The Process of Development

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Keywords: culture, process, development


This essay, will be discussing the advantages and disadvantages of culture in the process of development. As it will be demonstrated, culture can both be a catlystic agent just as it can be a stumbling block for development process. Whether we like or not,we have to understand that culture plays an indespensable role in the way people respond to diferent development policies.Thus according to Spackman,in what he called "Postmodern appraoch" , an economic policy that leads to sustainable development opt to take into account a psychological angle also known as development with a focus on personal needs and growth; secondly, it should consider a spiritual dimension given that this trend constitutes the deepest root of human existence . Such policy he added will provide "legs" and not "clutches" .This policy is also referred to as People Centered Development (PCD) in short. (Speckman2007:24-25). The aim of this essay however is not to discuss which policy is the best but the advantages and disadvantages of culture on development process and,for the sake of this paper , I have decided to base my discusion on five important elements. These are: Sexism and Patriarchy; the impact of Lobola (dowry) on Development; African understanding of knoweledge, the understanding of Culture visavis of different deseases mainly HIV and AIDS and finally, culture and environmnet.

What is culture?

According to the Oxford Dictionary (1999), Culture is defined as "arts and other manifestations of human itellectual achievement regarded collectively.the custums institutions and achievemtnet of a particular nation people, or group."(Oxford Dictionry, 348:1999). For an Africans the topic concerning the impact of culture and development progress is crucial because on one hand, we are eager to keep our culture of which we are proud of but on the other hand, as a leader, we are compelled to guide people toward a sustainable development. (Speckman2007:44).

Christianity as a culture: From the definition provided above, one may also suggest that culture is not only what our ancestrors left to us which were transmited to us through oral traditional. After our grand parents had converteed to Christianity they somehow adopted a new culture that we inherit.In other word, I wsh to argue that Christianity itself and the way we adopt it contitute "culture" which deserve a special attention while discussing the isue of the impact of Culture and Development. For instance, some Zulus will say I don't practice ancestros worship because I am a Christian. In order words, this implies I don't practie that cultural practice because I have adopted another one. Thus the topic: "christianity and Deveopment".

What is development? : Acording Oxford Dictionary, (1999) simply one maysimply say that Development is "a specified state of growth or advancement." (We will argue that s mant African scholars such as Kalenkole and Mbiti have argued Africans are very religius people and yet remained poor." (Oxford Dictionary, 1999:392).

What is the relation between Culture and Development?

Historically speaking, Schech and Haggis(2002) argue that the origins of the notion of development in the sense of promoting social progress lie in the same set in the nineteeth century as which are associated with the origins of the concept of culture . They added, "Indeed culture and development sometimes mean almost the same thing until discourses of development planning and cultural specificity diverged in the ealry decades of the present century." (Schech and Haggis, 2002:5). Thus in Africa, specifically in South Africa, given the place ocupied by culture, one may argue that if we are projecting for a sustainable development, it is indispensable to scrutinize both the strenghts and the weaknesses that cuture can bring about and, when possible try to challenge critically some of our cultural practices and believes that appear to be as an obstruction to Development.But at all time, we first have to be conscious that we can not impliment efficient development policies while ignoring the presence of culture. Larry Yost nd Hugh Tracy were right in their eighth principle of Community Development Work when arguing the importance of involving the local leadership 'since the ultimate responsability for continuing development rests with the local citizen' (Yost and Tracy: 1997;21).

Beside that, either one is an economist or traditionalist; we all heartily and sincerely endorse the striving for economic development. In other words, Economic development expresses one of our fundamental hopes and aspiration. Moreover, in its report published in 1996, the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), defined human development as" the endeconomic growth a means." (Human Development Report 1996). (

Disadvantages of Culture:

Speaking about the disadvantages of culture on development, one may argue that sometime people because of their ignorance or lack of knowledge can deny even what is indispensable for their survival on the basis of their cultural beliefes. Thus, as it has been argued by Spackamn, people need to be empowered as toward decision making.And, in my view, any theologian and any educated person who cares about the Development of Africa should think critically about the impact of "culture.According to Spackman, culture can have positive impact on development just as it can have negative repercussion on development. Thus, this situation often plunge us into a dilemma because on one hand we are eager to keep our culture of which we are proud of but on the other hand, as leaders, we are compelled to lead people toward a sustainable development. (Speckman2007:40-44),

Impact of Sexism ad patrirchy on development

As mentioned before, this paragph will be discussing sexism in Africa and its impact on development. I will demonstrate how sexism and patriarchy have contributed all along many years to the oppression of women and, consequently this situation has also lead to the oppression of men and the impoverishing of Africa.

Definition of Sexism: According to Cambridge Dictionary, Sexism is the belief that the members( in this case women) of one sex are less intelligent , able skillful, less accepted/valued by God than the members of the other sex. Especially that women are less than men are. (Cambridge Dictionary2005:1166).

Mercy Amba Oduyoye argues that Women's status in most societies is far lower than that of men. In her view, this situation is due to cultural stereotype specified under attributes and responsibilities. (Oduyoye, 2007:22).Beside that, even the way the Bible has been often interpreted has immensely contributed to women oppression.

In most African society, at the death of parents in most only male children will inherit and never a girl.Thus in African society and all over the World, there is a tendency to consider a boy more valuble than a girl.when there is shortage of income in the familly, often it isthe girl who has to interrupt her studies in favor of the boy. Secondly, though a woman is said to be a partner, in most decision making, either within the society or within the familly practically, she does not have much to contribute if not nothing. In other word she is just there as an auxilliary to her husband. Once divorced, a woman loses respect and finds herself despised if she does not quickly remarry. The whole education has been in preparation for marriage, so a failure here is a total failure. No woman is destined to stay single if so she has done something wrong. (Oduyoye, 2007:22). Apart from sexism found in the culture, we also find that even the way Bible has been interpreted does not encourage women's emancipation. To use Nyangweso words, 'Marriage is endocentric. This is a universal experience that cries for reexamination.'(Nyangweso2007:61). From the Hebrew Testament to the New Testament, the position occupied by women is often portayed to be lower to that of men. Thus, Oduyoye argues that "gender stratification has distorted the quality of human relations and it continues to deny the parity between women and men to accept female and male as equivalent expression of being." (Nyangweso2007:62).

How then do sexism and patriarchy impact negatively on African's development?

By oppressing women, some men think that they will monopolize the power and order will be established. However, a careful observer will agree with me that by oppressing women, men are doubly oppressed. First, men are deprived from the closest source of support. As when woman and man have equal access to education and make their economic decision together, this can boost their economy. In the previous decades we saw that in some part of Africa like Senegal, women were not allowed to attend school and this in my view was oppressive toward a man as he has by himself to provide not only for himself but his wife and children whereas a woman well educated will have access to better job and financial resources. And this will solve not only her financial problem but also will be able to raise the household income. (Oduyoye, 2007:22).By doing so the man is secured from working doubly. And more interesting, a husband will have peace of mind knowing that after his death his wife and children will not be mistreated by the rest of his family. Women's contribution was not really valued in terms of Development .That is why pne may ague that sexism constitute a stubling block as women are considered as passive agents in the process of the development whereas ,if they were to be valued, their input should have boosted our Development. I dare to say that taking as reference to our modern time where men and women appear to ocupy the same position and deliver the same service.Thus tooday we have Nurses, Doctors, Enginneer, Political parties Leaders such as DA in South Africa and so on.In one word, one may say that African Development will not progress untill all of those who are oppressed by sexism and partiacrhy are free. Thus the UNDP's statement (Unitied Nations development Programme), 'Gender equality and women's empowerment are central to achieving for inclusive, democratic, violence-free and sustainable development in Africa" and therefore a condition to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)'.

The impact of our religious and social beliefs on development.

Land and devolpment: Culture has a huge impact on land development. Werner Sombart argued that 'any economic system is nothing but a manifestation of the existing culture. And, a culture exists because of a certain spirit.' (12).Thus in section I wish to discuss some of both positive and negative impacts of Culture on Agriculture and environmnet in general given its role in Development. Speaking about African culture and development, it is important to understand that knoweledge as a crucial component of technology raises some pertinent questions in Arfrican culture. Its cultural construction raises questions like: What value is placed on different forms of knowledge? (And by whom)Who has access to, or access to exploit knowledge? Consequently, individual are not free to engage in research given that only a certain group of people has access to that field.Often, it is found that our Culture imposes some practices that don't encourage development. For istance, in some areas where the tradition is still highly observed, we find that there are some places which are reserved strictly for ancestors worship as well as some restrictions to cultivate some products. This can be a challenge when the government want to develop a such area either in terms infrustructrure, roads or practice an Agriculture which will benefit many.Often, when the Government insists and go against the will of the resident of that area, it is found that the project is never successful given that as the ABCD methods states a true development project, has to be initiated by people and with people. (Class notes)

Impact of Lobola on development: Beside the issue of land, another pertinent issue in our modern time which arises from culture to be discussed is the issue of Lobola and weding ceremonies .Today, in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa, the issue of Lobola present a stumblig block to development for different individuals. Originally, Lobola was meant to express a link between the two families. According to one of my South African friends, lobola was 'like" a gift of appreciation to the best familly. Howerever, as time goes on, this practice has changed its aim and has tendency to become a business whereas life does not always allow it. Consequently, most couple ends up in debts.Speaking about development, this practice does hinder financially the new couple from achieving other goals such as education of quality of both their children and themselves because they can not afford it.In the future, this situation affect both the familly and the Nation as we can only produce a service of quality if we have rceived an education of good quality. Furthermore, any carefull observor, will argue with me that the economical situation doe no more allow to feast for a long period.Thus to enforce the new couple into endless parties and ceremonies just in the name of culture is irrespective to what is defined as Sustainable Development as According to The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development, "development is sustainable if it meets the needs of the Present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.".Here the point I am trying to make is that there are many cultural practices that may seem to be fastidious whereas they don't encourage savings. (

Deseases, Culture and Development: Today, no country in the World is unacquainted of HIV and AIDS. According to the report generated by the UNDP in 2007, South Africa was experiencing the most severe AIDS in the World. 5.7 millions of People living with HIV and almost 1,000 AIDS' deaths occuring every day. In its efort to fight this deasease, South African Goverment together with Who (World Health Organization) spent millions of Rand in order to support people who are infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.

( One of the reasons why this desease continue to spread extremely beyond major is our behavior due to our cultural beliefs and practices .Some of the practices to consider here are levirate mariage and poligamy. Levirage mariage implies that when the father of the house dies, his brother has to replace him. And, often this happen inspite of the wish of the wife of the desease.Consequently, this practice perpuates the spread of HIV in case one of the new couple is already infected. Apart from levirate mariage, polygamy which is accepted in most African Culture like Zulu culture for instance is another obstacle.Furthermore, beside levirate mariage and Polygamy, the way our tradition conceives and deals with deaseses such as HIV and Aids and many others such as Swine Flu, Cholera and so on often end in disastrous result. On 30th of November 2006 for instance, the SACC adressed its concern about a traditional healer who claimed to have cured 500 HIV-positive people with the use of herbs which acording to the invistigation done it was just a way of attracting people to draw their attention to traditional medications.( Beside that, some traditional healer do often suggest method which rather than leading to the cure encourage the spread of HIV. This, being because they have another understanding of the disease. Some believe that by sleeping with a virging girl they would get rid of the desease , others argue that the use of Condoms is not in accordance with our culture.I remember in my culture that there is an odd say "ntawurya umunwa wugaye "meaning "no man can eat the mouth closed" implying that a man could never have sex and stop the semens from entering the female private part.Others will go even further by arguing that condoms are Western's assert used to spread the desease among Black People in other to exterminate them. Consequently, these believes have been the cause of death of many talented and energetic young people indispensable for the development of Africa. Thus while encouraging our young generation to assume the continuity of our Culture, we should be keen to think critically about certain practices that hinder the Development of our people. Beside that, each African should endeavour to reduce the cost of supporting people living with HIV and AIDSas it has huge repercussion on national economy.

Impact of HIV on Development

South African Government spends millions of rand each month to fight the desease and especially in the support of people living with HIVand AIDS by providing ERVs and other medications including the distribution of free condoms.These huge amount of funds which are used to support people living whith HIV and AIDS constitute a big lost as there should be used to support many other projects such as Education, scientific research,the fight against Women oppression and crime, and different studies that may help to kep our Environmnent from degradation and many other projects which in return will contribute to the Development process. By criticizing the investment in the fight against HIV and AIDS, I am not arguing that it worthless project.I do believe that People who are infected and affected by HIV and AIDS are still people who deserve dignity and support. This being because first of all, they remain human like others and, most of them are indispensable for our Development. However, the point I am trying to make is that the support of people living with HIV and AIDS is very costy .Therefore, wherever possible we should be willing to divorce ourself from any practice that favor the spreading of HIV and AIDS in this case certain cultural pratices and believs mentioned above.

Impact of Christianity on Development.

Speaking about the church as one aspect that has shaped our culture (cfr introduction), While speaking about Development and Culture, it might look easy to criticize what had been passed on to us by our forefathers. One of the reasons is because; these cultural practices appear to be too old. Some of them are not even in practice today.They are just part of our history though we claim them to be part of our culture .And; often we just refer to them when it suits us as a way to defend our manhood, political argument and so on for instance. However, if we will have to engage critically, I think we should speak more about what appears to be a burning issue. Thus in my view, it is essential while discussing culture and development not to leave aside Christianity. This being as discussed before, the way we practice Christianity can constitute a culture.Though it is universally known that Chrisitianity is a religion, I wish to ague that Christian life is itself a culture. Thus, just as one can engage critically with his/her culture, we should also be bold to discus some of the impacts of Christianity on Development.

Positive impact of Christianity on Development: One of the positive impacts of Christianity for us as African is that it has free us from diferent ancestoral practices which don't encourage development. This is for istance the total dependency on spiritual agencies and forgeting that we are the custodians of the earth.Beside that, Christianity does encourage hard working. Thus looking unto Jesus, Paul (He who does not work should not eat). And, today, some churches have sort to preach the prosperity Gospel. This kind of Gospel has some good aspects of development in a sense that it does encourage people to know that it is their father's will that they may prosper (verse).Some individuals argue that one of the reason why Europ is more developed than africa is because we as African put the spiritual realm first and undermine our ability to create.This is often explained by the fact that in Europ, during the modern period, Europe develop dramatically especially in terms of technology and economy.

Negative impact of Christianity on Development

Though one may say that Christianity enclose numberous positive aspects for development, one has also to be aware of the negative impacts that Christianity can revert on Development and often due to the way, we interpret the scriptures. Often, church leaders do teach that we have to live a poor life. We have to look on things above. We should not keep our tresearues on earth here roast and will eat them. Thus, a missinterpretaion of such verses has leaded some of believers to be satisfied with their porvety and therefore hinder them from seing any need for development. Beside that, another negative aspect of Christian teachings is its impassibility visavis to issues regarding development and politic.Scholars in nowadays came to the conclusion that such attitude reveals ignorance given that the church operates within the society and whaterver strikes the society also strikes the church (Simangaliso....). It is therfore good time that the church starts to engage with not only spiritual issues but also social issue.


In Conclusion, this essay has discussed the impact of Culture on Development. I have demonstrated how some facets of culture such as partiacrchy, sexims and Chrsitainity do impact both positively but most largely negatively on Development progress.Most extensively; I have discussed how culture in Africa has hindered the development process. I came to the understanding that there is no culture which is universal and there is no culture which is eternal. Consequently, each cultural practice should be understood from its historical and socialogical context and applied in contemplation with the current political, social and economic situation.


  • Ife,J.(2002), Community Development,(2nd edition), Pearson ,Sydney Australia NIV Bible
  • Nyangweso.,M 2007,FemaleCircumcision, Maryknoll, New York :Orbis
  • Oduyoye, Mercy Amba, 1986.Hearing and Knowing: Theological Reflections on Christianity in Africa,Maryknoll:Orbis.2001
  • Simangaliso, R, 2005, Theology and Education, the role of the Church in education for social transformation: A Methodist contribution, Cecil Renaud Library Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
  • Speckman MT, 2007, A Biblical Vision for Africa's development ?, Cluster Publication
  • Schech,S and Haggis,J.(ed)(2002) Development: A Cultural Studies Reader ,Publisher Blackwell
  • Yost,L and Tracy,H(ed).(1997) (class notes)

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