Ghana Journal of Development Studies

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Interfacing knowledge systems: Local knowledge and science in Africa

David Millar, Saa Dittoh


In this article, with reference to Ghana and Zimbabwe, we explore the traditional African worldview, life-world, belief systems and ways of thinking and reasoning. This discourse captures the rich combination of spirituality, materiality and the social in a concept referred to here as Cosmo vision. Nowadays this worldview co-exists with western worldviews and systems of thinking, in various shades and combinations of both, as several parallels within the same continuum.

In the article, we try to illustrate that in the traditional African knowledge systems often a hierarchy exists between divine beings, spiritual beings, ancestors, and natural forces, such as climate, disease, floods, soil, vegetation, and animals. The worldview suggests a cyclical notion of time, and gives rise to several rituals in which the elders and spiritual leaders play a prominent role. From the examples of Ghana and Zimbabwe in this write-up, it becomes clear that in the traditional worldview, land, water, animals and plants are not just a production factor with economic significance. They have their place within the sacred nature.

The role of colonialism in subordination of the African science and knowledge system in general is discussed. The article argues that the Transfer-Of-Technology model assumed even after independence still subjugated the African knowledge system and continues to do so. This not withstanding, the African knowledge system persists albeit marginally and has sustained many lives this far.

The article ends with a series of conclusions that highlight the reawakening of interest in the African knowledge system. This new interest is due in part to the persistence of elements of the African knowledge systems despite the numerous interruptions by interventionists. The failure of interventions from the western world to provide the envisaged benefits has gone to buttress the need for an alternative to the dominant paradigm approach. With these concluding remarks the article then makes a recommendation for an endogenous development process that focuses on a blend between the two knowledge systems within the concept of endogenous development.
Ghana Journal of Development Studies Vol.1(2) 2004: 70-84
AJOL African Journals Online