African socialism

African socialism is a belief in sharing economic resources in a traditional African way, as distinct from classical socialism. Many African politicians of the 1950s and 1960s professed their support for African socialism, although definitions and interpretations of this term varied considerably.

Origins and themes

As many African countries gained independence during the 1960s, some of these newly formed governments rejected the ideas of capitalism in favour of a more Afrocentric economic model. Advocates of African socialism claimed that it was not the opposite of capitalism nor a response to it, but something completely different.

Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Modibo Keita of Mali, Léopold Senghor of Senegal, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Sékou Touré of Guinea, were the main architects of African Socialism according to William H. Friedland and Carl G. Rosberg Jr., editors of the book African Socialism.

Common principles of various versions of African socialism were: social development guided by a large public sector, incorporating the African identity and what it means to be African, and the avoidance of the development of social classes within society. Senghor claimed that “Africa’s social background of tribal community life not only makes socialism natural to Africa but excludes the validity of the theory of class struggle,” thus making African socialism, in all of its variations, different from Marxism and European socialist theory.


The first influential publication of socialist thought for Africa occurred in 1956 with the release of Senegalese intellectual Abdoulaye Ly’s Les masses africaines et l’actuelle condition humaine.



The Concept or politic ideology of Ujamaa formed the basis of Julius Nyerere’s autarkic social and economic development policies in Tanzania after Tanganyika gained independence from its colonial power Britain in 1961 and its union with Zanzibar to form Tanzania in 1964. The word Ujamaa comes from the Swahili word for extended family or familyhood and is distinguished by several key characteristics, namely that a person becomes a person through the people or community.

In 1967, President Nyerere published his development blueprint, which was titled the Arusha Declaration, in which Nyerere pointed out the need for an African model of development. That formed the basis of African socialism for Tanzania. The Arusha Declaration sparked international discussions and debates about African socialism in the academic and economic world.

However, according to the BBC, “while he united his nation and made major advances in the fields of health and education,” Julius Nyerere’s African socialist “Ujamaa” collectives “proved disastrous for Tanzania’s economy”.


The ancient Ubuntu philosophy of South Africa recognizes the humanity of a person through their interpersonal relationships. The word comes from the Zulu and Xhosa languages. Ubuntu believes in a bond that ties together all of humanity and the fact that a human being is of high value. According to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, A man with ubuntu is open and accessible to others, confirming of others, doesn’t feel debilitated that others are capable and great, for he or she has a legitimate confidence that originates from realizing that he or she has a place in a more noteworthy entire and is decreased when others are mortified or reduced, when others are tormented or abused.


Harambee is a term that originated among natives, specifically Swahili porters of East Africa and the word Harambee traditionally means “let us pull together”. It was taken as an opportunity for local Kenyans to self-develop their communities without waiting on government. This helped build a sense of togetherness in the Kenyan community but analyst state that it has brought about class discrepancies due to the fact that some individuals use this as an opportunity to generate wealth

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