Enhancing the Inter-cultural Dialogue between Europe and Africa to promote Stability and economic Development within & among the two Continents

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“Enhancing the Inter-cultural Dialogue between Europe and Africa to promote Stability and economic Development within & among the two Continents”

  • YUSUF YAHAYA OYIGEBE AND PAA KWESI B. INKUMSAH (2013)

Our conviction is that the contents therein is aimed at providing a space to brainstorm and exchange ideas on how to bring about stability, economic development and cultural sustainability through intercultural dialogue (ICD) in/between Africa, Europe, and the world. By extension to reflect, transfer knowledge, exchange experiences and discuss possible joint activities in the field of cultural cooperation, in the broader context of the contribution of culture and cultural dialogue to sustainable development, human rights, democracy and poverty reduction. For me this forms the catalytic fulcrum for fostering intercultural dialogue (ICD).

*Culture & Intercultural Dialogue (ICD), *Conflict of Cultural Identity, *Intercultural Dialogue as Political/Policy Issue, *Challenges of Intercultural Dialogue, *Approach to Intercultural Dialogue, *Common Strategy for Intercultural Dialogue, *Recommended Instruments for Intercultural Dialogue, *Suggestions and Conclusion.

FIRST THING FIRST: What is Culture?

Culture’ means many things to many people. Hence, for this discussion it is the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a particular nation or people. Practically, ‘it is the values and aspirations, traditions and shared memories, the ways people develop, receive and transmit these values and aspirations, and ultimately the ways of life of a people or society”.

British anthropologist Edward B. Tylor gave the first complete definition of “culture”, in his book Primitive Culture (1871). His definition stated that “Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

Categorizations of culture: A common practice among anthropologists is to divide all of culture into three broad categories: material, social, and ideological. These three categories define the customs and costumes, the manners and mannerism, as well as the characters and characteristics of the nature and culture of a people or society.

Material culture includes products of human manufacture, such as technology. Social culture pertains to people’s forms of social organization—how people interact and organize themselves in groups. Ideological culture relates to what people think, value, believe, and hold as ideals. The arts include such activities and areas of interest as textile and fabrics, traditional architecture, music, sculpture, painting, pottery, theater, cooking, writing, and fashion. Anthropologists often study how these categories of culture differ across different types of societies that vary in scale (size and complexity).

A. Material Culture

All societies produce and exchange material goods so that people can feed, clothe, shelter, and otherwise provide for themselves. This system is commonly known as an economy. Intercultural Dialogue (ICD) between Africa and Europe must look at several aspects of people’s material culture. These aspects include:

(1) The methods by which people obtain or produce food, known as a pattern of subsistence;

(2) The ways in which people exchange goods and services;

(3) The kinds of technologies and other objects people make and use; and

(4) The effects of people’s economy on the natural environment.

  1. Social Culture

People from different cultures have different styles of communication. People in all types of societies organize themselves in relation to each other for work and other duties, and to structure their interactions. Intercultural Dialogue (ICD) must recognize that people commonly organize themselves according to (1) bonds by kinship and marriage,

(2) Work duties and economic position, and

(3) Political position.

 

C.

Ideological Culture

In every society, culturally unique ways of thinking about the world unite people in their behavior. Anthropologists often refer to the body of ideas that people share as ideology. Ideology can be broken down into at least three specific categories: beliefs, values, and ideals. People’s beliefs give them an understanding of how the world works and how they should respond to the actions of others and their environments. Particular beliefs often tie in closely with the daily concerns of domestic life, such as making a living, health and sickness, happiness and sadness, interpersonal relationships, and death. People’s values tell them the differences between right and wrong or good and bad. Ideals serve as models for what people hope to achieve in life.

Let’s now discuss Intercultural Dialogue (ICD):

Definition of Intercultural Dialogue

“Intercultural dialogue is a process based on an open and respectful exchange of views between individuals, groups and organizations with different cultural backgrounds or mindsets. Among its aims are: to develop a deeper understanding of diverse perspectives and practices; to increase participation; to ensure freedom of expression and the ability to make choices; to foster equality; and to enhance creative processes. Intercultural dialogue takes place in an environment where individuals and groups are guaranteed safety and dignity, equality of opportunity and participation, where different views can be voiced openly without fear, where there are ‘shared spaces’ for cultural exchanges”. (Source: Sharing Diversity, ERICarts Institute 2008)

It is a common debate amongst proponents of culture and diplomacy that the concept of intercultural dialogue (ICD) will have different meanings in different countries depending upon their histories, traditions, population structures, concepts of citizenship and the distribution of rights and freedoms. Indeed studies show that intercultural dialogue has been understood to mean working to enthrone peace and progress while upholding the human dignity in a plurality of ways ranging from promoting: a culture of peace, a dialogue of or among civilizations, cultural co-operation or diplomacy, integration and social cohesion through community cultural participation, etc.

 

CONFLICT OF CULTURAL IDENTITY:

Culture is not the exclusive preserve of one race. While making research on the subject matter I came across a quote by Edward T Hall. It says, ‘We should never denigrate any other culture but rather help people to understand the relationship between their own culture and the dominant culture. When you understand another culture or language, it does not mean that you have to lose your own culture.’

Cultural categorization could serve as the basic indices for measuring the development of intercultural dialogue of two or more continents, nations and societies. Through the concept of globalization, intercultural dialogue could be seen via cultural ecology, cultural economics, and cultural ideology. Thus, globalization has created for Africa and Europe the imperatives for intercultural dialogue for stability and economic development through the ecology of two or more cultures (mutual multiculturalism), the economics of intercontinental trade, commerce and exchanges (mutual liberalization), and the ideas of connecting, sharing and adapting other cultures (mutual adaptation) in order to enhance stability and economic development of Africa and Europe.

Look at this picture: In typical African agricultural societies, many of which still exist today in countries throughout Africa, the people build sturdy houses of sun-dried mud brick and thatch, wooden beams, or quarried stone. These people commonly produce beautiful and functional ceramic storage containers and other pottery, finely woven textiles, and tools of forged metal. People in typical African agricultural societies also have many methods of cooking using pots and ovens of mud brick or stone. This picture depicted is CULTURAL IDENTITY, technically it is traditional architecture, and it is cultural engineering and it is people oriented arts. Their material culture is their environment, their agricultural activities, the mud/soil, the woods, and stones. Their social culture is in their community interactions to build houses of sun-dried mud bricks and thatch, their production of beautiful ceramics as storage containers and other pottery, their woven textiles/fabrics, tools of forged metals, cooking pots and ovens of mud bricks illustrates their socio-economic aspect. Their ideological culture is embedded in their beliefs, values, ideas and innovations which give rise to the manifestation of their material culture and social culture as a people and society. The custodians of such heritage will do anything to protect, preserve and promote their identity without losing it to anything.

Africa’s cultural identity was succinctly contextualized by Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972), first prime minister (1957-1960) and president (1960-1966) of Ghana and the first black African postcolonial leader. He stated that “Common territory, language and culture may in fact be present in a nation, but the existence of a nation does not necessarily imply the presence of all three. Common territory and language alone may form the basis of a nation. Similarly, common territory plus common culture may be the basis. In some cases, only one of the three applies. A state may exist on a multi-national basis. The community of economic life is the major feature within a nation, and it is the economy which holds together the people living in a territory. It is on this basis that the new Africans recognize themselves as potentially one nation, whose domination is the entire African continent.(Class Struggle in Africa)

This glaringly brought to light the disparities that exist between peoples and Nation-states of the world in their cultural, economic, political, bureaucratic, social, scientific and technological developments and standards. On this score, the disparities are seen to have tilted heavily against African States in relation to the rest of the world, especially to the West. These disparities are so deep and so serious that their continuous existence constitutes a grave problem that threatens global stability and economic development. There is therefore an urgent need to solve the crisis by bridging the disparities using intercultural dialogue (ICD) as a tool for the restoration of human dignity, enhancement of stability and promotion of economic development between Africa and Europe.

This need has, however, also given rise to some conflicting view points with regard to the position and fate of African States vis-à-vis the emergent globalization process and how to approach it. On the one hand, there are those who see intercultural dialogue as a process representing the most secure way of bridging the gap and make the ambitions and dreams for a politically stable, economically prosperous and socially safe and sound Africa and Europe come true. But on the other hand, for others, the New World Order is replete with such perverse effects that not even intercultural dialogue can achieve significant progress no matter what is done it would continue to render the ‘developing’ countries of Africa more economically dependent, technologically stagnant, socially confused, politically irrelevant, and culturally subservient in the new global village.

INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE AS POLITICAL AND POLICY ISSUE

 Africa’s contact with Europe dates back to over five centuries, from 1479 when Europe came into ‘active’ contact with Africa, the slavery era of the 16th–19th centuries, the ‘legitimate trade’ of the 19th century, the colonial domination of the 20th century, and now in the 21st century globalization taking center stage with Africa lagging behind in the global economy/market in terms of maximization of benefits. Clearly put, Africa remains a subject of foreign adventure and investment destination, yet Africa’s cultural endowment and potentials is completely begging for attention from the global community. African countries desires, tried and continue to try through intercontinental cooperation, integration, and intercultural exchanges for economic development, science and technology advancement and by extension stability, good governance and democracy as observed in the developed countries of Europe and America.

Since the arrival of the new millennium, a number of developments have given intercultural dialogue (ICD), cultural diversity and social cohesion a more prominent place on political agendas such as: migration flows that have significantly changed the population diversity of some African and European countries; AU and EU enlargement; globalization and geopolitical changes; cultural exchanges and exports; new means of communication and a related expansion of traditional architecture, Arts, tourism, and media content; a reported rise of incidents of discrimination, racism, and populism.

As the world has become a global village it is inevitable to speak about intercultural dialogue. Intercultural dialogue as a global necessity is a process that comprises of mutual cultural interconnectivity and respectful exchange or interaction between individuals, groups, organizations, and countries with different multicultural values, or backgrounds, or world views.

One most important feature of our generation is the globalization of the world – the world, they say, has become a global village! Intercultural dialogue between Europe and Africa hence could ride on the back of globalization to achieving stability and economic development whose context basically facilitates the mechanisms for unrestricted global relationships with the attendant transfer of cultures, trade, politics, norms and values amongst world societies. With the advancement of Science and Technology and the breaking of barriers of time and space in human relations, activities of societies became opened, known and accessible to all across the globe.

However, for Africa to tap into the cultural potentials of Europe and for Europe to mutually benefit from Africa’s diverse arrays of cultural endowment, the two continent need be on almost the same page on the condensation and availability of knowledge through the World Wide Web, connectivity of people through multiple global systems, literacy and education, democracy, constitutionalism, flexible foreign policy of assimilation, unrestricted but considerate trade liberalization, high standard of human organization, sound administration, effective leadership skills and human rights and the rule of law.

 

CHALLENGES OF INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE (ICD) BETWEEN AFRICA AND EUROPE

  1. Lack of financial or human resources:
  2. Lack of political will of governments:
  3. Policies on inter-cultural cooperation are not necessarily people centered:
  4. Traditional or elitist concepts of culture, heritage and artistic practices:
  5. Lack of clarity in definitions and resulting difficulties when implementing programmes on intercultural dialogue.
  6. Lack of information, training and relevant qualifications to engage intercultural ecology, economics and ideology.
  7. Policies should respect artistic freedom and not try to replace social or foreign policies:
  8. Stereotypes, media distortions, religious prejudice, discrimination of some communities/groups:
  9. Other issues, e.g. globalization, loss of identity or artistic traditions, language problems:

 

APPROACH TO INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE (ICD)

In this context, it became increasingly important to understand how regional/continental governments across Africa and Europe actually address Intercultural Dialogue (ICD), be it as part of an integrated policy framework or in different sector specific policy fields. Therefore, the purpose is to discuss possible intercontinental approaches, policies or strategies to ICD, including but not limited to those addressing:

  1. Youth/sports programmes and capacity building activities which facilitate practical experience with ICD, The youth, because the future belongs to them.
  2. Culture/family connecting different value systems and challenging established aesthetic criteria. The family, because the family is the nucleus of every society.
  3. Education as a means to provide the basis for understanding and respecting diversity. The educated, because they are the light of the society.

The welfare of people is the gauge for the effectiveness of any policy or programme for stability and economic development; therefore it is time to make PEOPLE the subject/fulcrum of intercultural dialogue between two or more communities, or nations, or continents.

 

 

COMMON STRATEGY FOR ICD

During the past decade, knowledge and understanding of an increasingly diverse demographic and sub-cultural make-up of African and European societies has been steadily growing. The corresponding changes in policy and research paradigms have yet to be fully implemented. In the future, they could be built upon a broad vision, where economic and social inclusion policies and policies for cultural diversity are integrated and push each other forward. This vision calls for strategies going beyond a promotion of good practice projects. African/European, nationals and local authorities and the various Intercultural Dialogue actors of civil society could work together in a four-step approach:

  • Road maps: identify exclusion or discriminatory practices and develop plans to improve socioeconomic conditions required in order for intercultural dialogue (ICD) processes to take place;
  • Breaking barriers: remove barriers to equality and fight against prejudice, racism and stereotypes; introduce incentives or regulatory measures to increase the presence of individuals, their works and ideas which are not “mainstream” in political, economic, educational and cultural spheres in order to diffuse power from hitherto predominant groups;
  • Building bridges: develop intercultural skills and competencies through e.g. educational, artistic and media programmes which could equip individuals with the necessary tools to fully and successfully engage in intercultural dialogue (ICD) processes; and
  • Sharing spaces: create spaces where ideas, experiences and beliefs can be respectfully exchanged – in case of conflict, “participants can agree to disagree agreeably” – and where interactive communication can freely flow. This could result in a deeper understanding of diverse views or practices, or lead to new creative processes or forms of expression.

 

Promotion of intercultural dialogue between countries

Promoting diversity and dialogue trans-nationally across borders and with other world regions requires strong political will and commitments of regional governments of Africa and Europe to promote intercultural dialogue through the arts. This is particularly important not only to facilitate dialogue between artists from different countries, but also to provide support for artists in countries where there are little or no public funding programmes for culture and the arts in the traditional sense of e.g. artists’ grants or support for cultural enterprises to produce and distribute their work.

 

 

Recommended Instruments for ICD between Africa and Europe

(a) Art is used as a tool to raise awareness and educate the public about the diversity of cultures in their community and around the world. A key element is to engage the participation of the public in the construction or reconstruction of local narratives.

(b) Projects to empower community members of diverse backgrounds by providing a space for them to express their cultural identity (ies) through the arts and to establish a sense of ownership of their community space by involving them in the process.

(c) The importance of staging events in non-institutionalized public spaces, for example, local neighbourhoods, public parks, train stations, subways, hair salons or supermarkets was emphasized as important platforms for intercultural exchanges. Cultural activities and experiences within these spaces can help make intercultural dialogue part of an individual’s lived daily experience rather than as a separate activity for which proactive engagement is required.

(d) Some artistic projects are aimed at developing intercultural competences and skills among all members of society. Those that target the majority population are equally important as those directed to minority communities. The goal is to open minds and to address stereotypes of the majority towards others.

(e) Part of the larger package of intercultural competences and skills is the issue of language and how to overcome the linguistic barriers that are faced.

(f) Involving artists from diverse cultural backgrounds (Africa and Europe) in the development of projects rather than addressing them as targets of projects is deemed an important step towards empowerment.

(g) The provision of platforms or spaces to increase awareness of the diversity of artistic productions from around the world are considered as important venues for artists from different cultural backgrounds to meet, exchange and perhaps build new networks. Platforms such as festivals are, in addition, considered as platforms to build intercultural competences.

 

SUGGESTIONS AND CONCLUSION

Clearly, the present generation of Africans and Europeans needs to inculcate in their people the appropriate qualitative change in their thinking process on multiculturalism so as to re-organize their productive forces for economic self-reliance and veritable political and social renaissance. Africans and Europeans alike must be made to think anew, to decide how best to restructure their polities, economies and education, and to re-engineer social changes that would lead to economic prosperity and a truly democratic and free society for a better and greater tomorrow using intercultural dialogue as a veritable tool. This is basically what our generation owes our people and the next generation, fortunately intercultural dialogue provides us Africans and Europeans alike the platform for stability and economic development, and intercontinental integration.

Our suggestion for attaining this goal is to create Intercultural Research Centers of Excellence to do in-depth public policy research into domestic and global cultural issues as they affect Africa’s/Europe’s material development – centers with articulate, media-savvy, home-grown intellectuals, artists, and analysts working as independent think-tanks to advocate and provide for alternative public policy options and strategies woven around intercultural dialogue; while at the same time developing African perspectives on global trends and creating policy research frameworks on cultural issues that require deeper interpretations, analysis, understanding and dissemination. As policy roles of government agencies and political parties are progressively diminishing, it is imperative that think tanks move in to fill the void and proffer viable solutions, strategies and alternative public policy options to meet intercultural dialogue (ICD) challenges and opportunities.

As globalization has made it ever more clear the essential role of personal forces in shaping destinies of societies, such centers will need to focus and to put greater attention on the critical issue of leadership and culture; to provide new perspectives on the dynamics of multiculturalism, multiple opportunities of intercultural dialogue in relation to economic, social and educational plans, budgetary priorities, milestones and implementations, etc. The centers will thus provide better understanding to academics, artists, and journalists, strategic ideas to opinion molders and public policy makers and enlightenment to the general public on the need to enhance intercultural dialogue between Europe and Africa to promote the Stability and economic Development within the two Continents.

AT THIS POINT:

We will like to end this discussion/presentation by raising more questions for our distinguish readers/audience/participants to brainstorm and provide answers to:

  • How then do we promote intercultural dialogue in our own continents?
  • How do we encourage ourselves as Africans and as Europeans to understand, appreciate and value each other’s cultures?
  • How do we promote intercultural dialogue between Africa and Europe through multi-sectoral approach?
  • What does the promotion of intercultural dialogue between Africa and Europe for stability and economic development mean to you?
  • What are some of the main development that have motivated the need to develop policies and programmes to promote intercultural dialogue?
  • What should be the result of public support to promote intercultural dialogue through arts, cultures, tourism, or science and technology, or academic exchange?
  • How can the public and private sector as well as arts and cultural institutions promote intercultural dialogue between Africa and Europe?

In Conclusion

One road, Monoculturalism/ethnocentrism, is the road we have always traveled. It is the road that traditionally has emphasized the “melting pot” concept and the belief that some cultures are superior to all other cultures. It also is the road that gave birth to our traditional theories of development and sustainable development, to the definitions of normality and abnormality, and to the belief that differences are unacceptable. Monoculturalism and ethnocentrism have sparked the structures, policies, and practices of our present institutions for which mono-cultural norms are strongly embedded in our organizations/interactions/integrations and dictate a narrow band of acceptable values and behaviors that have been detrimental to other cultural constituents which impedes the actualization racial and cultural integration and development.

The other path, multiculturalism which is the fundamental aim and target of intercultural dialogue and integration, is the road less traveled yet needed. It recognizes and values diversity. It values cultural pluralism and acknowledges our nations as a cultural mosaic (salad bowl) rather than a melting pot. Multiculturalism challenges us to shed our ethnocentric perspectives. It is through this route that we begin the process of developing new structures, policies, and practices that are more responsive to all groups, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender. It is important for us to acquire knowledge and understanding of the world view of all clients within cultural chain and other diverse groups other than ours. What are their values, biases, and assumptions about human behavior? How are they similar or dissimilar to helping in the actualization of intercultural dialogue and integration in a diverse world? Finally, we need to begin using culturally appropriate intervention strategies, this involves developing cultural methodologies and communication skills and systems intervention skills. It also involves using intrinsic helping approaches of culturally diverse groups. Through critical thinking we realize we are in a world of diversity, diversities in many fronts, one can expect to find differences along all, or most, of the following parameters: including concrete vs. abstract, sequential vs. random, introverted versus extroverted, etc., race, gender, ethnicity, customs and costumes, manners and mannerisms, characters and characteristics, cultural intellectualism, cultures, family history and level of functioning, creativity, social adjustment, genetic intellectual inclinations, and maturity — to name some of the most commonly considered diversities. To put this way, each and every culture to us is unique, and, what is more, unique in a variety of ways. We are living in an age where calls for an emphasis on diversity have become the norm. Multiculturalism is dominating world discourse and space in trying to reduce inequalities and bring about peace, and the way to go is intercultural dialogue cutting across race, ethnicity, nationality, and ideology.

FINALLY: The challenges of multiculturalism and intercultural dialogue are beyond the scope of the current prevailing strategic methods employed by most people and leaders on the issue of enhancing intercultural dialogue between people of diverse race, language, belief, location, custom and costume. Only the entrenchment of creative strategies and alternative policy options based on a deep understanding of our history, society, culture and the global environment can make us achieve this laudable goal for our people. If we continue to do things the old way we will only get the same old results all the time. The youth, women and the educated must be mobilized in order to achieve stability and economic development between continents (Africa, America, Asia, and Europe) through exploring, tapping, and maximizing the benefits embedded in the potentials of intercultural dialogue.

Writers:

Yusuf Yahaya O. – Snr. Broadcast Engineer (Nigerian Television Authority), Nat. Resource Person @ MDGs/SDGs/NYSC Advocacy Program (Presidency-Nigeria) and Researcher/Student @ Estam University (Dept. of Mechanical Engineering & Computer-Integrated Manufacturing).

Paa Kwesi B. Inkumsah – Snr. Associate @ Spark Global Business, President-The African Leadership Agenda (TALA) & Fmr UN Affairs Commissioner for Africa @ JCI, and Coordinator – Africa Unbound Inc (Ghana-Chapter).

 

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Y. Yahaya is a broadcaster (Nigerian Television Authority),and an Associate @ the Certified Institute of Development Studies (CIDS), Nigeria.He is also a freelance journalist (www.nigerianewsline.com), Public Policy Analyst & National Resource Person MDGs Advocacy Project-Nigeria. Email: ntayusuf@gmail.com, ydawah@yahoo.com