Are oral technologies panacea to African traditions?

Oral traditions characterise the way Africans do their business. For generations since time immemorial, information and knowledge traversed swamps, forests, valleys, mountains name it, to reach destinations where it was most desired and valued.

Quite rudimentary, but the Africans have stuck to their guns. Songs, riddles, poems, stories, customs, proverbs and sayings as we know them have stood the test of time. Our children recite the same poems as we did and sing the same songs as we sang, although the difference could be in tone, time and language.

Whether this should be a rarity in this modern era, where information and knowledge travel instantaneously around the world, most Africans don’t know and if they do, they may not have much of an option because oral traditions still characterise their way of life.

That Africa is a granary of knowledge is not a misnomer. The elderly continue to possess wisdom and without doubt are the wisest in society. This belief is the epitome of respect that continues to regenerate wealth—sometimes referred to as wisdom and knowledge—from one generation to another. But even with a horde of wealth, African traditionalists are usually offside if asked to show their manuscripts or clay tablets of written traditions.

But whether Africa is still a continent of contradictions, it also possesses a milieu of possibilities that can help in the way local communities communicate, network, collaborate, and above all share information and knowledge.

If one of the possibilities of oral technologies is the niche for Bellanet Africa to experiment, so be it, although one question that is being asked is whether this would be panacea to preserve African traditions. The answers may not be readily available now, nor should anybody show their thumbs of success yet.

It is this year that Bellanet Africa in its capitalisation project funded by the SDC and IDRC, hopes to engage a network of local farmers of the CELAC Project (www.celac.or.ug), spread in over sixteen districts of Uganda, in intensive podcasting training.

When first introduced to the CELAC Project, podcasting blended in so well with the oral culture. It created excitement and produced some positive results for network members to share more as they also listened to their colleagues from other districts.

Bellanet Africa will use podcasting as a tool to capture and disseminate audio information and is expected to tie in well with the predominantly African oral culture.