Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Superstition In Africa, Good or Bad?

Good? Bad? Absurd? Funny?

In Africa, a lot of people attribute their misfortunes to witchcraft and this is not totally absurd as one would think but it's sometime funny

Read the popular  Yoruba proverb....
“A witch cried yesterday and the child died today, who does not know that witch that killed the child who died today?”

It's funny right? The fact that we attribute a child's death to a witch's cry early on, is a typical “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy. But such is the fear amongst people in certain cultures that no one will challenge this assertion even if they don't believe. If you think it's absurd wait, till you come face to face with some of these situations and see if you will put your @$$ on the line after a witch's

Superstition may not be an out right bad thing in society. In fact certain superstitious beliefs are ingrained in some African cultures as a good social control or moral check. For example it's the belief of some cultures that people should not sing at night because singing summons demonic serpents at night. It should be noted that this belief is important to check the noise levels especially by children at night, hence and advantage of perpetrating certain superstitious belief.

Some of these beliefs are perpetrated by the wise and elderly because of their foresight in affairs of life.  For example a seer had said long time ago before colonization that there will come 'butterflies'. Was this superstition? a prophesy or both? Well no one can tell but what I know is that he was warning his society of what would eventually came to be and when it happened the so called superstition became a fatal reality - the butterflies went on flying over our heads up until now I guess.

By the way though witchcraft and sorcery are potent superstitions in Africa, lets not get too judgmental   on Africans for superstitious beliefs are also very much grounded in the foreign worlds, only they don't call it superstition. They call these things nice names like psychics and witch doctors and stuff but hell they are all they same. Most of the world is superstitious, not just Africa. Many people in Britain for instance would not walk under a ladder, and are extra careful when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday (you must have heard of the popular “Friday the 13th” ), Some westerners claim to be able to predict the sex of a baby by dangling a wedding ring over a pregnant tummy! No Sir, superstition is not an 'African only' thing at all,but it's true superstition is very prevalent in Africa. I focus on Africa because Africa is my home and we need to at least get rid of all cruel and absurd practices in the name of belief. Note that I am not talking about religion, but just beliefs that hurt people and cause so much grief to Human beings in my beloved continent.

Here are a list  of a couple of superstitious beliefs in Africa from the top of my head. Note that there are many more in diverse cultures and this is not even 1% close to giving you a comprehensive list whatsoever.....(I always wanted to say that you know.....enjoy!)

1.In Most African countries, witches are believed to cause poverty, disease, accidents, business failures, famine, earthquake, infertility and childbirth difficulties.......this is prevalent in most African countries

2.Twins are considered to be evil and so are killed at birth to prevent them from growing old and causing this totally absurd. Thank God it seems to have changed over the past years

3.If a pregnant woman often miscarries a baby or a child dies soon after birth, subsequent babies  are believed to be the same baby coming back from some ancestral world. These babies are given crude scar marks on their bodies and are given ridiculous names that makes them, as it were, “unattractive in their spiritual world and hence force them to stay in this world”...This is very very absurd and it still Happens some parts of Africa with a tribe or two in Ghana engaging in such activities.

4.Then there's this great superstition concerning the worship of dead relatives and ancestors. People occasionally offer sacrifices and pour libation to these ancestors and ask for protection and guidance. Whilst this is a complete waste to valuable effort, it works for most of these people at least psychologically but there is the need to educate people to gain the understanding that the the dead cannot protect us....for if they could, why are they dead anyway?

5.Most traditional Africans believe they can predict imminent events and occurrences through omens and warnings. While a superstitious belief in omens may be favorable by giving people the confidence and motivation in their undertakings, it can be detrimental if it makes people abandon big plans and waste time undertaking activities that would, as it were prevent or improve the supposed bad future occurrences. In popular superstitions, certain cultures attribute  supernatural causes to natural phenomena like cosmos occurrences on certain days and timing of events; dreams; encounters with, and cries of, particular animals.

To Be Continued.......

Africa goes Mobile in a different way

        Interesting! how mobile phone has become common in Africa now. A few years ago, very few people used mobile phones and it was basically an fancy device used to show status and class (yes! class) in society. Now, in just less than a decade, mobile phone has evolved from being a luxury toy to becoming a very important companion that urban Africans can't do without. Though Africa has become the fastest growing mobile market in then world, Falling tariffs and ultra-low-cost mobile handsets in other parts of the world have curtailed aggressive roll-outs by mobile operators and this will see the current rate of subscriber addition maintained in already developed markets.

        Apropos these trends, an interesting twist has taken place in the way mobile phones will be used in the very near future especially in Africa. Major attention has gone into the use a mobile phone as a payment platform.....yes payment platform. This is a a very interesting concept considering the fact that the most of Africa has not even come to terms with the credit card systems or better yet most Africa is very much a 'cash' society rendering a credit card is almost useless. ATM cards are probably the best cashless method you get but bare in mind that machines are few and far apart in most cases.
This makes the idea of mobile payment platforms an even brilliant idea and very important for African economies. Many mobile operators are venturing into this sector to maximize profit and keep their subscribers happy with the most obvious problem being that transactions, though cashless, can only take place between users of the same operator/network. However there are operator-independent payment platforms that enables transactions across networks and operators.
This is an interesting area in the mobile market because mobile phones has become a companion of a regular African but there are questions that need to be answered about literacy and acceptance by the majority of the African populace. Poverty and illiteracy in Africa are both at high levels a problem arises on how they can effectively use these mobile platforms if it is to serve the entire continent well. Also whether or not people will totally embrace this new concept is a question that will best be answered in the future. Whatever happens, a lot of education and sensitization will go in to achieve acceptance and usage.

       It is also imperative that I write about this other awesome dimension that the mobile usage has taken. And this is in the area of market information. These are amazing new systems that literary puts the much needed African market information on a mobile phone. With the African market system being a somewhat disorganize and making it difficult to gather and interpret information properly, the major challenge bearer of this concept will be how to successfully get all these information together accurately. But the total realization such a technology on a mobile phone has started and will, given time massively affect economies of nations on the continent and livelihoods of individuals. Just think of how beneficial being able to get or upload prices of goods anywhere at anytime will be to the individuals not to talk of benefit to governments and other institutions in decision making and research.

       Now, if this is not awesome, then i don't know what is. Imagine how it would feel like if you can stay I bed and make payment of bills or walk in town will your money on a phone just like a credit card and oh you can get the price of anything, anywhere, anytime!!!(yeah that's what I'm talking about ;)). The possibilities are endless, just endless........
Note that these are not an exhaustive report about technologies that are empowering mobile phone usage in Africa and the world over but this should give you an idea of the excitement that some of these technologies are bringing to the African continent

    The implications of the mobile phone have yet to be fully realized. "Whether enabling insight into human behavior or empowering economic opportunities, the mobile phone is one of the most "transformive" technologies of our time"