f1 fs6 fc0 sc0 ls0 ws13">from worldview which will have to furnish universal reasons
for this slogan of action, including the place of gods, spirits,
deities, man and lower creatures, etc. According to him:
Thus we can talk of communist ideology, socialist ideology
and capitalist ideology. These are by no means the same as
worldview. No doubt, we can in a stretched connotation speak
of capitalist worldview or socialist worldview. But then we
would in these instances be talking of metaphysics, a concep-
tion of the world, including the position and roles of God, the
deities, man and lower creatures in a cosmological scheme
(Oguejiofor, 2009: p. 3).
Oguejiofor thus objects to Agbakoba’s inter-use of world-
view and ideology, and distinguishes ideology from worldview
by saying that ideology is about practical calls/slogans to action
which do not have to include the accompanying theories and
beliefs in the universe as is seen in worldview. But this distinc-
tion misses the point: ideology is distinguished, but not differ-
ent as he claims above, from worldview. Wiredu (1980: p. 52)
recognizes this link when he sees ideology as “… a set of ideas
about what form the good society should take, and any such set
of ideas needs a basis in first principles, which is where phi-
losophy comes in.” Surprisingly in his very next line Oguejio-
for makes a U-turn by acknowledging that ideology can be
stretched from the political to the metaphysical to get a world-
view. Thus a worldview is a foundation for an ideology: it pro-
vides the explanatory instruments for this ideology. Oguejiofor
also writes that ideology is okay for the less informed masses
and only hard cooked intellectuals will press for sublime and
ultimate explanations for a slogan of action (2009: p. 3). So it
follows that an ideology finds its explanation, or is understood,
in a worldview. It is in this sense that Agbakoba uses both in-
terchangeably.
According to Oguejiofor (2009: p. 3):
It (worldview) is different from a philosophy of life or a
motto. A philosophy of life is often couched in an inspirational
saying or an idyllic relationship with the world or with fellow
men. It is different from worldview because it is consciously
chosen, but the worldview of a people develops over time, ire-
spective of the philosophy of life of the individuals or groups of
individuals that make up the community.
Could the worldview of a people have developed irrespective
of the individuals or groups of people in that community? If not
the people, then what developed it? Even if Oguejiofor is say-
ing that African conceptions of the Supreme Being, deities,
man, the lower animals, were all arrived at unconsciously, is
the conscious not a major gateway to the unconscious? Imagine
that each of these entities or concepts in African cosmology has
series of explanations and theories as to its supposed existence,
and all these theories emerged from nowhere without human
agency. These theories about the world around us did not come
directly from heaven (or hell) and enter into the human sub-
conscious without at least being thought of. It seems contradict-
tory to say that man’s efforts to come to terms with his envi-
ronment and fashion explanations for these over time were
actually carried out without him. Clearly what informs Ogue-
jiofor’s denial of philosophy and consciousness of worldview is
the limitation of philosophy to individual and critical activity
by Professional African philosophers who do not agree that a
worldview is also a philosophical way of seeing things. But this
overlooks the possibility that what we call worldview today
could have arisen from the evolutionary aggregation of the
cogitations of individual members of society over time. This
cogitation, or rather its momentous result, must not be perfect,
can never be perfect; it improves on itself with time. And this
gradual improvement is facilitated by the critical element of
individual cogitations viz a viz worldview in the light of new
frontiers of insight, culture and worldviews, an element that
Oguejiofor tries to rebuff. Therefore, worldview is human and
conscious, and there f o re , philosophical.
Next, Oguejiofor, like William Abraham, states that world-
view emerges from man’s first encounter with nature, is en-
capsulated in the myths of origin of a particular people (5), and
therefore, African worldview developed from the pristine con-
ditions of the ancestors of present day Africans (Oguejiofor,
2009: pp. 4-5). Here he gives the impression that worldview is
forever static and remains glued to the “beginning of the world”.
What he seems to imply therefore is that even though world-
view emerged from the very first encounter with reality, it can-
not change with changing reality. If worldview is static, then
philosophy cannot be a critique of worldview, such critique
being meaningless and already defeated. But Oguejiofor con-
tradicts himself (along with William Abraham on whom he
relies here) in this regard. If, as he asserts, worldview arises out
of living conditions and is always influenced by them (5), then
it is inescapable that worldview must continue to evolve with
changing conditions, and not remain tied to the very first living
condition. It is, therefore, bogus to say that Africans approach
reality today according to the method of understanding of their
very first ancestors. In any case towards the end of his work,
Oguejiofor is to make a U-turn on the pristine nature of world-
view by commenting on how “… changeable and nebulous it
is.” (11).
Oguejiofor goes into a narration of the threats of natural dis-
aster, environmental hostility and the African’s superstitious
reaction to them in setting up rituals and deities, which leads
him to the conclusion, not just that nature’s hostility is respon-
sible for African underdevelopment, but that this natural hostil-
ity is correlated to the level of superstition in Africa (Oguejio-
for, 2009: pp. 6-7). According to him:
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The picture that filters out of the above is a situation where
life (in Africa) is threatened by many factors and forces: pov-
erty, usual natural disaster, geographic unpredictability, ab-
sence of many economic endowments. Natural scientific pro-
gress becomes really slow in such circumstances. These i n turn
gave rise to a conception of evil forces as responsible for many
incomprehensible occurrences in mans life (Oguejiofor, 2009:
p. 7).
If we are asked to choose between, on the one hand, eco-
logical upsets like the droughts of Central/Eastern Africa, a
recent mudslide in Uganda that killed about eighteen people
(BBC News Africa, 2012: par. 1), the recent flooding in Nigeria
that momentarily lowered oil production, and, on the other hand,
environmental disasters ranging from tsunamis, tornadoes, hur-
ricanes to earthquakes that have so far left Africa literarily un-
touched, which would we see as the types of natural disasters
that have enough magnitude to destroy thoroughly and to para-
lyze and numb the mind? Which of these categories of disasters
ought to more vividly provide an impression of “angry gods”
and thus more deeply compel superstition? Which is a greater
persuasion to the psychology of resignation? From time im-
memorial, Japan has sat atop frighteningly faulty subterranean
tectonic plates (Waldie, 2012: par 1) that have made the most
destructive and bloody earthquakes in human history a
house-hold affair, routinely taking away amounts of lives that
are equal to some wartime mortality rates, and causing national
economic losses of magnitudes that tax the imagination. Most
importantly, we might consider the sheer psychological chal-
lenge involved; especially when we consider that a superstitious
reading of the enormity of its various natural disasters is likely
to conclude that the very existence of Japan is basically a
providential error. The Scandinavian and Nordic tribes, ances-
tors of Western Europe, and the Siberian Russians come from
historical and geographical backgrounds of the most extremely
unfriendly weather conditions in the world: climatic conditions
dominated by extremely low temperatures and heavy layers of
snow for most parts of the year, making it virtually impossible
to do anything with the soil. Perhaps, this sped up the discovery
of iron and hence technology. History and common sense thus
seem to suggest quite the contrary: that natural hostility is the
driver of human ingenuity, scientific and technological innova-
tion, hence the famous dictum “Necessity is the mother of in-
vention”. But more importantly, Oguejiofor’s assumption that
African geography and environment are more hostile to devel-
opment compared to elsewhere, along with the implication that
the geographical friendliness of respective regions of the world
is in direct proportion to their level of development, is not just
too reductionist but out rightly false.
If we are to consider natural disasters, then nature pampered
Africa. Besides, it is not natural hostility but man’s reaction to
it that determines development. Oguejiofor energetically de-
scribes how natural hostility has led to conceptions of evil
forces, in other words, to a superstitious worldview, but he
puzzlingly denies that philosophy can be a critique of this world
view. In this respect, we may ask: If development is a purpose-
ful and goal-oriented change, then how will a pervasive ten-
dency toward extra-natural rather than scientific or logical ex-
planations lead to any form of development? And should phi-
losophy not be a critique of superstition? The African supersti-
tious reaction to nature (or worldview), which Oguejiofor ob-
serves of pre-colonial Africa, can be seen as evolutional and
due for re-orientation, as happened in Europe during the Ren-
aissance and scientific ideological revolutions. It is this same
worldview that he shields from any attempted critical inquiry.
Again, it is the human agency that has to intervene to correct an
initial and naïve impression created by contact with nature’s
hostilities. Indeed, let us look at what Oguejiofor thinks of
worldview in general and the African worldview in particular.
Oguejiofor argues that condition affects worldview, but
worldview cannot affect condition. For him:
A particular worldview develops from a particular condition,
and it is not the worldview that causes the condition in the first
place, otherwise, we would understand it to be made in heaven
(or hell) and dropped into the particular community, which
holds it. Hence the African condition gave rise to the African
worldview, and it is shaped by it (Oguejiofor, 2009: p. 8).
This is pure determinism. Fatalism is a more specific termi-
nology since its only logical outcome is resignation. What
Oguejiofor is saying is that we are entirely at the hands of na-
ture. Nature shapes man, man cannot shape nature. This is very
unlike Serequebehran’s quoting of Senghor’s view that: “… the
true and proper characteristic of Man is to snatch himself from
the earth… to escape in an act of freedom from his “natural
determinations.” It is by liberty that man conquers nature and
reconstructs it on a universal scale, that man realizes himself as
a god…” (Serequebehran, 1994: p. 51).
Oguejiofor supports his argument by reference to the United
Nations Index of Human Development, where he urges one to
notice that countries of the same region share more or less the
same level of deve lopment co mpared to other parts of the globe,
and concludes that there must be “… something more at play,
something linked with where they are found, the context of
their existence which is such that all nations living around the
same region have more or less the same level of economic de-
velopment”, and concludes by asking how this can be an issue
of worldview (Oguejiofor, 2009: p. 8). But what is the reason to
suppose that general parity in regional development is a result
of mere geographical and climatic similarity and not the preva-
lent worldviews in these respective regions? And how correct is
his supposition of parity of regional development from the UN
Index? Is Jamaica not a few miles from Florida, or Haiti from
the USA? How far is famine-embattled Zimbabwe from South
Africa? Why is the first Mexican city that you set your eyes on
so markedly different upon crossing the US/Mexican border?
Are these due to region or climate? The same United Nations
Human Development Index shows that Afghanistan, Bangla-
desh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Laos, Maldives,
Nepal, Yemen, Vietnam, Tajikistan, Uzbekestan, Sri Lanka,
Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, are all on roughly the same category
with many sub-Saharan African countries, but they are in Euro-
Asia, and nestled around countries of “Very High Human De-
velopment” as immediate next-door neighbours. And why are
rankings of “economic” development also highly correlative
with rankings of “human” development (whose major compo-
nent is education)?
Oguejiofor describes Agbakoba’s view as belonging to the
occupational hazard of an independent philosopher who thinks
that ideas and ideas alone can change the economic lot of men
(8), but this misunderstands Agbakoba’s theory, which ac-
knowledged the influence of geography and history in addition
to human agency in human development (he even dedicated ten
pages of his article to treating Jared Diamond’s geographical
narrative), but pointed out that geography and history are not all
there is to human development or under-development (Agba-
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koba, 2003: p. 564). Oguejiofor’s criticism, therefore, is mis-
placed. Oguejiofor then goes ahead as thus:
In economic history, the most important factor is the avail-
ability of resources (including mineral, agricultural, human,
etc), stability of socio-political context, influences from outside,
efficient management, and most of these are highly determined
by the specific geography of a particular region. You cannot
build cement houses if cement is lacking in your region. You
cannot erect stone buildings if there is no rock to quarry stones
from. Human beings have an uncanny ability to adapt their
lives to their natural circumstances (8).
The last sentence of the above citation is meant to sum up the
rest of the citation, but it can also contradict it: If the ability of
human beings to adapt to their natural circumstances is uncanny,
then it means that they can also influence these natural circum-
stances and not just the other way round. Apart from the impli-
cation of the above citation that even political stability is also
dependent on geography, Oguejiofor is, by implication, sug-
gesting that the mineral and human resources necessary for the
invention of respective technologies are nowhere found in Af-
rica, which is why the ideas of developing them do not exist.
But what led to the scramble for Africa in the first place? Was
“civilizing mission” enough to invite the imperialists? No, Af-
rica possesses 99 percent of the world’s chrome resources, 85
percent of its platinum, 70 percent of its tantalite, 68 percent of
its cobalt, and 54 percent of its gold, among others. It has sig-
nificant oil and gas reserves. Nigeria and Libya are two of the
leading oil producing countries in the world (Eisele, 2007: par
2). Many African countries follow the strategy of exporting as
much (of these natural resources) as they can (Agazzi, 2012:
par 1). Japan has to import 84% of its natural resources and is
only 16% energy resource self-sufficient… It is the world’s
largest importe r of L NG, seco nd largest importer of coal and the
third largest net importer of oil (US EIA, 2012: par 1). These
resources have always been lacking and did not just run out
recently (Austin, 2011: par 2). It is also the world’s third largest
economy (CNNMoney, 2012) and a tiny (geographical) island.
Peter Temin observes that “The influence of natural resources
has declined over time. Resources either are endogenous—a
creation rather than a cause of economic growth—or irrelevant
to economic growth. The United States provides an example of
the former condition; Japan, of the latter” (Temin, 1998: p. 408).
How does African geography specifically inhibit African
development? Read Oguejiofor:
The first of these, geography, may not appear important at
first sight until one stops to examine its implications Africa
has its longest axis running North to South. This entails a great
range of climatic difference. Because difference of climate is
affected by vertical axis much more than the horizontal, it
means that climatic difference within the African continent is
very wide. This seriously affects the spread and exchange of
inventions. What this means is that what is invented for use in a
particular climatic condition cannot be used without problem
in another nearby area, just because the climatic condition in
the next area is very different (9).
With respect to the above argument, we ask: How many in-
ventions on this planet are climate sensitive? Is it iron or steel,
mineral deposits, or even human ideas that cannot tolerate cli-
mate change? Are we not using all sorts of products from other
climatic regions of the world in Africa? Is it crops? James Mor-
ris Blaut (1999: p. 391), in criticizing Guns, Germs and Steel,
noted examples of North-South diffusion of crops in the West-
ern Hemisphere, most significantly the cultivation of maize in
Peru and its adoption in North America, a significant blow to
Diamond’s axis thesis (adopted by Oguejiofor) on the difficulty
of a North-South diffusion of crops. Oguejiofor, along with
Diamond, continues that for Euro-Asia:
where the longest axis is horizontal, any invention made
in a place as far away as China can be used in Portugal be-
cause the climatic conditions of these very distant countries are
not very variable. The spur given to the spread of invention in
technological development seems to be evident. Where human
beings can lay hands on and use beneficially technology devel-
oped from elsewhere, these are added to whatever they them-
selves were able to develop, and when the areas from which
they are able to transfer inventions are large, it becomes a big
booster to their sciento-technological level.
Oguejiofor sees the reason for easier traffic of inventions and
technology across Euro-Asia as similar climatic conditions,
even though it is also evident that the inventions reached as far
as Southern United States within the same tropical climatic belt
as most of Africa and climatically different from Euro-Asia.
Agbakoba also discussed easy transfer of technology as one of
the factors influencing speed of development, to show however
that geography, but not exclusively geography, plays a role in
development (Agbakoba, 2003: p. 564).
First, by completely absolving the African of any blame for
under-development, and completely denying encomium for
development on the part of those seen as developed, Oguejio-
for’s response has heavily political and therapeutic undertones.
The second implication of arguing that African underdevelop-
ment is a result of entirely extraneous factors is that we can do
nothing about it. This is lame, and, contrary to his Africanist or
antiracist intentions, is a great measure of defeatism. Thus, he
sets out to tackle racism and ends in defeatism.
Thirdly, the theory is a pretension at realism, but even genu-
ine realism per se is hardly a regulative virtue. A too-realistic
ideal is merely an apology for the status quo (Neblo, 2007: p.
536).
Fourthly, the conclusion adds no epistemic value to the lit-
erature: what epistemic value do we derive from believing that
we are helpless morons at the hands of a non-human universe
which is allegedly in possession of a dictatorial and totalitarian
scope of initiative? The only advise logical to Oguejiofor’s
submission is that we should bow down and worship nature
(mountains, trees, rivers, the sun, moon, the winds etc) like our
forefathers did in pleading with it to favour us, instead of seek-
ing to master it, the same pre-scientific ideology that enabled
thousands of Africans to be captured by a small band of Euro-
peans in the first place (see, for instance, Wiredu, 1980: pp.
11-12, 61).
The fifth implication of Oguejiofor’s entire work is that it is
not possible in this universe that we can ever dream of ap-
proaching the West in terms of development. This discounts all
the evidence of the millennia shift of civilizations (from Egypt
to Greece, Fertile Crescent to China, China to Europe, Europe
to North America, and the impeding shift from the West to East
Asia). How does geography account for the fact that East Asia
is positioning itself to represent this next shift? Are they extra-
human? One might think of objecting that East Asia had a
once-upon-a-time civilization and technological prominence, as
if Africa did not. In an epoch when we in Africa should be
contemplating a similar escapade to that of East Asia, and pos-
sibly prepare to be a potential future recipient of the exchanging
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baton of world dominance, I do not see how this theory will
benefit anybody. Like Hegel, Oguejiofor counts Africa out of
the match of world civilization.
Oguejiofor’s theory is essentially a repetition of the major
arguments in Jared Mason Diamond’s book, Guns, Germs and
Steel (1997). Thus by examining Oguejiofor, we spare our-
selves from examining Diamond in a length disproportionate to
this paper, and just make a few summary remarks regarding
Diamond’s proposal and some of its implications, since it is the
same geography, biogeography and history that spans the
common theme. Diamond wrote the book to answer a question
posed to him by Yali, a politician in Papua New Guinea: “Why
is it that you white people developed so much cargo [that is,
trade goods] and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people
had little cargo of our own” (Diamond, 1997: p. 14)? In an-
swering this question, Diamond refutes the view that Eurasian
hegemony is due to any form of Eurasian intellectual, moral or
inherent genetic superiority, and that geography decided history
about 13,000 years ago when some societies settled to agricul-
ture before others. Specifically, “Environment molds history,”
writes Diamond (1997: p. 352). All of the important differences
between human societies are due to the nature of each society’s
local environment and to its geographical location. Human
agency and cultur e ar e largely irrelevant.
Like Oguejiofor repeats, Diamond argues that geography in
terms of axis of continents, unequal distribution of domestica-
ble plants and animals and geographical barriers (which he sees
as the ultimate factors); and then the unequal power and tech-
nology between societies as a result of these “ultimate” factors
(which he calls the proximate factors) are responsible for the
economic disparity between societies. The proximate factors,
resulting from the ultimate factors, include the fallouts of eco-
nomic and technological disparity, like slavery, colonization,
etc (Diamond, 1997: p. 87). So Diamond argues that geography,
biogeography and history are responsible for differences in eco-
nomic development. But Diamond came under so much criti-
cism (which cannot be accommodated into the space of this
paper) that he had to make a U-turn in another book admitting
and even emphasizing the importance of human decisions in
response to geographical factors. He was accused of filling
hundreds of pages of geography with speculation (Blaut, 1999:
p. 395), completely ignoring the role of culture and human
decisions (Hanson, 2005; Tomlinson, 2008; Smith, 2001: par 8;
Blaut, 1999: p. 395) and of treating natural determinants of pla nt
ecology as somehow determinants of human ecology (Blaut,
1999: p. 395).1
The good point of Diamond’s geographical/biogeographical
account of the fates of societies is the attempt to deal a final
blow to hereditarian/racist accounts of history, but you cannot
simply use geographical fatalism to replace biological fatalism.
It is a movement from one reductionism to another. Several
times he says that the only alternative theory to his is racist. But
this is false, since there are too many human and cultural fac-
tors to highlight for developmental differences without imply-
ing innate racial differences of any kind. The charge of reduc-
tionism merits a little elucidation. Diamond’s presentation as-
sumed that this is a controlled experiment, and that once these
factors (geography, biogeography) are present, then develop-
ment is automatic. But this does not follow, since it overlooks
the human agency. It is akin to saying that a man will auto-
matically eat food when he is hungry. What if he decides to fast?
The free will is not servile to such determinism. It is, at least,
logically possible that the environmental conditions prescribed
by Diamond as encouraging development could be present and
the human agency will decide not to develop, just as it is a fact
that the human agency can decide to transcend discouraging
environment.
In a later book titled Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail
or Succeed, Diamond tries to restore human agency and put a
human face on the interplay between society and the environ-
ment. He uses a “framework” when considering the collapse of
a society, consisting of five “sets of factors” that may affect
what happens to a society: environmental damage, climate
change, hostile neighbors, loss of trading partners, and the soci-
ety’s own responses to its environmental problems. In order
words, two of the factors are environmental, three are human.
Since he does not take account of this reverse on the part of the
man on whom he theoretically relies, it is open to question
whether Oguejiofor did not encounter this book, or encountered
and ignored it.
Most importantly, the entire debate seems to be based on the
economistic conception of development which is “… lopsided
and terribly inadequate… as it fails to come to grips with the
complex nature of human nature, society and culture” (Gyekye,
1994: p. 45). This complexity calls for a comprehensive, not
segmented, approach, an approach that will see development as
capacity to perform satisfactorily the functions appropriate to
an object, such as society or institution (Gyekye, 1994: p. 48)
in terms of adequate responses to the entire existential condi-
tions in which human beings function, conditions which en-
compass the economic, political, social, moral, cultural, intel-
lectual and others. All these conditions are greatly helped by a
congenial political climate and a viable ethical and cultural
framework (45). Gyekye’s “environment” is not just physical
surroundings but entire socio-cultural conditions (48). Devel-
opment is a multi-dimensional and integrative concept which
cannot be measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This
fact has been appreciated by the United Nations Development
Programme which has shifted its international calibration para-
digm from measuring GDP to measuring HDI (Human Devel-
opment Index). Economic growth is only a tip of a complex
iceberg, and economic development constitutes only a species
of the genus development which is a comprehensive concept
that encompasses the economic, political, moral, cultural etc. A
species is never identical with its genus (Gyekye, 1994: p. 49).
Relationships between these species might not be logical since
one might not be a sufficient condition for the other. Example,
economic growth might not imply higher morality or distribu-
tive justice. The relationship could also be logical, like when a
culture of bush burning undermines agricultural economy,
when a culture of impunity undermines the development of
public infrastructure, or when a politics of violence keeps away
foreign direct investment.2 However, it is generally agreed that
even though political development is not a sufficient condition
for economic development, it is a necessary one (Gyekye, 1994:
p. 50). But politics is an extension of ethics.
Owing to growing scholarly dissatisfaction with the econo-
mistic notion of development, Martin Ajei (2011: p. 2) has
1For a detailed review of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel and its
growing influence on African scholarship, see my article “Africa and Geo-
graphical D eterminism” (forthcoming).
2We do not here employ the word “culture” in the ossified sense of extant
ancient practices, but in the sense of dominant behavior in a given place and
time.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 207
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reiterated Matinussen’s suggestion that the issue of develop-
ment should begin with an understanding of what ‘develop-
ment’ should mean. This necessitates a distinction between the
concept, theory and strategy of development. This distinction
prioritizes the discussion to begin with the “concept” of devel-
opment which should contain the answer to what “develop-
ment” is. The concept of development is value-laden in terms
of what the subject prefers to call development, but it is also
ethical since it encapsulates notions of what ought to be under-
stood as development. Settling questions of concept (and thus
of goal) engenders a move to theory and then to strategy.
Whilst theory and strategy might be shared by the scientific
disciplines, the conceptualization of development is predomi-
nantly philosophical. An example of trying to discuss the con-
cept is Gyekye’s cited position above. Oguejiofor’s challenge
ignores the concept of development, or rather assumes its
economistic interpretation, an interpretation that gives rise to
the developed/under-developed categorization, a categorization
on which he assumes that Africa has a predicament in the first
place, and then he goes directly into theory. Even worse, most
governments of the world take concept and theory for granted
and delve directly into ‘strategies for economic outcomes’, not
knowing that it is only a component of a whole, only meant to
be a consequence of the functioning of a whole. To be sure,
Abgakoba’s theory, which appears to be in line with Gyekye’s
conceptual supposition, calls for ethical and political strategies
of re-orientation which are not immediately economic by out-
come, but prioritizes good function of society as goal. If there is
any strategy suggested by Oguejiofor’s theory, it is, first,
self-absolution, followed by resignation to “fate”. The “fa te” is
“underdevelopment”. Let us, however, leave to another article a
fuller development of the concept of development and, for the
purposes and restricted space of this article, evaluate the claims
that h ave been made regardin g the relationship between nature,
human agency and economic development.
Between Nature and Human Agency in African
(Economic) Development
The statement that African economic development is ham-
pered by unfriendly weather seems to be opposed by history
and present reality, going by inventory of great natural disasters
leaving Africa untouched and the extreme temperate conditions
of the Nordic countries with long months of snow making it
virtually impossible to do anything with the soil. For instance,
Holland up till the 11th century was an extremely inhospitable
place and peat-bog on which absolutely nothing would grow,
plagued by constant floods and in which any human endeavor
was time and time ruined by floods and by high levels of salt
water (Barendse, 2000: par 11). Generation on generation of
Dutch farmers gradually dug away the peat, built canals to
drain the marches and built dikes to stop the inundations, so
that about 500 years of effort gradually moved the supposed
“environmental wall” to turn the country into Europe’s most
densely populated one. Perhaps it is this environmental hostility
that sped up the Nordic’s innovation with steel and technology.
It is obvious that geographic hostility has the opposite effect to
what Oguejiofor suggests: it actually speeds up innovation.
Oguejiofor has also to explain how geography accounts for
development disparities within the same region. Is it due to
geography that Ghana has taken a local comparatively decisive
turn in attracting direct foreign investment, both in education
and industry? Is it due to geography that previously unknown
South Korea is now hitting hard at the whole world in automo-
bile and electronics innovation? Or is it a question of conscious
human decisions, which are always encased in ideological ori-
entations as Agbakoba insists?
Oguejiofor cites Diamond to show that in terms of biogeog-
raphy, hardly any plant and animal species originated from
Africa. In his words:
Again from the availability of domesticable plants and ani-
mals Africa also suffers a huge disadvantage. For example the
world distribution of large-seeded grass species shows there
are only 4 in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, while there are
11 in the Americas and 33 in the zone designated as West Asia,
Europe, North Africa and Mediterranean zone. Similarly in the
distribution of candidate-animals for domestication shows
that there are originally 13 in Euro-Asia, one in the Americas
and none at all in the whole of Africa. Of the five big herbivo-
rous domestic animals, Sheep, Goat, Cow, Pig, Horse, none
was originally found to be home to sub-Saharan Africa. The big
domestic mammals had enormous influence on the onset and
the spread of food production with consequence on the evolu-
tion of science and technology (2009: pp. 9-10).
The above statistical submission, which Oguejiofor borrows
from Diamond, is simply questionable since it contradicts the
theory of Africa as the Eden of human existence: how is it that
man originated from Africa and most of all that he needs to
exist originated from elsewhere? And where did Diamond get
this information (or intuition) from, especially since it is being
questioned by majority of geography reviews?
Diamond tries hard to encompass everything under geogra-
phy and biogeography, but his analysis unwittingly reveals the
possibility of using ideological measures to correct what has
been done or undone by extraneous factors. According to
Levinas (2011: par 19):
Prof. Diamond sweeps other facts that resist geographic pi-
geonholing under the QWERTY principle. The first typewriters
featured the awkward QWERTY keyboard, meant to slow typ-
ists down so as not to jam the then-primitive typing mechanism.
But so many typists learned QWERTY, and passed it on to fu-
ture typists, that it remains entrenched even though electronic
word processing permits more ergonomic keyboard arrays.
Just so, suggests Prof. Diamond, many of the idiosyncrasies
that may bias some cultures against innovation may be due to
accidents that arose for trivial, temporary local reasons”, and
became fixed as influential, long-lasting cultural features.
If, according to Diamond, what was caused by geographical
accident (like bias against innovation) has come to endure as
culture (or worldview/ideology), then all that is needed is to
revisit the culture/worldview/ideology, in this case to begin to
cultivate an orientation for innovation, or, in Wiredu’s opinion,
the habits of exactness and rigour in thinking, the pursuit of
systematic coherence (Wiredu, 1980: p. 32), which is likely to
discourage superstition (Wiredu, 1980: pp. 15-16). To be sure,
superstition is in every society, but how can a society develop
in any way if superstition is very predominant? To be sure, a
predominantly superstitious society can be identified if people
generally see achievement as a largely divine event instead of a
marriage between opportunity and long-drawn preparation,
which in turn gives rise to a very high demand for fortune-
tellers, diviners, prophets and prosperity pastors. Or is this not a
hybrid worldview which flows from an amalgamation of tradi-
tional superstition, materiality, and modern economic surplus?
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Is it something which we cannot address as philosophers? Or
has it been permanently ensured by geography and history?
In Oguejiofor’s nationalistic scheme, it must be proven that
the African is not connected at all with his predicament. Any-
one who attempts to mention human agency as in any way con-
tributing to (and possibly as capable of solving) the African
predicament is either a racist or an African self-defeatist. But
the history of societies has no inventory or knowledge of a
perfect people. When Diamond was taken to task in an inter-
view about the immutably deterministic implication of his book
(you either become rich or poor depending on where you are
born; you can do nothing about it), he immediately acknowl-
edged the power of human agency to change one’s fate and
referred to Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore, to show, in his
words, that “…poverty is something you can do something
about” (Lovgren, 2005: par 16). And it seems to me that these
countries did not radically change their state of affairs by gov-
ernment paper policy alone. Something must have happened to
the collective mind, very much like Agbakoba’s insistence on
ideological change and self supercession (Agbakoba, 569). Any
analysis of the roots of advancement of any human society must
take account of both environmental and human agencies. To
pose the African as merely a victim of all the negative circum-
stances in the world is to assume fatalism, defeatism and no
regard for free will, human agency and human decision.
Oguejiofor’s entire article clearly aims to show that there can
never be anything wrong with African worldviews, just as, by
implication, there can never by anything wrong with any
worldview. All we need to do is understand the worldview in its
context. But it seems that this thing about context has gone too
far, everything is understandable in context. Apart from the fact
that it seems to be an overstretching of Okere’s contextualiza-
tion of philosophy, it suggests cultural relativism, which is the
theory that every culture is equally valuable and that an act
must be good when its situation in a culture is appreciated, but
cultural relativism can very easily lead to moral relativism and
thus runs the danger of jettisoning morality and absolving any
kind of act whatsoever under the banner of “cultural context”.
Is a perfect worldview even theoretically possible, that is,
one that has no malfunctions or in need of correcting and adap-
tation, even to changing circumstances and evolving reality?
Theoretically it seems impossible, and factually the history of
mankind shows that such a static and perfect worldview does
not even exist. Oguejiofor’s cosmetic protection of the African
pristine worldview also smells unpleasantly of the romantic
dogmatism of ethno-philosophy.
What Oguejiofor is also inadvertently prescribing is that we
should simply resign ourselves to the level and speed of devel-
opment that geography, biogeography and previous history
happen to foist upon us. We can simply do nothing about this.
Another thing that Oguejiofor is saying is that once geogra-
phy, biogeography and historical factors are favourable, then
development will automatically take place. Another determine-
ism, this that all human beings are either determined to develop
or not. There is nothing that conscious decisions can do about it,
now or in the future, on the personal or societal levels. There is
a fallacy of contingency in assuming that once these extraneous
factors are present, ther e must be development.
If one wonders why Oguejiofor uncritically adopts Dia-
mond’s geo-historical determinism, the answer may be found in
Chapter 5 of his Philosophy and the African Predicament. This
is a chapter that he devotes to enumerating the historic inability
of philosophy to make meaningful contribution to society (and
least of all the African society), and sees the verificationism in
science as more capable of solving society’s problems, even the
ideological and moral ones (Oguejiofor, 2001: pp. 137-138). In
this chapter (135-137), every single philosopher in the history
of philosophy failed in his objective, and Oguejiofor tries to
explain this (Plato’s utopia, Aristotle’s aristocracy, Aquinas’
monarchy, Hobbes’ totalitarianism, Machiavelli’s amorality,
Hegel’s Prussian Chauvinism, Marx’s most disa strous Marxism,
the unabashedly senseless and unrealistic Marxist dogmatism of
Senghor, Nkrumah, Nyerere, Awolowo and Hountondji, etc.).
But we may remind Oguejiofor that John Locke is the father of
liberalism and the foundation of the American constitutional
liberalism which is now as successfully and globally practiced
as communism has become the most globally disastrous (we
may even see John Locke as patron of the Arab Spring), and
that Francis Bacon laid the frameworks for the inductive me-
thod with which science has recorded colossal material achi-
evement, the same science that Oguejiofor admires so much,
and that the central effect of Karl Marx all over the world is the
humanization of the worker, without which the worker’s wage
(including that of university professorship) will be too mean to
venture into the enterprise and thus kill societal progress. He
concludes that:
there is nothing that philosophy in any direct term can do,
any more than other disciplines, or in addition to them, to aid
development, if development is ultimately understood in eco-
nomic and scientific-technological terms. There is little of spe-
cial knowledge that philosophy can impart in spite of the
avowal of its practitioners, be it knowledge of morality, of poli-
tics or of logic which will immediately, and surely, make the
subject of that knowledge to be an effective agent of develop-
ment [bold emphasis mine] (143).
This is a chapter where Oguejiofor raises the same kind of
foundational doubt about philosophy as Oyebola (1976) raised
about the black man. But he equivocates by acknowledging that
one very special feature of philosophy is the entertainment of a
barrage of various views on an issue (Oguejiofor, 2001: 141-
145) and makes a completely contradictory U-turn towards the
end of the chapter by advising African students in philosophy
to engage more in issues of concrete relevance on the continent
like ethnicity, religion, morality, politics and economics (146).
What is certain is that if environment alone is enthroned as
sacrosanct to development and human agency is denied any
role in the fate of societies, then human remedy of any kind is
equally denied. And if human remedy of any kind is denied,
then there is no need for a philosophy of African development,
and ultimately for African philosophy, a field for which
Oguejiofor claims professorship.
We agree that geography and history (but not biogeography
for want of statistical credibility) affect the fate of societies, but
they cannot become the sufficient conditions and ultimate ex-
planations for the fate of societies as Oguejiofor attempts to
explain for Diamond (Oguejiofor, 2009: p. 8). We are not ar-
guing against these things, but they cannot be all that there is.
The prehistoric agricultural head-start incident is not sacrosanct
and not eternally binding.
The basic assumption that informs Oguejiofor’s denial of the
human African of any stake in his development is that if we say
that Africans have one or two cultural or ideological things to
correct in lieu of development, in other words if the African
himself apart from his surroundings is linked in any way to his
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underdevelopment, it proves his inferiority to the white man.
But this is a mistaken carry-over of anti-racial over-exuberance.
That A might personally have anything to do with his class
performance and B something to do with his class non-per-
formance does not mean that A is inherently superior in intelli-
gence to B. It could simply mean that B needs to revisit his
modus operandi. Even if in addition to his personal efforts, A
had a head start with a middle or higher class background and
surrounding, healthy nutrition, excellent early education and the
most expensive childhood home tutors, it is not impossible for
B with a disadvantaged background to challenge A with some
very crucial decisions about his academic life. Even if Africans
started off late, are partly responsible for the speed of their
economic progress by their present way of seeing the world,
and may need to revisit their largely pre-scientific ethics, ide-
ology and worldview, it does not mean in any way that Africans
are inferior to Europeans. It will only mean that they are doing
what the Europeans did during the Renaissance. If Oguejiofor’s
hatred for racism (which is understandable) means that we
cannot take one or two critical looks at our traditional values in
lieu of clashing with the concept of statehood inherited from a
culturally different Europe, then it is a mistaken assumption
that informs his entire write-up.
Oguejiofor concludes that it cannot be true that a worldview
is the cause of the under-development of a continent of half a
billion people (2009: p. 1). He misinterprets Agbakoba as refer-
ring to a single worldview for the entire continent. But Agba-
koba’s work concentrates on two ethical components of the
worldview of a cultural-linguistic group in Eastern Nigeria.
Even at this, the ethical fallout in the region which Agbakoba
examines is easily noticed in many parts of the continent. More
importantly, Oguejiofor’s objection emerges from his’pristine’
presentation of worldview. This “pristine” account is a gross
misrepresentation of present African worldview, which is a
modern crisis product of the clash between Western, Eastern
and traditional worldviews. Take the religious clashes for in-
stance. A religion is also a worldview (Oguejiofor, 2009: p. 3),
and they are clashing in Africa, to the extent of putting material
development on hold. This poses a challenge for philosophy of
religion. Already, there is a call to drop or mitigate supernatu-
ralism, since it can lead to situations where policies that lead to
manifestly human suffering are advocated or pursued with a
sense of piety and rectitude (Wiredu, 1980: pp. 5-6). Culturally
also, the clash between traditional African ethical values and
the imposed modern statehood is not the fault of the African.
Here, Agbakoba’s concern strikes a chord with Ekeh’s two
(conflicting) publics in Africa (1975: p. 105) and Nkrumah’s
crisis of the African conscience, a conscience made up of tradi-
tional, Islamic and Euro-Christian influences, which calls for a
new ideology solidified in a philosophical statement (Nkrumah,
1974: pp. 70, 78-79). Even Wiredu (1980: p. 23) referred to this
when he wrote that “… the phenomenon of belonging at once
to two worlds… was unknown when this ethic evolved. Little
wonder if the new dualism causes a kind of ethical schizophre-
nia in some spheres of conduct”. Certain ethical values worked
well in the traditional society. The only difference is that the
scope of operation has changed. All it means is that the African
has to find a way to begin to shift his primary allegiance from
his immediate primordial origins to his modern civic nation.
This shift means that the state must replace his primordial
community as his basic community. This shift is a necessary
prelude to improving his ethical conception of the state, if the
project of the state in Africa is to stop being a shadow. How
this shift could be made possible is subject to continued schol-
arship. These are issues to be dealt with. But if we are to go by
Oguejiofor’s theory, then we are stuck with this situation. It has
been ensured by geography and history. Europe may have
gained head starts in agriculture and technology and conse-
quently colonized Africa thereby imposing their structures on
ours, but the place of the human agency is that we must contend
critically and realistically with the aftermath of this develop-
ment, instead of sheltering lazily on geographical fatalism. In
other words, we must acknowledge that we have the power and
initiative to turn things around, no matter how painful and
gradual, even as the y pre sently are.
Concluding Remarks
To summarize, Agbakoba’s list of the causes of African un-
derdevelopment includes geography, history and ideology. He
sees the relationship between the environment and the human
as two-way: man can be affected by the environment surround-
ing him, but he can also make the environment to submit to him,
not merely to adapt to it and its whims as Oguejiofor writes
(Oguejiofor, 2009: p. 8). Oguejiofor acknowledges only geog-
raphy, biogeography and history as ultimate explanations of the
fate of societies. I think that Oguejiofor’s submissions are too
Africanist in the overriding desire to dislodge racism, and
therefore, sentimental and reactionary , which are obviously not
enough ingredients to crack the problem of development. In-
adequately reasoned nationalistic and anti-racial sentiments are
too partisan and unhelpful in cracking problems that are much
more logical and strategic. If you want to solve your problem,
you might reasonably apportion blames at some points along
the line, but you do not both begin and end by looking for scape
goats elsewhere. It means that you have no problem to solve.
As opposed to Oguejiofor’s approach, I think the task is not
to slide from reason to sentiment, or to engage in political bal-
listics, but to get more critical and constructive with our issues,
in other words, get more responsible as academics. It is time we
concentrate on addressing our own issues, for nobody else will
do this for us.
This is therefore the aim of philosophy: continuous and dis-
passionate scrutiny and critique (of the self and the other where
it applies), and Oguejiofor’s fear that the philosopher’s efforts
may take hold only long after he has died (Oguejiofor, 2001: p.
135), as a discouragement from devoting our mental energies to
thinking critically about our problems, is also lame and short-
sighted. Constructive philosophical activity produces what we
call post-hummus value, which is responsible for the bulk of
societal progress. It is obviously the next most important ideo-
logical value to address viz a viz African development.
Reacting to the fatalistic reverberations of Guns, Germs and
Steel, Bill Gates calmly writes that:
The book reminds me that innovation sustains success while
complacency leads to stagnation and decline—a lesson I try to
keep in mind every day. In early human history, technological
advantages were built on the availability of certain plants,
animals and geographies. In todays emerging information
society, the critical natural resources are human intelligence,
skill and leadership. Every region of the world has these in
abundance, which promises to make the next chapter of human
history particularly interesting.
In this connection, Philip Coelho (1998: p. 1181) remarks that:
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
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Another error that Diamond—and many others—makes is to
assume that the game is over. The author writes about the
eventual dominance of Europeans and their descendants as if it
were permanent. But, if we are to believe Diamond, East Asian
countries with open and honest capitalist systems have a den-
sity advantage over the West. The next millennium may see a
re-ranking of regional economic advantages. For someone who
espouses the long run (with a vengeance) approach to history,
Diamond curiously ignores it when looking into the future.
Such perspectives deny Oguejiofor’s emphasis on the inepti-
tude of the African in the face of his adversities, which, as we
observed, leads to resignation. As evidence of this, the most
constructive venture that he can offer about “the African pre-
dicament” is that it is “… really getting worse” (Oguejiofor,
2009: p. 1). On the other hand, Gates and Coelho both see the
significance of human agency and decision in development.
Thus we can distinguish two approaches to development his-
tory: that of Diamond or geography which reaches back in time
into millennia and in space across continents and super conti-
nents (which we can here call the macro approach to develop-
ment), and that of general social scholarship which reaches
back in time only a few decades and hundreds of years and in
space across countries, placing more weight of development on
human decisions, quality of government, political and eco-
nomic policies (which we can call the micro approach for the
purpose of this work), etc. The micro approach, as reflected by
Gates, Coellho and the social scholars, reflects the place of
human decisions and actions, in short, the human agency in the
more immediate and qualitative/quantitative step to step ap-
proach to development. Are these two approaches competitive
or cumulative? Peter Temin (1998: pp. 406-407) thinks that
they complement each other and collaborate to make a more
complete explanation of development. So Diamond’s macro ap-
proach only answers part, not all of Yali’s question. In fact,
Diamond fails to give Yali the most significant “micro” answer,
which provides ample room for individual initiatives and hu-
man decisions/outcomes. If anything, Diamond completely
destabilizes Yali, who only sought to gain some light on, not
only what is responsible for his people’s “lack of goods”, but
more importantly, how “their goods” can be improved. David
Frum (1998: p. 135) notes that history has its victims, of course,
and Diamond’s account of how those victims became victims is
powerful and illuminating. But the best way to deal with one’s
victimhood is by putting it behind one, rather than lounging
upon it and indulging it.
The macro approach may explain why regions around the
world have the same general pattern of development as deter-
mined by primordial agricultural head starts, but falls behind
the micro approach in explaining why certain countries within
the same region—often immediate neighbours—vary radically
in levels of development. The macro approach may explain
why Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia are not like France, Germany
and England, but the micro approach explains why war-ravaged
Liberia and Congo are behind Nigeria and Ghana. The micro
approach explains why the Asian Tigers have defied Diamond’s
geographical determinism and bounced into full global reckon-
ing (and possibly toward dominance). The micro approach also
explains the chronological possibilities of development as to
why, for instance, it is possible for Liberia to take steps to be
like Ghana within a decade or two, but not immediately like
France which will take longer cumulative of striving with the
current potentials at her disposal. But the indispensability of the
micro approach is that if Liberia does not begin to make the
quality of economic and political (and by implication, cultural
and ideological) decisions requisite for growth, they will not set
out to pace up with either Ghana or France at all. Indeed, both
the present and future depend on the micro approach; and the
macro approach, which depended on the favourable nature of
geographical climate to the traffic of crops and animals tens of
thousands of years ago, has ceased to be decisive. So, do we
wait for geography and history to correct themselves in our
favour, or do we take the initiative into our hands?
Acknowledgements
The author would like to thank Hussein Inusa, Richmond
Kwesi, Dr Martin Ajei and five anonymous reviewers for their
helpful comments in earlier versions of this article.
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