Harnessing Culture for Economic Development Part II & Final

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fact that culture and economic development are perpetually infused and inseparable. Recognizing this fact, Eritrea is striving to spin its glorious culture into economic development. Development will thrive if the culture thrives and it will remain strong if the culture remains strong. Without promoting and preserving our rich and prosperous culture, it is impossible to dream of improving our people’s livelihood. It is also true that our culture not only promotes development, but also guarantees its sustainability.

 

Therefore, we have to give full play to our unique cultural advantages to maintain unity, cohesion, peace and prosperity. However on the path to development nothing proceeds in a straight line as there are many pitfalls along the way.

It is hard to ignore the fact that if there is no peace and stability, we can’t think of any development. So, culture not only plays a significant role in promoting and sustaining economic development, but also in eliminating all kinds of obstacles that hinder it. Eritrea’s culture has made a remarkable contribution towards overcoming its difficulties, achieving its independence, developing its economy, preserving its unity and maintaining its dignity.

Throughout the 30-year war for independence, the Eritrean people displayed courage, nationalism and enthusiasm to sacrifice their lives for their land and defeat their enemy without support from the outside world. As such, the Eritrean revolution was hard with many twists and turns and demanded many sacrifices. The gallant fighters endured countless ups and downs to end the bloody and bitter war.

Because the UNSC paid a deaf ear to the call of the Eritrean people for justice, the E.P.L.F. raised the Eritrean patriotism to a new high, strengthened the unity of the people and organized strong Eritrean community across the world, including inside Eritrea. The Diaspora raised huge amount of funds from Eritreans abroad to support the independence struggle. While the valiant and steadfast fighters captured tens of tanks, heavy artillery guns and other weapons from Ethiopia ironically, the reliable supplier. We have conquered all huge challenges and difficulties through sacrifice, determination and dedication.

Eritrean nationalism developed against the background of Italian Colonialism in the 20th century. It was grown and developed on the fertile ground of our culture which further favored it to gather momentum in the 1940s with the emergence of political parties. It reached its height with the beginning of armed struggle in 1960 and especially after the birth of the E.P.L.F. in 1970. So, it is a driving force for enhancing patriotism and national pride.

Even after independence, the Eritrean Diaspora, in addition to the contribution they are to achieve economic growth, they are offering financial support to martyrs’ families from their personal income. Unfortunately, this unity and dedication of our people have been misconstrued by our detractors as threat to their interests. They set out to make a futile attempt to choke our legitimate demands, undermine our unity and trample on our dignity. But, thanks to our sacrifice, unity and persistence, we have succeeded in surviving the difficult period and held our heads high.

The injustice against our people has continued unabated even after the hard-won independence in 1991. In 2009, The UNSC imposed a politically driven sanction on Eritrea just to harm and weaken its people. Under the veneer of ‘supporting al-shebab,’ it is committing untold crimes against our country. The unjust sanction is nothing less than an affront to justice and international law. But the fact remains that it has never made a dent in our people’s confidence and dampened down our spirits. Come what may, the Eritrean people will not bow to pressure nor easily relinquish hope. They continue to bear up hostile enemy’s plans under any circumstances in order to foil them.

It is a shame that the UNSC has deliberately ignored to settle the border standoff between Eritrea and Ethiopia (1998-2001), based on the final and binding ruling of the Border Commission. As is well known, it has failed to exercise its mandate and comply with its own Charter as Ethiopia has blatantly been refusing to accept the Commission’s decision. If you’ll pardon the expression, the UNSC has become synonymous with injustice. After all, peace and stability could have benefitted the people of the two countries.

The above examples show that with a nationalistic spirit, the Eritrean people weathered all the hardships and difficulties, defeated their enemies and frustrated their ill-intentioned plans. For this reason, they have gained their independence and embarked on a path to development. In other words, they realized their dream because of their culture.

Many of our traditions, beliefs and practices have endured through the ages and been playing an important role in social and economic growth. Be that as it may, they have been facing survival threats in modern age and some have already been elbowed out at a stunning speed by recent surges of foreign influence and new technology. We could counter the harmful foreign culture, which has challenged our social moral standards only by creating a strong culture and culturally conscious society. Realizing this, we have to ramp up our efforts to preserve our culture and pass it down to generations. In the meantime, we have to throw away traditional habits, ideas, beliefs and practices that hinder our progress.

In addition to the external cultural threat, our cultural tradition has been facing home-grown cultural problems which have negatively affected our way of life, relationship and development. Everyone is now witnessing the enormous spending on marriage, ceremony held in remembrance of a dead person and many other social functions which have become a threat to the long-honored culture. By all accounts, it runs counter to the long-standing practice of ceremonies. It is sad that the extravagant spending has become a vital ingredient for the ceremonies and is expanding in urban and rural areas in an astonishing speed.

The reasons we are spending such huge amount of money on such occasions, which does not fit in with our income and economy, could be many. One reason could be ostentatious display of wealth or ignorance. This excessive spending on social activities or ceremonies begs the question of whether it is really a cornucopia of abundance and wealth or a symbol of poverty and ignorance.

That being said, initiatives have already been taken, though in a small scale, by some administrations and religious leaders to address this spending. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all citizens to be part of this initiative in order to rise above the home-made harmful culture. It is all hands on the deck.

Eritrea is a peaceful nation and boasts rich cultures inherited from our ancestors that acted as a bridge between the traditional and contemporary Eritrean society. In order to realize the present and the future generations’ dream, it is up to the inheritors to go to great length to restore and carry on the traditional culture so as to ensure its sustainability. Otherwise, we will fail to make a difference.

In conclusion, culture is a determinant factor for fostering development and maintaining identity. Over the past century, Africa has registered no tangible economic growth and its economic prospects are still overshadowed by inefficiencies and corruption. The majority of its people are living in extreme poverty amid war and social instability. With all its abundant natural resources, its economy is still dependent on donations, food aid and pledges and no one knows exactly what the future holds for Africa. One of the reasons Africa has lagged far behind other developing countries is that when European imperialists set their feet on African soil, the first thing they did was, along with economic plundering, break the socio-culture of the indigenous society and build a new social structure on it to exploit its natural resources. People without culture are just like a ship sailing in a sea without a compass.