P231 – Africa’s Alternative: Transcending Epistemes in Development
9 July, 09:00 – 10:30

Ajagbe Samsondeen / Albert Ludwig Universität, Freiburg, Germany.
Fidelis Etah Ewane / Albert Ludwig Universität, Freiburg, Germany.


For more than a century, Africans have been enrolled into the Euro-American universalism of development. Historically taking different dimensions, several initiatives have been launched within this epistemological perspective to uplift many countries on the continent out of their seemingly intractable developmental problems. Yet, possibilities of reversal and resistance to these initiatives persist in many of the African countries. Transcending the current episteme: Are there alternative theoretical, cultural or relational explanations of reversal and/or resistance to the project of development?

Pour plus d’un siècle, les Africains ont été inscrits dans l’universalisme euro-américaine de développement. Historiquement prennant des dimensions différentes, plusieurs initiatives ont été lancées dans cette perspective épistémologique dans le but d’élever de nombreux pays sur le continent de leurs problèmes de développement apparemment insolubles. Pourtant, les possibilités de reprise et de résistance à ces initiatives persistent dans de nombreux pays africains. Transcender l’épistémè actuelle: Y at-il des explications théoriques, culturelles ou relationnelles alternatives de reprise et / ou de la résistance au projet de développement?

Paper 1

Edozie Rita Kiki / Michigan State University

(Emerging) Africa and “Africentric” Economic Philosophies in Practices: Africapitalism, and Ubuntu Economics

“UBUNTU does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is – are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve? (Nelson Madiba Mandela). No one can develop Africa better than Africans and I believe foreign investors would be happier to have local investors there too” (Tony Elumelu, WEF, Davos, Jan 2014).
Implied in the aforementioned question posed by Nelson Mandela is the core inquiry of the current paper. This concerns the role that Africans are playing in the international political-economy and their prospects for presenting plausible alternatives to the contemporary capitalist world order in order to alleviate African suffering. That is to say, to its advocates, reflected in Mandela’s statement, Ubuntu will be a platform for the rediscovery of an “African identity” and the building of a society that is “new not only in its economic arrangements, but also in terms of the values it upholds.
The second statement, made by Nigerian Heirs Holdings CEO, Tony Elumelu who has captured Africa and the world’s attention with the concept of “African Capitalism” is equally illustrative of the study’s core inquiry. Elumelu holds the view that Africans must be at the vanguard of developing Africa utilizing a dynamic capitalism that he has coined as Africapitalism, an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through investments that generate both economic prosperity and social wealth.
Mandela and Elumelu’s statements are used as vehicles for examining Afri-capitalism and Ubuntu political-economics, presenting them as case studies that inform new trends in Pan Africanist international political-economies (IPE’s). While both economic philosophies and practices may seem to be disparate economic philosophies – one based in capitalism (Afri-capitalism) and the other in socialism (Ubuntu economics); we argue that both Afri-capitalism and Ubuntu economics converge as new expressions of Pan African economics in the African continent and further may inform renewed bases for continental regional integration.
The current paper examines both Africapitalism and Ubuntu economics as prospects for alternative African economic philosophies and political-economic practices in consideration of their potential to positively transform Africa in a globalized world. Prevailing development models ignore or simply patronize African subjectivity and agency regarding development discourses and practices by prescribing and enforcing policies that maintain colonial structures of control and dispossession of Africa’s wealth. This is true despite the trends in discourses where Africa in 2015 is described as “emerging”, “catching up”, or “converging” economically. For Africa, mainstream development economics is still dominated by deep neo-colonial structures that do not consider the role of the vibrant cultures and identities, and agencies of Africans. Such models side-step African self-determined and homegrown economic discourses and practices. In reviewing ways that both classic theories of underdevelopment as well as 21c international development policies and practices for Africa continue to privilege external political control and economic dispossession of African economies writ large in a global economy.
In this regard, the paper is drawn from a larger research and book project that critically reviews the theoretical literature on African development while uniquely formulating an alternative thesis about classical underdevelopment theories applied to Africa. That research project incorporates new cultural international political economy themes to reveal that in spite of decades of economic marginalization in the global economy, Africans have put forth alternative economic epistemologies and practices premised on African contexts and values.
The current paper, a chapter in the book project, uses these questions to guide a hypothesis about contemporary African global development referred to as Africentric economism. The notion of Africentric economics resuscitates a discussion of classic underdevelopment critiques and integrates culture, subjectivity, and identity in the analysis of African global development. As core concept for the paper, the Africentric Economic Agenda posits Pan Africanism as a dependent variable through which to examine Africans’ alternative responses to the continent’s development objectives. Rather than global integration; Africans are interested in regional integration and global equity. Africans are not post-developmental; alternatively they see development as an unfinished agenda. They advocate self-determined development, equitable terms of trade, industrial development, as well as sustainable livelihoods. They support nationalist developmental states and sovereign democratic developmentalism over liberal democratic capitalist states.
The project interrogates the following questions to support its claims. What alternative international political economics (IPE’s) are Africans throwing up? What are the variant or common natures of alternative African IPE’s? Can these alternatives be given a chance? Do these alternatives matter in a current global political economy defined by mainstream political economists as a non-linear economy characterized by global “speed” networks and converges? Can Africans use these alternatives to garner more prosperity for more equity in global economic development? What prospects do the economic discourses and practices of Afri-capitalism and Ubuntu economics have in responding to these questions affirmatively? Which is more viable to achieve this goal?
Data compiled from field research in Africa on Africapitalism and Ubuntu economics (Nigeria and South Africa) may indeed reveal direct knowledge and evaluation about the “pan-Africanist”, “nationalist” and “Africentrist” economic discourses and practices of Africa as prospects for offering alternative models for African development in a global era.

Paper 2

Edegbe Uyi Benjamin / University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria

Ugiagbe Ernest Osas / University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria

The Traditional Age Grade System in Rural Development in Nigeria

The quest for sustainable local development paradigm by Nigerian government calls for the need to look beyond the Eurocentric perspective and look inwards with a view to re-examining and evaluating our indigenous cultural practices in an attempt to attain the desired development goal. This paper evaluates the traditional age grade systems in Nigerian societies, and how the traits of the age grades can be harnessed for the attainment of the much desired sustainable development in Nigeria. The traditional age grade system is a rural based socio-cultural and political organization that plays active roles in the administration of justice, maintenance of law and order, peace keeping, provision of security and conflict resolution etc. in the rural areas of Nigeria. Using desk research technique involving a review of secondary resources such as journal articles, magazines, newspapers and information from organizations and their websites, the paper argues that the cultural bond and unity of purpose between the members of the age grades priori make them a veritable tool for transformation (especially of the rural areas). This is because the age grades know their communities more than out-siders and the so-called developers; hence the paper recommends that the various age grades should be empowered with the necessary tools and technical know-how. The paper concludes that development of the rural areas in Nigeria will gradually but surely become a reality in the near future if the natural resources available in each community are harnessed through the empowerment of the local age grades.

Paper 3

Ajagbe Samsondeen / University of Freiburg – Germany

Ewane Fidelis Etah / European University Munich

Indigenous Knowledge and the development debate in Africa

This article employs Bourdieu’s theory of Habitus or socialized norms to explain the disposition of donor community to integrating indigenous knowledge systems and practices into development projects. Bourdieu’s theory holds that power is culturally and symbolically created, and it is constantly re-legitimized through an interplay of agency and structure. This happens through what he refers to as “habitus” or the way society becomes deposited in persons in the form of lasting dispositions, or trained capacities and structured propensities to think, feel and act in determinant ways, which then guide them. Bourdieu’s approach provides a window for an alternative analysis of how “local ownership” in development practices becomes embedded in the structure of global development thinking, planning and delivery through an internalized understanding of indigenious knowledge as embodied capital in development practice. Mainstream development literatures attributed the adoption of indigenous knowledge (IK) in development projects to the failure of top-down fabricated development frameworks that has dominated development strategies for decades. However, in this article, we analyze the development field as social space characterized by forces of power relations (indigenous and donor). The purpose is to illustrate indigenous knowledge, being the idea of “local ownership” in development, as a “cultural and symbolic capital” used for resisting wholesale imposition of development ideas. This paper will argue that the use of indigenous knowledge will generate transferable local capacities and set new energies in motion in Africa that will greatly reduce the prevailing inequality on the continent. This is based on the premise that the omission of indigenous knowledge has caused failure of development agencies and NGOs to achieve desired universal human conditions.

Paper 4

Ngambela Willie / University of Zambia

Development alternatives: Can ICTS be an immediate answer to Africa?

Most of African countries are poor. Their leaders and the people are seriously looking for development in these countries to uplift the standards of living.
This paper therefore intends to pose a question whether ICTS can be an alternative. This is because most people in Africa believe that the western countries have development much because of the new technology that has been brought about by the ICTs. If this assertion is correct, can Africa take this route to develop?

Paper 5

Rietdorf Ute / Centre for Area Studies (CAS), Universität Leipzig

Explaining Reversal and Resistance: The Complexity Perspective on Development

The notion of ‘development’ has come under close scrutiny and has been set on the research agenda with renewed interest across disciplines. Complexity theory offers a perspective which explains how development emerges – and with it all those particularities, contradictions, and surprising turns of events. Its explanatory potential also covers African experiences with Western-led strategies for development – and with it resistance and reversal. According to complexity theory, the interplay between persistence and change in a society is made up of multiple connections which link society’s different levels, each one moving along in phases of adaptive cycles of its own. The term used for that interplay is ‘panarchy’. In a panarchy, the two most significant links are ‘revolt’ and ‘remembrance’. ‘Revolt’ appears to be a bottom-up process while ‘remembrance’ is a top-down one. But this view also includes the possibility that actions at lower levels inhibit any effects at higher ones; and that changes running against the coherence of higher order collectivities aren’t ‘remembered’ at lower levels. The paper will follow Holling’s view that ‘development is the process of creating, testing, and maintaining opportunity’ (Holling, 2001). Complexity theory sees resistance and reversal as necessary and inherently logical ingredients of it.

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