The Dangers of Thinking Like An African

Last night the president of South Africa told a roomful of students, academics and businesspeople at Wits University in Johannesburg, in a ANC manifesto forum, to “not think like Africans.” Discussing the need for Gauteng residents to pay e-tolls, Zuma remarked: “We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally, we’re in Johannesburg.”

Now, when I first got wind of this my first reaction was of course, anger. As a full-time African (except when there’s a World Cup Final and it pays to be Brazilian); I found myself wondering why he believed that my manner of thinking would destroy his beloved city, if its residents were to adopt it.

But when he said that the freeway between Johannesburg and Pretoria was “not some national road in Malawi”, a light bulb went on in my head and I finally understood exactly what he meant.

But not only do I understand, I wholeheartedly agree! We really cannot afford to allow African Thinking to destroy Joburg like it has the rest of the continent. I mean, think about it – when has thinking like an African ever solved anything?

That’s when I realized that thinking like an African is what had stopped me from excelling during my university career. All the times I thought I was struggling with Abstract Algebra because it is a difficult subject, it was actually my African-ness that was preventing me from “getting it”!

Jacob Zuma has released me from the shackles of African thought patterns, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude. Now when I encounter a problem, my first thought is “Don’t Think Like an African!” and the solution comes to me as fast as white women to professional athletes! My life has changed.

Of course, people may wonder what exactly is African thinking – but the very thought pattern that leads anyone to ask that question is the biggest symptom of African thinking! Liberate yourself!
Instead, think like a coffee-table and under-stand. That’s what I do every time I feel that nagging African in my mind imploring me to think in my native language. I think like anything else but an African.

Sometimes I think like a train when crossing the road. Other times I think like a carpet when I’m lying down. Most of the time I think like a t-shirt and just be. That’s what I figured out: in order to stop African Thinking, an African typically has to stop thinking completely. And it is clear Zuma has been doing it the best for years!

I mean the problem with African Thinking, is it requires an African to think. And that’s the last thing Zuma or any African president needs: thinking Africans. So we have to work together to combat this problem.

Please share this article to raise awareness about African Thinking, and save your own country from the dangers of contemplation.

Siyanda Mohutsiwa is a 20-year-old mathematics major at the University of Botswana. Contact her at: siyandawrites[at]


38 thoughts on “The Dangers of Thinking Like An African

  1. But why should we shun African thinking instead of redefining African thinking? Why should we adopt foreign ways instead of changing the ways we have because, quite frankly, I don’t think thinking like an American in America will work in Africa.

    1. Well said! Even thinking like an American in Africa wouldn’t work either. Working in I.T. we get lots of overseas “Experts” who come here and tell us how things should work and what the software does, yet every single one of them leave with more notes than they brought. With in a few weeks, sometimes with in a few days the software that was bought to do X is doing X,Y,Z, 1,2,3.

      In Africa we’ve learnt to do more with less, stretch our imagination and just because someone says something can’t be done doesn’t mean it’s true. Africa is an amazing, beautiful place that is nothing like the rest of the world, which I’m grateful for, and it’s people with their ideas, thoughts and way of doing things that make it so. We can and should look at the rest of the world and pick what works for us and mold it to suit us. Not mold us to suit it.

      1. I completely agree, I’m an African who studied in the UK and works in banking here. I am a successful African who thinks like an African, it has never hindered me. My African thinking is what landed me a place in one of the top ten universities in the UK and landed me a graduate role in one of the top ten banks in the world.

    2. Hey. Just by the way – the author was being ENTIRELY sarcastic in this article and I think you’ve missed the point completely. Maybe give it another read?

      But sure, redefining African thinking is a good way to go – but you must realize that this is going to have reactionary impact on South African culture, something that is incredibly important to retain, its the major thing that defines us.

      In disagreement with your statement: ultimately, changing anything will always result in adopting characteristics from already developed ideas, ie adopting foreign ways. We can’t get away from that. On average – that’s human ‘creativeness’ in a nutshell. That is what has created global diversity, nations taking this and that from their historic backgrounds and adopting ideas to form their cultures.

      As sad as this notion is, I actually do agree with the president’s point for once (albeit being heavily veiled by ignorance) – I just wish he could have put it across without being unnecessarily belligerent and insensitive.

      As proud South Africans, it is surely one of our goals to develop our nation into one of the greatest in the world (again), and to compete with nations who in the present climate are failing dismally at upholding their responsibilities at the top. They are continually plunging our World into decay, and if we want to survive on this planet for much longer – thinking processes globally are going to have to change.

      I believe that many ethnic African qualities are INVALUABLE to this process; respect for the environment that provides for your survival, the hunter gatherer mindset of only taking and using what you need, tenacity in the defense of the culture, traditional family values and roles etc. If these qualities can be merged with the enterprising thought that resulted in a portion of our ancestors leaving the cradle of mankind and ultimately defining the world as we know it, I think that this combination could serve as a platform to redefine the world for the better and to develop a more sustainable model for society.

      The only way we can achieve this is for a greater percentage of our population to think on a ‘World’ level as opposed to an ‘African’ level. Personally, I think one of the most important examples to achieving this is by using English as a primary language for education (and this means everyone – Afrikaners, Xhosas, Zulus, English speakers etc). We cannot hope to conduct business on the same level as the rest of the world, when our people are educated in a language that is only spoken in our country.

      This is harder said than done. At the moment, due to the current socio-economic landscape in South Africa, the majority of people are forced by their short-term need for survival to have a blinkered view of not only South Africa, but the world in general. There is nothing short of a miracle that can change this, and the only way to redefine African thought is very slowly and surely: to start right at the bottom – domestic education.

      It may take 20, 40, 100 years – but ultimately this is the only sustainable way to fix the problem. As hard and arduous as the next decades are going to be, we need to become content with the idea that the problems caused by our country’s history CANNOT be changed overnight. The government, and every single member of the society, needs to be thinking long term. Short term thinking has done its damage. Our politicians are frauds, the economic divide is worse than ever and the racial divide is worse than ever. 20 years after becoming a democracy, we are falling further and further behind and our country’s infrastructure is slowly but surely sinking into the ground.

      There are great things that remain, ie the JSE is still one of the leading exchanges in the world. The Kruger, Transkei, Karoo, Namaqualand – our country is one of the most beautiful in the world. These great possessions are being continually undermined by the way we are conducting ourselves on the international stage.

      We need to settle on a common goal, galvanize our resources, and chip away slowly but surely at our problems. Slowly but surely a great nation will begin to emerge. Then, we will have the strength and broadness of mind to realign the world – if its still there by then.

      Anyway, rant over.

    3. You clearly missed the whole point of the article. Its meant to be satirical…. its a joke. The writer is making fun of Zuma’s stupid comments! The writer is clearly a young, intelligent African poking fun showing that of course African’s can be intellectuals and ‘thinkers’.

  2. Interesting read. Yet Zuma meant figuratively not literally. As demeaning/belittling to self &continent as it maybe… We all kinda get what he meant. If you don’t, then let me enlighten you- Zuma meant Stop being backward! #be progressive thinkers. And to be honest, the continent does not have a great reputation on that. *jus sayin

    1. As an unfortunate Malawian and a backward African, I obviously suffer this terrible “non-thinking” malady diagnosed by Dr Zuma. Otherwise i would have been able to begin to understand YOUR rationale in this response. In other words, WTF???

    1. wel u hv stated it in a different angle n I guess I turned to understand it n a different manner bt I think zuma failed to clarify it as much as u did n that has led a lot of people to discredit him especially in these periods where elections are closer, that wil be critical and make effect to the voters.

  3. Let’s not forget what the issue is here. E-tolls. So you suggesting that not wanting to pay e-tolls, when it should be payed by our taxes, is thinking backwards (‘like an African’). Zuma underminded citizans of SA and the constitution when he took goverment money (R200million) to build his grand pad. Get that money back and let it be the first installment in paying back e-tolls. And the R12billion! extra that the Gauteng provincial goverment cannot account for on their bugdet. When asked where that money went, they say ‘we don’t know.’ #AfricanAndProud #RedifiningAfricanThinking

  4. Thanks Siyanda this helps clarify things a lot. Of course the other option as an African is to leave Africa and only think when outside Africa. It would seem that thinking like an African outside Africa may be acceptable to our honourable leader and indeed the success of many Africans in other parts of the world seems to support the wisdom of this approach.

  5. if we 4 steps it would be like,1- the image of president (inkandla typa thing!!!) 2- a private jet mmm…. 3- e-toll…. so that tax 4- don’t think like AFRICAN, president the question is do you think like African? yes you do!! you take your own decisions… n no one will tell you, you tell us, so sometimes we even forgot good thins you did for the country because of our personal acts with our money,so you don’t make sense to me…..

  6. Its all undertandable, his dick head is so brainy and active. I guess we should all stop “thinking like Africans” and start “thinking like Dick Heads.

  7. How are we going to teach 50 million South Africans not to think like Africans? That is going to really confuse our dear minister of education

    1. Brilliant satire! This completely explains the lack of focus on education. I mean, I don’t educate my carpet or my t-shirt. I don’t even educate my dog. The only time I ask my dog to think is when I can’t make 2+2 = 4.

  8. We win hands down for stealing,raping, lying,murdering in South Africa. E-tolls, just another form of stealing our hard earned cash. Will ministers and blue light brigades pay toll fees or are they exempt?

  9. This is so wonderfully written … my question is, if I am white, born in Africa and my native tongue is that cursed language of the colonial oppressor, when I think, do I too not think like an African?

  10. As African’s we own our own identity, this whole idea of ‘Not thinking like an African’ is completely BS to me. Which continent holds the cradle of modern civilization??? Thank you! So, should we start thinking like our colonial masters?? PUHLEASE….give moi a break! As Africans, we can think which ever way we want to do as long as the outcome of our thought process benefits our societies, countries and continent as a whole. We do not need outsiders or confused insiders telling us how to think, act or behave. We are Africans and not Puppets. We are the only one’s who can write our own history. Nuff said. #DontGetItTwisted #HarshTagThat! ### That’!

  11. I propose new national holidays. “Day of European thinking” “Day of American thinking” and “Day of Chinese thinking”.

  12. As an African (Kenyan to be exact) who has studied in the UK and US and has adopted an American lifestyle, I understand what Dr. Zuma was trying to relay when he said “Stop thinking like an African”. It is not that we are ignorant and uneducated, we in fact have endured a long history that no other culture can relate with. We however, are a very passive people, and will tend to forget our pasts.

    I give thanks everyday for being able to think like an African, unlike my African-American brethren/sistren who yearn to have their own culture (through no fault of theirs), I on the other hand can stand-up proud of the culture that raised me and moulded me into the African woman I am today.

    What Dr. Zuma meant to say, was be yourself, but try and understand the western way of thinking in order to understand how to progress our economies and government. This does not mean that we have to strip our African identities and completely brain-wash our minds and replace our thoughts with those of the western culture, absolutely not, just look at the other cultures, get their best methods and integrate them into our culturally rich African society.

    1. Yawn – you missed the whole point of the article. Its a satire! Ps – if you are such an educated Kenyan then you shouldn’t say things like “I understand what Dr. Zuma was trying to relay when he said “Stop thinking like an African”. It is not that we are ignorant and uneducated, we in fact have endured a long history that no other culture can relate with. We however, are a very passive people, and will tend to forget our pasts”.. Sounds like you think all Africans have the same culture.

  13. This is the same president who tells “Africans” that you wont contract HIV if you have sex with a HIV positive woman, as long as you have a shower afterwards?

  14. It takes a particular level of idiocy for a head of state to make such an absurd and crass comment… Zuma clearly confirms that ‘a little learning is the father of stupidity’

  15. I just got introduced to your blog. I marvel at your articles. Your cutting comment will keep me coming to read your posts as they make me laugh. Thank you

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