African Indigenous Technology and Its Broken Succession
September 23, 2022
Aham lives in Atu, a village in Osimiri in Nigeria. Atu is peaceful with energy of a typical African tropical climate. Boys and girls enjoy life in this agrarian society. Bird hunting was part of fun.
But one day, Aham and his friend, Uche, had gone for bird hunting in a forest few miles away from the village square. While in the forest, Uche was bitten by a very poisonous snake, avuala, and in the mayhem that followed, Aham ran away. While running, he fell down and broke his arms.
Luckily, Nkwo, the palm wine tapper was on duty that moment. Right on his tree, he saw what happened and quickly made it straight to where the boys were crying in pains and agonies. Within few minutes, the boys had been taken to the local herbal doctors: one to the local ‘orthopedic surgeon’, the other to a master specialist on snake poison. Both survived. That was eighty years ago.
Today, western education has brought many promises. It has opened opportunities for boys and girls to dream big. And become great not just in villages but anywhere.
Parents send their kids to schools because schools make them great. However, western education has facilitated a broken succession across villages in Africa. A generation of indigenous knowledge acquired, refined and transferred for more than ten generations are endangered.
That creates a problem in some villages because the rate at which development from western education is coming is slower than the rate the indigenous are losing grasp of their own technology.
When one orthopedic hospital serves a region comprising of many states with underpaid doctors and experts, few get quality solutions. The other alternative which their parents had depended upon has been destroyed because the skilled people have died or dying.
The children of the ‘experts’ have migrated to the urban areas and no one knows the herbs or the processes which can help people in need overcome their challenges.
It is a double tragedy! You have lost what you have in the promise of new things which have refused to materialize. That is the challenge, not just in Africa, but in many developing countries where modern technology has not diffused to fill the vacuum created by a broken indigenous technology succession.
The question that must be asked is this? Why can’t the government identify these people and develop a process to document what they do in order to preserve knowledge.
Better, can the government support them to transition to the new level and use the new (educated) generation to innovate on those trades? We want all children to go to school, but we also want a process that understands that in many rural Africa, we have got technology that must be preserved.
A process that does this is very important in Africa. Film them, send them government paid interns, pay them to talk and find ways to conserve that knowledge.
Anyhow, we need to preserve what has evolved over generations of Africans. Now is the time to harvest them and put some intellectual property rights which can help them become great.
Yes, Africa can be made big from within and our indigenous technology must be strengthened. This calls for African Union/NEPAD to identify this trend as a problem and vigorously tackle it. It must develop a process to curtail the loss of these essential technologies while strengthening a system that will modernize them.