The future of Africa - Not what it used to be

Otto Kroesen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Usually the present-day understanding of Africa doesn't look back beyond its colonial past. But the difficulties of African nation states with the Western system of a strong and accountable state and an open civil society have to be understood from the perspective of the precolonial system of in-group solidarity and vertical networks under paternalistic authority. The Western political order doesn't stand a chance of being adopted if the traditions of social solidarity and personalized relationships cannot be integrated into it. This need comes in a different light by the recent developments of the impersonal and functionalized political and economic system of neoliberalism in the West itself, which increasingly evokes neo-tribal reactions in search for new in-group solidarity and identity. While Africa is grappling to adopt the Western system, Western societies return to the tribal heritage, it seems. This essay makes a plea to locate the need and desire for belongingness in the economic sphere of small and medium-sized enterprises. They cultivate strong bonds of solidarity and cooperative networks. Their temporary existence and fast rhythms of change prevent them from slipping off into the old exclusion mechanism of the tribal existence, which is so dangerous in politics. Both Western and African societies may find a new future by learning from each other's past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-114
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Futures Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • African history
  • Civil society
  • Lifelong solidarity
  • Rule of law
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Vertical networks


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