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The old African family setting had its foundation laid in communal principles. Not just providing a common platform for a nuclear family to engage, interact, fraternise, and socialize but also extending its reach to the extended family too. The communal philosophy also provided an avenue for families to engage, exchange cultural values, feelings and share world-view with other families.

Even as late as the 1970s, when the television and electricity weren’t widely distributed around the country as it is now, it was not rare to see a family, after a long day at whatever they do, gather under the moonlight, with cousins, aunts and uncles playing together or just having casual meetings. Some folks born in the ’80s had their fair share of this way of life as they had to live with grandfathers and grandmothers in the same big house where interaction was even more direct.

This culture has been largely followed by most traditional people of African descent as they find it difficult being separated from their loved ones for too long. Most people from this background begin to feel lonely if they could not mingle with family members in a long stretch of time.

Fast forward to a rapidly evolving African society influenced by westernisation where most folks began to move to city centres in search of greener pastures – families began to disperse around the world. Some had to go outside their city for school. Many also travelled abroad when the economic fortunes of the country began to dwindle and people just had to do something as drastic as migrating.

Before this era, there was never really much reason to be away from beloved family for so long. This reached a peak where some married couples could not stay in the same city/town due to the demands of their work. It was difficult and some became miserable because of it.

The coming of mobile telephony and technology generally helped at some point but it still couldn’t do so much to enhance real, seamless communication between family members. Many individuals struggled to own a mobile phone in its early days but it was too expensive to maintain communications with loved ones without burning a hole in one’s pocket. Solving the problem became an unending race for most technological companies to design.

Enter a mobile application named ‘Whatsapp’ in 2009, and real communication, in the version of the old African communalism began to pick up again. A nuclear family, all armed with smartphones, would be able to engage once again in a manner similar to the old African setting of communalism.

WhatsApp groups have not only decentralised mass communication, but it has also brought back cohesiveness to families and even work units because it is an avenue where people could meet up and engage in casual or serious stuff, as the case may be. With the advent of video telephony offered by Whatsapp, users could have even video calls with one another across the world as long as they have good internet. Any member of a family can now get across, just like in real life and it could still feel normal.

Nowadays, a quick scroll through social media and one could happen on an individual highlighting a funny thing that happened in their family WhatsApp group earlier.

Globalisation, once separating, has brought together again the community. Close-knit relationships which were a major attribute of African communalism are now being restored by WhatsApp Groups.

One can only imagine the positive impact such valuable inventions like WhatsApp, which has enhanced communications among those using it, could have in enhancing fulfilment in the same way values-driven African ideals once had. One can only imagine the positivity Nigerians will go around with every day if their livelihoods and quality of life is this impacted by inventing more of such life-saving products.

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This article was first published on 27th November 2018


Macaddy is mostly a farmer in the day who also dabbles into technology at night, in search of other cutting edge intersections. He's on Twitter @i_fix_you

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