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This write up begins with a distinction between civilisation and development, to effectively apply it to African context. This is because a society, nation or a continent can be developed and yet, not civilised. The reason been that civilisation is what makes a society peculiar and attracts the interest of other nations, or existing human societies. So, there are social amenities or sparsely infrastructures in many parts of Africa today, does not make the African continent of our generation (21st century AD), a civilised society.

Unless, as leaders and citizens we prefer to remain in the shadows of the past, or take delight in past glories, whose losses were the results of the self-centered nature of our leaders which till date they continue to wallow in. This is because increase in social amenities and infrastructures without upholding the core values of society, may be termed a developed or developing society, but a failed society regarding civilisation.

What this implies is that physical structures do not necessary enhance the standard of living, or set the pace for other societies to emulate. Thus, I usually cannot help to laugh each time I watch, read or hear African leaders say that Africa is growing based on sparsely infrastructures.

It is on this milieu that this write up sets in motion the difference between civilisation and development, and how civilisation can bring about sustainable development in Africa.


With the aid of definition, the difference between civilisation and development is not farfetched; this is why this work aims at using definition terms as tools in showcasing the differences between the both:

  1. CIVILISATION: Civilisation is a state of human society that is very developed and organised, a place that gives the comfort of life, making a positive impression on modern society (cf. “Civilisation,” in Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, 6th edition). Put differently, civilisation is a relatively high level of cultural and technological development; which specifically imply the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records are attained, vis-à-vis, the culture characteristic of a particular time or place (cf. “Civilisation,” in Merriam Webster Dictionary). The definitions above assert to the claim that civilisation has as its foundation development. That is, a system of development that is organised and which gives valuable meaning to the way of lives of people that span through history.

The questions therefore are, who are the writers/historians of African history? Who are those keeping the records of African history? How many Africans have access to African historical records?


  1. DEVELOPMENT: Development as a term is a word that occupies a common place in our day-to-day word usage, its recurrent usage makes its actual meaning not often contemplated; this is because the term seems to lack a factual or conceptually precise grasping in its usage, since one could use the term to imply different things at different circumstances (cf. “Lecture Notes,” NAMISEM, by Henry Ukavwe, May 2014). However, Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines development as “The act, process, or result of new ideas aimed at expanding the process of growth.” Development as the expansion of growth process means therefore that it occurs when someone, something or an institution grows or changes and becomes more advanced (cf. “Development,” in Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary, 3rd edition).

Development as a change is what the renowned 20th century political philosopher, Sidney Hook, refers to as any change which has a continuous direction and which culminates in a phase that is qualitatively new.

A phase can culminate in newness, but being qualitatively new is what makes it object of civilisation.


Myriads of factors characterise what craft a civilised society. Nevertheless, the following are some factors that set a society on the pathway of being called a civilised society, thereby becoming a pace setter to other societies. Some of these factors include; Political lifestyles, Intellectual achievements, Religious beliefs, Social/Economic lifestyles, Security, etc. This is because a society is seen as the relationship of humanity, the whole complex of man’s relations to his fellow man. Society expresses factors of social relationship, such as education, religion, security, industrial activities, and so forth.

The factors outlined above can only return Africa to a civilised and a developed society if they positively attract the attention of other societies of the world.

A look at Africa’s history, evidently proves that Africa is not yet a developed society let alone a civilised continent, as it was in ancient past. This is because the points above have no positive historical background to determine Africa’s sustainable achievements, based on the fact that civilisation has to do with a society whose culture, and way of life during a particular period or in a particular part of the world attracts the interest of other existing human societies.

For example, Africa’s Egyptian civilisation dated back to 3100BC, or the rich ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia, Greek, and Roman. Or better still, the present civilisation of the western society are cases in point.


Civilisation from the definitions, and elucidations so far, implies valuable inventions, and the application of such inventions that could be copied by other societies for sustainable developments. Civilisation can therefore objectively lead to a sustainable development in African society, if African’s changes of growth and development can positively enhance the standard of the living condition of humans in her societal space, thereby attracting the interest of other societies of the world.

More so, because growth and development are made applicable only in human society, and one of such factors would be a well-defined stable political system because a misrepresented political system that hinges on hegemony, dictatorship, autocracy, religious bigotry, ethnicism, tribalism, self-centered nature in the impoverishment of the people, cannot attain a civilised height. And one of the changes in output that can make Africa stands out again in the global space, is intellectual output. If this can bring to rest “the garbage in and garbage out” system of education in many countries of Africa, by inventing her education unique system, without the copy and paste method from the West, and other societies are influenced by it, then Africa can be applauded as one of the developed and civilised continents of the world. The reason is simply because education is according to the renowned English writer, William Shakespeare, “The leading out of the dark hell,”  which is indispensable to any society which has as its focus civilisation and development.

Today, Africans boast and talk about her ancient Egyptian civilisation. But they forget to know that ancient Egyptian civilisation was largely based on the numerous intellectual achievements of the time. Namely, philosophy, mathematics, science and literature.

Going further, it was the dominant role religion played in the life of ancient Egyptians, that the Greeks described the Egyptians as “The most religious of men.” A terminology that seems to be exaggerated. But there remains no denying of the fact that the belief in the supernatural was vital and is still vital to this day. Without doubt, Africa is a fertile continent for religious practices, but she must put into practice the good theoretical aspects of her religious beliefs. When that happens, Africa’s religiosity becomes a symbol worth emulating. Consequently, her unique utilisation of her various religious beliefs could equally make her to stand out as a society worth emulating concerning religious civilisation.

No doubt, Africa prided herself in ancient past with regard to science/medicines, but today is there any health facility in Africa that can stand head high with other health facilities in the world? If yes. Why do leaders of Africa always run to Asia, Europe, and America for medical care? Obviously, a case of the failure of leaders of Africa to invest in Africa’s science/health institutions.

Recently, a video went viral of a Nigerian medical professor and colorectal surgeon, Professor Ogunbiyi, who works at the Royal Free Hospital, London, who was infected with the deadly global corona virus. In that video, the best doctors battled to save his life. Because, according to them, he is irreplaceable.

There are so many of our African health professionals/scientists out there in advance nations of the world, holding key positions in their respective departments. Many of them migrated to the West, not because they have no love for their people, but because of the failure of governments to create enabling environments and better remunerations for effective operations.

Africa is a society endowed with numerous natural and human resources, premium among these resources are; gold, diamond, and crude oil, scattered across countries of Africa. So since attention is seriously drawn towards the resources outlined above, there is a cogent need for them to be objectively utilised. This is because they are serious potentials or even actual sources of development that should in actual sense make Africa a civilised society.

Dubai where most African leaders go to lavish our collective resources, was no doubt a desert land. But with the discovery of crude oil, one out of the numerous rich African resources, today Dubai is one of the most civilised city on earth. When many hear of Dubai today, they think that Dubai is a country. But Dubai is only a city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The place where the city of Dubai is today, is the result of leadership vision.

Sadly, in Africa, it is one agitation or the other, leading to political and social unrest. From Niger Delta region of Nigeria, to South West, and North West of Cameroon, to the Central African Republic, etc. And tragically, so many lives have been lost.

African continent is today the most porous continent in the world. The result of the porous nature of African continent has seen to the insecurity, ranging from Boko Haram terrorism, militancy, kidnappings, human trafficking, banditry, rustling, robberies, etc., that now bedevil us.

The truth is that, when structures are  put rightly, and novelty is achieved. We say that development has taken place. But civilisation is not achieved, if the novelty does not bring employment in all sphere of life. If it does not improve education, health, security and the social wellbeing of the people. If it does not improve the standard of living, attraction of foreign investors through a well-defined economic policy.

So, Africa can be termed a civilised society only when the immediate points above are achieved. The reason is that civilisation is about a rightful orientation of the development gained, which makes a society stands out in the global space.


There are absolutely no magic about it, African continent or society cannot be termed a developed or a civilised society when she is yet to attain the connotations of the terms in the definitions above. This is because what we see as changes in Africa are nothing but the selfish sparsely physical structures aimed at self aggrandizement.

Africa is a geographical entity that is inhabited by over 1billion inhabitants, rich in human and natural resources, but far from civilisation, because of her egoistic leaders, who hide in the guise of sparsely infrastructures to claim that Africa is on a pathway to civilisation.

That credit can only go to well-meaning African citizens who with little or no support system from governments of their countries, are breaking grounds in the global environment.

In a nutshell, African leaders must realise that the functioning of  institutions and societal relations must objectively bring into cognisance the interest of other societies.

This writeup therefore ends with this question: “What is it that makes Africa stands out at the moment, in global relations?” Only when this question is objectively answered through a reflection on the impact of its novelty in the life of her citizens, can one say that Africa is a civilised society.

 @📖✍🏽Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP

 May 2, 2020

Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon.

DISCLAIMER: Articles of news and information remain that of the author and not of the Admin and the CATHAREO Team.

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