‘When we talk about indigenous knowledge it is not just about Africans trying to feel important in the world, it is just about humanity. No civilisation is an island and once one civilisation is being short-changed or put down then the resources within that civilisation will be lost and not just lost by that civilisation … the whole world will lose as a result of it’
Dr. Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu – A Correction Podcast
In this episode of A Correction, I interview Dr. Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu about some of the many types of indigenous knowledge, innovations and inventions that exists in countries throughout Africa, such as in medicine and agriculture. We also talk about gradually changing mind-sets on the continent as local knowledge and innovations become more valued as in the past. We discuss why it is important for countries dependent on resources from overseas to use local resources instead of depending on international aid. For example, she gives the example of the overwhelming success of an irrigation method for agriculture using indigenous methods in Niger Republic, when compared to a World Bank funded project. Indigenous knowledge and education, she explains, can revolutionalise African innovation and forward African progress, but also for the world. She also gives her insight on the importance of indigenous education and language as technologies that can support innovation and community on the continent. The importance of moving from economic determinism, and moving towards human connection, mutual respect, compassion and communal practices is also emphasised.
An interconnected historical side note – It is worth noting that the first inoculation in the Western world was developed in 1721 by an enslaved African in Boston by the name of Onesimus, probably from West Africa, who taught the vaccination principle and procedure to a very reluctant and suspicious master, who had a difficult time convincing others to use it.
Smallpox is estimated to have been the cause of 10% of all deaths in the 20th century (an estimated 300-500 million deaths). (Read: Disease Eradication: What Does It Take to Wipe out a Disease?)
Onesimus‘ principle and procedure was eventually used to vaccinate everyone saving generations from smallpox.
In 1980 Smallpox became the first of only two infectious diseases so far (the second is rinderpest) to be completely wiped out because of international immunisation.
This underlies the development of modern vaccination.
Africans that were enslaved throughout the Americas brought with them African medical practices and knowledge (Read African American Slave Medicine of the 19th Century).
About Dr. Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu
Dr. Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu is the author of Indigenous Knowledge and Education in Africa (An open access publication). A researcher, teacher, non-fiction and fiction writer, and a public intellectual, Chika holds a Ph.D. in African Development and Policy Studies from Howard University in Washington D.C. Chika has worked as a consultant for the World Bank on education and sustainable land management in Africa. Among her other research works include an International Development Research Center (IDRC) Canada commissioned project on utilizing indigenous technology to create employment for women in rural areas in Rwanda. Chika has conducted research for such organizations as the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC). Dr. Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu is presently a managing partner with African Child Press in addition to her role as a visiting faculty of the University of Rwanda, College of Business and Economics.