Site de promotion des cultures et des langues créoles
Annou voyé kreyòl douvan douvan

Ujamaa, a generic model of African economies

Art & Design by Abounan, Lafontan et al.


In this paper, the authors explain the generic model of African economies, which the local creative industrialists they observed, call Ujamaa. The essayists go on to show that Julius Mwalimu Nyerere, the first president of post-colonial Tanzania, is the originator of Ujamaa. Nyerere, many years ago, wrote that the meaning of Ujamaa is family. The research indeed points to an ecosystem of small- medium enterprises (SME), including start-ups, which the local families depend on, in their quest, for a higher standard of living. The writers go on to argue that resources for SMEs, and/or start-ups, must be combined with the state-led development policies that most governments in Africa apply to generate economic development.

Africa Rising

There is no spontaneous generation“ (Diop).

The population of Africa belongs to a single branch of humanity that Diop calls homo sapien-sapien (l’Homme deux-fois sage). This assertion written above is in spite of the obvious composite identity of this population. In the literature, on Classical African Civilisation, the research shows Negroes, rather Black Africans, were responsible for the Nubian Civilisation (Obenga, Diop et al).
This population is the result of the Nile basin’s position in the north-east corner of the African continent, a corridor between central Africa and the Mediterranean, for millennia a crossroads between the Africa of the Atlantic and East Africa, the Africa of the Red Sea and Ethiopia and the Indian Ocean. It must be noted that the principal geographical and ecological characteristics of the Nile basin is outlined to the south of the twenty-third parallel as far as the source of the Nile River in Uganda. Moreover, it is generally agreed, the Nile is not only the longest river in Africa (5,609 kilometers from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean) but also that, from south to north, it crosses a wider variety of geographical regions with a more diverse population than any other African river. This explains the many names it is given, e.g., Kagera River, Victoria River, Bahr el Jebel (Mountain River), White Nile, Blue Nile, and the Nile.

Today, with an emphasis on innovation and technological improvement, the Nile adds economic significance in the promotion of integration of the distinct geographical regions from the east, north and west, to the south. Due to its undoubted economic importance, channel of communication, and cultural diffusion, the Nile is a line round which life is organized.

The aim of this paper is to present a new picture of Africa Rising since the means required for restoring the balance of research is available to researchers using a new generic model. Hence the findings will show this important task can be accomplished from the perspective of Ujamaa, proposed as a generic model of African economies.

Ujamaa, a generic model of African economies

I believe there is much too much attention given in economics, and in system dynamics, to reproducing a specific historical time series. The dynamic character of past behavior is very important, but the specific values at exact points in historical are not” (Forrester).

“The word ‘Ujamaa’ was chosen for special reasons. First, it is an African word and thus emphasizes the Afrikan-ness of the policies we intend to follow. Second its literal meaning is ‘family-hood,’ so that it brings to the mind of our people the idea of mutual involvement in the family as we know it” (Nyerere). Initially, the Mtu ni Utu concept represented Tanzania. The project was called Ujamaa. Nyerere stressed the significance of literacy, social equity, and world view. Today, the Ujamaa1 generic model being proposed in this paper would no longer be applicable to a specific country.

Ujamaa contains three aspects of one dynamic that form the leading strategy for economic success based on Cunningham’s proposition, “repurposing, renewing, and reconnecting.” This strategy2 is applicable to systems such as a corporation, a country, and/or continent. Thinking strategically, from Ujamaa can be planned almost any output for which there is real-life information to see how well it generates the kinds of behavior observed in real systems. Confidence in Ujamaa depends on whether or not its structure can be identified in Africa, how similar the model behavior is to the kind of behavior that has been observed, and how well changes in model policies result in changes in behavior that are reasonable and that have been observed in actual African economies.

“I believe there is much too much attention given in economics, and in system dynamics, to reproducing a specific historical time series. The dynamic character of past behavior is very important, but the specific values at exact points in historical are not” (Forrester). In his seminal literary work, Economic theory for the new millennium (2003), Forrester, argues, “Traditional mainstream academic economics, by trying to be a science, has failed to answer major questions about real life economic behavior. Hence Forrester proposes a new way to examine economic behavior that can grow out of the principles and practices that have emerged from the field of system dynamics. The System Dynamics model was at first viewed as representing the United States. The project was called the “System Dynamics National Model.

In the literature, the model now represents a general theory of economic behavior. Generally, it is considered a generic model of how an economy operates or common class of systems to which the special case belongs. The theory arises from observation of the real system and from information that is almost always sufficiently available. “Families, companies, and countries function because of the information and attitudes in people’s heads. To use only numerical data and to exclude information from the mental and written data bases means that one loses most of the available information about structure and governing policies” (Forrester, 2003).

Most countries in Africa need revitalization of some sort, whether after the decline of commodity prices, armed conflicts, excessive period of stagnation, and/or the necessity to rebuild economic resilience. Africa with its unique cultures, resources, challenges, and expectations must pro-actively adapt to climate change, as well as seize the opportunity that innovation and technology offer. “The essential resilience-enhancing behavior that we can control (to a degree) is transition management. And the most crucial element of transition management is the strategy” (Cunningham). It then follows, strategy analysis is the logical next step in the process to grow the African economies. “Restorative development will be, directly or indirectly, the source of most economic growth. Embedding simple rules like repurposing, renewing, and reconnecting into policy is a strategy to accelerate an economy’s transition into restorative development” (Cunningham, 2017).

Throughout Africa, the people demand increased quality of life and neighborhood redevelopment, not just another shopping mall. Ujamaa is best suited to repurposing, renewing and reconnecting Africa’s depleted natural resources, extractive economies to resource restoration; raw resource export-platform economy to a value-added fabrication laboratory (fab-lab) economy; and law and order of corrupt security apparatus to restorative justice and equity. These strategies can be the basis of effectiveness to both speed, and secure increased quality of life and economic revitalization. A fab lab is a small-scale workshop offering (personal) digital fabrication. It is typically equipped with an array of flexible computer-controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, with the aim to make “almost anything.

Design of resilience-enhancing behavior

Increasing returns makes complexity economics the only form that can deal with the surprising dynamics of revitalization” (Cunningham).

The World Economic Forum, in its City Momentum Index 2017 (CMI 2017) report, found several features of best cities, which can be grouped into three areas: two that reflect strengths for short-term changes and one used to determine longer-term economic sustainability. “The first set of factors, which accounts for 40% of the overall ranking, includes socio-economic factors, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), population, air passengers, corporate headquarters and foreign direct investment. The second, accounting for 30%, focuses on commercial real estate momentum, which encompasses changes related to construction, rents, investment and transparency in the office, retail, and hotel sectors. The third group includes innovation capacity and technological prowess, access to education and environmental quality. It accounts for 30% of the index. It must be noted that the report points out, without a concentration on education and the environment, without strong economics and business practices that encourage start-ups and patent application, without what they call “future-proofing,” these cities can flame out.

The CMI 2017 examines 42 variables in search of the 134 most dynamic cities or metropolitan areas in the world to highlight which ones or metropolitan areas may be best at positioning themselves to compete in today’s ever-changing economic landscape. For example, fast-growing Nairobi, number 10 on the CMI 2017, with its Kenyan initiative boom, is on the watch list as a regional technology hub. A few impact cases are listed below to demonstrate best practices in reintegration-enhancing behavior.

In September 2016, Barclays Africa became the first organisation in the world to execute a live trade transaction using Wave blockchain technology.3 Blockchain is a technology that shares its creation with Bitcoin, a digital currency. Bitcoin transactions occur peer-to-peer, meaning no government or third party is involved. In the case of blockchain, its core component is a digital ledger. With blockchain, users look at the same ledger of transactions. It is private; that is to say, encrypted, and decentralized so that no user controls the ledger. Worldwide there are over 120 blockchain projects spanning a variety of industries, and the annual budget for blockchain initiatives in 2016 is estimated to be $1 billion. For instance, journalists Bobkoff and Wadhwa reported, “Now some are thinking blockchain could prevent piracy and help boost sales. Artists could provide their music directly off a ledger, and smart contracts might ensure the right people are paid and only those with rights play the tracks.” It is important to note both Bitcoin and Blockchain continue to attract policymakers, privacy-minded, and social activists.

The Salon International de l’Artisanat de Ouagadougou (SIAO) is the largest trade fair for the art and craft industry, it brings together more than five hundred (500) exhibitors from across the continent and buyers from the European Union, the Americas, and Asia.4 The industry employs millions of people, many from the poorer parts of society. For instance, in Mali and Burkina Faso an estimated 30-40 percent of the population is involved in arts and crafts, including the production of artisanal food products. A number of African economies are devoting resources to professionalizing the sector. In South Africa, the Industrial Policy Action Plan 2012/13-2014/15 identified the crafts sector as a key industry.

Amambo, launched in 2015 specifically for Sino-African cross-border trade, is a business-to-business platform listing tens of thousands of companies supplying everything from construction items to mobile phones. According to Fu Ruiqiang, transactions in 2016 were worth nearly $200 million.5 Amambo follows and “online + social + offline” business model. It boosts its business with offline offices in ten (10) countries, e.g., Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Burkina Faso and Mali. The offices serve two purposes. They are showrooms displaying products on offer for buyers unwilling to place an order without seeing a physical specimen. Amambo is run by Shenzhen Right Net Tech, a company headquartered in Shenzhen city, a financial bub in South China. It is the brainchild of its Chief Executive Officer Liao Xuhui, who ventured into e-commerce after doing trade in Africa for nearly two (2) decades. Xuhui is looking at different ways to strengthen the African connection.

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair is distinctive in its ambition to provide an international platform for the showcase of African and African diaspora contemporary art. Since its inauguration in 2013 the fair has grown considerably and, following the great success of its second New York edition, the fair has extended to include forty (40) exhibitors and over one hundred thirty (130) artists.6 With its title referring to the fifty-four (54) individual countries that constitute the African continent, 1:54 draws together galleries, curators, museums, collectors, and artists. The founder Touria El Glaoui explains, “When I realized just how underrepresented African and African diaspora artists were in Europe and America, I decided that something had to be done that the gap had to bridged.”

Emerging fintech market

For us, artists, our Aha moment occurred, the day we saw ourselves as a business. It is this insight that led us to Ujamaa” (Wahu).

The African continent properly integrated can be expected to grow to the full impact of economies of scale into one of the world’s largest and most attractive market. This would be a boon to the Small- Medium-Enterprises (SME). Moreover, it would accelerate the pace of industry, reduce costs across the board, increase tax revenues, provide millions of jobs and raise living standards. As the population of Africa grows quickly, it will continue to be more urbanized. Hence growing synergies between the working-age population and e-commerce, and a strong growth trend in employment will be the results of Africa Rising.

The research on Foreign Direct Investment shows the continent of Africa is no longer off the map for those who manage pension funds and university endowments, some of which have assets running into billions of dollars and a readiness to look for long-term growth opportunity. It has been reported that some university endowment funds are already investing south of the Sahara. The economic slowdown in Europe and the United States (US) has had poor returns on conventional blue-chip stocks. The poor performance of these stocks is now tempting fund managers to explore markets that can generate higher returns.

Some of the biggest names in the private equity business in the US are leading the way in sub-Sahara Africa investments, followed by the managers of university endowments and other investment funds. For investors, the three key factors are demographics, economic growth, and technology. The East Africa Capital Partners, eVentures Africa Fund, and AMVF lead the technology, media and telecommunications funding sector. The Cape Town-based 88mph provides seed capital and an accelerator course to help mobile and web entrepreneurs get off the ground. Forums like Co-creation Hub Nigeria help people whose business idea combine solutions for social problems with new technology tools. It works with entrepreneurs from the idea stage through capital raising and into business expansion. The Netherlands-based Africa Media Ventures Fund (AMVF) provided two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) to the Kenyan accommodation website Sleep-out in May 2013 for expansion of its operations into other African countries. The Carlyle Group has indicated it has a steady pipeline of deals but is particularly focused on consumer goods, agriculture and telecommunications. A Deloitte report states, “…Many African economies are transitioning toward consumption-driven markets”.7 Nonetheless, it is expected that many of these new investment structures will keep focus on technology firms.

The US interest is mirrored elsewhere, for instance Brazil’s BTG Pactual launched a $1b private equity fund for Africa in May 2013. The upsurge of American interest in Africa also reflects factors in the international investment scene. “This reflection is a “natural maturation,” as private equity exits prove good returns” (Essome). The AVCA and Ernst & Young published a report that shows sixty-two (62) African exits by private equity firms between 2007 and 2012 generated returns almost double that of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.8 Finally, crowdsourcing ventures based on the Kickstarter business fundraising website, and networks of ‘angel investors’ and venture capitalists, have sprung up from Johannesburg to Nairobi. “Empowering local businesses benefits the continent because the spin-offs, including capacity development, empower the whole of society and generate meaningful jobs” (Jaffer).9


Ghana’s freedom would be meaningless if it was not linked with the total liberation of the entire continent of Africa” (Nkrumah).

The investment environment for start-ups is tough, as indicated in a 2007 report, from the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, which shows sixty (60) percent of SMEs collapsed within just a few months of their creation. It then follows, competition within the SME and startup market is fierce, with many people trying to develop similar business ideas, raising capital remains one of the greatest challenges to the success of start-ups. It, therefore, becomes crucial for start-ups to design projects10 that foster economic transformation initiatives around restorative economies, and financial technology in a way to optimize the reintegration-enhancing behavior. For example, a country like Kenya is well suited for e-commerce because of its reputation for Information Technology (IT). According to figures from the Communications Authority of Kenya, there were 26.8 million mobile data and/or internet subscriptions in June 2016, but almost all of these were mobile data subscriptions.11 Mobile money transfer system M-Pesa has seventeen (17) million active customers and it is not alone in the market.

A few useful action steps, a state must take, include the delivery of subsidies aimed at innovation to help companies bear the cost of coming up with new products; assistance in coordinating all infrastructure, institutional, legal, financial and educational improvements for the emergence of more sophisticated companies; boost resilience as a key strategy to successfully reconnect a continent made more complex by natural challenge, historical circumstance, and human disaster; last market integration to create confidence, satisfy demand for higher standards of living, and exceed local outcomes, such as revitalization of neighborhoods, restoration of nature and tribal habitat, and strengthen urban and rural areas future.


  1. Kwanzaa, from a Swahili phrase “Matunda ya kwanza meaning “First fruits,” has been in observance among blacks in the US since 1966.
  2. A strategy is a technique that increases the likelihood of success for an action, project, and/or program.
  3. The African Report. No 90. Innovation in blockchain trade finance deals. May 2017.
  4. The African Report. No 50. Business Companies & Markets. May 2013.
  5. African Business. Feature Technology. March 2017.
  6. New African. The Arts 1:54 Art Fair. October 2015.
  7. African Business. Special Report Retail. February 2017.
  8. The Africa Report. Finance Special. September 2013.
  9. African Business. Focus African Union. January 2017.
  10. Rosa Whitaker, Whitaker Group, formed to help channel investment into the African continent, was the chief architect of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).
  11. African. Business. Special Report Retail. February 2017.


“Africa’s lost tribe in Mexico.” New Africa October 2012: 10.

“Bitcoin in Africa: Who is catching on?” New African November 2015: 54.

“Cameroon Nurturing Tech.” African Business, January 2017: 48.

Coven, T. (2016). Is Innovation Over. Foreign Affairs, 42.

Clarida, M. Q., Fandos, N. F. “$15 Million Gift To Launch Center for African and African-American Research.” The Harvard Crimson September 2013.

Cunningham, S. “Resilience Strategy Guide.” Revitalization News July 2017.

Davey, T. “Towards a Code of Ethics in Artificial Intelligence with Paula Boddington.” Future of Life Institute July 2017.

“Delivering on Africa’s Promise.” African Business May 2013: 30.

Forrester, J. (2013). Economic theory for the new millenium (2003). System Dynamics Revie, 26.

“From Africa Rising to Africa Diverging.” African Business November 2016: 64.



“Innovation in blockchain trade finance deals.” The Africa Report May 2017: 21.

“Interview Jane Karuku.” New African October 2013: 84.

“Interview Thomas Piketty.” The Africa Report Finance Sepember 2014: 14.

Kelly, J. “These are the most dynamic cities in the world—and they’re not the ones you’d expect.” World Economic Forum January 2017.

“Moving the centre.” New Africa October 2016: 22.

Myrtle, R. C. (2017). The Challenges of Leadership. University of Southern California, 1-10.

Peterson, S. (2010). Systems Thinking for Anyone: Practices to Consider. The Creative Learning Exchange, 31.

Rwanda Going green, going clean.” New African July 2012: 57.

“Sino-African e-commerce takes off.” African Business March 2017: 32.

Sterman, J. (2014). Interactive web-based simulations for strategy and sustainability: The MIT Sloan Learning Edge management flight simulators, Part !. System Dynamics Review, 89.

“The Afrikan Experience in America: Ujamaa in Practice.” Makheru Speaks January 2016.

“The age of closing the development gap.” New Africa October 2015: 34.

“The peopling of ancient Egypt and the deciphering of Meroitic Script. Proceedings of the symposium held in Cairo from 28 January to 3 February 1974.” United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 1978.

“Unleashing the African genius:; A case for singularity.” New African March 2105: 62.

“US funds take to Africa.” The Africa Report September 2013: 50.

Wadhwa, T., Bobkoff, D. “Blockchain, Explained.” Business Insider October 2016.

Wanda, R. E. Understanding Julius Nyerere’s Ujamaa as a Philosophy of Liberation. The New Black Magazine October 2014.

“What Frantz Fanon meant to African Liberation (2).” New African January 2012: 62.

About the authors

Lafontan Doumafis, Sophie Gessa, Samar Hassan, Lojuron Jaden, Ssaava Dhamulira Mweera, Regina Nakyajja, Joseph Raloo, Nyambura Wahu et al are in the cipher of Meroitic Scripture.


 Viré monté