chapter  4
The Traditional African Family
Pages 18

Eminent Africanist, Ali Mazrui is accurate when he asserts that the African family remains an enigma to many a non-African. It has demonstrated remarkable resilience by surviving centuries of ferocious assault. The African family continues to maintain its unique structure and identity despite several centuries of brutal assault from exogenous forces. The fact that the African family has maintained its traditional identity and raison d’être has surprised even the most stoic Western observer or change agent. However, despite constituting the focus of attention especially during the colonial era, the African family remains one of the least understood and often the most misrepresented of all indigenous African institutions. The family is a highly valued social unit, which plays an extremely important role in African society. African tradition requires people to have a high sense of obligation to their kin in particular and their community at large. The importance of family in traditional Africa, where there are no formal social welfare institutions, derives from the fact that it provides a platform on which members offer and receive assistance, encouragement and advice (Obijiofor, n.d.). The extended African family thus, amongst other things, plays the role that social welfare institutions play in the West.