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EVENT | Revisiting Theories & Practices of Endogenous Governance in Africa - International symposium

Updated: May 22, 2022

International symposium co-convened by Afrospectives and Global Humanity for Peace Institute from 11th-12 May 2022 (14:00-18:00 GMT/UTC).

Behind any model of governance there are underlying metaphysical, spiritual and philosophical interpretations that frame the “political ontology”. These tend to inform our collective responses to the fundamental question concerning the nature of human society. Governance is therefore part of a larger system of interpretations, interactions, processes. Such a system tends to define the relationships amongst peoples, groups and institutions, as well as between humans and other living and non-living beings in the world.

In contemporary Africa, the debate on the nature of governance has often been confiscated by exogenous actors and thereby trapped in ideological patterns. Discussions and reports mostly focus on analysing African societies’ capacities to adopt Western practices of democracy. Analyses also attempt to identify factors in African cultures that seem to prevent countries in the continent from making a good use of governance schemes proposed by the Western model, such as majority rule, separation of powers, electoral system, referendum, representative institutions and accountability.

The “Third Wave” of democratisation in Africa in the 1990’s and “the Arab Spring” in the early 2010s drew international attention to how these societies have managed democratic transition. The cosmetic solutions introduced by the new powers in these countries seem to have satisfied some internal and external observers of these movements.

At the same time, the continued crisis in the dominant models of democracy in the Western societies is once again putting to questions about the principles and values on which they were built and developed. It offers a new opportunity to liberate our thinking from the grip of paternalistic mindset, and to revisit indigenous and traditional knowledge and practices of governance. Of particular interest is the way that power is exercised and resources shared in non-Western cultures and societies in the world. The exploration of indigenous socio-political experiences has become even more urgent in Africa, where systems of governance imported from the West seem to have failed spectacularly. These failures demonstrated the questionable universality and harmful incompatibility of imported systems. Hence in its Agenda 2063, The Africa We Want, the African Union acknowledges the need for Africa to build its future on the pillars founded on its cultures, worldviews, and endogenous knowledge, implementing a decolonial turn.

Africa, the continent where humanity created its first communities, has always had rich philosophies, wisdom and praxis aimed at developing humanising systems of governance through regulating power, enriching social interactions, distributing resources fairly, and harmonising human’s relationships with nature and other non- human entities. Examples of this rich heritage include the political traditions of Ubuntu of the Bantu peoples, the Kurukan Fuga Charter of the Mandingos, the Xeer of Somalis, the Gacaca in Rwanda, the Gada of Oromos and the Madqa of the Afars, to name but a few. Africa is also home to incredibly diverse socio-political organisations ranging from multi-ethnic and multi-cultural empire structures to small homogeneous community formations. It is the continent par excellence where sophisticated methods of consensus-building, conflict transformation, and relational reconciliation have been elaborated.

More than 60 years after formal independence, the legacies of coloniality that have perpetuated the prejudices, toxic view points and dehumanising behaviours inherited from colonial domination continue to shape the worldviews and imaginations of African decision-makers. In most African countries, political and institutional mimicry of the ruling classes has led to the emergence of fragile nation-states, unsustainable socio-political and economic structures and inappropriate governance policies, all based on Western paradigms. In this context, some countries such as Botswana, Rwanda and Somaliland, have initiated interesting experiments to revitalise indigenous and traditional values and practices in response to people’s needs.

To explore these significant examples of endogenous (vs. exogenous) government systems within the African continent, we are proposing an international webinar, co-convened by the think-tank Afrospectives and the Global Humanity for Peace Institute (a partnership think-tank established by the Geurrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace and the University of Wales Trinity St David). The webinar will bring together high- level panellists who are African scholars, experts and practitioners, including:

  • Scholars who have done research in the field of concrete systems of governance in Africa;

  • Experts who have studied policies and practices of traditional governance in Africa at all levels;

  • Thinkers who have been reflecting on the relevance of African endogenous humanist and political philosophies and their contribution to Africa and to humanity.

The panelists and participants will be invited to:

  • Present the result of their field-research on endogenous systems of governance;

  • Identify and discuss specificities and communalities and complementarities between different governance systems in Africa;

  • Present and analysis examples of revitalisation and modernisation of traditional systems of governance to respond to current needs;

  • Discuss the contribution that African endogenous visions and perspectives on governance could make to the current crisis;

  • Define some guidelines for African countries willing to revitalize their indigenous systems of governance.

Together, the panellists and the participants will identify inclusive forms of community decision-making aimed at consensus building, especially those demonstrating respect for diversity, mutual listening, dialogue, and understanding. Practices highlighted are those rooted in values that are more deeply human, more communitarian, and more in tune with the spiritual nature of human life. Thus the examples to be explored can help re-envision the contribution of traditional African governance practices to the emergence of contemporary Africa approaches to democracy.

Policy Brief

Following the webinar, a small group of philosophers, researchers, scholars and policy specialists will come together to analyse the knowledge, practices and other insights emergent from the webinar towards a policy brief on African systems of governance. These policy proposals will then be offered to the African governments, civil society organisations interested in and committed to exploring the potential of endogenous systems of governance.


The webinar also provides an opportunity for each panellist to further improve their paper drawing on the dialogue and discussions to deepen their articulations on the questions posed. The co-organisers intend to bring forward an edited volume to be published by an academic press.

Flyer Webinar 11-12 May Final 1
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