Insights from Dangme Traditional Moral Experience


The submission of this paper is that if contemporary Africa is to experience real development, then Africa must aim at the moral development of her people. Not only is moral development justifiable in its own right, but it is also a necessary condition for all other aspects of development.


Development as Economic

Common views of what constitutes development in contemporary Africa are narrow and inadequate: for example, the view that development is coterminous with a buoyant economy or technological advancement.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, first President of the Republic of Ghana, and for a considerable number of years the dominant voice of African politics and emancipation in our time, stated that the survival of Ghana as an independent nation was contingent on her achieving a `jet-propelled' rate of economic development.(143) Nearly all the leaders of the newly emergent states made similar proclamations.

In their view, economic development was indispensable; we must catch up with the industrialized West. They were right; for by the standards of the West, where they themselves were educated, conditions in Africa, whence the Western nations had siphoned their wealth, were deplorable. There would be no real independence for the new nations if their economies remained `undeveloped'. Furthermore, economic development was seen as the means to an attainment of higher standards of living. Therefore, the new nations saw the path to development as consisting in establishing industries, constructing new buildings and roads, and laying a whole host of infrastructure.

We came to accept this concept of development. The indices used to measure a country's development are such things as the types of building, highways, forms of transportation and communication, the number of hightechnology industries, sources of energy, forms of entertainment, etc. The more these approximate European patterns and standards then, the more developed a society is supposed to be. This view sees development in `quantitative' and `external' terms only.

We consider this a narrow and inadequate concept, for development is total; it has to do with the whole of the inhabited world and the environment including society, human beings themselves, as well as social systems and institutions. The above concept leaves out the more `qualitative' and `internal', i.e., the humanistic and spiritual components of development--such as humaneness, integrity, justice, freedom of the individual, harmony, community, self-fulfillment, contentment, etc.

The narrow view, which unconsolingly lamented the underdevelopment of Africa, seemed oblivious of what was obvious and needed to be preserved and improved upon, namely, that:

traditional societies were in some important respects superior to the western capitalist societies by which they were ruled. Instead of the self-seeking of the Western way, in terms of which it was a virtue and duty for man to prey upon man, there was an ethic that came much nearer to the Christian doctrine. Neighbor and stranger were treated with consideration, there was an instant and unquestioning willingness to share. Disputes were settled by discussion, verdicts implemented by force of public opinion and without the intervention of police.(144)

Oblivious of such truths about ourselves, we have succumbed to condemning everything about ourselves as not being good enough. We compare ourselves with the West and give ourselves second place. It is not surprising that even African leaders so readily accepted such value-loaded terms as `underdeveloped nations', or even `developing nations' to describe our nations; while we saw Western nations as the `developed societies'--when all that should be meant is `technologically underdeveloped' or `technologically developed' and so on.

When development programs are preoccupied with economic development there is danger of losing that component of development that our forefathers fostered: real humanity, humaneness, fellow-feeling, and concern for one another.

Consequences of the Narrow View of Development

Several consequences follow. One is that this dimension is not included in many national development plans. Therefore, there is very little, if anything, by way of a national policy for the cultivation of such values. At most, development plans have something on human resource development; but this has meant no more than training for skills to operate the increasingly sophisticated machineries of modern industry and administration or mobilization of the human factor to promote development only in the narrow sense.

We have a situation where many of the traditional and indigenous institutions and systems of inculcating and developing these values have been eroded by modernism, with no concerted effort to salvage or even replace them. Yet the connections between economic development, social development and morality should be clear.

It is comforting to note that some African leaders have seen the connection. Julius Nyerere, for instance, made it clear that: "[f]or socialism the basic purpose is the well-being of the people, and the basic assumption is an acceptance of human equality."(145)

The late Lieutenant General, A.A. Afrifa, a member of the then Government of Ghana, said in an Address to the First Parliament of the Second Republic of Ghana--in the context of a passionate call for national reconstruction--that: "[i]t is being both realistic and revolutionary to acknowledge that there is a relation between morality and national development and to accept the challenge for social behavior that it implies."(146)

J.J. Rawlings, Chairman of Ghana's Provisional National Defence Council from the very onset of his revolution saw that one must tackle both economic and social development together. In an address to the chiefs and people of one of the districts, he declared in one and the same breath that: "[t]oday, the struggle is for economic emancipation, it is a struggle for a closely-knit national unity, devoid of the shameful and haunting shadows of divisionism. Today, it is a struggle for the restoration of the principles of integrity and morality in our national life."(147) It will not work to neglect either.

The paucity of morally good human resources has thwarted efforts to bring about development even in its narrow sense. There is no lack of evidence that development projects have been left incomplete or severely truncated. In some cases they did not even begin, though plans were drawn up, funds available, and contracts awarded and paid for. Tenders have been inflated to include kick-backs; at work sites material never delivered were nonetheless booked and paid for, ghost names have appeared on payment vouchers and emoluments, while claims and entitlements were paid out to non-existent workers. Workers have pilfered parts of the very machines they were to work with and millions of meters of copper telephone cables have been cut off by gangs, thus disabling a whole network of telephone systems. Food items, meant for school children have been diverted or their prices inflated; parts of foreign loans for the nation have found their way into people's private bank accounts.

Thus many development projects have not materialized, simply because of the poor human factor. We are speaking of corruption in its broadest connotation. In many of our societies there is no sign of abatement in the situation. In fact, the malady is on the increase and is assuming epidemic proportions as people and officers of all ranks join in these evil syndicates. Governments have been oppressive and have violated fundamental human rights. Lack of serious moral, social and political commitment, sensitivity and probity, has thwarted many development projects. Consequently, development whether in the total or narrow sense, has become an unattained mirage in Africa.

Factors Accounting for the Failure

It would be naïve to suggest that moral turpitude alone is responsible for the state of relative under-development in Africa. The factors that militate against development are many. To mention a few, there are economic factors such as the relatively low level of industrialization, the general poverty of the people, unfavorable international terms of trade, problems of balance of payments and the strangling effect of the workings of the international economic order generally. There are also ideological and political factors such as political intrigue and instability, lack of continuity of national policies, intolerance of dissent, arrogant non-cooperation and misuse of talents. Besides these are the demographic factors of migration and a brain-drain. Nor can we forget the social, religious and other cultural obstacles such as fear and superstition, demonic activity, the subordinate role of women, systems of land tenure, a cultural inferiority complex, added to inappropriate technologies and the uncritical acceptance of foreign values and usages. We have, as well, an irrational adherence to custom and tradition. There is an underlying lack of clear, coherent and co-ordinated policies.

An analysis of the foregoing factors would show how large is the human factor component of the obstacles to development on the continent. For meaningful development and true progress to be realized, the importance of the human factor cannot be underestimated, since humans are the chief actors in the whole drama of development. Adequate engagement with the human factor would necessitate dealing with the total human person and seeking to make the best of him or her--as a physical, political, psycho-social, rational, spiritual and moral being.

The Moral Factor in Development

Here we single out moral development for discussion. Certainly, it is an aspect of total development, but we would contend also that moral development is a sine qua non of all development. Although the presence and activity of a few moral giants in a community can and has made a difference, it is important to have a whole community of persons who are morally alert, responsible and patriotic. Such a community may be created by forging together, through a series of deliberate and organized acts, a society of persons who take morality seriously; who are deeply concerned about the moral aspect of things, just as they are concerned about other aspects of things, material, economic or politic; who endeavor both in public and in private life to do what is morally right while avoiding the morally evil.

Such a community would share and cherish in common some basic, fundamental moral values. Some broad ideal which would determine what ought or ought not be done is needed to serve both as a solid springboard for--and the target of--all development efforts. When such an ideal or national goal has been worked out, the sub-ideals and sub-goals as well as their implications must also be drawn out, and the steps to their attainment carefully worked out.

Creating a community of moral individuals will necessitate moral education of the members of the society. The values thus inculcated will have to be enforced through various sanctions in order to get the moral agents to pursue what is right and avoid what is wrong. Being human, people will naturally, from time to time, fall short of the ideal and do what is not right: no matter how much moral education you give or how rigorously you apply the sanctions. Therefore, it is desirable to have a means of restoring offenders and enabling them to resume their position as moral members of the community.

To achieve these objectives a variety of agencies and social institutions will have to be used--particularly the family, the educational institutions, persons in leadership positions, religious bodies, and the state or community as such. The goal is to produce moral beings of character who, because of what and who they are, will build structures and systems that can contribute to progress, thus enhancing the quality of the life of the individual himself and, consequently, of the wider society.



This idea is not entirely new or foreign to Africa: through and through it is a traditional system. This section will be devoted to sketching in outline what is done in traditional Dangme society to make members of the society responsible individuals who can contribute to the realization of the good life.

In Dangme(148) traditional thought a human being is a composite being with three aspects.

(i) nm tso, the physical body: made up of the he lo (flesh), pani (sinews), wu (bones), and mu (blood); it comes from one's self. Of itself, the physical body cannot and does not do anything.

(ii) mumi (spirit) which may be seen as the life force or principle which animates the body and makes it function; when it leaves the body, a person is said to be dead. Mumi is believed to come from kuajamo, God of the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

(iii) Kla or susuma or nini, often spoken of as a person's real self or double. It pre-exists and survives the body. It is the carrier of a person's sesee (literally message, errand, parting word, or farewell address). Ss embodies the kind of person one will be on earth, and the major events of his life. Fulfilling one's ss is one of two great ideals of life.

If one fulfills his Ss in his earthly sojourn, he or she will regain admission to the world of spirits where one had pre-existed. The fulfillment of ss is determined partly by the quality of a person's life, how one relates to other persons in the community; and one's response to the likes and dislikes of the gods and ancestors. Re-entry to the spirit world and peaceful reunion with one's forebearers in the hereafter is a motivating factor for striving to be morally and religiously responsible.

The other ideal of life--perhaps the stronger of the two--is to enjoy the good life here on earth. The good life on earth is lived and realized in the community. The Dangme have a vision of the ideal society in which the good life may be realized. The vision, which is the Dangme summum bonum, may be summed up in the one word kplkt. The word kplkt literally means abundance or well-being. When unpacked, kplkt denotes: A society in which maximum health and long life are enjoyed by all; where men and women have children of their own flesh and blood; where each is at liberty to pursue his or her interests, provided these enhance the general good, or do not hinder the general good; where nature, and the gods and the ancestors and Nyingmo (God) himself smile on the community and shower on it their blessings; where there is abundant yield; where misfortunes are no more, and evil men and forces are non-existent or, where existent, subdued; where there is contentment and harmony, peace and progress; where no man is an island unto himself, but the concerns of each are part of those of the other, and what affects one affects all.

Founders of towns and villages have this vision, and they impress it upon their descendants and others who sojourn among them. They direct whatever is done in the community to the realization of that vision.

The Danish existentialist philosopher Sören Kierkegaard observed that natural man lies between being an angel and a beast; to be human is not automatic, it is a task. This view of man would be also the view of the Dangme. It is said that in the olden days, when a male child was born, their midwives would sing a song in which they inquired whether what had been born was Ad eko, i.e., just any sort of man; whether it was Ad mluku, i.e., a man without any useful parts, just a lump of human flesh--in other words, a stupid person; or whether it was, indeed, Ad ngmiingmi, that is, a man--in the sense of a strong, brave, heroic, level-headed type of man, without any adulterating elements.(149) In other words, they were expressing the desire for a truly humane person.

Knowing that it is not automatic to be human, the Dangme take deliberate steps to make members of the society moral, through a three-fold system of moral education, enforcement of the moral norms and values, and the reformation of moral offenders. We shall sketch the practice.

(i) Moral education is both formal and non-formal. It starts very early, is intensified during the child's formative years between ages five and fifteen, and continues in various forms until one dies. In many ethnic groups moral education starts at the outdooring of the baby. Among the Dangme the celebrant, who must be a respectable, good, elderly man or woman (depending on the sex of the baby), dips his or her finger into a mixture of water and roasted corn flour; puts it on the baby's tongue and speaks to it. He or she tells the baby to become a true Dangme; one who is honest and truthful, not given to lying; one quick to see and hear, but slow to speak; one who is humble, who eats from his own labor, does not covet, steal, or live a promiscuous life. Although this may be regarded more as symbolic than a real education, it is an important symbol and foundation that reminds those gathered about what society expects from them. The outdooring of a baby is an occasion for formal moral education.

Other formal occasions are when a head of family or clan convenes a meeting of the family, usually at dawn, and talks to them about life and how they should live good lives in order not to fail and thus bring disgrace upon the family; how to be successful and bring honor to the family. Again, at the passage from one stage or state in life to another--such as adolescence, marriage, becoming a master herbalist or priest--the novices are equipped with both professional and moral knowledge pertaining both to their prospective roles and to the general values of the society.

The bulk of moral education is non-formal, and is given by parents, elders, chiefs and all in a leadership role, when the opportunity presents itself to prompt, direct advise, admonish, or even punish or reward somebody for their conduct.

(ii) Enforcement of morality: The values thus inculcated are enforced and re-enforced through a variety of practices. For example, religious sanctions are used. An offended party may have a culprit accursed at a shrine for the god or spirit to `arrest' him. There is a trial by ordeal. Magical objects are hung in farms or other property which scare away would-be thieves. Even marital fidelity is sought by the use of padlocks in sympathetic and homeopathic magic. Oath swearing and covenanting are also used to keep people faithful. Thus, the belief in and fear of God and the invocation of the divinities to bless the good and punish the evil help to encourage virtue and discourage vice.

Non-religious sanctions are also used such as: `taking away' the family name from an unrepentant criminal and disinheriting him; ostracizing and excluding an immoral person from social intercourse; disgracing notoriously evil persons such as sorcerers and witches by dragging about or burning their corpses; casting insinuation in song and drumming at festivals, sometimes in plain and direct language; summoning to a chief's court resulting in fines or serious upbraiding.

There are also positive sanctions such as giving gifts of property to, or conferring honorific titles on, singularly good or brave people; offering them a seat on the Council of Elders; and performing special dirges and drumming at their funerals. Trustworthy youth may be given some property or valuable personal effects to start life with or take into marriage; to others family secrets may be revealed, or the secret powers of herbs, etc.

(iii) Moral Reformation: A person who has committed a moral offence may become agonizingly aware of it through his own (psychological) feeling or reflection, through some other person's prompting, through some physical sign of illness, or through revelation in a dream, vision, or spirit possession. Steps are then taken for him to confess the offence and to purge himself through religious rituals of its vitiating effect on his personality. That done and his personality thus restored, he is believed to have new power generated in him to enable him to lead a good life. He then makes resolutions and pledges, and is counselled to turn a new leaf.

Through this three-fold system, together with other social institutions, the Dangme like other traditional societies have managed to create for themselves communities with fairly high moral standards. Unfortunately, this traditional method of assuring proper moral development has been swept away in the tide of the complex phenomenon of modernization. The traditional system is, of course, not perfect. It cannot be used wholesale in contemporary society on account of such factors as urbanization, pluralism, the influence of new religions (Christianity, Islam, etc.), the school system, and the legacy of British law and practice. Nevertheless, its spectrum is a good model and can be used for moral development.

The hasty quest for modernization has led to uncritical adoption of all manner of so-called modern values and practices, and the refusal to adapt the old ways. This attitude has contributed to the emotional and moral ambivalencies,(150) the poverty, and the feelings of non-fulfillment plaguing many of the so-called Third World countries which are still undergoing rapid social change. There is an urgent need to save the situation. Institutions, agencies and persons committed to the promotion of human development must actively assist interested parties to document the dying systems and values that sustained traditional societies and to work out suitable adaptations though seminars, workshops, writing, etc. Such gestures will be as great a contribution to development as are grants or loans to build hospitals to cure sick persons, or the funding of other `development projects'.


We observed earlier that the low level of development on the African continent may be traced partially to the relatively low level of moral probity in contemporary society. We have substantiated the opinion with examples, although without specific reference to time and place. We do not think that the statement can be seriously controverted.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that in all our countries pronouncements by governments and high government officials, natural rulers, religious bodies and personalities, and their constitutions, laws and traditional usages contain very high and lofty ideals and moral values. In some cases, we have also acknowledged God and pledged to keep faith with Him. While some of these ideals have been realized in some measure, many have remained unrealized.

There are numerous causes and reasons for the yawning gap between the ideals and the realities.

(1) In a number of cases, the ideals are not well known to the people who are expected to be guided by them, but remain the private visions only of visionaries.

(2) In some cases, the visions are shared with the people but they are too abstract to be appreciated by most. Many people can be moved to action only when they are shown in concrete terms what they should do or not do in order to live in the manner of a given virtue; or when they are shown vividly what chain of consequences--good or evil--flow from particular acts or class of acts or attitudes.

(3) Generally speaking, our moral education is inadequate, and is given very little formal attention especially in the post-primary educational institutions, professional colleges and apprenticeship workshops. Much of what may pass for moral education is no more than moral discussions or exhortations. But mere exhortations are not enough if the hearers do not really know what they ought to do in particular situations or why they must do so.

(4) Sometimes, people know what they should do or should not do as well as the possible consequences of their acts, but because they lack the will to persevere they take the easier way out and so do not do the right thing.

(5) Another important reason for the failure is the lack of inspiring examples by those in positions of leadership--in homes, schools, workplaces, church, state, clubs, professions, etc. It is a fact of life that the leaders affect the led.

(6) We should mention also the uncritical adoption of foreign practices and values, and the iconoclastic rejection of established such indigenous Ghanian values and concepts as honesty, senses of honor or shame, modesty, godliness.

(7) There seems also to be legalism and over-externalization in our moral education and in the endorsement of morals. There is too much emphasis on getting people to perform the right acts, not so much for their own sake or for the sake of dignity and honor of the moral agent, or even for the benefit of others; but rather in order to receive praise or reward, or, on the other hand, in order to avoid blame or punishment. As long as the prospects of praise and reward or the threat of blame and punishment are there, people tend to do the right thing or avoid evil. But once these sanctions are removed, or dismantled and rendered ineffectual, they quickly fall into the immoral way. Although the enforcement of morality by punishment is essential for making people moral, this must not be done in isolation and to the neglect of the other two requirements--moral education and moral recovery and reformation.

(8) There is an increasingly poor outlook on life as a whole. We do not seem to understand the meaning of life; our ideas of what makes a good life--i.e., true well-being, success, fulfillment--are faulty. Consequently we pursue a host of mirages such as vain-glory, pleasure, wealth however gained, power (political, economic, spiritual) for its own sake, and so on. As Plato would put it, instead of being lovers of true wisdom regarding life (i.e., philosophers), we are lovers of appearance, or of mere belief (i.e., we are philodoxical).(151)

(9) Another reason for our generally low moral performance is the prevalence of frustrating official policies and the prevailing difficult economic and social conditions. Sometimes people blame the breakdown in our national moral fiber on the harsh economic conditions. That could be overdone, for, in many of the cases of misappropriation, diversion, embezzlement, smuggling, fraud, etc., the culprits do not commit these evils merely to survive; they are clearly misguided wealth seekers and power-seekers. We should not so quickly blame the economic situation for our immorality. If anything, the reverse is nearer the truth: our lack of sense of duty, our irresponsibility and lack of integrity are partly responsible for our economic difficulties. As a northern Ghanian proverb goes: "You do not blame the ground on which you have fallen; rather, you should blame the stone that tripped you." We have fallen on economic difficulties, but the stone that tripped us is moral ineptitude.

Having said that, it must also be acknowledged that in a situation where economic and social conditions do not allow one to procure so basic a necessity for biological survival as adequate food from one's honest earnings, not to speak of meeting other legitimate needs, it is not easy to keep one's moral fiber intact. Official policies that perpetrate or perpetuate such harsh conditions are, therefore, also blamable.

Another example of a frustrating official policy is the promotion of

gambling in one form or another. This contradicts efforts to build a society

of people who are responsible, hardworking, contented with honest earnings. The promotion of gambling and the high rate of patronage it enjoys are at once causes and symptoms of our moral decadence.

(10) The contribution of the foregoing factors to our moral problems will be the more appreciated if the human condition as a basic factor in the moral life is remembered. There is a natural tendency in man to be selfish, to give in to the emotions, passions, and sentiments, and to disobey conscience which, properly, should control instincts and passions.(152)

The Greek philosopher Socrates wondered why in Athenian society there were teachers of every conceivable trade and art--shipbuilding, carpentry, masonry, shoemaking, sculpture, etc.--but in the most crucial area of arete, the virtuous and upright life, there were no teachers. Everybody was supposed to be a teacher of arete,(153) and that explains why the society was corrupt. For the supposed teachers--parents, teachers, politicians, rulers, etc.--did not themselves know what goodness was and so naturally taught the wrong thing and gave poor examples. It was this observation mainly that made Plato develop the theory of philosopher-kings--leaders who through special education and commitment would know and live the morally good life, and would, therefore, manage the affairs of the state most effectively.

Like the Greeks, we expect all people in positions of leadership to be teachers and exemplars of arete, and rightly so; but we do not equip them for these roles. In traditional African societies, before anyone assumes a new role or status in society--as herbalist, or priest, or chief, or parent, or ordinary adult--he or she is put in confinement and educated, not only in the professional and technical know-how but in the ethics and values of the society in general and those pertaining to his or her particular prospective role. This is lacking in contemporary African society and is one reason for our failure. We assume wrongly that without tutoring, a person can exhibit moral qualities once he is a leader or parent, even if he had never really been moral or responsible; or that it is enough if he can give moralistic talks.

(11) The final reason we wish to adduce is the neglect of religion. We have ridiculed religion or else paid lip service to it. Consequently, we have not realized its full impact. As St. Paul so aptly put it, in the last days people "will hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power". Because of the absence of the power of religion in them, such people

will be selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited; they

will be insulting, disobedient to their parents, un-

grateful, and irreligious; they will be unkind, merci-

less, slanderers, violent, and fierce; they will hate

the good; they will be treacherous, reckless, and swoll-

en with pride; they will love pleasure rather than God.(154)


What then shall we do? There are countless possibilities, but I would submit only eight for discussion and action.

l. Home and Parental Training. First and foremost, we must intensify home training, and find appropriate ways of making it work. The formative years of a child are known to be most crucial in his or her character formation. The old saying is true: train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22: 6) Much of what the adult man will be in society is what the child already is in its mother's lap. Societies of parents and especially women's organizations should play a leading role in the moral transformation crusade. We must help children to form the right habits and values right from the beginning, both by precept and by example. To this end, the parents themselves need to be equipped. Once a good foundation has been laid in the home, we will get somewhere. The other re-enforcement will come from school, church, and the wider community.

2. Moral Education in Educational Institutions. In traditional African society, moral education was provided in the home, in the institutions in which people learned their trades, and during the confinement or camping preceding their assumption of new roles. In modern times, a great deal of time is spent away from home, and the `school and church' have taken over most of the functions of the traditional home and institutions. Yet the school has neglected character formation. At most, morality and civil responsibility are taught only in the lower or primary level institutions. But moral education must not be confined to small children; it must be a life-long affair.

Education itself has always been understood to be a three-part affair: the imparting and acquiring of (i) information, (ii) skills, and (iii) aptitudes and values. Somehow, gradually we have progressively left out the third dimension which is meant to bring about character development and moral virtue. This third dimension of education must be provided by the school at all levels of education.

It is pertinent to remember that in America, as part of the American Revolution and the effort in its systematic national development plan, the colleges (and later the universities) were charged with the responsibility of preparing and produce leaders for the newly developing nation. This need was met in the provision of a wide range of courses, chief of which was moral philosophy. This course was taught to all seniors (those in their final year and about to complete their college career) by no less a person than the college president himself--i.e., the principal or vice chancellor. The colleges and universities were developed by educational reformers with an overriding purpose, namely, "to train up a generation of leaders imbued with a sense of responsibility and commitment to the nation."(155) Daniel C. Gilman, president of Johns Hopkins University acknowledged as the model of the research university, is reported to have said (representing the dominant view of university reformers), that "[t]he object of the university is to develop character--to make men."(156) The American colleges may not have made all their products into angels; but it cannot be disputed that by a deliberate policy they produced enough men of integrity and with a sense of responsibility and character to provide good leadership and laid the foundation for the nation's political, social, business, and religious life.

Contemporary Africa is very much like America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Our colleges of education and universities must aim to produce not only brilliant, first class, theologians, or lawyers, or accountants or medical doctors or politicians. If these are not morally equipped, they are a liability to society. We must produce men and women of character. We would propose that `Morals' or `Education in Values' be taught in all African educational and vocational institutions and apprenticeship workshops, including the institutions of higher learning. It must be a compulsory ancillary or ceiling course for every student.

3. Philosophy and Education. To buttress the foregoing, we strongly suggest that our educational planners and policy makers should as a matter of urgency evolve an educational policy and philosophy that will address the moral issue. Such a policy must, among other things, recognize the crucial role of morality in the life of the individuals and the community. The content of educational programs must, therefore, be couched in such a way as to lay the foundations for the development not only of an `economic man' but also of a moral being imbued with the spirit of service to his fellows and love for his country.(157)

4. The Meaning of Life. It is a fact of life that our general outlook on life and our actions arise from our presuppositions. Our ideals also are laden with presuppositions. Answers to questions like: What is man? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What is the good life?, etc., can make useful contributions to the quest for total development. We are convinced that some of the unhelpful attitudes and behavior exhibited in our societies is due to poor understanding of the nature of man, the meaning of life, what constitutes success, etc. We would, therefore, call on the experts who are concerned with human values and conduct--such as moral philosophers, theologians, sociologists, psychologists, jurists--to take up the challenge and prepare simple, clear materials for education: in books, for radio, and for television programs, etc.

5. Rediscovering Our Values. We have observed that many of our values are being swept away by the tide of modernization. Some effort is being made by various institutions and individuals to document or preserve them. The effort needs to be intensified. There is need also to work out replacements or modifications for systems, practices and values that are obsolete. This needs adequate, appropriate knowledge, good research and reflection. How can we get people who are sufficiently knowledgeable in the traditional things as well as contemporary conceptions and trends to do effective contextualization? If we have the people, can we set them aside for this all-important work, seeing that most of such competent people are already engaged in other ways? How can we fund their work, which can be very expensive? Perhaps this is one area to which international agencies interested in promoting development should turn their energies.

6. National Goals and Values. African countries are passing though a phase of rapid turnover of regimes and governments. As each regime comes into office with its own package of policies and goals, usually quite different and even opposed to their predecessor's, we have, in important respects, divergent goals and values. In other respects, however, there are a number of converging points. In the quest for national moral development, it is desirable that we know what broad goals and values we should cherish and share. Once we know this, we can find means of attaining them and pass them on to future leaders. In this respect, we should work out what is expected of various national offices and functionaries. Such a document will help people appointed to these positions as well as the rest of the community to know exactly what is expected of them as leaders. With such goals and values formulated, various manuals can then be produced for teaching and training purposes, and for the preparation of those aspiring to leadership roles in the community. It should not be impossible to synthesize the various ideals enshrined in manifestos, constitutions, traditional ideals, etc. Needless to say, such national goals or values will have to transcend the narrow views of any particular regime or ethnic or religious group in order to make it possible for all to have allegiance to them.

7. Moral Reformation or Recovery Program. Nearly all African nationals have embarked upon economic recovery programs to save their ailing economies and revive them. This is laudable. With equal justification, indeed, a fortiori, we must have moral recovery programs too. If we do not, the economic recovery programs will not achieve much; for if we have morally corrupt persons to man our industries and work our policies, we can be sure that they will succumb to the usual human weaknesses. They may even use their peculiar knowledge and ingenuity to subvert the very systems they are supposed to work in for their own personal and private interests and to the detriment of the whole community. We should urge our governments and other agencies, such as religious bodies, to take up this crusade.

8. The Religious Factor in Moral Development. Much of our moral education has taken the form of getting a person, through habituation, to perform the right external acts. Habituation has proved to be inadequate for lasting moral character formation. Since morality has to do with both conduct and being, moral character must be moulded not only through habituation and external acts but through molding the inner man.

In this, religion is very important. The making of moral beings is essentially creating or even recreating the very fabric of the person. Essentially, it must come from within, though externals may help. Religion itself claims the ability to bring about radical change in a person and give one power to live the good life. Some may contend that religion is not all that important even for moral regeneration, and that what we need is scientific knowledge, technology, viable economic enterprises, industries, etc. To put it that way forgets that through history man's quest for God has inspired his art, his poetry, music, literature, morality, etc. To neglect the role of religion in any attempt to create a moral community would be an exercise in futility.

The religious claim is that when the inner man is renewed and God's power dwells in the person, his desires change, his life is ennobled, and his moral sense is strengthened and toughened. Much empirical evidence supports the claim.

To have real development in contemporary Africa we must, among other things, have moral character. We must educate ourselves and enforce our morals and values. It is necessary to build the infrastructure and political institutions, but above all to nurture the inner man for experience shows that genuinely right acts and good conduct can only be produced by a morally good person. In our bid to realize total development the human heart must be made good. Thus, will our moral and social development be attained.


We have attempted to show that the common concepts of development held in contemporary Africa are narrow, leading to preoccupation with economic development to the almost total neglect of organized moral development. We observed that such neglect has resulted in lowering moral probity among our people and thwarted many development efforts. Moreover, certain official policies and development projects blunt moral sensitivity.

A detailed analysis of the causes and reasons of the deteriorating moral standards has been made. A case has been established for conscious efforts to tackle the issue of moral development as both an end in itself and as a necessary condition for real and total development on the continent.

We have submitted that in traditional African society, there are systems and models which we can adapt and employ in the contemporary situation. The Dangme experience and practice have been used to demonstrate the submission. A number of concrete and practical steps have been suggested which, if followed, we are convinced, will enable us to attain our desired goal of true development in contemporary Africa.