When a society is steeped in double standards and materialism, then dissatisfaction arising from unmet expectations, underachievement and retrogression, will be the nonnegotiable outcome. The reason being that in the absence of strong moral values, the average citizen’s mental, physical and emotional energy will be mostly invested in playing zero-sum games in the pursuit of unevenly distributed, non-merit based resources, rather than in positively rewarding, creative and innovative enterprises.
Values are foundational in an individual’s awareness about what is most important in life. A clear sense of purpose in life is a product of strong ethical values. More so, the pursuit of a life of integrity leads to contentment, self-direction and ultimately unique and exceptional progress. The sort of progress that exceeds stereotypes often comes from individuals who set high standards for themselves and who wake up each morning with a fresh resolve to meet those standards.
Respect, trust and consistency are building blocks necessary for creativity and innovation to thrive in any setting, be it family, community or nation. In their absence and in the presence of uncertainty, disrespect and distrust, the perfect climate is created for strife, distractions and insubordination – the anti-thesis of creativity and innovation.
A person of high morals can track his or her growth trajectory across a set of stated ideals, this exercise leads to the building of high self-esteem and a resilient mindset. Individuals without a strong sense of self respect and dignity, and respect for others often end up causing more problems for themselves and society. These individuals do not say what they mean, nor mean what they say, they do not keep their word and have little respect for established rules and regulations.
We need many more Africans of the present era to arise in the pursuit of integrity, principles and morals. We need a massive culture change that will emanate from non-aggressive strategies. One such strategy, indeed the major one is education.
Formal, informal and non-formal education is crucial for transformation of culture within any society. At the level of formal education, there is need to introduce character education and make it compulsory at the primary and post primary levels across Africa. Character and moral education are fundamental for inculcating a change of mindset especially among the younger segment of the population. The Character Education curriculum should encourage teachers to make of use of community role models and the character traits they exhibit. Historical African figures who are people of character should also be widely celebrated. Emphasis should be on integrity, hard work and other positive values. Character education will go a long way in changing the view of younger people about the definition of success and in tilting their mindset towards strong moral and values.
At the non-formal education level, there is need for conferences, workshops, camps, and other non-formal learning situations to be explored for the necessary re-orientation of public servants and private citizens on the need for character building, and its relationship to personal progress and societal advancement. At the informal level, Africa’s media and its subsidiaries including the music and film industries should be utilized as a crucial element of mass mobilization towards a social consensus that upholds integrity.
Another strategy for causing a culture shift across Africa is the use of religious platforms. That Africans do religion is a known fact. Many Africans listen much more to their spiritual authorities than to politicians and policy makers. What is puzzling, however, is how successive African policy makers and development stakeholders have ignored this platform in the efforts to transform the mindset of the people. Faith based organizations and institutions rather than being suspiciously viewed as agents of extremism can be used effectively to actualize national vision and agenda. Africans are historically spiritually tolerant people.
Much of the core issues at the root of religious division being experienced today in Africa were imported from outside the region. It is time for Africans to reclaim their age-old spirituality and tolerance, and embrace it totally. This spirituality could be exhibited through Christianity, Islam, or African Traditional Religion, what is most important is that religious leaders be offered adequate training, and be facilitated to play a vital role in societal transformation. By focusing on sermons that emphasize peace, justice, dignity, respect for humanity and the environment, religious leaders can bring about widespread paradigm shift with their sermons and by living an exemplary lifestyle.
In all, the Africa we really want is not the Africa that looks like the United States or Europe today. We want an Africa that is marked by community, equality, strong values and principles, an Africa that is technologically advanced not for the sake of profit, but for the sake of people.
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