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Visiting Scholar Discusses African Nation-Building

By Veronica Rosales

The African continent is ready for drastic change, but that change is not taking place said an African historian to a dozen undergraduates last night.

Wamba-Dia Wamba, professor at the University of Dares Salaam in Tanzania and former visiting scholar at Harvard, was the guest speaker of last night's talk entitled "The Crisis of Nation Building in Africa." The talk, sponsored by the African Students Association, is one of several events designed to inform the Harvard community about the African continent.

Since Africa is a mosaic country with a fairly young population, it "relates to the rest of the world in a very specific way," said Wamba. "Very few countries [in Africa] have a population greater than New York City," he said.

Because of colonialism, the African continent has certain tensions in several geographical areas, he added.

Though there are many crises in the world, Africa is in the unique situation of facing the challenge of nation-building once again, Wamba said.

"There's been too much analysis of social-economic structure, state structure, economic structure, etc., but not enough analysis of social structure," he said. "At least identify what they [the African people] think," since they are the ones that decide what they want, he added.

"Leadership in Africa is now a very serious problem," said Wamba. African leaders have to "destroy the colonial state legacy and at the same time build on it," Wamba said.

The questions that plague nation builders include how differences in organizing a country are made, how to transform the colonized territory into a nation state and who is to lead the process, said Wamba.

A state can form through conquests, major public works, resistance against a conquest, or democracy, Wamba said. With the first three, the threat of genocide exists, he said.

In the end, he said, economic dependence finally determines an effective country. "Empower people so that they can control their resources," Wamba said.

If an economy is not based on needs, increasing production will not change the country, Wamba said. "An economy must be for the people's needs first," he said.

"The word `development' has replaced `civilizing mission' in politics," he said. Now, "democracy is viewed as anarchy because it stops development," Wamba said.

"Adjectives are added to the word `development' and they are not helping. I prefer the term social transformation," Wamba said, adding that "The desire for change is there."

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