African Culture and Development

     A. How Africa’s geographical features and cultural practices have promoted development

The culture of Africa is an undeniably a rich and wide one, with assorted aesthetic values that has ambient roots based on a tradition that has been the pride of many people. Being home to the most number of countries in the world, this continent has undergone massive growth and development, especially in the last decade (Njoh 6). The progress and development that has taken place in Africa, or lack of it thereof, can be attributed to its geographical features and its cultural practices. One example of Africa’s geographical features that has greatly led to its development is its tourist attractions. The continent has countries that are known as a haven for wide tourism attraction which has generated much revenue (Nunn and Piuga, 22)

A good example is Kenya which has massive areas that are tourist attractions. The country has beautiful beaches in its coastal area, has beautiful mountains, landscapes and rich fertile highlands, and many wildlife centers. This has greatly led to the development in Kenya, just like many other countries in Africa as it has become a major tourist attraction. This has helped it generate massive revenue which makes a big percentage of the country’s GDP (Njoh, 25). The climatic condition of many African countries is another aspect that has greatly promoted development in Africa. Since most of the countries are dependent on agriculture as a means of livelihood, the climatic conditions have greatly helped the continent by reducing the level of dependence.

A cultural aspect that has led to growth and development in Africa is the culture through which many African conflicts resolve their conflicts. The African culture is one that promotes peaceful and participatory dialogues in solution issues. When families and relatives disagree, most African countries opt for out-for-court settlement (Wanda 9).  A council of elders is usually assembled to address the issue at hand and provide solutions. This council of elders is selected from among the wisest and intelligent of men in the society, who have shown incredible records of peace-keeping and have been exemplary leaders in their families. When a man portrays such characteristics, they can be bestowed with the responsibility of executing ideas and passing judgments that are fair and unbiased (Vakunta 30). The men are also the custodians of the societal law and traditions and hence, they are symbols of leadership.  Similarly, many African countries have extended this cultural practice to governance and leadership. The leaders who are chosen in the countries are expected to uphold and respect the law, and to remain transparent and accountable to the people. An example of a country that has greatly adhered to this is Rwanda, which is keen to prevent a repeat of the genocide that claimed over 100,000 people in a genocide that only lasted for 100 days! (Lewis 126). Apt conflict resolution, therefore, has been a great factor towards promoting growth and development of Africa

However, cultural practices such as female genital mutilation among the Somali and the Kenya people have greatly hindered the development of Africa. How? Female Genital Mutilation is a rite that cuts short the productive years of many women. When these women go through this rite, they get married at a very early age. The effect of this is that these women no longer access education and hence, they are cut-off from the many chances, advantages and opportunities that come with advanced quality education (Njoh, 99).  The roles that these women should have played in the development of the society are foregone and are not realized. In addition, when these women go through this rite, they are married off at a very young age. This practice has become too rampant and the governments of the affected countries have not yet succeeded in curbing it. Kenya and Somalia are just a few of the many countries that carry out this vice, and are greatly rallying efforts to fight it.

Another cultural practice that has negatively affected the growth and development of the African continent is the issue of gender inequality. Africa has been recorded to be a continent with the highest level of gender inequality, with a huge discrimination been directed to women. African women remain un-empowered and have not been given a voice in their societies. Eritrea is a good example of a country where women remain un-empowered, even after the formation of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Movement (Lewis 130).  This patriarchal society has men as leaders in the national and community level. Very few women have access to education and as a result, they get poor on no education at all. This issue is one that has greatly affected, negatively, the growth and development of Africa.

    b Major problems faced by modern African countries

There are many problems that Africa, home to 17.5% of the world’s population faces (Lewis, 126). Political instability is one of the major problems. This continent has recorded many civil wars that has led to unemployment, homelessness and left thousands dead. A perfect example to further demonstrate this issue is the many political wrangles that have been witnessed in Sudan, and lately South Sudan, which is the world’s youngest nation. The political differences between South Sudan’s Salva Kiir and the Prime Minister Riek Machar have continued since December 2013 (Harman and Brown, 75). The result of this civil war has been thousands who have been left homeless and over 11,000 dead. Congo is also another country affected by many wars.

Another problem that faces modern Africa is the high rates of unemployment. For countries to grow and develop, employment is a major determinate. However, Africa remains a continent where the rate of unemployment is very high, and this has greatly slowed the rate of the continent’s growth. A good example of the many countries with extremely high unemployment levels is South Africa.  The unemployment rate in South Africa has steadily risen in the past decade, especially in the late 2000’s. By 2013, the rate of unemployment stood at 25.5%, and this has yet to reduce a year later (Wanda, 7). A big percentage of the people who are unemployed in South Africa comprise of people in their productive stages, and this further affects the rate of development of the country. The situation is duplicated in many other African countries including Ethiopia, Togo and Malawi.

The third major problem that Africa faces is the menace of HIV and AIDS infection.  Statistics show that over 95% of new infections in the world are from the developing countries (Angelo et al 105). However, of these 95% new infections, two thirds of them are recorded from the Sub-Saharan Africa (Angelo et al, 105). This means that Africa accounts for over 70% of the people who live with HIV in the world.  South Africa is one the countries leading in the highest infections in the world.  By 2013, over 5.7 million people in South Africa were recorded to be HIV positive (Wanda, 6). The effect of these infections is that the burden to care for the infected people weighs heavily in the country. In addition, the rate increases everyday due to the stigma and discrimination that comes with being HIV positive.

Poverty is another major problem. Africa has been noted to be the continent with the highest population of poor people. A good example that can be used to illustrate this is the Democratic Republic of Congo.  This country that has a population of over 75 million people has a GDP per capita of $348 (Rodney, 230).  Other than the high unemployment levels, the civil wars that have constantly affected Congo have contributed to its economic downturn.

The last factor that is faced by the African countries is the issue of drought and famine. Sudan, Somalia and Kenya are among the many countries that are adversely affected by famine and drought. This is mainly due to technological advancements in farming methods and the disappointing climatic environment. In Kenya, for example, many people lost their lives in 2010 due to drought and famine (Lewis, 130).   The governments in Africa, therefore, spend a lot of resources in a bid to address this issue and to prevent the number of deaths resulting from drought and famine.

    c Ways to solve the major problems

The main and major way through which the problems discussed above can be addressed is through a change and improvement of leadership. Leaders are the mirror of any society, and African leaders definitely have a lot to do, if the face of their continent is to change. Leaders are the reasons why civil and ethnic wars break out, and thus, they are the solution to this political instability (Wanda, 23). Greed for power, wealth, control and the many issues of corruption are the reasons why citizens fight. In addition, leaders are the avenue through which corrective measures to problems in a country can be addressed. For example, South Africa should realize the need and importance of creating employment for the youths, and thereafter, they should come up with strategies and programs for creating the employment. In an attempt to address the HIV/AIDS menace, the leaders should create awareness policies and programs (Vakunta 66). This will be important to in eradicating the level of stigma and discrimination and as a result, people will open up, will get tested and the fueling speed of the HIV epidemic will definitely reduce.

Another measure that can be taken to address the problems in Africa is to promote education. Education is the light and the key that changes societies (Harman and Brown 76). It gives people a chance to change their present and past lives, increasing their chances of accessing opportunities in the society. Higher levels of education will definitely help in addressing employment and poverty problems since the students will be empowered. The quality of education in the African countries should be improved so that it suits the increasing demand for skills and performance. This will definitely address the issue of poverty.

    Global forces that have shaped the development of Africa

The development of Africa has not just happened, but rather, it has had its beginnings and roots from different forces, all which took place in the past. One of the forces that has affected the growth of Africa is slave trade (Rodney, 67). Slave trade took place in the early years of the 7th and the 19th Century. The effects of slave trade were mostly negative. This trade deprived the society of its able-bodied population, especially the young men.  For the continent, this deprivation of the labor that was direly needed by the economy consequently led to a down turn in the growth of the countries.  The trade damaged the links that had already been established by the Africans.  Slave trade also brewed up hatred, religion and suspicion between people and this further led to deterioration in trade. In addition, the trade led to a depopulation of the continent. This meant that the demand for the products available decreased.

Another force that greatly shaped how Africa is today is the Arab Civilization (Vakunta 73).  This led to massive development of Islam and to a greater extent; it unified the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians. This civilization brought empires together, led to the reestablishment of trade routes and led to the creation of new forces, especially in the Northern part of Africa (Rodney 131).  Arabic civilization can be attributed to the present day Islamic states that have continued to grow and develop in Africa. In addition, Arab civilization can be attributed to the introduction of other important aspects such as medicine, art, astronomical knowledge and a vast spread and growth of knowledge.

The third force that has shaped how Africa is today is the growth and spread of Christianity that took place during the colonization period. Christianity greatly led to an erosion of African culture as the missionaries condemned the traditional practices of the people (Lewis 130). This was because the African were considered barbaric and naïve and to the Christians, their religious beliefs did not make any sense to them. This was why they vehemently preached their gospel to the Africans to civilize them. Education can also be seen as a fruit of missionaries’ work of spreading Christianity. It therefore means that Christianity is the reason why we still have many Christians in the African continent, and also the reason why Africa has education, even though it is still o well developed.

The fourth factor that shaped how Africa is today is colonialism (Rodney, 136). If not for colonialism, things would be very different in Africa. The effects of colonizing some of the countries in Africa led to a significant change in the political, social, economical and cultural dimensions of the society. Colonization led to a change in the structure of leadership, led to deprivation of societies and an erosion of businesses that were already established