African Intellectuals and the Masses

In earlier posts, I did allude to the fact that Africa’s slow move towards alleviating the sufferings of her people can be partly attributed to the intellectual class not living up to their role. That they are, to a large extent, tooting the horns of the imperialist west with their Eurocentric views while down playing everything African.
In this article author Olympia Jarboe captures the essence of this problem 

African institutions of higher education are funded by Westerners,African countries must follow after Western economic ideals (pgs. 221-222);these ideals deny traditional African world views and perpetuate Eurocentric mind-sets that alienate African institutions and their graduates from common African people (pgs. 222, 225).

This, more than any other factors can explain the great disconnect that exists between the African intellectuals and the masses of the African people.
No doubt, many other factors are responsible for conditions in Africa being far from ideal. But the constant bashing from Africa’s educated elites of traditional African values and ideas leaves much to be desired.
Africa was colonized not because of humanitarian reasons, or the desire to ‘civilize the savages’ but for purely economic and geopolitical reasons. In addition to military might, other strategies are used to maintain grip on power. One of these, and perhaps the most effective, is education/mis-education. As Steve Biko rightly put it; “The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” One needs not look further than Africa to acknowledge this.
African colonial institutions of learning were set up for exactly this purpose; control the minds of the people and keep them dependent. So these institutions, which hardly ever went beyond a two year teacher training college, produced no more than office clerks, agricultural extension workers, and teachers whose curriculum is designed to produced more of the same batches. And even after so many years since independence, little, if anything has changed in the curriculum in most African states as the author rightly stated. Those who got lucky to earn entry into high institutions of learning in the West, have a worldview that is not shared by a majority of their compatriots and are hard put as to how to translate these views to suit the perspective of their fellow countrymen. As a result, many get frustrated and end up giving their all to make a living in the West, contributing to their economies and refusing to see the need to sacrifice for the betterment of their own people.


Some will cite the political atmosphere in Africa as not being conducive, as well as the pandemic corruption that makes it hard for them to put their skills to effective use. In the end, they cultivate the same attitude like the imperialists; start a charity or donate to one and help the poor in Africa, a kind of feel good gesture for their own egos.


Africa once had thriving political, economic, and social institutions. These were disrupted by the coming of the colonialists and we have been playing catch up since then. The key is to unlock the systems of the past; social, cultural, economic, political, etc., study it in the context of the realities of the time. Such a study will highlight the role of any given idea in the society. We then relate that to our current situation and come up with ways of improving them to suit our circumstances now. Only then will we be able to unlock our full potential as a people.


It always takes the sacrifices of a generation or more to lay the foundations for a viable future for upcoming generations. Sacrificing comfort, high paying jobs, ease of access to needed amenities, money, social status, freedoms and liberties, etc. is needed to secure a better future for upcoming generations. We need to start putting our trust in ourselves and rely on our own abilities instead of looking for solutions from outside.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s