Africa Must Be Modern

Africa Must Be Modern

A Manifesto
Olúfémi Táíwò
Distribution: Global except Nigeria
Publication date: 04/10/2014
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-01272-2
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Africa must be modern. Let me say it again: Africa must be modern. And it must be modern NOW; not tomorrow; not in the near future; not in the far future.... Put simply, Africa must embrace individualism as a principle of social ordering; make reason central in its relation to, activity upon, understanding of, and production of knowledge about the world, both physical and social, that it inhabits; and adopt progress as its motto in all things. The position just stated is rarely encountered in discourse about, in and on the continent or its Diaspora. On the contrary, no thanks to the militancy and stridency of the nativists, those who wish to celebrate African genius at adapting the wisdom of others and, by so doing, domesticate modernity for the benefit of Africa, Africans, and their life and thought, are practically shouted to silence or, at best, limited to furtive expressions of their preference.From the introduction

Author Bio

Olúfémi Táíwò is Professor of Africana Studies at the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University. He is author of How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa (IUP, 2010).


“A forthright and uncompromising account of Africa’s hostility toward modernity and how it has impeded economic development and social and political transformation. This is a bold exhortation for Africa to come into the 21st century.”

“This is a little book with very big and controversial ideas. It draws a bold, clear line in the sand. African scholars everywhere on the continent will acutely recognize themselves and their condition of work in this. They cannot disagree with the truth of this book, but only with how too fearfully truthful it is.”
 — Tejumola Olaniyan, author of Arrest the Music: Fela and His Rebel Art and Politics

“At a time when many informed and highly placed economists, political scientists, historians, and other professionals (most of them foreigners) with stakes and expertise in African affairs appear to be locked in a futile game of breast-beating about what is wrong with the African continent, it is both a relief and a matter of gratitude to hear an African make a remorseless case such as the one in this book.”
 — Akin Adesokan, author of Postcolonial Artists of Global Aesthetics

“Whoever thinks he knows the problem of Africa had better read this book. Whoever feels there is no known solution that can apply should read this book first; but whoever wishes to remain unperturbed about the African predicament had better not read this book. This book almost certainly will challenge any mind. The author has evidently written down thoughts that cost him his sleep for many years now. ”
 — African Studies Quarterly

“Táiwò’s firm and fierce argument is timely because it unapologetically prompts questions. . .45.4 Winter 2014”

“This book is a brave and boisterous attempt to challenge Africa to follow a clear-cut development trajectory in the face of its disappointing performance in the development arena in the post-colonial period. Taiwo provides an interesting analysis of modernity as the key to attaining Africa's development. The author's bold declarations on Africa's development trajectory make the book exceedingly readable, and place Taiwo amongst the ranks of other African development trajectory scholars like Sabelo Ndlovu and Moeletsi Mbeki.”
 — African Affairs

Africa Must Be Modern is an important statement that should be debated in both the academy that Táíwò critiques and the African public sphere he hopes to engage.”
 — Journal of West African History

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Table of Contents

Preface to the U.S. Edition



1. Why Africa Must Get on Board the Modernity Express

2. The Sticky Problem of Individualism

3. The Knowledge Society and Its Rewards

4. Count, Measure, and Count Again

5. Process, not Outcome: Why Trusting Your Leader, Godfather, Ethnic Group or Chief May
Not Best Secure Your Advantage

6. Against the Philosophy of Limits: Installing a Culture of Hope