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Emerging Perspectives on ‘African Development’

Speaking Differently

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Edited By George J. Sefa Dei and Paul Banahene Adjei

Emerging Perspectives on ‘African Development’: Speaking Differently discusses numerous areas of interest and issues about Africa, including contemporary challenges and possibilities of development. The book critically engages the many ways of presenting ‘development,’ highlighting the interplay of tradition and modernity as well as contestations over knowledge production in ‘post-colonial’ Africa. It offers cautionary words to field practitioners, researchers, and social theorists who work in development using language that is easily accessible to laypersons. This book is also for undergraduate and graduate courses on development, global education, rural development, and Africa studies. For readers looking for something new about Africa beyond the old stories of catastrophes and human misery, this book will be indispensable. It demonstrates that even in the face of many failures, tragedies, and suffering, Africa’s stories can be told with hope and a sense of possibility.
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Chapter 8. Rethinking Development: An Indigenous African Communal Approach

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AHMED ALI ILMI

Over the past fifty years or so, the term ‘development’ in Africa has been synonymous with modernization, human rights, and democracy. In fact, the term ‘development’ from a Eurocentric paradigm has been contextualized as a catch-22 phrase encompassing all the programs and initiatives fashioned to move Africa forward. While it is important to address some of the issues on the ground, it is also important to question the asymmetrical power relation in which development advocates have been advancing for generations now when it comes to affairs in Africa. This chapter attempts to elucidate principles of development that are rooted in Indigenous ontology, epistemology, and axiology to advance some of the key actions Africans need to take to control their development agenda. With this undertaking, I delineate the power of an Indigenously anchored approach to transformative African-centered development. I examine how notions of African communalism have been instrumental in sustaining communities and development possibilities for Africa. I conclude this chapter by exploring the implication of an Indigenous African approach to grassroots development.

As I started thinking about writing this chapter on development, one image that easily came to mind is of some young boys, whom I briefly met at Mombasa, Kenya, last summer. These boys had handcrafted magnificent battery-operated ← 142 | 143 → toys from scrap metal, wood, and neon lights. It was remarkable seeing these boys intently playing with their toys. I remember noticing them from a distance and then quickly walking closer to watch...

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