Reflecting on Traditionalism and Reels of Africa’s Developmental Paradigms

Convener: Olatunji Olateju (Swansea University, UK); e-mail:

Understanding the state of Africa involves examination of governance, governing ideologies, nature and character of ethnic pluralism, monopolisation of political and economic power, ideological pathways of development in Africa and the transition of Africa’s pre-colonial societies to post-colonial states. Though, many theoretical approaches have evolved, both within and outside Africa, to address Africa’s underdevelopment and Africa’s political tragedy but unfortunately not all are helpful. Many of these approaches contextualise Africa’s political development in one universal model or the other. They thereby wrongly interpret Africa’s political instability either as a consequence of ethnic rivalries or the negative consequences of some retrogressive cultural values. This error of judgment [mis]leads the proponents of the universal theorists to by-pass the central issue involved in the genesis of Africa’s political crisis. Africa’s political instability have at different times also been subjected to various interpretations ranging from modernisation to neo-Marxist theories with each interpretation identifying different sources of the African crises and which subsequently have impact on the ‘best-practice’ thinking of each interpretation. Best-practice thinking as explained by Levy (2011) and Booth (2011) is a
‘one size-fits all’ approach to governance and development. It involves identification in all societies, of uniformity in what drives changes in institutions, governance, development, as well as in society while ignoring feasible entry points that are country-specific for democracy and development. From this approach comes a uniform set of policy prescriptions that are ideologically based irrespective of the peculiarities of each country. This approach, as applied to the interpretations of African crises and subsequent prescriptions of each interpretation, has profound implications for state state-builiding, democratisation processes and development. Scholars such as Harrison and Huntington, who stressed “Culture Matters” (2002) in Africa’s political instability failed to see how the same culture can facilitate autochthonous political and economic models for economic sustainability, political development and democratic consolidation. We need to be conscious that African socio-political crises are embedded in the social structures of their post-colonial forms. These are the after-effects of the relegation of the African traditional values to the fringes of the political and state building processes; and the disarticulation of African politics, economy and hybridisation of the traditional patrimonial political system by the colonial and the post-colonial administrations. This panel welcomes contributions that examine the consequences of by-passing Africa’s traditional values in the state-building and democratisation processes and how such by-pass politicised Africa’s economical and political development and indeed everyday lives of the African peoples who continue to aspire to be citizens in their supposedly independent countries.