Business & Economy Interviews

“We need Africa-centred innovations systems” – Prof Mammo Muchie

“We need Africa-centred innovations systems” – Prof Mammo Muchie
  • PublishedMarch 17, 2015

*Professor Mammo Muchie is one of the leading pan-African voices championing African innovation for development. He spoke to Pusch Commey and argues that educational and innovation systems in Africa are still too colonial and need to be revamped if Africa is to undergo a technological and digital leap that benefits its people.

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New African: Current global trends in education point to a shift towards creativity and innovation. Why is this of such great importance?
Prof. Muchie: Inevitably it is through creating innovative products to sell to the whole world that we will be able to generate more wealth and develop our economies.

So where does Africa start?
Africa should start with its children. The whole educational system on the continent needs to be revamped and developed into an African-centred one. We need to do away with the “David-Livingstone-discovered-the-Victoria-falls” type of education.

The content of education is therefore extremely important. It requires support for African publishing houses, to produce and innovate African-centred books and the curriculum, which put African children in touch with African success stories, other than Snow White. Our children need to be taught that Africa is the cradle of civilisation and was behind the creative wonders of antiquity, until that creativity and innovation was interrupted. We need to teach our children of these great achievements, such as the construction of the great pyramid of Giza – which to this day, still confounds scientists.

The evidence of Africa’s greatness is everywhere for our children to see. They only see [images of] the architecture of the Nubian civilisation and the great pyramids. They also know very little about the artistic creativity of the ancient Nok in Nigeria – a civilisation that predated Jesus by centuries. Timbuktu is another, and there are the bronze works of Benin. People often forget or simply do not know that the first university in the world was African – the Al Karaouine University – founded by an African woman in Fez, Morocco in 859 AD. I am not the one saying so. The Guinness Book of World Records says so. And the second university in the world was also African – Al Azhar in Egypt, built in 969 AD, which still exists today. Europe saw the lecture halls of a university a full 229 years after Africa; the University of Bologna in 1088 AD.

How can this be implemented in today’s world?
The emphasis must be on critical thinking and problem-solving. Apart from giving the current and future generation a strong historical foundation, the next step should be to introduce an emphasis on creating stuff, making stuff, selling stuff, and solving problems. And that must begin at the stage of early childhood learning.

African education should position itself in that space as early and as quickly as possible. Knowledge is now available on the internet at a touch of the button. We should invest in the latest tools.

The rest involves applying that knowledge, in order to create, make, innovate, and sell. But innovation requires the seamless cooperation of governments, schools, universities, the private sector, research laboratories and financial institutions.

But is there anything wrong with the current educational and innovation systems in Africa?
It’s colonial. They are steeped in the image and knowledge systems of the colonialists and need to be revamped. They reinforce supremacist thinking which still makes Africans feel or grow up thinking other races are better and can innovate better than them. There is a need to re-introduce African knowledge systems, as well as the use of African languages into education systems.  

There are serious deep-rooted challenges around that. What can Africa do?
Africa needs to unthink the unthinkable. We need cultural liberation and that calls for thinking deeply outside the box, and one way to achieve that is for our education curriculums to be rooted in unearthing and promoting the great scientific and other contributions Africans have made in the past. And for these to be accepted as modes of learning and training for new generations.

 Africa must radically redesign and re-engineer its education to promote the true origin of all the sciences and arts from Africa. There must be a deep emphasis on creativity and innovation. The historical perspective, including a real African spirituality, should be the foundation stone.

People often ask, what happened to Africa, given all its past greatness?
What happened to us is 500 years of destruction, concealment of African achievement and the generation of false narratives about Africa, to support and justify the destruction. This has not stopped. Then there is the promotion of a white saviour narrative. These are all tools of domination and oppression. But the game is changing.

How are we going to achieve all these education and innovations objectives if universities and even the African Union are still going around seeking funds from the West?
That has to change. We all know that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Indeed some European institutions do indeed have good intentions and come in the spirit of mutual cooperation. Others do not. This is why it is imperative for us Africans to build our own resource capacities to fund our core projects and innovations.

What is the way forward?
African economies are growing. More millionaires and billionaires are being created. They must invest in education, research, creativity and innovation. It will surprise you that in America and various places, it is government and private funding of creative research institutions and military research that has produced most of the technological marvels of today.

Many entrepreneurs have invested in funding research at universities, which has then been applied to practical problems in society. African entrepreneurs should actively pursue that pathway. The ones that are best suited to developing products that solve the problems of Africa are homegrown creative and research institutions. They must be incubated locally. A one-size-fits-all approach, designed elsewhere, does not work well in Africa.

Like the structural adjustment programmes of the IMF?
Correct for 10 points. You have made my point.

*Professor Mammo Muchie is an author of several books on innovation and education. He is currently a Research Professor of Innovation Studies at the Institute of Economic Research on innovation at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa. He is also a research professor and fellow of many other institutions and academies.

Written By
Pusch Commey

Pusch Commey is a Barrister of the High Court of South Africa, Award winning writer and associate editor of New African Magazine since 1999. He is based in Johannesburg South Africa. He is the author of 9 books including the best selling 100 great African kings and queens, and Tofi's Fire Dance. He is also the CEO of the South African based Real African Publishers, and the founder of the Real African Writers  series.

16 Commentaires

  • It is absolutely important that we have an Africa first focus as well as keep reminding ourselves to educate, educate, educate at all levels and in total transparency. We need to congratulate people like Prof Muchie on his open views and positive energy towards this enormous task that is the responsibility of every African. It is for this same reason that I feel much more at ease with a long term and fast growing relationship between Africa and China. Contrary to many voices and perceptions it is a non-interfering and anti-colonial support and investment link being formed. It will help build Africa in the years to come. The focus on building an innovative and entrepreneurial vision and mission will be vital as we move forward. Lets build Africa. I am looking forward to the adventure that is now starting to unfold and will make every effort to support this in the years to come

    • I am onboard. always and alway advocated for this openess.

      • Great to know we have so many friends…I am meeting more and more fantastic people with such positive mindsets across Africa…I love working with Prof Muchie and absolutely enjoy this adventure…please also connect with me on Twitter @AfricaChinaLink

        • We look forward the development of this action. Africa needs to think its own future

  • I agree. Well said Ferdie Mostert.

  • Thank you, Commey, for presenting to us this precious interview with prof. Muchie. I absolutely agree with professor that the continent needs African-centered education to address the real challenges of Africa. Africa has to unearth its educational history to develop her old technologies of Egypt, Benin and Nigeria which stand as a proof that we can. Africa has all the potentialities of making an educational giant in the world. The only thing we need is change of mentality. We have to combat the long standing prejudice of White supremacy and develop within us ‘black confidence’, ‘black pride’, ‘black supremacy.’ It is a long process. However, it is possible. Let us start going!

    • Hallo Japhet…just to add something to your comment above…don’t forget the white African born people like me…been here for generations and fighting all my life for Africa’s freedom. I am totally committed to this cause and in many ways even doing more work to grow Africa…I am one in mindset with Prof Muchie and all people like him. To fulfill our purpose in Africa we need to stand together in vision and mission. I find too many black people that are negative and work against Africa even worse than the colonial whites did. I have seen several cases where we in Africa is our own worst enemy when we work against ourselves by doing harm to Africa through corruption, fraud and selfishness. Join me on the twitter link @AfricaChinaLink and lets build our continent together

      • Yes let us grow together and build our continent.

      • Hallo Ferdie, thanks for your addendum. It is true that “Africanness” is not colour but spirit. It needs African minded people to build this continent. Will follow you on twitter.

        • Excellent….looking forward to communicate more in the future

  • The truth hurts but again the again the truth will set us free. Africa needs ethical leaders who lead the transformation of a continent.

    • so true Sihle…what makes me excited is seeing many new generation African leaders with a positive, open minded and sincerely truthful heart for the continent. I am looking forward to the years to follow. Feel free to connect on Twitter @AfricaChinaLink

  • Yes we have and we can. One thing we are missing, connection. Let us move freely. People and goods must move freely and intellectuall integration

  • African leaders can not do all. Ordinary people must open up the colonial borders and move more easily with trade and intellectuall exchanges

  • Urgently needed: a root and branch review of all we were (are) taught from nursery to university, church, mosque, media. So many will loose their aura and positions of power but Africa will rise again.

    It is frustrating that what Prof. Muchie is saying is not at the forefront of policy in AU and its member countries. The logic is blindingly obvious-once one takes the time to study our true history. No African should strut around feeling schooled if s/he has never studied (for example) Cheik Anta Diop’s “Destruction of Black Civilization”-it is a scholarly trailblazer that has spawned an impressive range of study by serious Africans that our detractors will call “afrocentric” ( in the sense that it is all wishful nuance by black learned folk).

    We Africans continue to live a grotesque, debilitating and fraudulent mental life while foreign profiteers (and African associates/minions/compradors/poodles as the case may be) are industriously mining our physical and immaterial resources (eg gold/oil and culture), adding value, commoditizing them and turning a profit-sometimes even we do not recognize when our own work are sold back to us. When will this perverse myopia cease?
    Unfortunately, there is no guarantee it will.

    No white jesus/allah will come back to blaze our oppressors and set things right. It falls on us to demand for a real education instead of one that churns out catch-up masqueraders of cultures that sneer at us even as their well-schooled know, our foremothers/fathers taught them to talk and think-OK, ask the ancient Greeks if you think this is just raving hyperbole…

  • Yes! This is exactly what we need! Don’t stop there though! Ancient Kemet, The Dogon, Moorish science, etc., all need to be added. That’s why I as a US born nigerian will be returning back to Africa with my physical chemistry degree. Hopefully I can get lucky and garner a position in Nairobi, Kenya. I just love nairobi for some reason.

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