IV Congreso Internacional
Historia a Debate
Santiago de Compostela, 15-19 de diciembre de 2010
Mesa C. Gobernanza mundial, pasado y futuro
Geoffrey I Nwaka (Abia State University, Uturu, Nigeria)
Tradition as a Modern Strategy: Indigenous Knowledge as Local Response to Globalization in Nigeria/Africa
Globalization is now widely perceived in Africa as a new version of earlier forms of external domination and exploitation. Its economic and welfare benefits are unevenly shared, and appear to bypass or to retard progress in many countries of the developing world. But Marshall Sahlins has rightly emphasized the need for all peoples “to indigenize the forces of global modernity, and turn them to their own ends”, as the real impact of globalization depends largely on the responses developed at the local level. The challenge for Africa is, therefore, how to engage and cope with globalization and other external influences in a way that is compatible with local values and priorities; how to strike the right balance between global and local cultures in national governance and development – as in Japan and East Asia.
For a long time African customs and traditions were misperceived as irrational and incompatible with the conventional strategies of development. But the economic crisis and policy failures of the 1980s and ‘90s, and the current threat of global recession have exposed flaws in the Western, neo-liberal, ‘external agency’ model of development imposed from the top by national governments and international development agencies. Because of growing concern about widespread poverty, widening inequalities and environmental deterioration, there is renewed interest in an alternative approach to development which emphasizes the cultural dimension of development, and the often overlooked potential of indigenous knowledge as “the single largest knowledge resource not yet mobilized in the development enterprise”. This paper considers how indigenous knowledge and practice can be put to good use in support of local governance and development in Nigeria; how development policies and programmes can be made to reflect local priorities, and build upon and strengthen local knowledge, capacity and organization, especially in such vital areas as agriculture and natural resource management, law review and conflict resolution, education, health care and poverty alleviation. Indigenous knowledge is here used as a model for rethinking and redirecting the development process, and as a way to involve, enable and empower local actors to take part in their own development.
The paper concludes with some general reflections on the indigenous knowledge movement as an appropriate local response to globalization and Western knowledge dominance, and as a way to promote cultural identity and inter-cultural dialogue on African development. A fair and more inclusive globalization should be based on respect for cultural diversity, and should provide a new context and opportunity to overcome inequality between and within nations, and to strengthen global solidarity.