Open Journal of Philosophy
2013. Vol.3, No.1A, 222-230
Published Online February 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
The Philosophical Paradigm of African
Identity and Development
Frank Okenna Ndubuisi
St.Peter’s Catholic Church Umunnachi, Anambra State, Nigeria
Email: fadaozoregbe@ hot
Received January 7th, 2013; r evised February 14th, 2013; accepte d February 20th, 2013
Identity, is the distinguishing characteristic of a person or being. African identity is “being-with” as op-
posed to the Western individualism, communalism as oppose to collectivism. African “self” is rooted in
the family-hood. The West battered African World view and cultural heritage, with the racialism, slave
trade, colonization and other Western ideologies. They considered Africans inferiors and influenced most
Africans to see themselves as such. Thus Africans are backward and without integral development and
independence, although it was quite certain that pre-colonial Africa was not static or dead. However, the
essence of philosophy is to inquire critically into the marvels and problematic that confronts one in his
world in view of producing systematic explanation and sustained response to them. Therefore, Contem-
porary African Philosophy focuses on these marvels and problematic confronting the Africa World. The
essence of philosophical paradigm of African identity and development is to reason out the way people
think with the aim of rediscovering and situating them on the right track, which is, being original and au-
thentic with the view of arriving at a desired goal. It is also for emancipating Africa from bartered African
image and European conditioning, slavery and neo-colonization. African ontology is anthropocentric; any
serious minded development paradigm must take man mmadu as its point of departure and the point of ar-
rival. It must be peoples’ oriented, relevant to the peoples’ needs and aspirations.
Keywords: Paradigm; Identity; Development; African Philosophy
Africa has continuously being characterized with litanies of
incommodious and incongruous conditions, such as series of
famine, diverse national disasters and calamities, political in-
stabilities, endemic tribalism, injustices, human right abuses,
corruption, cultural dislocation, economic backwardness, vio-
lent conflicts, over population, mass poverty, chronic debt
problems, poor and inadequate exploitation of human and
natural resources. The critical rational analysis of these situa-
tions reveal straight away that the factors converged to deter-
mine the present African condition as external, which arose as a
result of Africa’s tragic contact with the West. The tragic ex-
periences of racialism, slave trade, colonization and ideological
contamination of Africa’s post-colonial elites, have caused
dislocations and some internal conditions of instability. Racial-
ism, slave trade and colonization gave rise to African cultural
alienation which also gave rise to the loss of identity and no
meaningful development. However the foreignness of certain
policies and development paradigms made it difficult for the
people to understand, appreciate, appropriate and establish the
right structures and the dispositions that would effectively op-
erate the programme.
African philosophers and the philosophical paradigms will
not set out to create a complete new African but rather seeks to
know, understand, clarify, articulate and synthesize the African
experience. The philosophical paradigm of African identity and
development seeks and presents certain solutions that can help
African rise from their racial and colonial slavery to situate the
African in his world and the world at large, to foster internal
and external meaningful developments.
What Is African Philosophy?
A simple definition of philosophy is not easy to come by and
philosophers themselves disagree on what philosophy is or how
it should be defined. It is not a dogmatic or static discipline
and/or a birth-right of any race. Most professional philosophers
do not agree on the nature, scope and definition of the disci-
pline. According to J. Omoregbe, (2007: p. 1), “Plato described
the philosopher as a man whose passion is to seek the truth, a
man whose heart is fixed on reality”. It is the quest to know and
understand the reality, and certainly it begins in “wonder”. In
the words of B. C. Okolo, (1987: p. 31), “It was thus obvious
that the early Greeks were struck by ‘cosmological wonder’,
wonder about their daily experience of the world. They wanted
to understand the truth of their experience”. Philosophy in-
volves critical investigations, questions, analysis, synthesis and
clarifications. Philosophy according to P. Iroegbu, (1994: p.
116) “is the reflective and systematic investigation into the
fundamental questions that confront human being”. And B. C.
Okolo (1992a: p. 30) adds, “For at the bottom, every philoso-
phy is inseparable from peoples’ world and their perception of
African philosophy could be seen as essentially an activity, a
project, a systematic, coherent inquiry into African experience
and his world and how he conceives and interprets the universe.
According to, P. Iroegbu, (1994: p. 116) “African philosophy is
the reflective inquiry into the marvels and problematic that
confronts one in the African world in view of producing sys-
tematic explanation and sustained responses to them”. African
philosophy should take cognizance of the African past and
present experience in openness for the future through searching,
critical inquiry and well-informed criticisms, not only to redis-
cover, discover, know and interpret his world, but also to mas-
ter it and enhance it. Philosophy for G. O. Ozumba, (2003: p. 1),
“are both a path-finder and a heuristic for speculating for the
future and for psychologically equipping men for the challenges
of the present and the future”. And for T. U. Nwala, (1985: p.
4), “the end of every true philosophy is the liberation of man
from the tyrannies of nature and from the injustices in society”.
Little wonder B. C. Okolo, (1992a: p. 61), asserts, “the aim of
all philosophizing is the truth of the universe and of African
philosophy, the truth of the African and his world”.
From the foregoing, one can convincingly deduce philosophy
as critical reflection and investigation into the problems and
marvels that confronts one in his world; which systematically
and psychologically equip him to respond to them. Hence phi-
losophy aids discoveries and development.
What Is Paradigm?
It has a wide range of interpretations and usage. A paradigm
provides a conceptual framework for seeing and making sense
of the social world. Paradigms influence research process and
researcher. Paradigm is from the Greek term “Paradeigma”-
“Pattern”, “Example”, “Sample”. It is from “para” meaning
“beside”, “beyond” and “deiknumi” meaning “to show, “to
point out”. Thomas Kuhn defined paradigm as “the underlying
assumptions and intellectual structure upon which research and
development in a field of inquiry is based” (http://www.para-
digm). It means a certain way of thinking about something that
is generally accepted. It can also mean a standard or a routine
method of achieving a research. It is often referred to as the
rules, examples and models our minds use to filter information.
To be located in a particular paradigm is to view the world in a
particular way. A paradigm is an interpretative framework,
which is guided by “a set of beliefs and feelings about the
world and how it should be understood and studied”,
(http://www.paradigm). For example, in social science, the term
is used to describe the set of experience, beliefs and values that
affect the way an individual perceives reality and responds to
that perception”, (http://www.paradigm). A paradigm is a
worldview, a general perceptive, a way of breaking down the
complexity of the real world. It is also according to S. T.
Krauss, “basic belief system or worldview that guides the in-
vestigation”, ( It is a way of
thinking or a system of beliefs. However, “the significance of
paradigms is that they shape how we perceive the world and are
reinforced by those around us, the community of practitioners”,
There are other uses of the term “paradigm.” For instance, it
is used in linguistics and science in order to describe certain
concepts. Paradigms are frameworks for ideas about certain
subjects. Paradigm serves as pattern or model. It is a set of as-
sumptions, concepts, values and practices that constitutes a way
of viewing reality for the community that shares them, espe-
cially in an intellectual discipline.
Philosophical Paradigm
The problems of the early philosophers were the “wonders”
of the universe. And the reasons for philosophizing, among
other things are; the origin of the universe; the whyness of
things, the reality of things, an inquiry into existence and re-
flection on human experience, both past and present. Human
beings, have natural inclination to understand and make mean-
ing out of their lives and experiences”, (http://www.paradigm).
It has been pertinent on man to make rational and critical ob-
servations and questioning about himself and his environment.
There are lots of assumptions and concepts in the quest to give
good account or make understandable explanations about man
and the universe. However, not all of them have been philoso-
phically investigated. Since paradigm is a term used to describe
model, standard, worldview, a set of experiences, basic belief
system, or values that affect the way an individual perceives
reality and responds to that perception. Also since paradigm is
an interpretative framework which is guided by a set of beliefs
and feelings about the world and how it should be understood
and studied, it has to be critically and rationally questioned and
investigated. It does seem that philosophical paradigm could be
considered as philosophical assumptions, doctrines or philoso-
phical framework.
Philosophical paradigm consists of those assumptions, con-
cepts, basic beliefs, doctrines or assertions that have been criti-
cally and rationally investigated and evaluated. Philosophical
paradigm is a rational inquiry or reflection on the basic beliefs,
worldview, thoughts and assumptions of a people. In the words
of Ezeani (2005: p. 12), “The end of iquism or philosophical
questioning/ inquiry is to discover truth with a view to bringing
about a change in belief, practice or attitude”.
What Is African Identity?
African philosophy bears on African identity. To understand
this more, we have to consider or address certain questions such
as: what is identity? What actually characterizes a person as an
African? These questions revolve around the issue of identity.
However, for P. Iroegbu, (1994: p. 116), “by African, is un-
derstood the geo-political and socio-cultural entity englobed by
the continent Africa”. Panteleon Iroegbu considers more of the
place and location. But the questions above went beyond geo-
graphical location or designation, the term refers to a being or
reality or one who can directly or indirectly trace his route to
the African soil or having the characteristics of Africanity.
What is rather important is to assert that the African is identifi-
able naturally. The fact remains that, the question of African
identity bears on the principle of being that “what is, is and
what is not, is not”. It shows, that being is and non-being is not.
On this, Richard H. Popkin, (1993: p. 101), says; “What is,
cannot change into what is not without passing out of existence.
Hence, the permanent, the real is and cannot be part of reality
or become part of reality. It is what it is, and to become some-
thing other than this would involve the contradiction, that it has
become what it is not”. Also according to Webster’s Universal
Dictionary and Thesaurus: Identity means “the distinguishing
characteristics of a person and personality”. The quest for iden-
tity embodies the value expressed by one of the first principles
of being. This principle states that “every being is determined
in itself, is one with itself and is consistent in itself”. Therefore
every being is one in itself and divided from the others. That is
to say that every being is separate from the others and the
qualities of matter such as colour, size, and shape and so on
distinguish the same being from the other.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 223
M. A Dukor, (2010a: p. 156), makes it clear that “the prob-
lem of identity in philosophy started in the pre-Socratics, when
the early Greek philosophers tried to look for the basis and
substance of the universe. In the course of this, they came to a
conclusion that there must be an original primary stuff of which
all things are made and also which explains the continuity in
the changes and the underlying unity in the plurality of things”.
According to M. Dukor, (2010a: p. 158), “while human nature
and dignity is universal and common to all men, each human
person is also a particular mix of the entire element which goes
to its making. This particular mix determines his individual
personality that is his character, his temperament and individu-
ality”. He moves further to say that “man is rational and free
but these typical human characteristics combine with other
physiological aspects of being or human being to create an
identity”. And every normal human being feels the need to
identify with a group of people. Indeed, human identity paves
the way for personal identity. It is appropriate to know what a
thing is and what can be legitimately attributed to it.
What Then Is Really African Identity?
Some scholars are of the opinion that the search for African
identity is not feasible, since Africans are not one but many
peoples and races with a diversity of cultural beliefs, languages
and traditions. Emphasizing the truncated effects of African
unhealthy contact with the West as the main cause and problem
of African identity crisis; M. Dukor, (2010a: p. 160), says; “Ra-
cialism, slavery and colonialism gave rise to the African psy-
chological and cultural alienation which also gave rise to the
loss of collective identity”. Also according to E. A. Ruch and K.
C. Anyanwu, (1981: p. 168), “it is all this, this racialism, the
slavery and the oppression of colonialism, the ambiguities of
attitudes on the part of both whites and blacks which gave rise
to the psychological and cultural alienation to the loss of col-
lective identity of the Africans”. The West considered Africa as
inferior and without reasoning. They felt that the col our: White
is superior while Black is inferior and that the blacks were
condemned to be primitives. According to M. Dukor, (2010a: p.
159), “Africans of the first half of this century have begun to
search for their identity because they had the feeling that they
had lost it. The three factors which led to this feeling were;
slavery, colonialism and racialism of all these, racialism is said
to be the source of the colonialism and slavery. It was because
Africans were considered racially inferior and culturally uncivi-
lized that both Arabs and Europeans felt a moral justification in
expiating them by reducing them to slavery. Therefore the heart
of the whole problem of African identity lies in Racialism”.
African identity, bears on the stuff of which any African can
be identified and associated with appropriately and comfortably.
It bears also, on that underlying element of unity in the plurality
of all African peoples. It does not subsist on the accidental facts,
may be, by the virtue, that one was born and bred or lives in the
African continent. This does not qualify to be an original pri-
mary stuff of the being. However M. Dukor, (2010a: p. 157),
asserts certain basic primary stuffs on African identity. He con-
siders African mind or consciousness: “that we are persons and
we can think which is the major activity here”. This is the fact
of group consciousness, having common experience or goal.
According to him, (2010a: p. 157), “we need to ask ourselves,
if we have minds, we can then identify our thoughts by being
conscious of our minds”. The issue of rising to consciousness is
very important in the philosophical inquires and search for
identity; it was the solid ground for Rene Descartes philoso-
phical enterprises. This consciousness can help to unite the
many peoples and races with diversity of cultural beliefs, lan-
guage and tradition in the African continent. He explains fur-
ther, (2010a: p. 159), “Then people who become aware of
themselves as they imagine themselves as history has made
them, who treasure their own past and who love themselves as
they or imagine themselves to be with a kind of inevitable in-
troversion. Hence identity is a function of culture, group and
collective personality”. In this case, (p. 157), “We take identity
as something that is both physical and transcendental”.
Colour is another element of identification: Black is one of
fundamental elements of African identity. According to him,
(2010a: p. 157), “There is a particular continent where we have
large concentration of black people, and that the continent is
called Africa. Therefore any man that has a black colour is
called an African”. This suggests the appreciation of a colour as
an identity. Most of African traditional nationalists emphasized
and appreciated the African treasured colour; Black. African
continent is known as the land of the black and African race is a
black race. It qualifies to be an original primary identity, the
blackness and other important features. On another note, M.
Dukor, (2010a: p. 157), explored the generosity and hospitality
of African people thus, “looking at the ethical dimension, it has
been established for example that the Africans generally wel-
come people into their community even when they see that you
are a stranger, they still welcome you well. But in many other
parts of the world it is not like that”.
African identity centers first and foremost on the African
self-hood. It is important and proper to assert that the African is
easily identifiable ontologically. In African metaphysics, the
self is conceived essentially towards other, that is, a “being-
with-others”. The African is not just a human being but essen-
tially a “being-with”. Consequently it is the community which
makes the individuals, because of his relationship with other in
the community. The African self is defined in terms of “We-
existence.” Furthermore Julius Nyerere calls this distinctive
African trait simply “African brotherhood” with its root in the
African extended family system. It is discovered in African
metaphysics that “the self” is conceived essentially towards
others, that is a “being-with-others”. Life for the African per-
sonality is an integrated network of artistically harmonious
daily rhythm. In its ontological relationships, the self in African
metaphysics is attained to both the visible and invisible worlds.
In his words, Placid Temples, (1959: p. 60), says in Africa we:
“… cannot conceive of man as an individual as a force existing
by itself and apart from its ontological relationship with other
living beings and from its connection with animate or inanimate
forces around”. Also according to Panteleon Iroegbu, (1995: p.
79) “the starting point of the definition of personality, is not the
individual atomic or autonomous self, but the social, communal
and relational self”.
According to M. Dukor, (2010b: p. 22). “The theory of com-
munalism is clearly applicable to different groups and norms of
traditional African societies”. The concept of “being-with” is in
fact the fundamental idea or explanation of African identity. It
is the community which makes the individuals, that is the Afri-
can self is defined in terms of “WE”. It is an ontological rela-
tionship. The discovery of African identity is pertinent for a
holistic emancipation of African. It is for the African thinkers
to assert authoritatively their unique personality in the world
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
and to find self knowledge from within and not outside their
What Is Development?
Change is a paramount essence of life. Development in-
volves a certain amount of change, a change that has direction.
Development is a process or activity of actualization of poten-
tials and it involves self-thought, decision and involvement. It
is an indisputable and indispensible fact of life. The word “de-
velopment” is derived from the French word “veloper”—
meaning to “wrap”. To develop means to “de-wrap”, that is, to
unfold gradually, to cause to grow gradually stronger and better.
According to Panteleon Iroegbu, (1994: p. 81), “generally de-
velopment is the progressive unfolding of the inner potentiali-
ties of a given reality. It is to develop, that is, to bring out to
light existential function epistemic, what was enveloped, folded
or hidden. As it implies to people’s development is the integra-
tion of the various givens, natural, physical, acquired and hu-
man, of a people towards the full working out permanently and
cumulatively of their being as persons of their community and
of their real productivity”.
Development is the fulfillment and actualization of the po-
tentials of both natural endowments and human person. It is
multi-dimensional. In the words of Walter Rodney, (1990: p. 9),
“Development of human society is a many-sided process. At
that of individual, implies increased skill and capacity, greater
freedom creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material
well-being … However what is disputable is that the achieve-
ment of any of those aspects of personal development is very
much tied with the state of the society as a whole”. Also ac-
cording to Oxford Dictionary of politics—“development is a
multi-dimensional process that normally connotes change from
a less to a more desirable state. It is normative concept and
there is no simple accepted definition”. Development is a proc-
ess or an activity of actualization of potentials. It is an action of
being capable through self-involvement, thought and decision.
It is natural and universal, subjective and objective phenomena.
This is because man and his environment have been endowed
with natural potentials. And the adequate process and actions
for the actualization of these potentials give rise to develop-
In man, development is the ability to appropriate, analyze,
understand, manage, control and appropriate his environment
and cultural heritage. It involves; physical, emotional, intellec-
tual, moral and spiritual development. However, good moral/
spiritual life is a pre-requisite for any meaningful and genuine
development. On this, J. Omoregbe, (2007: p. 197), says: “A
very important aspect of the development of human personality
is moral development … Moral development in the part of the
citizens is therefore a condition-sine-qua-non for development
through modern technology”. It is indubitable that development
as a process or activity is not a birthright or prerogative of any
people, race or nation. This is because everywhere and in every
nation, man is faced with the task of survival to meet up with
the fundamental material and spiritual needs. For F. Nitsche,
“life involves an uninterrupted becoming”. Development can be
subjective or objective, for it is a process of actualization and
improvement of human nature and welfare in pursuit of per-
ceived end of man, which is determined by the people’s ideol-
ogy. An integral development should permeate all the fabrics of
human and national lives which include: moral, economic, so-
cial, political, cultural and technological development. But in
all these, development must be pro-life; that is, it must enhance
life, promote life, protect life, increase and prolong life. It must
be individuals or person’s oriented as the case may be.
The Essence of Philosophical Paradigm of
African Identity and Development
Africa’s truncated slave trade, racialism and colonial experi-
ences shook the foundations of the traditional conceptual para-
digms, institutions and worldviews. And having passed through
these cultural dislocations, it calls for a critical inquiry from
which we can discern fundamental elements vital for develop-
ment. The African now wishes to concretize his social, political,
religious, economic and cultural ideas as an independent free
and mature human being. He wishes to be the master of his
world with its burden and joy to count and be counted in the
family of nations.
Here philosophical paradigm of African identity and devel-
opment tries to bring out the way the people think with the aim
of rediscovering and situating them on the right track that is
being original and authentic with the view of arriving at a de-
sired goal. “It is critical inquiry done on the concepts and man-
ner of African identity and development, believing/hoping to
find what would be the basis and solution to African identity
crises and meaningful development. It makes rational inquires
and reflections on the thoughts, basic beliefs and practices of
the people. In the words of M. Dukor, (2010b: p. 162), “the first
condition for black renaissance in the knowledge of the fact
there is the African problem of economic backwardness, politi-
cal instability, technological inertia and total dependence on
and unfreedom from the West. The problem is the knowledge
that Africans lack the political will and freedom to determine
their destiny in the scheme of things in the comity of nations”.
It is objectively clear that African problems of persistent
identity crisis and no meaningful development have serious link
with bartered and truncated effects colonialism and neo coloni-
alism. He explains further, (2010b: p. 168), “Since the down of
political freedom from colonial rule African societies have been
disorganized. The assimilated Western civilization impinge
negatively on the society”. Colonization came with it destruc-
tion and distortion of African value systems and worldviews
thus, in the words of Ezeani E. (2005: p. 45) “it is a pathologi-
cal distortion of the mind; a mental state in which a person
unconsciously despises what is his or hers and who he or she is,
and thus instead, an inordinate love or irrepressible desire to be
the other person-the colonized”. It is a deranged mental state
caused by colonialism. Colonization inherently disrupted and
destroyed the traditional identities and distorted the notion of
what we in the African continent perceived ourselves to be.
According to Claude Ake, (2000: p. 16), “colonialism in Africa
was markedly different from the colonial experience of the
Americans, Europe and Asia”. It distorted the psyche of the
African man. It brought the unconscious reflection of who or
what one is or what one has. M. Dukor, (2010b: p. 165), says
“This singular seed of underdevelopment has always been in
form of European and US noe-colonial polices on Africa which
have tended to impoverish the Africans and worsen their condi-
tions”. It therefore became imperative to fashion out a holistic
approach in response to this African condition.
Philosophy seeks to influence the thinking, behavior and
worldview of the people. The revival of a true African identity
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 225
and development depend on the restoration of values as the
beacon of light. He maintains (2010b: p. 168) “African world
present a glaring and absurd example of the world where there
are intellectual bondages and dishonesty where individuals are
conceptually and circumstantially coerced into states of intel-
lectual solitude, scientific solipsism and cave like type of exis-
tence.” Thus Socrates advices “man know yourself”. Also Rene
Descartes affirms “I think, therefore I am” (corgito ego sum).
Also B. C. Okolo, (1987: p. 37). “There is indeed an obligation
on the part of the African to know himself as Socrates com-
manded and to know the environment in which he lives.
Through this knowledge, the African attains the truth about all
reality”. The question or inquiry on identity is an ardent desire
to regain in Jean Paul Sartre’s phrase, man’s “existential integ-
rity” which is “the original purity of his existence”. This is not
just for social progress, economic consolidation, but also for
self-knowledge, discovery, self-actualization, qualitative and
holistic development through the endowed resources of his
being, culture and world. The search for identity is a mission
back to the root, to become fully conscious of himself as an
African identity is found in African traditional worldview.
For the African existence is relational. This ontological rela-
tional existence of man does not stop at relationship with the
fellow humans, but embraces other physical and spiritual reali-
ties. In the words of Metuh I. E. (1990: p. 165), “Man onto-
logically is best viewed as a “life force” in active communion
with other living forces in the world. Each person, in a nexus of
interacting elements of the self and of the world which deter-
mines and is determined by his behavior”. Also for Richard B.
H. (2002: p. 61), “the notion of ‘person hood’ or ‘being a per-
son’ is dependent upon people’s relationship with their com-
munity”. In African traditional worldview identity is rooted in
the family and the community.
In African traditional worldview, life or existence is not an
individual venture, “the meaning of an individual’s life is found
in and through his relationship with the other or others”. Man
finds meaning in the idea and reality of the other. And without
others he loses his values. In the words of P. Iroegbu, (1995: p.
349), “The umunna constitutes the fulcrum of interpersonal
relationships. From it the individual draws his life-forces”. In
Africa man is thought as humankind in its real and substantial
unity. According to T. Okere, (1996: p. 159), “The self as far
studied remains in a way only an abstraction … in fact the self
is never alone. The individual is never a pure isolated individ-
ual”. For Africans, no one can be his very self outside the rela-
tion with the others and the meaning of life depends on the
relationship with others.
In traditional African worldview, the metaphysical search for
why “I” exist should coincide and link with the search of why
“we” live. And on this B. C. Okolo, (1992a: p. 64), writes “man
is a being in process and his experiences grow along with him”.
Man therefore is held in a web-like relations and interactions
with his community and other realities. In Africa one cannot
think, consider any person without due reference to his family
and community. They are indispensible to one another. The
idea of personhood in African thought is a concept for commu-
nity building. According to P. Okonkwo, (2005: p. 122), “with
the implication that as the individual partakers in this corporate
existence and as a member, his fortune and misfortune becomes
that of the society. It is on this basis that any grave violation of
the moral order has serious social consequence. It is not only
the individual offender but the whole community becomes pol-
luted by such act. So the idea of corporate responsibility is
therefore very strong in Igbo (African) traditional set up”.
However, for Temples P. (1959: p. 105), “you cannot conceive
of man as an individual force existing by itself and apart from
its ontological relationship with other living beings”. Then in
the words of Egbeke Aja, (2001: p. 58), “the ontological order
in interaction is that whatever happens to the individual, hap-
pens to the whole group and whatever happens to the whole
group, happens to the individual”.
It is clear that African composition of reality is different from
that of the Western composition. And African ontology centers
on “vital force”. Thus without attempting to decide this precise
point, we may state emphatically that the traditional African
conception of the world is one in which life force plays an es-
sential part. African ontology holds two structures of the world:
the cosmological and metaphysical African communities rec-
ognize the plurality of worlds; visible and invisible the physical
and the spirit world. The two worlds interact as there is no cle-
ar-cut distinction between the Spiritual and the physical. Real-
ity is homogeneous in the African worldview.
This is because everywhere and in every nation, man is faced
with the task of survival, to meet up with the fundamental ma-
terial and spiritual needs. For F. Nitsche “life involves uninter-
rupted becoming”. Development can be subjective and objec-
tive for it is a process of actualization and improvement of hu-
man nature and welfare in pursuit of perceived end or goal of
man, which most often is determined by the people’s ideology.
According to M. Dukor, (2010a: p. 159), “in talking about de-
velopment, one must bear in mind that the concept is a holistic
concept which manifest the cultural, the political, the social and
the scientific”. Also every society has its own share of natural
material and human resources for better life, better society and
Development has been constant in a varying degree within
human societies, since the origin of man. For man has multi-
plied enormously his capacity to wind living from nature and
dial with the numerous challenges and tasks of survival. How-
ever different areas where development is needed include
economy, politics, social, moral, culture, technology and most
importantly and especially as every other form of development
is directed towards it is the human development. It appears that
the concept development was adopted while referring to the
nations was seen as a destination that could be reached. And the
so-called developed nations have reached it while the undevel-
oped nations of Africa are still very far away from the destina-
tion. Invariably what this implies is that the developed nations
have reached the apex of human and national potentials while
the others still have long way to g o. After analyzing the impli-
cation of this conception of development, Joseph Desire (the
eccentric Mobutu Sese Seko) of Zaire in his address to the
united Nations General Assembly in 1976 argues thus, Chum-
bow B. S. (2005: p. 166) “all countries are in a state of perpet-
ual development and as such no country not even the most de-
velopment and as such no countries of Europe and America,
has stopped developing; therefore they also logically qualify as
developing countries.”
Mobutu submission has two implications. First: development
is no terminus ad quem, otherwise the so-called developed na-
tions ought to pack up their bags of inventions and stop the
massive investment they make. Then secondly, it is a miscon-
ception to label some countries as undeveloped since every
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
country in a sense is developing. Development is a continuous
and gradual process or activity no matter how minute it may
appear. Even certain developments do occur in death, that is
evident in a situation where being or reality metamorphosed or
transformed into a more perfect being or reality of the same
specie and substance, but there must be an ontological or fun-
damental links or connections. It is quite certain that pre-colo-
nial Africa was not static or dead. Although the West mistak-
enly thought as much for they believed that Africans had no
soul and intellect or reasoning. The pre-colonial Africans were
at that time, building their houses, farming, making tools and
utensils for various purposes, finding medicines and devising
certain systems of agriculture and trapping animals. There were
among them-cultivators, sculptors fishermen, trade societies,
raiders and nomads. They were progressive and drawn into
certain contacts and relationship with each other and with tribes
and towns. There were also some levels of expansions of pro-
ductive forces and network of distributions. On this note, Toyin
F. (2000: p. 16), writes, Thus “long distance trade within Africa
and Nigeria in particular was very active in pre-colonial time.
In fact with the decline of the major empires, the trans-Sahara
trade routes shifted to Kano and Kaduna in 19th century”. Also
according to Walter Rodney (1990: p. 21), “Africa and Asia
societies were developing independently until they were taken
directly or indirectly by the capitalist’s powers”. Development
is never a new concept or bequeathed phenomena from the west.
For G. Olusanya (1998: p. 9), rightly observed that “prior to the
arrival of the British, the various formations that made up the
pre-colonial Nigeria (Africa) had already developed a fairly
advanced level of economic interactions among themselves
especially in the area of trade”. Development is obviously in-
herent in all human societies for man is a bundle of possibilities
and potentialities. However, Africa traditional or pre-colonial
societies were characterized by mutual help and communalism
and which were dislodged as a result of slave trade and colonial
The West packaged their experience as the basic, ideal,
model, standard, universal, objective and conditio-sinequa non
for Africa good and development. However their development
paradigm have a negative view or false knowledge of the peo-
ple and their worldview. And as such, its point of departure
from the onset is false, that is not what is, but what they thought
ought to be. In other words, people were going somewhere
without being quite sure of the directions, this has resulted in
political instability, religious, economic crises and lots of other
crises and unrests. Development and its paradigm ought not be
superficial rather it should be deep rooted and a holistic enter-
prise. It should not be foreign or imposed but rather, original,
self-evolving and people oriented. Most of their policies were
essential aimed at the discouragement and sometimes destruc-
tion of local initiatives.
The foreignness of the policies and development paradigms
made it difficult for the people to understand, appreciate, ap-
propriate and establish the right structures that would effec-
tively operate the program. And as it were, the post-colonial
elites seemed to have been caught in the web of false sense of
development and struggle for power and wealth. There was the
problem of moral relativism and consequent growth of ethnic
protectionism and religious intolerance. However from the
foregoing, one can observe and clarify certain facts in the first
instance; development is not the birth-right or prerogative of
any people, group, race or tribe, it is a natural inherent reality.
The West has not the monopoly or the last word on it. It is peo-
ples’ oriented. It carries the people, their environment, needs
and worldview along. At the same time, development does not
negate a proper or balanced cross-pollination of ideas and val-
ues. In the words of M. Dukor, (2010b: p. 157), “any concept of
development that negates the African prototype or the Asian, is
automatically out of the global process”.
Generally African situation is not a palatable one. When you
consider the happenings around Africa, what stare you, are
series of in the words of Chumbow B. S. (2005: p. 166), “fam-
ine and diverse natural disasters and calamities, instability of
political regimes … poor or inadequate exploitation of natural
and human resources”. And also for Ake C. (1998: p. 52), “the
chronic debt problems, the declining productivity and negative
growth rates and the threat of starvation to over 150 million
people on the continent”. However consequent upon these, the
philosophical paradigm for African identity and meaningful
development has to do with the people’s needs through the
re-orientation of the African traditional worldview. According
to Emmanuel Ome, (2007: p. 141), “Any development effort
that is not relevant to peoples’ needs and aspiration is mis-
placed and automatically losses its name and character”. Phi-
losophy equips man with the right intellectual capacities, for it
involves critical investigations, questions, analysis, synthesis
and clarifications. The African philosophers and philosophical
paradigms set out to understand, clarify, articulate and synthe-
size the African experiences. These experiences could be cate-
gorized in the words of B. C Okolo, (1992b: p. 17), as “cosmo-
logical wonder” and “ontological wonder”. For him, “what the
early Greeks experienced as the root-origin of their philosophic
inquiries was therefore “cosmological wonder”. Then African
nations realized that through “cosmological wonder” that their
world, their mode of being in the world was untrue and inau-
thentic thus: the “cosmological wonders” shifted on to “onto-
logical wonder” when the African realized also that his very
being was affected also he was conceived as below human”.
And according to G. O. Idjakpo (2002: p. 153), “Ontological
problem also concerns the relation which exists between reality
and human beings on one hand and the soul on the other”.
Most early philosophers had established the relevance of
philosophy and philosophers to nation building, integral human
and natural developments whish Socrates emphasized the value
of trained intelligence, wisdom and prudence for a country’s
leader. Plato holds the importance of philosophy and philoso-
pher king in the building and substance of a stable polity. On
this Ome E. (2007: p. 141), “Philosophy in Africa and Nigeria
in particular should seek answers to the turbulent development
problems, the lack of progress in Africa and the black race,
backwardness in education, endemic tribalism, injustice, cor-
ruption, human right abuses, political disequilibrium and mar-
ginalization, cultural and economic powerless, violent, conflicts
over population and mass poverty etc.”. Also for B. C. Okolo,
(1992b: p. 17), “Philosophy lives by constant criticisms but its
questioning and criticism, whether of beliefs or concepts are
ultimately to influence the lives of men in the society such that
life without criticism is not worth living. In other words that
nature of philosophic task is practical rather than theoretical”.
Philosophy and philosopher influence human and national de-
velopment. For instance, Socrates was a gadfly, arousing the
state from their “dogmatic slumber”, self-consciousness, self-
criticism, evaluation and development. It is pertinent task of
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 227
African philosophers to reflect the ways philosophy can help
Africa to rise from their colonial and slavery prison, situate the
African in his world, foster internal and external developments.
Africa’s true development will be possible with proper reorien-
tation on African identity value system and worldview. Ac-
cording to P. Iroegbu, (1994: p. 116), “In developing various
aspects of reality, the human being develops himself. In devel-
oping himself he passes through the development of different
other beings, situation and relationships. There is a cross-
breeding of self-development, other development and world
(material) development. One can only be neglected at the price
of truncating the others”.
Because of the anthropocentric nature of African worldview,
any proper development paradigm should take man (mmadu) as
its point of departure and the point of arrival. It must be rele-
vant to the people’s needs and aspirations. It must be African or
people oriented. In the words K. Nwoye, (2000: p. 41), “De-
velopment therefore involves realizing human energy and ca-
pacities and providing opportunities for people to make the
maximum contribution to their own development and to the
self-sustaining development of their societies”. There should be
constant reorientation on the authentic African needs and value
systems to the Youth, Leaders Thought, Politicians and Ad-
ministrators. According to B. C. Okolo, (1992b: p. 29), “it is
the distinctive role of philosophers to stimulate peoples’ appe-
tites and derives for higher ends and values in life such as true
patriotism, honesty etc.” It is the task of philosophers and
scholars to interrupt the world and man’s experience and influ-
ence him to change and transform the human societies for bet-
The main tasks of the philosophical paradigm of the African
identity and development are among other things to reflect on
the various ways African philosophy and philosophers, can help
to identify the African, situate him in his world, enhance his
emancipation from mental, economic, political, neo-colonial
and cultural slavery through integral peoples’ oriented devel-
opment. It is embarking not only upon self discovery but self
recovery as well for the purpose of achieving through human
dignity and independent personality in the Hegelian sense of
independent self-consciousness considering the antecedents and
decimal of the African identity crisis and no meaningful devel-
opment, it is up to African scholars to think out the best way to
comfort the situation and this is unassuming task of contempo-
rary African thinkers to assert authentically the African unique
personality in the world by re-discovering self from within and
not from outside their culture. They have to articulate the con-
vincing philosophical insight and establish the parameter within
which the African can evaluate himself to the profound think-
ing of his essential problems. B. C, Okolo, (1992a: p. 50), com-
ments “the African has consequently realized that it is only by
developing a different orientation and method in philosophy
can his needs, values, total experience and trust about is world
be adequately reflected in philosophy”. And in the word of T. U.
Nwala, (1985: p. 4), “philosophical ideas do not emerge from
the blue. They have their base in the totality of the natural and
social environment. They arise in the course of man’s attempt
to act upon nature for purpose of sustaining his existence”.
African philosophy should take cognizance of the African past
and present experience in openness for the future through criti-
cal inquiry and well informed criticism not only to rediscover,
know and interpret his world, but also to make it and enhance it.
In all these, development must be prolife, it must create life,
enhance life, promotes life, protects life, save life, increase life
and prolong life.
Evaluation and Conclusion
Generally, the African conditions have been serious worries
to African nationalists, philosophers and administrators. The
cultural dislocations, pathological distortion of the mind and the
devastating effects of racialism, slave trade and colonization
cannot be over emphasized, it has been cancerous and proving
irredeemable. Well the obvious fact remains that the factors are
mostly external and not ontological. Therefore the African
needs an inner proper articulation coming from his ontological
reality. African philosophy is the more profitable for this uni-
que exercise. It is the main task of contemporary African phi-
Uroh Chris, (1998: p. 2), observes “the hopelessness of Af-
rican conditions thus: African alone parades 32 of the worlds 47
least developed nations. This is often betrayed by the fact that
on the average, 1000 children are killed daily in the continent
by some curable diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, cholera
and what have you … added to the above is the mounting debt
bill…”. Racialism this is unholy understanding of West (while)
to be superior to the Africa (black), racial superiority there by
making the African an object instead of a subject of his envi-
ronment. M. Dukor, (2010b: p. 139), observes “Freewill inter-
national relations and mutual co-existence of mankind therefore
seems to be non-existence directly, because civilization and
progress of mankind is a natural process and secondly in the
interlocking Egos of races and nations, some wills of nations
and races will superimpose on the will of others”. David Hume
one of the serious advocates of racialism holds that blacks are
naturally inferior. And inferior race is assumed to be incapable
of great achievement. And for M. Dukor, (2010b: p. 159), “it
was because Africans were considered racially inferior and
culturally uncivilized that both Arabs and Europeans felt a
moral justification in exploit ting them by reducing them to
Slave trade has its woos on African developmental disloca-
tions. The number of able-bodied young male and female that
were sold into slavery remain unknown. And the consequence
of this is still visible all over Africa. Slave traders preferred
their victims from the ages of 15 to 35—these were mostly in
child bearing age bracket and generally productive ages–the
active labour force of the continent. Their shipment abroad
meant a massive loss to agriculture and all other economic sec-
tors, on this Oguejiofor, (2001: p. 30), observes “the impor-
tance of strong and balanced population in economic develop-
ment cannot be overestimated. It is the mainstay of productive
labour; it provides market for what is produced and by exerting
social pressure on many fronts, leads to more economic ad-
vancement and general inventiveness”. Slave trade as it were
led to a lot of socio-cultural dislocation in Africa. It also con-
tributed to human right abuses prevalent in the continent now.
Slave trade dehumanized the human person.
Colonization came with its destruction and distortion of Af-
rican psyche, traditional identities, value system and world-
views thus it opened another phase in the disorganization of
African economy in order to suit the economic interest of the
colonial powers. Where the Africans protested, force was used
on them for colonial economic interest. Bertrand Russell, (1934:
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
p. 453), provides an insight into how the Congolese were made
to work for their Belgian masters: “Each village was ordered by
the authority to collect and bring in a certain amount of rubber
as much as the men could bring in by neglecting all work for
their own maintenance. If they failed to bring the required
amount, their women were taken away and kept as hostages …
if this method failed, native troops were sent into the village to
spread terror, if necessary by failing some of the men”. The
concept of “brain drain” is another malignant cancer plaguing
the African continent. This is event of continuing loss of citi-
zens of high intelligence and creativity through emigration.
According to M. Dukor, (2010a: p. 179), “The phenomenon of
brain drain has eaten away the man power and intellectual re-
sources that would have been the bedrock and galvanizing mo-
tif for African citizenship and freedom from the international
capitalist system controlled from Europe”.
However, African people and their leaders have been pro-
fessing solutions and frameworks for the African condition,
take for instance among other serious though over programmes,
in July 2001, the OAU Assembly of Heads of State and Gov-
ernment meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, adopted this document
under the name of the New African initiative {NAI}. After all
said and done, the Heads of State and Government implementa-
tion committee {HSGIC} for the project finalized the policy
framework and named it the New Partnership for Africa’s De-
velopment on 23rd October 2001. NEPAD is now a programme
of the African union {AU}. Its four primary objectives are to
eradicate poverty, promote sustainable growth and development,
integrate Africa in the world economy and accelerate the em-
powerment of women. It is based on underlying principles of a
commitment to good governance, democracy, human rights and
conflict resolutions and the recognition that maintenance of
these standards is fundamental to the creation of an environ-
ment conducive to investment and long-term economic growth.
NEPAD has some partners in progress such as UN Economic
Commission for Africa {UNECA}, African Development Bank,
Development Bank of Southern Africa {DBSA}, Investment
Climate Facility {ICF}, Africa Capacity Building Foundation,
the Industrial Development Corporation {IDC}. Inspite of all
these, African condition remain Bezier and non-acceptable.
These programmes probably were not properly articulated.
According to M. Dukor, (2010b: p. 168), “the African world
presents a glaring and absurd example of a world where there
are intellectual bondage and dishonestly where individuals are
conceptually and circumstantially coerced into states of intel-
lectual solitude, scientific solipsism and cave like type exis-
tence”. Also for M. Dukor, (2010b: p. 164), “The problem is
the knowledge that Africans lack the political will and freedom
to determine their destiny in the scheme of things in the comity
of nations”.
However, African problem is better handled by the Africans.
The African needs to rediscover himself from within and not
outside his culture. Better tomorrow ought not to be seen as an
automatic product or wait-and-take but the effects of solid
resolutions and concretized efforts, overcoming the fears that
hold us in bondage and overturning the myths of inferiority
which racialism, slave trade and colonialism have placed on our
heads. The African must be awake to the realities of his life, ask
critical questions that concerns him, seek true answers to those
questions. The first and foremost question bears on his onto-
logical identity, so as to rediscover himself so as to assert him-
self authoritatively. According to M. Dukor, (2010a: p. 160),
“the liberation from foreign identity and the regaining of Afri-
can identity can only be done by African themselves. Only
Africans can save themselves”.
The rediscovery of African identity is pertinent for a holistic
emancipation of Africa. African ontology is anthropocentric in
nature. The self is a “being-with”. The African self is defined in
terms of “We-existence”. And in its ontological relationships,
self-in African metaphysics is attained to both the invisible and
visible worlds. Having rediscovered his ontological identity it
became imperative to the African to fashion out a holistic ap-
proach in response to the African traditional ontology.
In this task, African philosophy is indispensible. It takes
cognizance of the African past and present experience in open-
ness for the future through critical searching, critical inquiry
and well-informed criticisms, not only to rediscover, discover,
know and interpret his world, but also to master it and develop
it. Philosophy and philosophers influence human and natural
development. Therefore through the philosophical paradigm of
African identity and development, then African can rise from
the colonial and slavery experience, discover himself in his
world, situate himself in his world and the world at large and
achieve meaningful development. The philosophical paradigm
of African identity and development seeks to enhance the
emancipation of the African from mental, economic, political,
neo-colonial and cultural slavery through genuine people’s
oriented development structures. We discovered that develop-
ment is a natural process; it has been constant in varying de-
grees within human societies since the origin of man. Devel-
opment is not a birthright or exclusive of any people or race or
tribe. It is quite certain that pre-colonial Africa was not static or
dead. Development is an indispensible and indisputable fact of
life. It is a process or activity of actualization of potentials and
it involves self-thought, decision and involvement. Develop-
ment is a natural process because everywhere and in every na-
tion, man is faced with the task of survival to meet up with the
fundamental material and spiritual needs. Development must be
people oriented which is in line with African ontology. It must
be pro-life, that it must enhance life, promote life, protect life
and increase life. It must be a corporate task to be inculcated
through constant reorientations of the youth, leaders of thought,
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