African indigenous knowledge systems relevant in addressing the continent's problems

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. PHOTO: file
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. PHOTO: file
  • Women should be at the centre of peace building and development in Africa.
  • More should be done to promote the use of indigenous knowledge systems and gender dimensions in solving African problems.
  • Retired former presidents should be consulted in coming up with homegrown African solutions.

For Africa to successfully solve conflicts, progress economically, achieve academic excellence and champion its rich culture and scientific breakthroughs there is an urgent need to promote indigenous knowledge systems and gender dimensions where women play an important role in the continent's peace-building and development.

In his closing remarks at a high-level virtual colloquium hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal,  Professor John Tesha, the executive secretary for the Africa Forum, said: "We need to work hard to see that African, our continent, is peaceful. Peace is not only when guns are silent. We have to go beyond that. Even in countries where guns are not blazing it doesn't necessarily mean there's peace."

He added Africa's rich diversity of culture and linguistic endowment provided the continent with a chance to build on indigenous potential.

The panel of the five-hour long colloquium had former presidents Joyce Banda of Malawi, Armando Guebuza of Mozambique, Cassam Uteem of the Republic of Mauritius and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania joining various academics.

The organisers included the former heads of state because of their institutional knowledge of the African fabric.

"The continent has many former heads of state and governments who have left office democratically. There has been little effort to solicit the views of these leaders and elders on the role of African indigenous homegrown approaches on contemporary conflicts and conflict resolution," read the press statement from the African Institute in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AIIKS).

The major concern by speakers was that women, children and youth were in the backdrop of problems faced by the continent.

With that in mind, in the most marginalised communities in Africa, especially in the rural areas, women are the custodians of indigenous knowledge systems and languages for sustainable community livelihoods.

The youth, including girls, are recruited as soldiers in conflicts, and the deterioration of their national economies impacts their employment and other life opportunities. Banda said traditional core values should be promoted. 

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She also spoke about the traditional role of women in social structural reinforcement.

"The role of women as a gatekeeper has always been central … women stand out as leaders, we can serve as queens and chiefs. We can own land but more importantly, women play a pivotal role in ascertaining that people can co-exist. In the recent past, we have seen that among women leaders that have led as heads of states there have been fewer wars," Banda added.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said women played a leading role in traditional societies.

Dlamini-Zuma said:

In our [Zulu] culture there's the mafungwase [first born in the family], she's revered in the family. Not only is she expected to be part of every traditional ceremony … she plays an important role to make sure there's peace.

She also spoke about the philosophy of Ubuntu as a "golden thread in Africa" for peace and development in Africa.

However, African traditional values were diluted by the colonial system that chose to dismantle the African knowledge systems leading to the oppression of women.

"Sexual violence, rape is now used as a weapon of war. Yet, African women in our culture are not even attacked during our wars.

"No one was allowed to attack women and children but nowadays women and children are the victims. We should go back and find our ways … as long as the conflict continues, women will suffer," Dlamini-Zuma said.


- Lenin Ndebele is the News24 Africa Desk journalist. The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
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