Table of contents
- Editorial: Nigeria revisited,
by Gloria Emeagwali, Chief Editor
- Abstracts of papers presented
at the Conference on African Economic Development, CCSU, 18 November,
- Haines Brown, History Dept., C.C.S.U.,
Africa and the Net.
- F. Aiyejina, Eligy for my land.
- John Edward Phillips, Akita University, Myths
of twentieth century Hausa.
- Adeline Apena, Russell Sage College, Women's
cooperatives in Nigeria's food economy.
- William Thompson, CCSU student,
Screening sheet for "La vie est belle" and "Congo."
Editorial: Nigeria Revisited
by Prof. Gloria T. Emeagwali
Chief Editor of AfricaUpdate
In this issue of Africa Update we include
a few abstracts from the Second Annual Conference of African Studies,
CCSU, on November 18th 1995.
We are grateful to all those who made the conference
possible, including Prof. Ade Obayemi , former Director General of the
Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments and the Chief
Editor of African Technology Forum, MIT, Mawuli Tse, who gave the Plenary
Address. Dr. Tunde Zack-Williams of Central Lancashire University, Dr.
Stacey Close of ECSU, Dr. Eudora Chikwendu of SUNY, and Dr. Harvey Feinberg
of SCSU served as chairpersons and discussants along with Dr. Walton
Brown-Foster, Dr. Peter Os ei, Dr.Timothy Rickard, Dr. Haines Brown,
Prof. Sheri Fafunwa-Ndibe and Dr. Gabriel Alungbe. We extend special
thanks to Ms Lisa-Marie Fellage for her valuable assistance. Without
the support of Dean Clarke of Arts and Sciences and CCSU's financial
help, this conference would not have been possible.
We take this opportunity to express our gratitude
to our Visiting Fulbright Scholar from the University of Botswana, Dr.
Mpho Molomo, who participated in the conference as well, giving us insights
into the economic dimensions of Southern African p olitics. Dr. Molomo,
who holds a doctorate from Boston University and is a Senior Lecturer
at the University of Botswana, will be with us at CCSU this semester
in the Department of Political Science.
In the next few issues Africa Update will
include poems of Dr. Funso Aiyejina, a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at
Lincoln University and previously of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife,
Nigeria. His "Elegy For My Land" focuses on Nigeria, as do the other
two contributions in this issue from Dr. John Philips, Akita University,
Japan and Dr. Adeline Apena of Russell Sage College, New York.
Also in this issue is a comparative view of the
recent Hollywood production, "Congo" and Ngangura Mweze's "La Vie est
belle." In the previous issue of Africa Update Keim and Stimson
criticised Hollywood for failing to go beyond the "jungle melodrama"
that depicts Africa as exotic, dangerous and even bizarre. In most of
these movies apes and monkeys are the mediators between Nature and "civilization."
This jaundiced, simplistic and silly view of the African continent which
sees Africans as "tribesmen" and reduces Africa into a strip of "jungle"
is of course not confined to Hollywood, but emerged from the racist
view of colonial anthropologists. By comparing the cinematography of
"La vie est belle" with that of "Congo," William Thompson give s us
some insight into two contrasting perspectives and depictions of "reel"
Return to the table of contents
Abstracts of papers presented
at a conference on African Economic Development held
at Central Connecticut State University on 18 November, 1995
Development Theories and the Question of African
by Pade Badru, Pan African Studies and Sociology,
University of Louisville, Louisville, KY.
There is a definite pattern in the theories of development
with regards to their interpretation of the African economic crisis
and recovery. This pattern suggests some covert racism, and Eurocentric
Indeed, what is often proposed as a development science
is nothing more than a post-colonial dependency ideology. Africa thus
becomes a window for development experts, like the anthropologists, to
analyze the minds of the 'primitives' and the dark spot in human civilization.
This notion of African economic crisis is historical at best. The tradition/modernity
thesis, and the 'internal obstacles' perspective that characterize the
bulk of development theories, are themselves a reflection of ideologi
cal particularism in western social science. This arrogance and particularism
in social science has, to some extent, led many African scholars to characterize
western social sciences as a form of intellectual imperialism. This apparent
dogma in the libera l sciences, and the platitudinousness of some of the
concepts deployed in interpreting African economic crisis, have also led
African scholars to take a critical look at western-inspired development
ideology, that is often paraded as science.
This paper therefore evaluates the different development
theories in economics and sociology; theories that have guided African
development. This evaluation is necessary, given the continuing destruction
of economic possibilities for the African p oor by international financial
institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. For
instance, the implementation of structural adjustment programs (SAPs)
everywhere in the continent, the refusal of the industrialized West to
grant a remis sion of African debts, and the proliferation of imperialist
inspired warfare in the horn of Africa and elsewhere, are indications
that African economic crisis has more to do with the global politics and
the historical consequence of Africa's incorporation into the world system.
Somali women and alternative coping strategies
By Asha Samad Matias, Director, Women's Studies
Program, Professor of Africana Studies, City College, CUNY, NY.
The political, economic and environmental factors
that have radically changed the socio-cultural reality of Somali women
in the last ten years are discussed and analysed. Their current situation
in Somalia, in surrounding refugee areas and in distant host nations
are also reviewed. Their traditional and current political roles as
strong, dynamic women facing difficult situations and as possible peacemakers
and key team players in the development process constitute an important
aspect of the issues du scussed in the paper.
Indigenous Credit System, the Past and Present,
with Implication for Rural Economic Regeneration in West Africa; The
Case of Cameroon
By Kudsia Peter Gwangwa, Department of Economics,
Kingston University, UK.
This paper focuses on the indigenous financial system,
which was in practice in much of Africa, particularly West Africa, long
before colonization and persists to date. These credit systems are referred
to as the Rotating Savings and Credit Associat ions and the Rotating
Service Associations, known by the acronymns, ROSCAs and ROSAs respectively.
They have many local names in many parts of Africa; "tontins" "njange,"
"esusu," "asusu," etc. The objective is to improve the knowledge of
the combined r oles played by the indigenous credit systems in association
with the conventional credit system in the process of economic recovery
in the region. The aims of the paper are:
It has been argued that the conventional financial
system is superior to the indigenous system and that the indigenous system
should be replaced by the conventional system. By contrast, this paper
will argue that both systems have their merits an d demerits and that
it is only the combined function of both systems which will set Africa
well on the road to a sustainable and lasting economic recovery.
(i) To examine the part which the indigenous credit system has played
in the social, economic and political life of the peoples of West Africa;
(ii) Investigate how the introduction of conventional financial systems
and the sponsored credit programme in the colonial era led to institutional
dualism in the rural financial markets; and
(iii) Evaluate the different strands of academic debate on he subject,
in the context of economic empowerment and rural regeneration.
Radicalism and Alternative Economic Strategies
in Post-Independent Africa,
By Tayo Oke, University of Keele, Deptford, London,
The term "radical" is applied to people in different
political contexts in Africa: "Marxist," "Socialist," "Nationalist,"
"Pan-Africanist", "Trouble-Maker," "Anti-West," etc. On the terrain
of public debate over alternative economic strategies, the te rm has,
to a large extent, become a posturing label for some government ministers
and an unwelcome distraction for others.
The propensity to conduct policy on the basis of an
assumed meaning of the term has tended to blur the important distinction
between radicalism of an intellectual and non-intellectual kind. Consequently,
we need to posit the question: Who is a ra dical, and what in fact is
this thing called "radicalism?"
The anti-colonial struggle of the African nationalist
leaders harboured small but significant radical fringes dedicated to overhauling
the post colonial African economies in their entirety, but surrendering
of the radical vision became a price wor th paying for the attainment
of independence in many parts of Africa, hence Africa's continued economic
subjugation to the metropolitan countries of the West.
This paper retraces the radical vision of economic
liberation in Africa, and explains how it forms the nucleus of any future
attempts at economic recovery on the continent.
The Growth of Nigerian Entrepreneurship
By Don C. Ohadike, Africana Studies and Research
Center, Cornell University, NY.
Despite the nagging African economic decline, there
is a mounting evidence of a maturing entrepreneurial sophistication
in Nigeria. To appreciate this, one must acquaint oneself with the history
of Nigerian entrepreneurship in the pre-colonial, coloni al, and post-colonial
One of the prime objectives of this paper is to demonstrate
that Nigerian entrepreneurs have made a remarkable progress during the
last thirty years despite the problems of an unstable political climate,
harsh IMF conditionalities, an ever-declini ng purchasing power of Nigerian
exports, and downward sliding income levels. These problems notwithstanding,
Nigerian entrepreneurs have advanced from trading and transporting into
such specialized enterprises as distillery, banking, air transportation,
pharmaceutical, chemical engineering, computer servicing and building
auto-parts manufacturing. Along with these advances is the adoption of
highly sophisticated systems of labor mobilization and training, and advanced
local and overseas investment strat egies. One important feature of Nigerian
entrepreneurship is its resilience and ability to advance during periods
of crisis. The current adjustment crisis, notwithstanding, the more sophisticated
entrepreneurs have graduated from modest beginnings and ha ve become multi-billion
naira businesspersons. Some are directors of multinational corporations,
some have overseas investments and others have forged partnerships with
The paper therefore argues that the more progressive
Nigerian entrepreneurs are as sophisticated as their European and Southeast
Asian counterparts, and that it is they (not the government) who will
pull the country out of economic uncertainty int o an era of economic
growth and development. The paper concedes, however, that this would happen
only after the two nagging problems of an unstable political climate and
an unfavorable adjustment exercise have been surmounted.
Africa in Crisis: Beyond Structural Adjustment
By Tunde Zack-Williams, Dept. of Sociology, University
of Central Lancashire, UK.
The paper calls into question post-colonial development
strategy in Africa, in particular the failure to rupture colonial production
relations. A "false start," as Rene Dumont warned, led to greater dependence
on the world capitalist system over whic h Africa had no control. In
most cases the monocultural economies were retained as the basis of
a rentier state. By the late 1960's and early 1970's structural crises
had emerged. This led to greater dependence on the world capitalist
system over which Africa had no control. The crisis reached a climax
when external and domestic forces resulted in dwindling foreign exchange
earnings which forced the political leaders to seek help from the Bretton
Woods institutions. Soon the policy recommendations of the international
financial institutions (IFI) became defined as a sine qua non for all
the economic problems of Africa. Far from being a panacea, however,
IFI conditionalities worsened the plight of African economies, destroying
social groups and commun ities and leading to the growing illegitimacy
of the African state. The paper argues that it is now time to go beyond
these conditionalities, and seek genuine African alternatives
Women, Cooperatives and Economic Recovery in Nigeria
By Eudora Chikwendu, Department of Black Studies,
SUNY, New Paltz, NY.
Nigerian women's participation in cooperatives is
analyzed within the framework of the global and African regional platforms
of action for the advancement of women, and within the framework of
the cooperative principles of equality of members. Nigeri a, along with
other African nationals endorse the platform for the economic and political
empowerment of all women at all levels and stages of their lives under
the principles of equal partnership between men and women, so that women
could become active c ontributors and beneficiaries of all aspects of
Women's participation in cooperatives is considered
by governments and international development agencies as an avenue for
the advancement of women. Nigerian women have responded positively to
cooperative membership and production. Nigerian women in cooperatives
function within the existing cultural milieu of male dominance and exploitation
of women's labor. These experiences are illustrated in the paper.
The paper recommends the particpatory approach to
cooperative formation, either in mixed gender settings or in women-only
cooperatives. Women's tremendous skills at agricultural production, craft
production, and food/fish processing can best be m odernized through cooperatives.
Addressing the impediments that women face in cooperatives is a necessary
step to the full realization of the great potential benefits of cooperatives
for women's economic empowerment.
Return to the table of contents
Africa and the Net
By Haines Brown, C.C.S.U. History Department
Although Web pages are fashionable, FTP sites useful
for storing and moving documents, gopher servers for ordering documents
for retrieval, the principal value of Internet remains e-mail and e-mail
based discussion forums ("lists"). Therefore I would l ike to use my
column in this issue to make better known some recent lists related
- Africa-N (firstname.lastname@example.org). Africa
News and Information Service.
- Afrik-IT (email@example.com). Professional
interest in African IT/Telematics.
- AfriLabor (AFRLABOR-Request@acuvax.acu.edu).
Chris Lowe's active, scholarly list.
- afrique (firstname.lastname@example.org). Active; in
- baro (email@example.com). In subject line: New Member.
Africa and diaspora for Africans and Africanists.
- Ethiolist (firstname.lastname@example.org). Concerning
- H-Africa (email@example.com). H-Net list to support
students and teachers of African history.
- history-Vasco (firstname.lastname@example.org). Vasco
da Gama. Use JOIN command. List very inactive.
- Kamusi-L (listserv@YaleVM.CIS.Yale.Edu). Living
Swahili Dictionary (Kamusi) List
- LeoneNet (email@example.com). Sierra Leonean
- lis-middle-east (firstname.lastname@example.org). Join
command. Middle East and Islamic collections and bib.
- MENA-H (listserv@ULKYVM.louisville.edu). History
of the Mideast and North Africa
- Mozambique news bulletin. For information, contact
Wenke Adam at: email@example.com
- Naija-News (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Obi Taiwan's Nigerian News Update. Quiet.
- nuafrica (email@example.com). Northwestern
Univ. studies program. Africa in general; active.
- Nubia (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Discussion of various topics on Sudanese Nubia.
- Oromo-Net (email@example.com) Or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Oromo people of esp. Ethiopia.
- slavery (email@example.com). History of
slavery, slave trade, abolition, and emancipation.
- Swazi-Net (Majordomo@list.pitt.edu). Swazi culture,
history, politics, etc. at home and in the diaspora.
- Zimnet (firstname.lastname@example.org [not sub address?]). Zimbabweans
and friends of Zimbabwe.
Return to the table of contents
Elegy for my land
By F. Aiyejina
Visiting Fulbright Scholar, Lincoln University,
And when it came time to surrender the
In accordance with a long standing covenant,
He proclaimed himself a full-bodied elephant
Too heavy to be moved by the old or their clone.
Incensed, we made for the abode of the Oracle
To request a consultation with History.
When the priest emerged, he was drunk with the story
Of the Princess who designed the ultimate obstacle:
"Let he who would be my husband be informed:
My bride price shall be the elephant - alive!
Proof that he's man enough for the honey in my hive."
"No creepers can tether the elephant," her suitors wailed.
When none dared, the tortoise ventured
Into the forest, on the trail of the mighty elephant
Armed with a range of delicacies - honey coated -
And a song promising him a throne from the Orient.
Dizzy with expectation, the elephant danced
to his banquet
Until, too late, he was a captive king in a trap pit.
Today, he is a pet to the Princess of the impossible.
And she? Wife to the midget who achieved the unachievable.
But if he's learnt to defuse the traps under
Let us remind him of the fate of the headstrong calabash:
When, in spite of their patience, it yielded only trash
The villagers trashed it with Sango's thunderstones.
Return to the table of contents
Myths of twentieth century Hausa 1
By Dr. John Edward Phillips
Assoc. Prof. Akita University of Economics and
Hausa is one of the largest and most important of
all Afr ican languages. It is spoken as a first language by tens of
millions of people from Ghana to the Sudan, and is the dominant language
in northern Nigeria and southern Niger. It is used as a sec ond language
by others. Several Hausa newspapers are published in Nigeria and Niger.
Hausa is also used by broadcast media, not only in West African countries,
but by international shortwave broadcast organizations from outside
the area, including the B BC, VOA, Radio Moscow, Radio Deutsche Welle,
Radio Beijing, and Radio Cairo.
Hausa also has a long literary
tradition, dating back to the 17th century, when such Hausa poets as
Dan Marina and Dan Masani (both from Katsina) began to write Hausa in
the Arabic script, known as Hausa Ajami. 2 Ha usa
Ajami was developed further in succeeding centuries. Many books and
pamphlets (and occasionally newspapers) have been published in this
script so it is still extant. Nonetheless, when Hausa was chosen as
a language of administration by the colonial administration of Northern
Nigeria (one of the few local languages in all Africa to be used for
colonial administrative purposes), the decision to adopt a modified
roman alphabet was made.
Much has been assumed about the reasons behind the
switch to Romanized Hausa, and even the decision to use Hausa as a language
of administration, but little research has been done on these topics.
Recent research by this author has shown that man y of these assumptions
about colonial language policy made both by Nigerians and expatriate
researchers are false. In particular, it is often assumed that the use
of Hausa as an administrative language and the related Hausa language
examinations for civi l servants were part of a Hausacization policy
pursued by the Sardauna of Sokoto after independence. It
is also often assumed that the adoption of Romanized Hausa was favored
by "as one might expect, missionaries such as Charles Henry Robins on
and administrative officers such as Alder Burdon." 3
Brigadier (later Lord) Frederick John Daltry Lugard
was the conquerer and first High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria. Even
before the conquest of the territory was complete he had found that
lack of knowledge of local languages, especially Hausa , was detrimental
to his administration. Without an understanding of
African languages administrative officers were "wholly in the hands
of their interpreters, who are, as a class, scoundrels." 4
When language examinations were first suggested
there was little interest in them. Most of the replies to the first
circular asking about interest in taking language examinations were
"No." Among the few officers willing to consider taking such examinations
were Alder Burdon, who asked if there were any personal advantages to
be gained from taking them, and Captain C.W. Moloney, who expressed
interest, but refused to be examined in Ajami, which he said had been
invented by missionaries.
Captain Moloney was soon murdered
in Zaria on October 3, 1902 as a direct result of his failure to acquire
fluency in Hausa. 5 From this time on colonial officers
would be required to pass a succession of examinatio ns in Hausa language.
These tests have been a requirement for serving in the Northern Nigerian
civil service even in independent Nigeria.
Many Nigerians have assumed that such tests were
imposed as part of a Hausacization and Islamization policy by the first
Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto,
and thus represent ethnic domination by the Hausa. In fact such tests
were carried over from the colonial administration. Lugard had been
reluctant to teach Africans English, since this would [permit] them
to know what the British were up to. He insisted that British officers
must know Hausa (and anothe r language if they could learn it). Thus
there is a wealth of linguistic data (not only on Hausa but also on
minority languages) which was collected and stored in the Nigerian Archives
during the colonial period for purposes of military intelligence.
Lugard's decision to use Hausa was actually a result
of the fact that the language was widely spoken in the minority, "Middle
Belt" areas of Nigeria, especially the Jos Plateau and adjacent areas.
It was in these areas that Lugard hoped to recrui t his soldiers, using
Hausa as a means of communication with them.
I do not consider it politic to enlist
too great a number of Mohammadens [sic] as soldiers... It is a religion
which renders Africans liable to wild bursts of religious frenzy...
Our recent experience has taught us that the pagan [sic] G waris, Kedara,
and other tribes yield to none in bravery. They all speak Hausa, and
I hope to enlist many as soon as we get in touch with them at the new
headquarters It is in fact, my intention to make the
West African Frontier Force, as f ar as possible, a Hausa-speaking pagan
Was the decision to use Romanized Hausa as the official
administrative language another example of "divide and rule" policies?
Did missionaries want to hinder communication between these minority
groups, with whom Lugard was filling the army, and Hausa Muslims? Did
they therefore convince Lugard to use Roman script in place of the then
In fact missionaries and administrators were divided
about the issue of Romanization. As noted above, Captain
Moloney actually thought Ajami was a Church Missionary Society invention.
J.A. Burdon, Resident in Sokoto, was a partisan of Ajami and submitted
memoranda arguing in great detail for the continued use of the traditional
script. 7 It was also strongly advocated by Canon
Charles Henry Robinson, who claimed that "the Hausas have every right
to be considered a civilized nation...they have reduced
their language to writing and have started schools throughout their
country for the teaching of their children." 8 Missionary
presses were publishing in Hausa Ajami as late as the
But other missionaries were opposed to continued
use of Arabic script. Mr. J.D. Macintyre of the C.M.S. mission in Lokoja
argued that "Algemie" (as he called it) was not true Arabic script.
To demonstrate this he forwarded to Luga rd a sample
of Qur'anic Arabic written in a west African style (not Hausa Ajami)
but Lugard could not tell the difference. 10
In fact none of these administrators and missionaries
had any effect on a decision that had already been made. Lugard
had already privately notified an apprehensive colonial officer that
roman script would be used to w rite Hausa in the colonial administration.
11 Lugard knew so little of the issues involved that
he actually wrote a letter to the Sudan, asking if they had had any
success in publishing Arabic books in Roman script. 12
a> There is no record of any reply in the files. On another occasion
he said that if Roman script were used instead of Arabic then colonial
officers need learn only one "language" instead of two.
No one would mistake Lugard for a
linguist or an educator. He was a professional soldier. He will not
go down in history as one of the great generals of all time, but he
did (after all) win. He also had a military understanding of the importanc
e of languages in intelligence work. His misunderstanding of the issues
involved in choosing a script for the administrative language of his
newly conquered territory is an example of the truth of the American
saying: "There are three ways to do anything : the right way, the wrong
way, and the army way."
Instead of the usual colonial policy
of "divide and rule," the long and complicated story of the creation
of Romanized Hausa as the official language of administration was a
very British tale. Space does not permit printing the full details of
thi s fiasco in this issue (which continued until the adoption of a
reform Hausa roman orthography in the 1930s), but it is an interesting
episode in the history of colonialism. It
should serve as a caution to those who, ignorant of the real le gacy
of colonialism, advocate a return to that system of one people administering
the affairs of another. 13
- This brief report is based on
"The History of Hausa Orthography" and "Northern Nigerian Language
Examinations: the Case of Hausa" (both forthcoming in Senri Ethnological
Report from the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan) .
It is a result of archival and other research carried out on a grant
from the Japanese Ministry of Education, "Ethnological Study of language
policy and culture change in West Africa" (principal investigator
Paul Eguchi). A less abridged version of th e final paper has also
been published in Nigeria as "The History of Hausa Orthography" Abuja
Journal of Humanities vol. 1 no. 2 (1994). Other research papers
which have resulted from this research include "The Origins of Northern
Nigerian Langua ge Policy: Lugard and Hausa (1900-1906)" in The
Sokoto Caliphate and the European Powers: 1890-1906 edited by
Paul Lovejoy, Abdullahi Mahadi and Ahanmu Adebayo (Ahmadu Bello University
Press). Return to text.
- Yahaya, I.Y. Hausa a Rubuce:
Tarihin Rubuce-Rubuce cikin Hausa (Zaria, 1988). Return
- Gregersen, Edgar A. "Successes
and Failures in the Modernization of Hausa Spelling," chapter 15 in
Frishman, J.A. Advances in the Creation and Revision of Writing
Systems (1977). Return to text.
- Lugard, letter to Alfred Lyttleton,
Secretary of State for Colonies, September 20, 1904 (Nigerian Archives
Kaduna, SNP 7-4284). Return to text.
- The exact circumstances surrounding
Moloney's death and even the identity of the person who killed him
are still in dispute. However, all sources agree that what got him
in trouble was the lies which his interpreter was telling, lies whi
ch he himself was not even aware of. For detailed accounts see Adeleye,
R.A. Power and Diplomacy in Northern Nigeria 1804-1906 (London,
1971) pages 264-267 and Muffet, D.J.M. Concerning Brave Captains
(London, 1964) chapter 5, pages 62-6 8. Return to text.
- Lugard Northern Nigeria
Annual Reports number 346 (1900-1901) page 23. Return
- August 26, 1907 from Major Alder
Burdon in Nigerian Archives (Kaduna) SNP-2594/1907. Return
- Robinson, C.H. Nigeria,
Our Latest Protectorate (London, 1900) p. 7. Return
- St. John's Gospel in Hausa
(Aljemi [sic] character: Bishara daga hannun Yuhanna (London,
1937). Return to text.
- Letter of March 9, 1904 to
Lugard in Nigerian Archives (Kaduna) SNP7-2594/1907. Return
- Letter of October 29, 1902
from the Secretary, Northern Provinces to Resident, Muri, in Nigerian
Archives (Kaduna) SNP7-43.42/1902. Return to text.
- August 6, 1905 from Lugard
in England to Principal, Khartoum college in Nigerian Archives (Kaduna)
SNP7-2594/1907. Return to text.
- Pfaff, William "A New Colonialism,"
Foreign Affairs January/February 1995. Return
Return to the table of contents
Women's cooperatives in Nigeria's food economy
By Adeline Apena
Russell Sage College, Troy, New York
A sense of community is basic to the belief system,
social organization and systems of the Nigerian peoples. These dynamics
also govern all forms of social and inter-personal relations. This study
claims that the concept and practice of cooperation is native to the
women in Nigeria.
Women have been cooperating from childhood to old
age in different associations: age-grades, occupational/work-groups,
credit associations, market and dance groups. Each of these have social,
economic and political significance and implication.
Though the modern cooperatives are based on the
traditional concept of cooperation, they differ to a large extent. They
cater to an increasing population that exhibits greater diversity and
specialization. The cooperatives are empowered by na tional policies
and movements. They are supported by some basic facilities and infrastructures
to enhance production and promote their productive energies and visions.
The objectives of modern cooperatives go beyond
producing food for the people. It includes education and public enlightenment
campaigns to inform members,organization of female youth clubs into
farm clubs, mobilizing women to embrace cooperatives as strategies for
self-improvement,display of farm produce and improved methods of processing,
storage and preparation of food. In addition, members organize credit
system through regular contributions out of which they took loans for
expansion of busines s and to cater for emergent situations. It is clear
that members shared more comprehensive goals than traditional cooperators.
As government and the people battle with regularity of essential food
supplies; inflation, rising costs and unemployment reduced affordability.
Women as the majority farmers were saddled with the responsibility of
ensuring food supplies.
These dynamics partly explain why women cooperatives
became crucial factors in the economy, especially food agriculture.
Women cooperatives organize farms at two levels:
individual and cooperative. Most cooperative farms measure five acres
while individual farms are smaller. Yields are about one ton per hectare.
The pressure of increased demand food stimulate intensive activities
on the farmers. Poultry and livestock are significant engagements among
women in the northern parts of the country where conditions are more
favorable to animal husbandry. On the other hand, fishing is more important
among women coop eratives in riverain and coastal areas.
Though the implements used in farming are the traditional
cutlasses and hoes, regular supplies are obtained at lower rates through
the local and state governments. Fertilizers and insecticides are increasingly
being applied in cooperative and indi vidual farms.Supplies are obtained
from the state and local governments. Before this period, ashes were
used to control insects and pests. But, this was inadequate. Consequently
most crops were devastated by pests resulting in waste in labor and
scarce fi nancial resources. Also ashes were used as a fertilizer. Inaddition,
the method of shifting cultivation enabled farms to regain fertility.
But this was a slow process which did not necessarily expedite harvest
of good yields at frequent intervals. On the other hand, use of fertilizers
and insecticides enhanced production and supplies of food at regular
intervals. These innovations are important landmarks in the history
of agriculture in Nigeria. The use of tractors for bulldozing of land
is increasingly b ecoming a common feature in rural areas.
Tractors are owned by the local and state government
departments of agriculture and are leased to cooperatives for clearing
Processing of food is an important dimension in
food production. Most of the food items found in markets are processed
items. There are innovations in methods of processing. Locally manufactured
and imported mills are steadily and increasingl y used for processing
even in the remotest villages. They are economical in terms of cost
of processing. They save time, energy and increase output. Increase
in output results in increase in sales and earnings. What is important
for this study is that the y are able to provide regular food supplies
in both local and urban markets.
Food preservation is still done by the traditional
methods of drying, smoking, frying, and use of additives such as salt
and pepper. Nothing seems to have been done to improve and modernize
this stage of the industry. The same story goes for storage. Storage
is still largely done in huts, barns, pyramids, and through suspension
of crops. Are these traditional methods able to cope with the level
of demands. It may be contended that the gap between the different stages
of production and overal l demand reflect disarticulation in the general
economy. Also, it points to the fact that Nigeria is still largely not
an industrial society and is lagging behind in modern technology. Further
it demonstrates some of the contradictions between the rural a nd urban
Unlike the traditional ones, modern cooperatives
have a financial advantage. Women are able to access loans from banks,
using the cooperatives as guarantors. For the first time, women in the
private rural sector are affected by developments i n the modern sector.
Quoting a rural woman from the Delta Region of Nigeria, "no one ever
remembered us before now, we were never part of the system, never would
any government think of giving us loans, we just depended on our selves
and whatever we are a ble to eke out."
This is a positive and important step in liberalization
of society and general uplifting of women. Apart from empowering women,
such financial advantages invigorate food production.
Women cooperatives in Niger state exemplify how
access to the modern banking sector is benefitting rural agriculture.
Between 1987-1989, the number of women agricultural cooperatives increased
to 26. In 1989, members of these cooperatives were ab le to obtain the
sum of ten thousand Naira (about one thousand dollars) from two banks:
Agricultural and Cooperative Bank and United Bank for Africa. These
funds were used to purchase such machinery as grinding mills. In addition,
these loans complement t raditional credit obtained from regular contributions
by members of the cooperatives. As already mentioned, the women are
able to produce a ton of grain per hectare. This is a considerably high
level of production, especially as the women farmer continue s to rely
on the use of hoes and cutlasses, implements that are not capable of
ensuring large scale production. It is interesting to note that the
liquidity of women cooperatives is sufficiently high for them to undertake
small scale lending to men in ne ed of investment funds.
Formation of women cooperatives for farming are
increasing.In 1991, the number was 3000. The Centre for Rural Development
and Co-operatves,University of Nigeria Nsukka, supports women cooperatives
by undertaking national cooperative education pro gram which trickle
down to the rural women through public lectures and workshops organised
at the local government levels.
The administration of the cooperatives is democratic
based on the ideas of sharing and cooperation in traditional associations.
But there is a major change in nature of leadership. Leadership is now
controlled by educated members in the assoc iation. This emphasises
the value of education for social mobility and enhancement of status.
Cooperatives encourage literacy and public enlightenment among its members
to eradicate ignorance.
The female farmers continue to depend on traditional
implements: hoes and cutlasses. These implements are inadequate for
large scale production. They limit the energies and efforts of farmers
and prevent them from optimal exploitation of resourc es and production.
Reference is made to a huge lag in the use of machinery,
especially for storage and processing. It may be asserted that these
stages are still in the "gap." There is evidence of waste during harvest
seasons as a result of inadequate storage facili ties and preservation.
The relatively high humidity in most parts of Nigeria is not conducive
to preservation of food. Therefore there are shortages of some vital
food items during the post-harvest seasons. There is no doubt that women
cooperatives have b ecome effective actors in food production and supplies.
They constitute a milestone in rural agriculture. They are slowly but
steadily opening a new era in food industry. But more attention needs
to be directed to these levels in the production process th at are still
in the gap, to uplift them from stone-age to modern standards. Women
in the rural areas need the benefit of modern technology to produce
effectively for an expanding market. The education program of the cooperatives
should be more vigorously pursued so that the women are able to appreciate
modern developments, and they need to be more involved in the growth
process of their communities.
The prospects for women's cooperatives in Nigeria
are strong and positive. The women represent the ideals in their communities.
They combine the strength traditions of their people and through education
harness the advantages of the modern sector of the society.
Reliance on rural agriculture for food supplies
make these cooperatives indispensable institutions. As grass-root rural
farmers, they have a primary role in promoting the sustenance and welfare
of people. The involvement of women in production mak es it imperative
for government and society in Nigeria to address some of the constraints
that face women in both the traditional and modern sectors of society.
There is an urgent need to reconcile some of the contradictions in rural
agriculture. For exam ple more facilities should be provided to women
for purchase land for agriculture. It is through such responses and
support that drive for self-sufficiency in healthy and balanced food
supplies can be promoted and sustained in Nigeria.
Return to the table of contents
Screening Sheet for "La vie est belle" and "Congo"*
by William Thompson
CCSU student (History 497, African History Through
I. Cinematic qualities
A. "La vie est belle" was produced in Kinshasha,
Zaire's capital of four million. In contrast, the Hollywood motion picture,
"Congo," was supposed to be filmed in a remote section of Zaire, but
B. The jovial mood is conveyed throughout most of
"La vie est belle"" through filming on location in night clubs and the
lively streets of Kinshasha. We are presented with a modernized view
of Africa, rather than "Congo's" "jungle" melodrama. Furt hermore, African
sounds are not those of wild exotic animals as heard in "Congo," but
contemporary musical tunes produced by black Africans.
II. References to other works
1. The actors in "Congo" have played roles in
various other American films, and to the best of my knowledge, those
in "La vie est belle," have not been featured elsewhere.
2. "La vie est belle" tells a "rags to riches"
story by means of a unique story-line. In comparison, "Congo" unveils
the classic "Americans into and out of African jungle" adventure with
a sensationalistic twist. Nonetheless, both of the movies ' general
concepts have been used many times previously.
III. Themes of "encounter"
A. Defining "Africa"
1. In "La vie est belle," Africa is pictured
as a thriving "modernized" region. Real people exist in this place with
"real" problems and dreams. "Congo" is based in the rain forest, and
for the most part, does not expose black Africans as real people, but
merely as part of the background.
2. Africans are respected and are displayed with
extreme cultural accuracy in "La vie est belle." In "Congo," the viewer
learns more about Zaire's "jungle" than its people.
1. "La vie est belle" represents its African
characters in a variety of different areas comparable to those in Zaire.
In contrast, the African characters in "Congo" are limited to such roles
as "tribal people," trackers, corrupt governmen t officials, and gun
IV. Historical frame of film's release
A. Events in America or Africa that this film comments
1. A very minute part of "Congo" does touch
on Africa's political environment, but the main focus is geared towards
a "jungle" adventure in Africa. In comparison, parts of "La vie est
belle" address Zaire's political environ ment, but focus primarily on
its post-colonial urban culture rooted in survival.
Return to the table of contents
* This screening sheet is derived from Keim and
Stimson's screening sheet of "King Solomon's Mines." For a related discussion,
see Keim and Stimson, "Africa at the Movies," Africa Update,
Vol. 11, no. 4 (1995).
Please send comments to Tennyson Darko