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Botswana manages to blend traditional institutions with a modern world

Culture matters. Ever since the global north took to exploration and international trade, traditional institutions within the global south have been seen as ‘backwards’ and as such have been ignored and replaced by western and modern institutions.

“In a Journal of Contemporary African Studies article entitled ‘Demise or resilience? Customary law and chieftaincy in twenty-first century Botswana’, author Wazha Morapedi, examines the institution of chieftainship in Botswana (bogosi), and shows how it [bogosi] has maintained its strategic position, administrative muscle and influence amid attempts by the colonial and postcolonial state to emasculate it. The article maintains that bogosi has been able to adapt to changing socio-economic and political landscapes. While the institution's powers have been gradually undermined by the government since independence, chieftainship has, on the other hand, entrenched itself, manipulated the system and made substantial gains. Chiefs and traditional institutions have manipulated their legitimacy to bolster their resilience. It is argued that despite assertions that chieftainship has been overtaken by events, the reality is that the institution has become central to government and cannot be discarded. It is a traditional institution with immense clout and appeal playing an indispensable role in Botswana's socio-political and economic system.”

Implications from South Africa Node:

Nearly all aspects of ‘development’, modernisation, globalisation and policy-making will discount or negate customary law and traditional institutions such as the above-mentioned bogosi when it comes to trying to improve peoples’ lives. However, as the article states, it can be powerful role-player and has proven resilience. Perhaps more alternative approaches incorporating traditional systems (despite, or perhaps because of, parochialism) should be considered.

Implications from Institute for the Future:

Examples like the bogosi can help boost confidence for people who are fighting to maintain traditional institutions within their own countries. After decades of western oriented development, we may be at the cusp of internationally recognizing the value of culture, and the fine fabric of traditional institutions that are guided by local customs. Somalia is among many countries that needs to find a uniquely local approach to governing a nation-state that has been unable to meet the needs of its own people through western institutions.

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South Africa Node July 2010, pg. 6