Africa, Life, Opinion, World

Westernization or Traditionalism: Africa under Western Influence

Africa is a continent full of diversity. Other than the immense wealth of natural resources, there also exists a rich diversity in demographical characteristics, cultures, and traditions. With Africa now becoming increasingly westernized, these indigenous cultures and traditions are at risk of being wiped out. But they won’t go quietly, there is a fierce battle of westernization vs. traditionalism on the continent.

Of the over 1.2 billion resident in Africa, 1500 different ethnic languages are spoken. In most cases, each ethnic language represents an ethnic group with its own traditions, beliefs, and way of life. That means that there are over a thousand different sets of customs or cultures spread across Africa.

Before the onset of the Europeans in the scramble for Africa, each ethnic group conducted its way of life independent of their adjacent neighbors. And though there existed friendly interactions, such as trade and inter-marriages, war and enmity were also common. These would be mainly fueled by the differences or similarities between their cultures. Older generations would teach the younger ones who would, in turn, teach their younger ones on the ways of the tribe and in so doing, the culture was preserved. Leadership would be also be handed over to subsequent generations or age groups and so on.

Colonization and Westernization of Africa

The entrance of the white man marked the onset of cultural jitters. First came the missionaries tagging with them churches, schools, and hospitals. Africans at the time received them with mixed feelings. There were those who welcomed them warmly and more so because of the hospitals; the white man’s medicine appeared to be more effective than the traditional medicine. But again there were those who received them cautiously especially because of the strange skin color. As if to confirm their fears, the colonizers came shortly after. And while the missionaries had come with bibles and medicine, the colonizers came with guns and whips.

There followed a long period of resistance, war, and a struggle for independence, but finally, the Europeans had to leave. But as the white men sailed back home, their impact on the African indigenous cultures could be seen. They left religion, schools, hospitals, exotic crops, livestock, technology and a way of life very different from what the Africans were accustomed to. These have decades later formed the basis for the battle of cultures as a traditional values try to stay relevant in a westernizing Africa.

Africa Loses Traditional Values and Culture

During the colonial period in Africa, the generation that lived then was exposed firsthand to this new culture. There were those who strongly resisted, while others sailed along for the benefits. For instance, those who received a formal education were eligible to join the government, teach in schools and practice medicine. It is this generation that gave birth to the current generation which is now more western than traditional and forms the majority of the entire African population.

Today, the level of Abrahamic religions in Africa stands at over 80%. Formal education up to tertiary level and modern medicine, though not yet accessible to every African, can be found in every single country. Internet and modern technology have also played a great part in the change of culture. With this increased knowledge, traditional African practices were dropped. Traditions such as cultural dressing codes and traditional medicine while yet other traditions such as female circumcision are now condemned and seen as barbaric.

Moral Decay Due to Westernization of Africa

As a rejoinder, the older generation now views the youngsters as wicked, mindless, and immoral. They lament how the western culture has eroded the morals and values of Africanism from their children and instead imparted wickedness in them. They complain of how they have left healthy traditional food and now crave for processed foods, how they have stopped wearing clothes and now walk half-nude in public, how they now disrespect their elders, how girls who used to stay at home and cook like their mothers now club, party, and drink like their fathers.

Other than that, religion has been blamed for going against cultural practices such as wife inheritance, polygamy, female circumcision, consulting of witchdoctors, drinking beer and smoking. All these were practices carried out vibrantly, but are now about to die slowly due to westernization.

It is for these reasons that the older Africans strongly condemn the western culture in Africa. Some have now gone ahead and tried to speak with the younger generation on their traditions in a bid to keep them alive. But as things are, the writing is on the wall for traditional African culture. The only hope for preserving it now is to put it down on books and store them in museums.

About Alex Muiruri

Alex is a passionate writer based in Kenya. He's also a professionally trained health officer and a great enthusiast of science and technology. Besides writing, he enjoys doing motivational speaking and possesses strong opinions on life. He's a lover of people and enjoys good company. He's also a devoted Christian, but respects the beliefs of others.

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