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RELIGION/ Does It Impede Economic Development?

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In the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses that propelled the Protestant Reformation, it is timely to recall that the shockwaves were not just confined to Christian doctrinal matters but were central to the rise of industrial capitalism that transformed the whole world. This thesis was set out in the most famous link between religion/ethics and economic development by Max Weber in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, published in 1904. I should like to make the claim that it has relevance in the present day in regard to the development of the Global South. In the introductory chapter, Weber makes some forceful observations that are of considerable importance to the goal of global development: “Only in the West does science exist at a stage of development which we recognize today as valid … A rational chemistry has been absent from all areas of culture except the West … [A] rational, systematic, and specialized pursuit of science, with trained and specialized personnel, has only existed in the West in a sense at all approaching its present dominant place in our culture”

Why these advances took place in Western Europe is what Weber sought to explain and provides the foundational reason as to why capitalism – which so enormously developed productive capacities and capabilities and transformed the world at extraordinary speed – originated among Protestants in Western Europe: “business leaders and owners of capital, as well as the higher grades of skilled labour, and even more the higher technically and commercially trained personnel of modern enterprises, are overwhelmingly Protestant”.

Weber’s thesis was striking and compelling; the rise of capitalism was rooted in Protestant (especially Calvinist) ethics and attendant cultural dispositions that stressed the importance of hard work and wealth creation (for the glory of God) and thriftiness. It was this trinity of factors that fomented a new economic system characterised by accumulation of capital – rather than wasteful expenditure – that financed investment and further expansion of enterprises. Hence, the Protestant ethic engendered the ‘spirit of capitalism’.

Protestantism was a movement of protest against the Catholic Church and the severing of ties with its centralised, hierarchical institutions. Accordingly, primacy began to be accorded to the individual’s relationship with God without recourse to institutions and clergy and it is this that arguably nurtured individual economic and political freedoms. Nascent capitalist enterprises in an increasingly marketised economy originated in initiatives by such individuals; a capitalist class imbued with a Protestant ethic was thus born.

Might this foundational hypothesis of Weber’s provide helpful insights for the present-day developing world? That is to say, those countries and societies that are characterised by a Protestant-type culture offer a more conducive environment for economic development than those that are not. Consider the large tracts of the world where development has been stagnant or sluggish in the post-colonial era. Can we argue that they are characterised by ethics and norms that are decisively at variance with the Protestant work ethic? If so, might the culture and religion of such societies powerfully militate against such an ethic?

The Weberian thesis is that those religions and cultures (Catholicism and even more so, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam) that stress anti-materialism and ‘other-worldliness’ and focus on spiritualism, discourage entrepreneurship and wealth creation, act as a brake on economic development.

A reasonable riposte is that while the Protestant work ethic may well have been a decisive factor in the origins of capitalism in Western Europe that is of little relevance now. Other, non-Protestant societies have also attained high levels of economic development by acquiring requisite institutions and skills. This is indeed true but a rejoinder to this argument is that this has entailed the overcoming or even rejection of their non-productive legacies; in other words such countries and societies, and cultures therein, have markedly changed.

In an edited collection Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, Samuel Huntington makes a striking comparison between South Korea and Ghana: in the early 1960s both had very similar economies and comparable levels of GNP per capita. Thirty years later, South Korea had become the 14thlargest economy in the world with a powerful manufacturing base whereas Ghana had not undergone anything like such a transformation and, accordingly, its GNP per capita was one-fifteenth of South Korea’s. Huntington concludes that “South Koreans valued thrift, investment, hard work, education, organization, and discipline. Ghanaians had different values. In short, cultures count”.

Ronald Inglehart and Christian Wetzel show that the worldviews of people living in rich societies differ systematically from those of people living in low-income societies across a wide range of political, social, and religious norms. The differences run along two basic dimensions: “traditional versus secular-rational values and survival versus self-expression values. The shift from traditional to secular-rational values is linked to the shift from agrarian to industrial societies. Traditional societies emphasize religion, respect for and obedience to authority, and national pride. These characteristics change as societies become more secular and rational”.

The inference here is clear: economic and social development requires a move to more secular and rational values. The question naturally arises as to whether enlightened governments can speed up development by implementing political, social, and religious reforms so as to lessen the ‘drag effect’ of traditional values. And is it possible for high levels of development to proceed without the concomitant move away from traditional values?

International institutions such as the UN and World Bank have neglected to explore the link between religion and development. In stark contrast, W Arthur Lewis argued that some religious codes are more compatible with economic growth than others. If a religion lays stress upon material values, upon work, upon thrift and productive investment, upon honesty in commercial relations, upon experimentation and risk bearing, and upon equality of opportunity, it will be helpful to growth, whereas in so far as it is hostile to these things, it tends to inhibit growth. Given that throughout the world, above all in the Global South, religion is profoundly important to many aspects of society, and strongly moulds people’s lives, the prevalence and intensity of religious belief will, accordingly, have a great impact on the trajectory of society in terms of growth and development.

The decline of religion in modern societies is termed the ‘secularisation thesis’ where economic development and rising living standards lead to a fall in the adherence to religious beliefs and practices. Importantly, if attributes of a religion and attendant cultural norms affect the attitude towards work, saving, investment, propensity to innovate, that is, the workings of an economy, as posited by Weber, then the secularisation thesis argues that the resulting economic and social advancement has a feedback effect on religious belief, that is to say, reduces it. Where a religion militates strongly against rising productivity and innovation, it has a dampening effect on the economy so, in turn, reduces such a feedback on the belief system. This suggests a curious result: cultures and religions that most effectively protect themselves against economic advancement are best able to ensure that their hold on a population is little diluted.

In the absence of rigorous research on this issue, there is nevertheless good reason to think that both the levels of believing and belonging are significantly greater in the Global South than in the developed world. Moreover, the intensity of religious belief is also likely to be greater given its imposition from a very young age. That being so, and in the absence of a secular state, institutions, and laws, religion and its cultural accoutrements permeate every vestige of society and, by so doing, profoundly impact the determinants of development and growth. True, these are strong claims and generalisations but they are worthy of extensive investigation and empirical research – in particular by international development institutions, especially the World Bank and UNDP which have never done this.

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KIZZ DANIEL/ The Young Nigerian Musician Creating His Own Sound

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LAGOS – NIGERIA, Sunday February 23, 2020/www.gbafrica.net/ – Not many musicians leave their mother-labels and go on to achieve bigger success like Kizz Daniel did. The case has always been a sad one for many Nigerian and even international artists who, sometimes out of necessity and most times, out of arrogance, attempt to be their own bosses and call the shots by themselves.

One international artist we can all easily recall his case is our dearest and most beloved Michael Jackson who, after complaining bitterly about being ripped off by Sony Music, went on to become a free agent and personally produced and marketed his Invincible album that sadly did not cut the MJ mark in the global market when compared to his previous groundbreaking sales’ records under Sony.

In Nigeria, we have many cases of those who left their mother-labels and spiraled into oblivion within a short time. Perhaps we may revisit this topic and then pay full attention to some of them, in order not to lose track of the points I’m trying to raise here.

There have also been many guys, 2Baba for instance, who left his mother-label, and after suffering some losses for the first couple of years, became a huge success that sent his older label packing from the list of entertainment shot-callers in Nigeria. Wizkid equally had same history, however, the slight difference between his story and the legendary 2Baba rests on the fact that even when he left EME, he never struggled to retain his spot in the industry, rather he skyrocketed beyond words, and if I’m not exaggerating, beyond the musical visions of EME. Such is the case of Kizz Daniel who left G-Worldwide at the time no one expected and gave us reasons to justify his move.

Kizz Daniel has a sound, a good sound that his stay under G-Worldwide would have dampened. It is true that his former label gave him the needed platform to project his sound, but the more amplified Kizz Daniel sound became manifest the moment he became responsible for himself, the moment a label wouldn’t have to be the ones to choose what to promote or overlook, the moment he had to write and sing from his heart without holding back.

Kizz could easily be categorized as an Afro Beat or Afro pop act, but he continues to chart the direction of his own sound that nobody else could lay any claim of semblance. From his very first single “Yeba” under the FlyBoy imprint, Kizz has creatively evolved a private sound that is solely his.

In this era of plagiarism and hackneyed repetition of sound patterns by many Afro whatever artists today, it is heartwarming to note that Kizz isn’t perturbed by any trend, he isn’t interested in sounding like any other person that his very self. From not ever dropping a bad song to maintaining his unique lane, Kizz has given us so many good sounds that we can only designate as The Kizz Daniel Sound.

N/B: Mother-label is the author’s coinage for any label from where an artist broke out.

(Written By: Ifesinachi Nwadike)

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Comedy

INSTAGRAM/ How This Social App Is Begetting Comedians

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LAGOS STATE – NIGERIA, Saturday February 22, 2020/www.gbafrica.net/ – 10, 15 years ago, no one would have believed that there would be a trend called “Instagram Comedians” who would sweep through the industry like a sandstorm in the north. But it did happen and we all but have social media to thank for this liberalization.

So it was that about the time the standup comedy industry in Nigeria began to gather momentum, one was not well regarded as having become mainstream if you are yet to feature in Opa Williams’ Nite of a Thousand Laugh; the standup comedy show that was the darling of the industry then. The shows were held mostly in Lagos, with the organizers moving to some other places like Port Harcourt, Enugu, Owerri, Abuja etc. After each show, the recorded version of how the event went was then mass produced and sold in the market, for comedy lovers who can’t afford to make it down to the venue to watch in the comfort of their homes.

It was this platform that birthed the likes of Basket Mouth, Okey Bakassi, Tee A, Omo Baba Number 1, Koffi, Julius Agwu, I Go Die, Gordons, Buchi, Dan De Humorous, Maleke, I Go Save, Bovi, Teju Babyface and numerous other stars that emerged within that period. AY was also to break out with AY Live, featuring a newer school of comedians, while Julius Agwu tried but could not sustain his Crack Ya Ribs show. Basket Mouth floated Lord of the Ribs and these competitions all but made Opa Williams to step aside, in frustration, at the proliferation of standup comedy shows.

What was the matter with Opa? One would ask. Opa was simply suffering from monopoly syndrome. He wanted it to be only him that would own such platforms. That was why he couldn’t stand to measure up with the newcomers and had to leave the scene. But we have Opa Williams to thank for Nigeria’s huge achievement in the standup comedy industry. Today’s comedians should jointly honour him for paving the way when it seemed practically impossible to achieve, and now, Nigeria has an avalanche of comedians that are shaking the nation and beyond and we should all but look back in gratitude to Opa for having the courage to start this journey and Nigerian comedians, even at the risk of hackneyed repetition and plagiarism of one another, have not disappointed us in the depth they have reached in mining jokes from the well-pool of Nigeria’s socio-cultural and political occurrences.

In as much as we have established the place of Opa Williams and his Nite of a Thousand Laugh show in their rightful position, it is important to also point out that the proliferation of comedy shows by stars like Julius Agwu, Basket Mouth, AY, Bovi, Akpororo, Ajebo, Ushbebe, and a host of others, was a necessary step towards the growth we have today because, as at then, it was difficult to be a comedian, it was tough to get noticed, it was almost impossible to blow even after several appearances. This was because of the monopoly I talked about in the earlier essay.

Before some of these comedians got on the platform, they had to undergo a series of auditions to sift out the very best for the main day. This saw many dreams die, even when it helped many to survive. Auditions, as far as I am concerned, are not the best ways to fish out talents because there are many talented dudes that are so introverted to the extent that they find it difficult to display on the spot in front of an entertainment-hungry audience who are impatient with upcoming entertainers. So going through such a process then, saw many would be stars fall back because they couldn’t survive the harsh judgments that come with our styles of auditions here.

What social media did was to liberalise the platform, creating wider avenues for more and more talented people to get noticed. So in the roll call of comedians who exploited the agency of social media to get to stardom or fired up their dawdling fame are Seyi Law, Akpororo, Mr Patrick, Charles Okocha, AY, Basket Mouth, Bovi, I Go Save, Elenu and all other older guys in the industry who couldn’t stand aside and watch newbies like Mark Angel and Emmanuella (the impeccable sensation), Klintoncod, Chief Obi, Crazy Clown and his errant son Ade, Xploit Comedy, Williams Uchemba Broda Shaggy, I Go Tuk, Maraji, Lasisi, Mama Tao, Nedu Wazobia, Yawa, Josh 2 Funny, Oluwa Dollarz, Nasty Blaq, Syneytalker, MC Lively, Kbusa Oriental Choir etc, take over the scene without them.

What social media, especially Instagram, did was to move comedy away from the limiting walls of a raised stage and placed it on the face of millions of viewers through their phones, by so doing, millions of subscribers can enjoy comedy, visual comedy, without having to pay too much ticket to access the venue. Stage comedy still plies, but it is no longer our primary source, neither are those Alaba CDs, Instagram has opened the doors for millions of comedians and consumers by putting them on the same space.

There’s no telling how much social media has helped millions of voices to be heard, and when we thought we have heard the best of our jokes, our Instagram guys came around with raw, crunchy and refined jokes from Nigeria natural comedy reserve.

The future just began.

(Written By: Ifesinachi Nwadike)

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Feature

Government Determined To Do More For Creative Arts – Akufo-Addo

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ACCRA, GHANA, February 22nd, 2020/www.gbafrica.net/ President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has stated that his government is still committed to improving the creative arts industry in Ghana.

He made this known at the 2020 State of the Nation Address (SoNA) on Thursday when he touted some of his government’s achievements in the sector.

In December 2019, the President inaugurated the National Film Authority (NFA) and sworn in members of its governing board with the aim of putting the Ghana’s film industry on the global maps.

The Chairman of the NFA is David Dontoh. Other members include Juliet Yaa Asantewaa Asante, Executive Secretary of NFA; Yaa Attafua, a representative of the Copyright Office nominated by the Attorney-General & Minister of Justice; Josephine Ohene-Osei of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture; Dora Darkwa-Mensah of the Ministry of Communications, Dr. Samuel Anyetel Nai of the National Film Television Institute (NAFTI) and Samuel Fiscian of the Ghana Actors’ Guild.

The rest are Zakaria Abdulai of the Film Producers’ Association of Ghana, Koffi Nartey of the Ghana Academy of Film & Television Arts; Akofa Edjeani of Women In Film & Television, Kofi Ohemeng Owusu of the Audio Visual Rights Owners Association, Rukayatu Naa Ayikaley Ankrah of the Film Distributors & Marketers, Samuel Gyandoh of the Film Crew Association of Ghana, and Ernest Boateng, a nominee of television stations.

NFA is one of government’s measures to support the creative arts.

According to President Akufo-Addo during his address, the creation of the NFA is a step in the right direction to turn around the film industry for economic development.

“We are committed to the industry,” he stated.

“We are commencing the construction of the very first senior high school in Ghana dedicated sole to the development of the creative arts industry. I cut the sod for this construction in Kumasi in December last year, we are determined to do more,” he added.

The President’s State of the Nation Address before Parliament is in accordance with Article 67 of the 1992 Constitution, which requires the President to brief Parliament about the country’s state of affairs.

He spoke on diverse sectors of the economy, including the ‘Year of Return’ programme which provided favourable international media coverage for Ghana and had high-profile international celebrities also visited the country.

Source: Ghana Web

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Tekno Should Be Bigger Than His Current State

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Who else agrees with me? Or am I the only fan of Tekno who thinks he should be bigger than he currently is? Who else feels that Tekno has produced a huge body of work that should easily put him on the same pedestal as Wizkid and Davido but sadly isn’t on that pedestal yet?

I have consciously been following Tekno since 2013 till date and I can vouchsafe that aside Wizkid, Tekno is the next Nigerian artist whose songs can sustain a party for hours without the audience getting bored and calling for a change. Check out “Duro,” “Wash,”, “Pana,” “Diana,” “Rara” and the many other hits he dropped under Ubi Franklin’s Triple MG imprint down to the many fascinating singles he has been dropping “back to back” since he formed his own label – “Woman,” “Agege,” “Better (Hope for Africa)”, “Skeletun,” “Suru” and any other song he is bound to drop; even his biggest traducer would agree that he has put in so much work.

Sadly, dropping hit songs and being a good stage performer is not the only factor that makes an artist popular. They are in fact secondary to the artist’s personal life and how he relates with his fans and other music consumers.

Truth is that Tekno was handled by a poor hand; a hand that may be good in negotiating good business deals that helps them maximize profits but terrible in managing the relationship between an artist and his fans. There were days when stories flew here and there about Tekno’s arrogance and how he snubs the hell out of people, including his legendary disregard of some elderly players in the music industry. His label as at then did little or nothing to make sure that their artist does not go down on that lane where people would begin to yimu and even avoid them entirely.

Yours sincerely has been a victim of Tekno’s uppity lifestyle which meant nothing to me because I am patient enough to regard it as one of the crucibles of young fame, but would others take it as that? Would hurt fans, disappointed potential collaborators, interviewers and lesser successful colleagues count it as such? Would they indulge him? These questions are begging for answers.

These and many more issues are part of the reasons why most of us think that Tekno isn’t enjoying the kind of fame that is commensurate with his outputs so far. Now that he is alone, it behooves on him to form a strong team; a team that would not only be comprised of good producers and sound engineers, but a team that has a manager that knows his onions; a team with a powerful image-maker who would pick Tekno’s brand and rebrand it by breathing a long overdue fresh air into Tekno’s reputation.

But then, I fear that the Tekno we are looking at does not care what anyone thinks. Tekno, from the look of things, is comfortable and does not seem to worry about where he currently is.

What do I even know!

(Written By: Ifesinachi Nwadike/Tush Magazine)

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