollars in official development assistance to Africa (which only about 10% often gets to the intended recipients), funds could be made available for the construction of world class museums in select stable African economies. Africans with passion for the arts should be trained in the intricacies of the management and preservations of such precious pieces. Those African would then train others, and over time, a class of professional curators of indigenous art will abound within the continent.
The return of African artworks will not only awaken the tourism sector, it will also spur Africans to look inwards and develop their other potentials. African values, ideas, ideals, languages and culture will finally build the continent up, and gain international recognition. Globalization for Africa will then cease to mean the wholesale imposition of Western ideals, values, processes and products. It will become a free flow and high level exchange of ideas, values, goods and services in a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Rather than going cap in hand to beg Europe and America for crumbs, civil society organizations, governments, regional organizations and NGOs genuinely concerned about Africa’s progress should search out ways to redress the injustice done to the continent over several hundreds of years. Should 30% of the economic benefits accruable to Europe and America from Africa’s artworks residing in their museums make its way to Africa, the issue of poverty would have been seriously addressed in the sub-region.
Yes, the present trend of hunger, economic dependence and gross underdevelopment can be reversed by an inside-out approach, and not otherwise. Africa will be developed by Africans and with African ideas, products values and processes cleverly interwoven and packaged to international standard. Instances abound where this has changed the face of nations; be it the Indian Film Industry Bollywood, where Indian storylines are mingled with western style cast, crew and location to produce a hybrid that leaves the audience yearning for more – the Slumdog Millionaire is one of many examples. The export of Eastern religious practices from Asia to Europe and America is another case in point. The economic benefits accruable are much, while on the social aspect, Asians are well respected for their various contributions to humanity.
Africa must fight for the return of its belongings for use in developing the continent, and making its mark on the global landscape. The days of begging for crumbs are over because it has never and would never work for the continent; the drumbeat has changed and so must the dance step. It is time to take a decisive stand and every African and friend of the continent is obligated to be a part of this movement. Franz Fanon stated it so clearly when he said that history will have no pity for those who possessing the exceptional privilege of speaking the words of truth to their oppressors, have taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, mute indifference and sometimes of cold complacency.
It is the duty of every African to demand that the wrongs done to the continent be made right, with the necessary restitutions rendered. The road might be long and arduous but there’s no doubt that just as the Swahili saying goes, no matter how long the night, the day is sure to come.