Self improvement unlike globalization is not a new concept in Africa. It has been practiced by Traditional African Societies for very many years. The only difference between self improvement as viewed in the west and as practiced in Africa is that people in the west have dedicated many books on the topic. Africans on the other hand have primarily dwelt on preserving their self improvement tips through myths, taboos and cultural practices.
An example of self improvement strategies practiced by African communities is the “night runners” phenomenon. This is a practice that was once observed in the Kissii community of Kenya. Members of the community would gather after sunset at a common meeting place. They would then embark on what can now be viewed as a cross country run across the land. The aim of the run was to appease the spirits and their ancestors. However this was not the only benefit that the members of this community got. The Kissii are said to have been fast warriors whose pace helped conquer many neighboring communities.
Another example of a cultural practice that helped improve the individual is the circumcision ceremony among the Maasai community of Kenya. Young initiates “Moran’s” were put through a cumbersome routine that included being sent off to kill a lion, and being locked up in a Manyatta (Mud Hut) infested with termites for days. The Massai therefore had brave warriors who conquered many communities and in the event that one of them was captured and held captive, yielding was not an option.
A charcoal burner placed in a room that is not well ventilated can cause death to an individual in the same room because of the carbon monoxide it. In my community this was explained in simpler terms. The charcoal burner was said to “drain someone’s blood at close range” and this basically kept people at bay. Some might argue that this is not a self improvement strategy but it did help save lives.
The self improvement strategies mentioned above were not only aimed at improving the individual but the community as a whole. Most traditional African communities were into the perception that what was good for the community was good for the individual as well. In light of this the community always came first.