By Mfuniselwa J. Bhengu
Men are shaped by the economy and society they are born into.
A universal civilization requires a universal power, and therefore, for an African civilization to have universal power, it would have to have a strong African-oriented economic philosophy, rooted in an African idiom. We believe that Africa has a relatively strong universal power, but still economically weak.
Afrikan-oriented Ekonomic System
The ancient Afrikan economic system was widely anchored on the principles of economic democracy. The basic premise of this notion is the study of economic processes in relation to the social and cultural contexts in which they occur. After viewing the principle of self-interest against its historico-cultural background, one considers this link in the African context, and argues that, although they cannot be taken as the sole factor, people’s cultural beliefs and values are crucial for economic development. Economic growth and development need to be a substantiation of a people’s beliefs and values.
This conflicting situation created a need, particularly during the post-apartheid era, to look at a possibility of an alternative economic paradigm, that would be grounded and rooted on African ethics, values and culture. By the way, culture gives a people self-identity and character. It allows them to be in harmony with their physical and spiritual environment, to form the basis for their sense of self-fulfillment and personal peace. It enhances their ability to guide themselves, make their own decisions, and protect their interests. It’s their reference point to the past and their antennae to the future.
In Afrika, profit was not appropriated by a single individual or by corporate owners, as in the West. Nor was it appropriated by the state, as in the East. In indigenous Afrika, profit was shared between the owners and the workers. It is in this sense, therefore, that we pursue humanistic perspectives, which centres upon human person and around human welfare, and we do this explicitly and candidly and without apologies.
As does conventional economics, we stress human agency and autonomy. Yet, unlike mainstream economics, we are not shackled by positive scientism and a nominalist epistemology. We believe in a greatly enriched human nature that takes morality seriously and that is consistent with human dignity.
Socially embedded economics seeks unity in the forces of human nature. We have a strong conviction that economic thinking and discourse cannot be carried out in an ethical vacuum, and that it is this explicit ethical foundation which is so distinctive for socially embedded economics as an alternative to ordinary economics.
It is our mission to expose errors in the mainstream economics and to offer a general framework with which to rebuild economics, including the theory of economic policy, on sounder ground.
We must realize that what is called ‘economics’, as it is taught in our universities, is simply a reflection of the economic experiences of the White community, which in itself is an extension of the economic experiences of developed Western countries. The challenge for us in Africa, is to develop a new economics, which shall be a reflection of the economic experiences of the overwhelming majority of society, the African people…Our economics must begin with an accurate knowledge of the situation and needs of the overwhelming majority of Africans in rural and semi rural areas, and in the townships of urban areas.
Therefore, Afrikonomics is the institutional feature of post-independent African governments to deliver to the masses on one side, with the emergence of an African cabal in politics and business whose main concern is the accumulation of wealth on the other. It is a result of the fact that the African has not, in the past, had the opportunity to accumulate wealth and will therefore use the political platform as his means to wealth while really not motivated by his promise to serve the interests of the majority. Having come from poverty to power, he us shackled by his past and releases himself through the accumulation of wealth that he hardly needs but must have at all costs.
Africa’s Indigenous Strengths
The following are factors that give the indigenous in Africa its sustainability.
Firstly, a sense of community remains very strong. The strong sense of community among Africans has important implications for development.
Secondly, the role in the African economy of the extended family or household. The household economy has not found much favour among the managers of development in Africa.
Thirdly, it is the profoundly participative character of African culture. The development effort has not come to terms with the fact that Africans do not generally think of themselves as atomized beings in competition, rather their consciousness runs in the direction of belonging to an organic social whole.
Western Capitalism & Globalisation
The global capitalist system did not, and does not, serve Africa well. The subordination of Africa to global capitalism has to be stopped. Globalisation has adverse ramifications for the countries of the South, with the poorest being the most badly affected. This evolution of globalization and its negative implications for Africa was not a new one for Nyerere. He warned that “…since global capitalism had so little that was positive to offer Africa, he added immediately: You have to be self-reliant”. He further warned that the leadership of the future will have to devise, try to carry out policies of maximum national self-reliance and maximum collective self-reliance. They have no other choice.
Immanuel Wallerstein, (Historical Capitalism and Capitalist Civilisation, Verso Press, London, 2003) argues that individualism, which is one of the values of capitalism, encourages the race of all against all in a particularly virulent fashion, since it legitimises this race for all of mankind. `It is thereby limitless. So individualism is the spur of energy and initiative, and it is also the limitless struggle of all against all – whereby both universalism and racism/sexism emerge.
Africa does not benefit from Western capitalism because it has failed to emulate the West in how to produce capital, and this is a fact that has been proven beyond any doubt.
The idea that all nations should appropriate Western capitalism through emulation hinges also on the assumption that it is only economic system that humanity has ever known. An evolutionary approach to the appropriation of Western capitalism is also based on the assumption of the ahistorical nature of such an economic system. Western capitalism was not necessarily the result of natural processes of economic evolution.
The capitalism which took root in Africa was a form of stunted capitalism, which generated and reproduced a stunted politics both in the marginalised African society and in its colonial leadership. This situation resulted into an institutionalised greed. Greed has now been institutionalised through the widespread adoption of laissez-faire neo-liberal policies in Africa, including South Africa. This situation led to the co-existence of two economic systems, i.e. the first economy and second economy, and Murove (2008, 86) sees this dichotomy like this:
The African economic context has two economic systems that seem to exist side by side. We have a modern economic system that is urban and another that is rural or traditional. The modern economy is Western-oriented, while the rural economy works according to African traditional values. Although Western capitalism has been in Africa for a long time, these dual economies have remained separate
From the time of the discovery of diamonds in 1869 and gold in 1886, the South African story has been thoroughly capitalist, with the commitment to elitist wealth accumulation wearing the cloak of first British imperialism, then Afrikaner nationalism and now black economic empowerment.
The rise of the educated black middle class, against a background of growing poverty, began well before the political dispensation in 1994 in South Africa. While the mean income of the lowest 40 percent of African households declined by almost 40 percent between 1970 and 1991, the mean income of the richest 20 percent (representing 5.6 million people) increased by 40 percent. Today more than one in four of the richest 20 percent of households in the land are African, compared to one in 10 in 1975.
Like middle class people everywhere, the new black elite in South Africa have the education but not the inclination, yet, to question the assumptions of capitalism that underpin their well-being and the poverty of their ‘less fortunate’ compatriots. This may be changed as it is borne in on middle class blacks and whites that there really is no future for the capitalism on which their present lifestyle depends and that an attractive, sustainable future for their children and grandchildren is possible along the way of interest-free credits linked to social merits.
We need to bear in mind how the racialist mindset was allowed and cultivated only for as long as it was good for capital accumulation. While racialism was still good for business, the thought that blacks and whites could get along and work perfectly well together as political equals was dismissed out of hand as an impossible dream. But it became obvious through the 1980s and 90s that modern capitalism needs market-attached blacks and whites to work, bank-borrowing and consume equally well, however, still little real concern for the growing number of people who do not have access to the market.
In pre-colonial Afrika, the individual’s freedom was equally subject to the overall community interest. There existed social sanctions, which were meant to reign in untethered individual freedom, and I will explain this more below.
The Problem Statement
As explained above, through Western capitalism (which embodies Western culture), African ethics and African economic relations (which embody African culture) were disrupted and put almost into non-existence, because Western capitalism tends to be a science of self interest, of how to best accommodate individual behaviour by means of markets and the commodification of human relations. Much of it still reflects the particular philosophical tradition of British culture inaugurated by Hume and his followers. There is no room for a logic of human values and rationally founded ethics. Human aspirations are watered down to shopping behaviour and channelled into stale consumerism.
The result of this encounter between the two cultures (Africa and West), is that the disadvantaged culture, which is African culture, could not assimilate totally the dominant Western culture. This has led to the disadvantagedness and dislocation of African culture, which led Africans to struggle and fight for their cultural renaissance and liberation, within the context of economics, whilst the dominant culture, pushes forward with its existent dominant cultural way of doing things. The following are effects of such encounter:
(1) The Africans/Third World countries become disadvantaged,
(2) Western capitalism gets stunted and fails to thrive in an African setting/Third World situations, and
(3) The global economic order is, thus, not in balance.
According to Adu Boahen (“African Perspectives on Colonialism”, 1987; 101-102),
…the colonial system led to the delay of industrial and technological development in Africa. One of the typical features of the colonial political economy was the total neglect of industrialization and of the processing of locally produced raw materials and agricultural products in the colonies. It should not be forgotten that before the colonial period, Africans were producing their own building materials, their pottery and crockery, their soap, breads, iron, tools, and especially cloth; above all, they were producing the gold that was exported to Europe and the Mediteranean world. Had the traditional production and techniques in all these areas been modernized and had industrialization been promoted, African industrial and technological development would have commenced much earlier than it did. But they were not. Instead, preexisting industries were almost all eradicated by the importation of cheap and even better substitutes from Europe and India, while Africans were driven out of the mining industry as it became an exclusive preserve of Europeans. This neglect of industrialization, destruction of the existing industries and handicrafts in Africa, and elimination of Africans from the mining field further explain Africa’s present technological backwardness.
Prof. Herbert Vilakazi (2001), writing in the New Agenda journal (a South African Journal of Social and Economic Policy) of 2001 had this to say: “We must realize that what is called ‘economics’, as it is taught in our universities, is simply a reflection of the economic experiences of the White community, which in itself is an extension of the economic experiences of developed Western countries. The challenge for us in Africa, is to develop a new economics, which shall be a reflection of the economic experiences of the overwhelming majority of society, the African people…Our economics must begin with an accurate knowledge of the situation and needs of the overwhelming majority of Africans in rural and semi rural areas, and in the townships of urban areas”.
It is in this sense, that the Afrinomics Theory explores ways and means of creating an economic-cultural synergy, which would achieve an integral economy, that would, in turn, create an integral and holistic human person.
When Western capitalism was introduced in Africa, which was part of the colonisation process, Africans failed to reconcile their culture with Western capitalism, hence capitalism failed or still fails to thrive in an African setting.
A significant percentage of the African population purports to live under the value systems of Western capitalism, whilst many Africans still feel that where they belong is in the traditional communal setting that is mostly dominated by traditional values. The traditional African economic world remains foreign to the Western, urban economy. These two worlds have remained separate because their values are not compatible. The emphasis on community that has dominated traditional community-based economic relations is contradictory to modern economic relations built on Western individualistic values.
Whilst African traditional economic relations emphasise communal well-being and individual belongings, economic relations that are based on Western capitalism emphasise individual autonomy, the individual pursuit for personal gain and the primacy of rational choice. African communitarian values are making it impossible for modern capitalism to be integrated into traditional African life.
Therefore, Western capitalism disrupted and distorted the African normal way of life. An African had to learn to be a white person, i.e. imbibing the Western values and also keeps his African normal life – a clash of values, were and still are, inevitable. As a result it is an African who suffers because capitalism was not negotiated by was forced through his throats, as part of colonization. It is, again, in this sense that capitalism is either replaced or adapted to the African cultural milieu. That is why when delivering his paper entitled “The End of African Socialism” in May 1, 1990, at The Heritage Foundation in the USA, Ayittey, posed this question: “Why impose on black Africans an economic system which is alien to their culture? True, African peasants are communalistic and socialistic in the sense that they pool their resources together to build and care about their neighbors and family members”. This suggests that what is central in the whole debate is the importance and essence of culture.
With Africans, culture is about how the past must interact with the future. It is about how social values are transmitted and individuals are made to be part of a society.
Therefore, culture among the Bantus is regulated by the philosophy of Ubuntu, which insists that the very identity of each person is bound up with others in a community of all. In a globalised world our sense of Ubuntu must extend right across the planet. The more global the market, the more it must be balanced by a global culture of solidarity, attentive to the needs of the weakest.
Dalton (1975) describes capitalism as “…immoral, unjust and humanly degrading…Capitalism is insufficient since it produces unemployment, low wages, monopoly, business cycle crises and bankruptcies; it is transient since it will disappear just as feudalism and earlier systems disappeared, and for the same general reasons”.
Perhaps, this is what led Huntington (1996: 21) to say “the most important distinctions among peoples are not ideological, political or economic. They are cultural. Peoples and nations are attempting to answer the most basic question humans can face: Who are you? And they are answering that question in the traditional way human beings have answered it, by reference to the things that mean most to them. People define themselves in terms of ancestry, religion, language, history, values, customs, and institutions. People use politics, not just to advance their interests but also to define their identity. We know who we are only when we know who we are not and often only when we know whom we are against. Nation states remain principal actors in world affairs, and their behaviour is shaped as in the past by the pursuit of power and wealth, but it is also shaped by cultural preferences, commonalities and differences”.
Marcel Mauss (1990; 76) argued that: “It is our western societies who have recently made man an ‘economic animal. But we are not yet all creatures of this genus. Among the masses and the elites in our society purely irrational expenditure is commonly practiced. It is still characteristic of a few of the fossilized remnants of our aristocracy. Homo oeconomicus is not behind us, but lies ahead, as does the man of morality and duty, the man of science and reason”
The Prestige Motive
Within the prestige worldview, someone who relates with others solely on the basis of the profit motive is seen as a potential source of evil to the community. But within the traditional African context, the prestige motive was based on the belief that it is through acts of generosity to the community that the individual will flourish. The prestige motive ensures that the community will exist in harmony when wealth is collectively enjoyed (Gefand 1981; Nyerere 1968, Senghor 1964, Kaunda 1966).
Traditionally, the profit motive was seen as a source of evil: “…in an African context it is very important to share with one’s neighbour – whoever does not share withholds the life force from another. Such a person confines oneself to the house and is unable to be a friend to others, thus poisoning the community atmosphere. Neighbours feel bad about such a person and feel that a misfortune is likely to befall him or her. Business enterprises will not flourish, property will be lost, or the family of the owners will be struck by sickness, death or anything” (Bujo 1998, 162).
This prestige motive helped to preserve the socio-economic equilibrium within the community because wealth became available to everybody. Avarice was one of the most detestable vices. Hence, the border between the avarice and frugality is unclear in Africa, because saving money, for instance, could be taken as an excuse for refusing to offer necessary assistance to others. This explains why even today people in Africa do not hesitate to organize big feasts with relatives, friends and acquaintances and to spend money lavishly in order to keep human contacts as close as possible. The author himself does this occasionally.
Since the prestige motive puts emphasis on communal belonging and acceptability in economic relations, Mazrui argues that ‘this prestige motive in traditional societies raises serious economic problems’ for example, difficulties of trying to get people to save’. In this prestige, ’earnings are expected on entertainment and hospitality; on ostentatious weddings, expensive funerals and initiation ceremonies.
Defining the Theory of Afrinomics Theory
The model, seeks to develop a unique inter-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary research. It is unique in that everything in an African setting, unlike in the West, is interconnected and collective, and this alone distinguishes its role it has to play in the global economic affairs.
This proposed epistemology is not necessarily African-centric or Afrocentric. It is a universal scientific epistemology that goes beyond both Afrocentricism and Eurocentricism, but seeks to contribute to the development of humanity. It recognizes all sources of knowledge as valid within their historical, cultural, social or economic contexts, and seeks to engage them into a dialogue that can lead to better knowledge for all. It recognizes people’s traditions as a fundamental pillar in the creation of such cross-cultural understandings in which the Africans can stand out as having been the fore-bears of much of what is called Greek or European heritage.
Definition of the term ‘Afrinomics’
The word ‘Afrinomics’ comes from the combination of the following two terms: Afrikology + Economics.
Afrikology = Of African continent and Africans both in the African continent and in the Diaspora.
Economics: = This has its origin in the Greek word oikonomia, which means the art of household management. In studying the nature of this art, Aristotle undertook to examine what is probably the first economic issue to have been subjected to formal inquiry: what sort of wealth getting activity is material needs became a desirable goal of human activity. For Aristotle, retail trade, as opposed to the household, which is exchange for the purpose of making money, is unnatural. The most unnatural activity, for Aristotle as subsequently for the Hebrews, moreover, is to demand interest of a loan. Usury, as such, is a necessary and honourable for humans to undertake? While Aristotle’s was an ethical and moral question, it was answered by means of reasoned inquiry: concerning human relationships as they relate to the material environment.
Actually, economics, for the twenty-first century, is a broad but divided discipline, comprising dozens of schools of thought covering almost every aspect of human existence and spanning the political and philosophical spectrum.
Economics explains how people use scarce resources to meet unlimited demand. Some people like to think of economics as a study of supply and demand. Economic systems answer the questions: What to produce? How to produce? How to distribute?.
Afrinomics Theory is a ‘spirituality without borders’ that is inclusive and pluralistic. It holds a holistic worldview that emphasizes the mind, body and spirit that are interrelated and that there is a form of monism and unity throughout the universe. It attempts to create a worldview that includes both science and spirituality and embraces a number of forms of mainstream science as well as other forms of science that are considered fringe.
It is an economic theory that knows no colour but strives for the betterment of our human and humanity. It seeks to achieve a triumph of the human spirit within the context of economics.
Afrinomics Theory embraces African humanism, which is rooted in traditional values of mutual respect for one’s fellow kinsman and a sense of position and place in the larger order of things: one’s social order, natural order, and the cosmic order. African humanism is rooted in lived dependencies. Where life’s means are relatively minimal and natural resources are scarce, the individual person must depend on his or her larger community. African humanism is linked to larger discussions of “communalism” in Africa, though not to radical communalism. There is a certain “self-interest” among men and women but that self-interest is subordinated to communal well-being. Gyekye (1987) defines the concept of African humanism as: “a philosophy that sees human needs, interests, and dignity as of fundamental importance and concern. For, the art, actions, thought, and institutions of the African people, at least in the traditional setting, reverberates with expressions of concern for human welfare”. This he sees as the “fundamental concept in African socioethical thought generally”. This basic socioethical humanism is the underpinning of African socialism in the post-World War 11 period.
Julius Nyerere had this to say on African humanism: It is a humanism of our time, a humanism that clearly finds its roots in African authenticity, but which also moves to embrace universal concerns and concerns for the future of the universe. This humanism should also reconcile people among themselves on the basis of the principles of complimentarity and solidarity. It is equality and respect for human dignity; sharing of the resources, which are produced by our efforts; work by everyone and exploitation by none (Nyerere (1968) in Bhengu, 2006)
Therefore, the Afrinomics Theory must be understood as an articulation of an African economic renaissance, for one cannot say “I am an African” whilst politically, economically, socially, culturally, etc is dependent on alien heritage. So, an attempt to infuse African metaphysics into economics has to be taken up, problematized, interrogated and given meaning.
It is an African approach that seeks to present market economy, which encompasses the philosophical, epistemological and methodological issues, all seen as part of the process of creating an African self-understanding, which is necessary if Africa is to emerge as a proud member of the global society to which it belongs.
In this sense, therefore, this is a process of re-awakening, consciousness raising and restatement by Africans tracing the origins and achievements of their civilizations with a view to developing new economic epistemologies of knowledge production based on African lived experiences in their global implications. If we are to move forward in history, self-understanding is crucial, to organize ourselves to move forward in history and cultural experiences. For without self-understanding, an African remains incomplete.
The reconstruction of our understanding of ourselves as Africans and how our relationships with the rest of humanity has led us where we are in the context of a global historical process, is crucial. It is a hermeneutical problem of self-understanding in which we have to position ourselves as authentic human beings who have made a contribution to human civilization, and justifiably so since Africa is the homeland of the world cradle of humankind. In a word, it is a hermeneutic task in which we have to foreground ourselves in the context of reconstructing our historical economic consciousness. It has to be hermeneutical because what is at issue here is not just “knowledge” that science claims to be able to produce through ‘reason’, but a whole way of looking at the world that involves the relation between temporal and spiritual world.
Therefore, this theory deals with African economic philosophy and economic practice, and seeks to liberate Africa from “economic occupation”.
Pillars of the Afrinomics Theory
(a). It believes and maintains that any harmful action against another individual is a threat to the whole society; a restriction on individual’s economic activity places severe constraints on the economic welfare of the whole society; if the individual prospers, so does his/her extended family and the community; an individual could prosper so long as his/her pursuit of prosperity does not harm or in conflict with the interests of the community; the society’s interests have to be paramount; unless an individual’s pursuit of prosperity conflicts with society’s interests, the State must intervene.
(b). It seeks to move our society forward to a higher and reconciled form of society, in which the quintessence of the human purpose reasserts itself in a modern, free and democratic economic context and to create a new society that is humane, just and harmonious.
©. It believes that an action is good if it preserves the totality, fullness and the harmonious life of a human person; an action is bad if it has a more or less decided tendency to break into and narrow the totality and fullness of humanism (Ubuntu). Therefore, we believe that for Africa to have universal power, it would have to have a strong African-oriented ‘substantivist’ economic philosophy, that is culturally rooted and grounded in an African idiom.
The Basic Economic Law of Development
Development must be concerned with the maximum satisfaction of the constantly rising material and cultural requirements of the whole of society through the continuous expansion and perfection of our African humanism.
Therefore, the law of balanced development of the national economy can yield the desired result only if there is a purpose for the sake of which economic development is planned. This purpose is inherent in the basic economic law of African humanism. The law of balanced development of the national economy can operate to its full scope only if its operation rests on the basic economic law of African humanism.
Instead of maximum profits – there must be maximum satisfaction of the material and cultural requirements of society; Instead of development of production with breaks in continuity from boom to crisis and from crisis to boom – there must be unbroken expansion of production.
The Philosophy of NTU as a Guiding Force
NTU is the “Causative Force”. It is the power that is responsible for all creation, on earth and in the universe.
Mu+Ntu = Man (Umuntu).
Mu- represents a human person
Ntu- represents an abstract – an element of godliness in a human person.
Therefore, umuntu, not a black person as often interpreted, but any human person on the planet, is endowed with the divine attributes: Intellect, Wisdom, Justice, Creativity, Compassion, Love, etc. that make him to be distinctly different from other created beings. He/she consists of the: spirit, soul and body. This is a three-fold principle of Muntu (man).
All these elements constitute what is called uBuntu, which teaches us that we are one moral universe, and our shared moral sense makes us recognize our duty to others.
The Need for the Recovery of African Identity
According to Mbeki, the problem of “rapacious and venal individualism”– which the neo-liberal policies of his government have often been accused of exacerbating, will only be resolved by a rediscovery of “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”, namely the “Ubuntu value system”(Mbeki 2007).
Again, speaking at the eighth annual Steve Biko Memorial Lecture in Cape Town in September 2007, Mbeki provided a sombre and rather frank assessment of disturbing levels of fragmentation and dysfunction in our post-apartheid society, and said
Our society has been captured by a rapacious individualism which is corroding our social cohesion, which is repudiating the value and practice of human solidarity, and which totally rejects the fundamental precept of Ubuntu (Mbeki 2007: 16).
Principles of Afrinomics Theory
When we act with integrity, we harmonize our behaviour to conform to universal human principles. We do what we know is right; we act in line with our principles and beliefs.
For one’s actions to conform to universal human principles, one must take responsibility for his/her actions – and the consequences of those actions.
Caring about others communicates our respect for others. It creates a climate in which others will be compassionate toward us when we need it most.
Without a tolerance for mistakes and the knowledge of our own imperfection, we are likely to be rigid, inflexible, and unable to engage with others in ways that promote our mutual good.
Disciplines of Afrinomics Theory
Economic Anthropology: this explains human economic behaviour using the tools of both economics and anthropology. It deals with the relationship between the world capitalist system and local cultures.
PoliticaL Economy: Originally, political economy meant the study of the conditions under which production was organized in the nation-states. It explains phenomena beyond economics’ standard remit, in which context, the term “positive political economy” is common.
Cultural Economics: which explains the relation of culture to economic outcome. This includes how much culture matters to economic outcomes and what its relation is to institutions. This includes economics of the arts and literature, religion, social norms, social capital and social networks.
Behavioural Economics: which deals with behavioural economics and behavioural finance. These two are closely related fields that have evolved to be a separate branch of economic and financial analysis which applies scientific research on human and social, cognitive and emotional factors to better understand economic decisions by, say, consumers, borrowers, investors, and how they affect market prices, returns and the allocation of resources. The field is primarily concerned with the bounds of rationality of economic agents. Behavioural models typically integrate insights from psychology with neo-classical economic theory. Behavioural finance is another similar field of knowledge that evolved during 1970s.
Social Economics: which is concerned with the relationship between economic activity and social life. It uses methods from sociology, economics, history, psychology, etc. In many cases, socio-economists focus on the social impact of some sort of economic change. Social effects can be wide-ranging in size, anywhere from local effects on a small community to changes to an entire society. The upshot of these considerations is that economic policies should be based on community.
Characteristics of the Afrinomics Theory
Afrinomics Theory maintains that any harmful action against another individual is a threat to the whole society; a restriction on individual’s economic activity places severe constraints on the economic welfare of the whole society; if the individual prospers, so too does his extended family and the community; an individual could prosper so long as his pursuit of prosperity does not harm or in conflict with the interests of the community; the society’s interests have to be paramount; unless an individual’s pursuit of prosperity conflicts with society’s interests, the State must intervene.
It is rooted in social order, natural order, and the cosmic order.
It is about the principles of communal ownership of the means of production in which kinship and family groups participate in economic activity.
It is opposed to capitalism, and equally opposed to doctrinaire socialism which seeks to build society on a philosophy of inevitable conflict between man by man (seeks a third path).
It is underpinned by the African maxim: “I am because we are” in which the “we” connotes the community, the “I” connotes the individual or personhood. To the African, the “we” means his/her extended family or lineage.
It is a morally charged economic system that seeks to increase the welfare of the global community which simultaneously increases the market for economic goods and services.
It is a transformed and liberated state of mind, with a capacity to transform an individual, an organization and the society.
It is an economic system of equality and respect for human dignity; sharing of the resources, which are produced by people’s efforts; work by everyone and exploitation by none.
It seeks to move our society forward to a higher and reconciled form of society, in which the quintessence of the human purposes reasserts itself in a modern, free and democratic economic context.
It seeks to create a new society that is humane, just and harmonious.
It seeks to put an emphasis on any marginalized culture in the economic evolution of the sub-Saharan Africa.
Its seeks to serve humanity to the fullest by committing itself to Ubuntu, as a global ethic, to understanding one another, to socially beneficial, peace-fostering, and nature-friendly ways of economic life.
It believes that everything in the universe (even a stone) is endowed with some kind of soul, level of consciousness or life-force
It sees a human-centred one world.
It believes that the material gain alone cannot lead to true development; economic activities are inter-related with all other aspects of life.
It believes that people’s well-being and their very identity are rooted in their spiritual, social, and cultural traditions.
Aristotle, “Man was not an economic but a social being. Man’s economy was, as a rule, submerged in social relations”.
Karl Polanyi (1940) “Laissez-faire industrial capitalism separated out economy from society and polity by turning labor, land and other natural resources into commodities…”
Prof. Adebayo Adedeji (1982) “Most development paradigms in Africa have been grounded in Western political and development traditions that failed to take cognizance of Africa’s cultural and historical background”.
Prof. George Ayittey (2005), “The type of capitalism practiced in Africa was of a different variety. Profit was not appropriated by a single individual or by corporate owners, as in the West. Nor was it appropriated by the state, as in the East. In indigenous Africa, profit was shared between the owners and the workers”.
Prof. Ali Mazrui (1966) ‘African integrity motive vs Western profit motive’.
Julius Nyerere (1968), came up with the theory of Ujamaa in Tanzania.
Kwame Nkruma (1967), emphasized African socialism concept as articulated in his famous book “Consciencism”.
Thabo Mbeki (2007) ‘South Africa is a country of two economic nations’, i.e. the first economy and the second economy’.
Prof. Herbert Vilakazi (2001) “The challenge for us in Africa, is to develop a new economics, which shall be a reflection of the economic experiences of the overwhelming majority of society, the African people”.
In a sense, the Afrinomics Theory attempts to be involved, with other global forces, in an organized process of de-colonizing and over-hauling Western capitalism so that it could serve humanity well, and we can do that if we move from outside to the inside, and begin to domesticate all the economic methodologies and approaches that were ideologically constructed, as Western economic constitutive rules, and begin to problematize new epistemological approaches that are based on our own cosmogonies, i.e. look at things from within and re-humanize the economic world.
It is in this sense, that this theory explores ways and means of creating an economic-cultural synergy, which would achieve an integral, re-humanized and moral economic system, that would, in turn, create an integral and holistic economy.
Review of Afrinomics Theory
Every day I feel an urgent need to put into practice the central ideas of Afrinomics Theory. I feel it whenever I see beggars on the street, and whenever I learn something of the life story of someone who has suffered economic adversities. I believe, further, that problems that are not strictly economic such as crime, environmental degradation, alcoholism, war, etc. that at present cannot be solved, could be solved, or at least greatly alleviated, in a world organized according to the central principles of Afrinomics Theory.
Before I begin, however, I will give two answers to what lawyers call a threshold question. A threshold question is a question that needs to be answered before beginning the analysis proper. My threshold question here is the question why a white man such as me would want to contribute to building an African thought, such as this one, is sometimes identified with the conviction that the opinions of white men have dominated the world far too long, and that it is time to reconstruct the world according to the opinions of people who are not white, or not male, or neither white nor male. If Afrinomics Theory is in principle a revolt against me, it might appear masochistic on my part to be contributing to a revolt against myself.
Firstly, as Bhengu makes clear, Afrinomics Theory is not a racist doctrine. It proposes a non-racial world with respect for cultural diversity, organized by a philosophy originating in Africa (where indeed, as Dani Nadubere and others have shown, European philosophy also originated). Afrinomics Theory is not an African attack on the rest of humankind. It is an African contribution to all of humankind.
Secondly, Afrinomics Theory, with its roots in a particular set of cultures and in the history of a particular geographical area, is an example of a new, better, and more believable form of humanism. By “old” humanism I mean the universal rights of man of the European Enlightenment. They are classically expressed in the categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant: treat rational being, whether in yourself or in others, always as an end and never as a means only. Now after the genealogies and deconstructions of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and others, it is no longer possible to regard this old form of humanism as scientific or philosophical truth. Whatever merits it may have as a mythology suitable for organizing some or all human relationships, it is not what Kant and other Enlightenment leaders thought it was: it is not an ethics founded on a concept of what it means to be human cognitively valid at all times and places.
Afrinomics Theory is frankly a product of African culture and history. It is not (as the Enlightenment was) the product of a particular culture and history palming itself off as universal. Afrinomics Theory is an example of a new kind of humanism more believable and less imperialistic than the old kind. Consequently white men, yellow men, yellow women, white women, red women, red men, and indeed anybody at all can regard it as a good example. It is an example we here in Chile will be able to learn from as we promulgate an economic humanism rooted in Chilean culture and history. The people who follow Afrinomics Theory’s good example need not necessarily be Africans. They can construct economic humanisms from the cultures and histories of other places and peoples. This is all to the good. It is liberating for everybody.
By Prof. Howard Richards of Chile
Adedeji, A. 1982, “Development and Economic Growth in Africa to the Year 2000: Alternative Projections and Policies”, Colorado: Westview Press
Amin Samir, 1997, “Capitalism in the Age of Globalization”, London, Zed Books,
Barbara Elion & Mercia Strieman, 2001, “Clued up on Culture”, One Life Media, Cape.
Basil Davidson, 1978. ”Africa in Modern History”, Penguin Books Ltd, England
Bernard M. Magubane, “Race and the Construction of the Dispensable Other”, 2007, University of South Africa, RSA.
Bhengu M. J., 2006, “Ubuntu: The Global Philosophy for Humankind”, Lotsha Publications, Cape Town.
Bujo, B. 1998, “The Ethical Dimension of Community: The African Model and the Dialogue Between North and South. Limuru”: Kolbe Press.
Dalton George, “Economic Systems & Society”, 1974, Penguin Books, New York, USA
Danah Zohar & Ian Marshall, 2004, “Spiritual Capital”, Bloomsbury Publishing, London.
De Soto, H. 2000. “The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fail Everywhere Else”, London: Bantam.
De Tocqueville, A. 1946. “Democracy in America” Vol. 11 Eds. F. Bowen and P. Bradley. New York.
George B.N. Ayitteyi, 2005, “Africa Unchained”, USA.
Gyeke, K. 1997, “Tradition and Modernity: Philosophical Reflection on African Experience”. New York: Oxford University Press
Hunter, G.1967, “The Best of Both Worlds? A Challenge on Development Policies in Africa”. London: Oxford University Press
Immanuel Wallerstein, 2003, “Historical Capitalism and Capitalist Civilisation”, Verso Press, London, (11TH ED)
Kwame Gyeke, 1956, “African Cultural Values”
Kwame Gyeke, 1956, “African Cultural Value”,Ghana
Kwame Nkrumah, 1967, “African Socialism Revisited”, Prague
Monika Brodnicka, 2003, “Journal on African Philosophy”.
Marx, K. 1988. “The Communist Manifesto”. Ed. F.L. Bender, New York, Rider
Marx K. 1988, “The Communist Manifesto”. Ed. FL Bender. New York: Rider
Mandeville, B. 1924. “The Fable of the Bees”, Vol. 2 Ed F.B. Kaye. Oxford University Press.
Mazrui, A.A. 1966. “On Heroes and Uhuru-Worship: Essays on Independent Africa”. London: Green
Marx, K. 1988. “The Communist Manifesto”. Ed. F.L. Bender, New York, Rider
Marx, K. 1988. “The Communist Manifesto”. Ed. F.L. Bender, New York, Rider
Magubane Bernard, 1979, “The Political Economy of Class and Race in South Africa“, London
Murove, M.F. 1999, “The Shona Concept of Ukama and the Philosophical Concept of Relatedness, with Special Reference to the Ethical Implications of Contemporary Neo-Liberal Economic Practices”. Masters Thesis, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg
Murove, M.F. 2008., Persons in Community, Ukzn Press, RSA
Reuel Khoza, 2006, “Let Africa Lead”, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Wiredu, K. 1996. “Cultural Universals and Particulars: An African Perspective”. Bloomington: Indiana University Press
Wiredu, K. 1996, “Cultural Universals and Particulars: An African Perspective”. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Newspapers & Magazines
“Enterprise magazine”, February 2006
“Enterprise Magazine”, December 2004 issue.
“Financial Mail”, 19 May, 2001.
“Financial Mail”, 25 July, 2003.
“Leadership magazine”, July 2003.
“New Agenda” Journal, Issue 14, Second Quarter 2004.