COMPAS - Newsletter for Endogenous Development Book 003 African Knowledges and Sciences
Understanding and supporting the ways of knowing in Sub-Saharan Africa
African Traditional Knowledge (ATK), variously called rural peoples’ knowledge, indigenous knowledge, or cultural knowledge, among others, is as old as the existence of the African peoples themselves. This knowledge base has provided sustenance for Africans in a diverse, complex, and risk-prone environment. Spirituality is the bedrock of this knowledge system that makes it remarkably different from other knowledges/sciences. Bio-cultural diversity is another feature that characterises African traditional knowledges.
Non-Africans and so-called “educated Africans” have often denied recognition for this knowledge base since colonial times. Except in the field of health sciences and particularly for herbal medicine, music, culture and arts, very little has been done by science-based scholars on African knowledges.
In recent time, there has been an increased and renewed interest in African Knowledge Systems. A few scholars of so-called ‘hard sciences’ and development work have made token gestures at this knowledge base. Yet, a lot remains unknown, unexplained, and, in some cases, misunderstood. For those scholars who embrace and project African knowledges as an alternative form and source of knowledge, the challenge of legitimacy is often an issue. This challenge is often directed to forms of proof and legitimacy. Much as we cannot discredit Western science, we resist any attempts to use Western standards to measure ATK, for, African sciences, ancient as they are, have their own unique forms of proof and legitimacy.