An Alternative to the Modernisation Theory




To modernise seems to denote the adoption of a culture that is highly developed. The goal however for Africa should not be to abandon our heritage but to  highly develop it by actively using our mental faculties in finding innovative solutions for  the challenges we meet . This takes work but is worth it.

One of Africa’s development problems had been following ideals of development that foster dependency. A better model  for development would put us in charge of our own future and to do that we must seriously reflect on how we think about and approach development. W.W. Rostow, the purveyor of the modernisation theory, argued that in order for an economy to develop, it had to undergo the following stages:

  1. Traditional society
  2. Preconditions for take-off
  3. Take-off
  4. Drive to maturity
  5. Age of high mass consumption

For starters, this view of economic growth serves to entrench unsustainable development and the misuse of finite resources especially with regard to the idea that ultimate development is achieved when there is high mass consumption. Secondly, the modernisation theory prescribes a path of development that promotes inequality with the participation of a few as sources of labour and a small monopoly of individuals as the owners of the means of mass production and surplus profit. Thirdly, it drives the growth of a centralised kind of development centered in one region.

Finally, the modernisation theory prescribes one imperialistic path of development for everyone i.e. since country X followed path X, every country will develop if it follows path X. There is the idea that the culture of country X is supreme and all must adopt it and participate in its sustenance even at their own expense. In this sense this theory drives and sustains dependency on and provision of natural resources to countries that have got ‘development’ right. That is not true or rather, the stages that Rostow listed are incomplete i.e. the appropriation and development of cultural knowledge, economies and industries does not feature. A good number of developing countries are technically traditional societies that continue to suffer aborted/arrested development while playing catch up with countries that have succeeded in the continual development of their cultural knowledge. This is not to say that we cannot borrow technology or knowledge from other nations, rather that the surest path of development would be to rediscover our past and focus on the development of our cultural knowledge in various sectors. In fact, with the technology available today, appropriating cultural knowledge is so much easier. In this way, we are able to see the value in and appropriate our culture. The African culture is an untapped natural resource (well preserved) that has been tapped by those who understand its value. I would like to propose alternative stages of development i.e.

  1. Traditional society
  2. The development and appropriation of cultural knowledge, economies and industries
  3. Preconditions for take off
  4. Drive to maturity
  5. The age of personalised consumption



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