Home African communication systems 11 AFRICAN COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS AND AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT

AFRICAN COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS AND AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

This unit focuses on the need to use African communication systems in communicating development programmes in Africa, especially to the ruralites. It surveys some instances where African popular culture was used in communicating development to the ruralites in Africa.

2.0 OBJECTIVES

At the end of this unit study, you should be able to:

  1. Appreciate the use of African popular culture in communicating development programmes in Africa
  2. Discuss some instances where popular culture was used in communicating development to the ruralites in Africa.

3.0 MAIN CONTENT

3.1 African Communication Systems and African Development

There have been quite some attempts to supplant traditional systems of communication with the modern mass media. This has not been successful and such attempt is likely to remain unsuccessful for sometime because of certain factors which have continued to foster not just the continuous existence of the traditional modes of communication but have also enhanced their continued occupation of a prime place in the communication pantheon of African people (Ibagaere, 1994).

From a historical perspective, the evidences of European intervention in the indigenous ways of interacting and communion among Africans are disturbing. This might account for Asante’s (2004:5) assertion that, …in the past it was easy to locate the discourse about Africa communication, …in the public sphere of other places and with the intellectual projects of Europeans and Asians, [which] means that African scholars abandoned their own historical experiences in order to imitate
what had occurred elsewhere…Disconnected and unhooked from community, people floated from place to place without the benefit of the profundity that comes from inner cultural resources

This suggests that in looking at communication for development in Africa, conception, planning, design and implementation must begin with Africans as actors (active participants) not spectators to positive changes in the continent because of individual differences and other intervening variables. Therefore,…if [development] is to be anything, in the context of African agency must mean the arrival of African people to a social, cultural, and economic place where the philosophies, opinions, and technologies supporting communication reflect Africa’s best interests and not those of the former
colonial or conquering position (Asante, 2004:6)

So, to enhance Africa’s development, it is necessary to have and maintain an orientation for the emergence of all communication strategies that utilise African communication modes and “an orientation towards the emergence of all technology with African interests in the centred position” (Asante, 2004:6).

3.2 Studies on the Use of Traditional Media to Communicate Development in Africa

To the non-African or the Nigerian urban dweller, it is very easy to conclude that all the sources of communication discussed so far, now belong to history. This is a misconception borne out of the fact that in most of our urban centres today, these media of communication are no longer visible (Ibagere, 1994), notwithstanding, the market place still serves as a very important source of information for most urban market traders. What is easily seen are the modern media of communication like radio, television, newspapers, magazines, et cetera. So,

It is quite understandable that certain mode [African communication forms] have become irrelevant in the present social scheme. Such modes as smoke and ashes have become irrelevant in modern cities and have been completely supplanted by the modern mass media. But these are still relevant today in the rural areas which continue to wallow in the particularistic [of] social patterns, described as hardly favouring the  operations of the modern mass media… (Ibagere, 1994:96)

The fact is that the traditional media of communication still exists but now largely restricted to the rural areas. The reality of the existence of the traditional media of communication is corroborated by Omu (1978:1) when he said of the town crier, “the town crier is very much a crucial part of village society and can still be seen in autonomous parts of urban centres with an established indigenous monarchy.” What now obtains in the rural areas is that in addition to the traditional media of communication, we now have modern media of communication. But the rural populace still depends heavily on the traditional sources for information. Ugbojah (1979:43) buttressed this view when he posited that, “most rural areas of Africa today rely on traditional information sources and can be regarded as non-participatory audience in terms of mass media usage.”

Again, Duyile (1979: 284-286) found out that the town crier was effectively used in revenue generation for the Lagos State Government in 1971. About 10,500 taxable adults in a town paid N10, 000 as taxes to officials of Lagos State Tax Board between September to November 1971 when the village announcer was introduced for the purpose of tax campaign drive in the area. If this number is compared with the same period in 1969/70 tax assessment year when only 2,000 people paid N3,600 as tax when no village announcer was used, but poster printed in Yoruba and English were extensively used.

On the continued relevance of the town crier, Duyile (1979: 284-286) stated that although there are radio receivers in Badagry and both radio-diffusion sets and radio receivers in Ibadan, Ijebu-Ode and Isale-Eko and other areas surveyed, coupled with supplies of daily newspapers, most of the people (both literate and illiterate) interviewed indicated that their source of information regarding the affairs of the village/community works and Oba’s decision, is always the village announcer not the newspaper nor radio. Thus the village announcer is regarded as the most dependable source of information in the affairs of the village.

However, in a survey conducted by Arinze (1986), amongst the people of Abagana in Anambara State, the researcher found out that while most of the inhabitants depended on the traditional media for information about the local environment, they relied on the radio for state, national and international news.

The continued predominance of traditional sources of information in a contemporary world characterised by modern media can ,therefore, be attributed to the low level of educational, social, economic and political development of the rural people. This state of affairs can be said to account for their adherence to the traditional media of communication.
In his study of folk media as a means of communication among the people of Ubulu-uku in Delta State, Chiejina (1981) found that people relied heavily on traditional information sources like the village gong man, the market square and the drum. These traditional media were found to be helpful in disseminating information on such issues like the building of schools and in health care delivery services.

Also, examining the role of communication media in self help development projects at Okpekpe in Etsako Local Government Area of Edo State, Egwume (1984) discovered that five major traditional media functioned to pass development information about a school project to the people of the community. These were the gong man, the Elders Council, the age grade association, the drums and songs.

Similarly in her study of the use of communication media towards the construction of Ikono-Ibon Comprehensive Secondary School in Ikono clan, Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa-Ibom State, Nkanga (1984) observed that in terms of importance of the medium in relation to its communicative function, the gong man/town crier ranked top. This rating is not surprising because it is the gong man who spreads the information to all and sundry and in all the nooks and crannies of the clan. In appealing to the people to work harder towards the accomplishment of the project, the Elder’s Council with its persuasive power and motivational drive also emerged as the most important. She further asserted that traditional communication networks are still very strong in Ikono clan that the modern mass media, especially radio are just beginning to show its face in the clan and that it would take quite sometime for the modern communication media to grow among the people, to the extent of threatening the effective use of the traditional media.

The ruralites need development so “the question of whether these modes are relevant should not even arise, because it is obvious that the development process in African societies cannot have any chance to take place in absence of these modes.” (Ibagere, 1994:96)

4.0 CONCLUSION

This unit examined the place of African popular culture in communicating development in Africa. It concludes that the ruralites need development and it is obvious that African popular culture is important in disseminating development information in African.

5.0 SUMMARY

This unit examined the need to use African popular culture in communicating development programmes in Africa, especially to the ruralites. It surveyed some
instances where popular culture was successfully used in communicating development to the ruralites in Africa.Finally, it advocated the use of African Popular culture in communicating development in Africa.

Self Assessment Exercise

i. What is the interplay between African communication systems and Africa’s development?

6.0 TUTOR MARKED ASSIGNMENT

i. Write down an instance where African popular culture was successfully employed in communicating development to your people.

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