Indigenous African Institutions

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Transnational Publishers, 2006 - History - 585 pages
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Since the publication of the first edition of Indigenous African Institutions in 1992, Africa has undergone a substantial change. Still, much mythology and misconception enshroud Africa and its people. An enduring myth claims that pre-colonial Africa had no viable institutions. This book is an attempt to provide a better, modern understanding of Africa and its people - not for cultural rehabilitation or romanticism but for practical reasons. Traditional or indigenous Africa has not vanished; it is still the home of the real people of Africa - the peasant majority, who produce Africa's real wealth using ancient institutions and practices. Kings, chiefs, and village markets still exist in Africa. The object of development is to improve the lot of the peasants - not the pockets of Africa's ruling elites - and it starts from the "bottom up" - not from the "top-down." What is there at the bottom are the peasants, their institutions, practices, and economic ways of life. Africa cannot be developed by ignoring its traditional sector, nor can this sector be developed without understanding how it works. Africa's salvation, then, lies in returning to its roots and building upon its own indigenous institutions. This ethos is captured by such phrases as "sankofa" by the Asante, "majimbo" in Swahili, and the mantra, "African Renaissance," touted by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. Botswana is the only African country that built upon its own indigenous institutions and prospered. Moreover, it was the same indigenous institutions African peasants utilized to engineer what historians call, "The Golden Age of Peasant Prosperity, 1880-1950." In recent times, pro-democracy activists revived andmodernized an indigenous African institution (the village meeting) into a "sovereign national conference" and used it as a vehicle to craft a new political dispensation for Benin, Cape Verde Islands, South Africa and Zambia - in the same way as the United Nations used a loya jirga, an ancient tribal democratic institution, to chart a new political order for Afghanistan in 2002. Similarly, the same indigenous African institutions can also be used to craft uniquely "African solutions to African problems." Thus, the blueprint for Africa's economic rejuvenation can be found in its on backyard; that is, its own indigenous institutions. Tragically, African leaders, elites and their Western development partners have seldom looked there. Published under the Transnational Publishers imprint.

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About the author (2006)

Tore T. Petersen is Associate Professor of International and American Diplomatic History at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

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