The former president of Ghana, John Mahama, was the keynote speaker at a conference centred on reviving African dignity, held at Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium on Wednesday. Photo: Supplied.

DURBAN – The former president of Ghana, John Mahama, told an audience in Durban on Wednesday that in order for Africans to restore their dignity and self-confidence, the continent’s inherent values needed to be known and understood.

“We must take a hard look at our history and realise that the values of sharing, creating, producing – of being truly independent - of pride and belief in ourselves, can all be harnessed to affect our current circumstances and leave a better future for posterity,” said Mahama.

He was speaking at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on the first day of the Pan-African Conference Programme, hosted by eThekwini Municipality, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, department of science and technology and others.

Also in attendance were learners, cooperative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, acting eThekwini mayor Fawzia Peer and a host of academics and other dignitaries.

“We must admit that our dignity has been compromised as Africans and we must reclaim our self confidence as a people. This is crucial because the Africa we want must necessarily be anchored on a people who have the assurance of full control of their circumstances and their future,” said Mahama.

“The painted cloth of Ghana, the astrology of the Dogon people of Mali, the paintings in the caves of great Zimbabwe, the writings of Somalia, the terracotta, iron, bronze, gold, silver intricate artworks found all over Africa are a story of a once flourishing civilisation.

“These all remind us what our forebears were able to accomplish with the rudimentary tools available to them.  It also inspires us as to what we can achieve with all the technology and knowledge available to our current generation.”

It was necessary for Africa to write its own history, said Mahama, free of a Western narrative.

“The West has always defined Africa and told our history from their point of view. Perhaps we cannot fault outsiders for allocating themselves the power of telling the African story. After all, they were at the exploiting end of slavery and the slavery of trade.

“And they amplified their power and control, and by extension their voice, with the colonisation of Africa itself. They supplanted the African way of life and knowledge systems and introduced to the colonies Western education, culture and religion. Using these tools, they told their Western story and proceeded to tell the African story as well.

“Yet the brutal, inhumane transatlantic slave trade ended almost 200 years ago. Today every African country has gained its independence and there is not a single one that is currently under European domination. The question is, have we as a people finally shaken off the shackles of Western, European control? And the answer is no we haven’t, not yet."

Africa’s interaction with Western civilisation had compelled its inhabitants to discard inherent value systems, he said, and while all civilisations were influenced by others, “unfortunately Africa’s intersection with other cultures has led to either Arabisation or Westernisation”.

 African News Agency (ANA)