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African Journal of History and Culture Vol. 3(5), pp. 65-72, June 2011 Available online at ISSN 2141-6672 ©2011 Academic Journals


A critique of modernization and dependency theories in Africa: Critical assessment J. Matunhu
Department of Development Studies, Midlands State University, Zimbabwe. E-mail: Accepted 6 April, 2011

The way states and development specialists rationalize how to commit economic resources to development is influenced, to a greater extent by their level of persuasion towards specific development theories. The discourse assesses the influence of modernization and dependency theories on Africa’s development. The conclusion is that both theories have failed to help develop Africa. The discourse pins hope on the African Renaissance theory of development. Key words: Modernization, dependency, rural underdevelopment, African renaissance. INTRODUCTION Africa houses plentiful economic resources. Paradoxically, the continent languishes in poverty as evidenced by high prevalence of famine, disease and ignorance (Buthelezi, 2007). This presentation attributes the poverty to theories of development because the way society deals with underdevelopment is influenced by development theories. The presentation assesses the effect of modernity and dependency theories on Africa’s development and concludes by recommending the adoption of the African Renaissance theory to Africa’s development. In this presentation, development is viewed as a gradual transition of society to a strong socioeconomic status. In a sense, development entails an improvement in quality of human life. Some of the indicators of a good quality of life are low infant mortality rate and a longer life expectancy. THE MODERNISATION THEORY OF DEVELOPMENT The modernization the movement of the 1950s and 1960s is an economic theory that is rooted in capitalism. The concept of modernization incorporates the full spectrum of the transition and drastic transformation that a traditional society has to undergo in order to become modern (Hussain et al., 1981; Lenin, 1964). Modernisation is about Africa following the developmental footsteps of Europe (largely the former colonizer of Africa). According to modernity, policies intended to raise the standard of living of the poor often consist of disseminating knowledge and information about more efficient techniques of production. For instance, the agriculture modernisation process involves encouraging farmers to try new crops, new production methods and new marketing skills (Ellis and Biggs, 2001). In general, modernization led to the introduction of hybrids, the green house technology, genetically modified (GMO) food, use of artificial fertilizers, insecticides, tractors and the application of other scientific knowledge to replace traditional agricultural practices. The above view is endorsed by Smith who pointed out that modernisation is about exchanging of older agriculture practices with something more recent (Smith, 1973: 61). Agriculture societies can therefore be regarded as modern when they display specific characteristics. The extent to which these characteristics are exhibited gives an indication of the degree of modernity that has been reached. The characteristics are cited succinctly by Coetzee et al. (2007: 31) as: (i) Readiness to accommodate the process of transformation resulting from changes. (ii) Continuous broadening of life experiences and receptiveness to new knowledge. (iii) Continuous planning, calculability and readiness towards new experiences. (iv) Predictability of action and the ability to exercise effective control. (v) High premium on technical skills and understanding of the principles of production. (vi) Changing attitudes to kinship, family roles, family size and the role of religion. (vii) Changing consumer behavior and the acceptance of social stratification.


Afr. J. Hist. Cult.

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