The Council Of Elders Is Feeling Exposed, Internet, Digital Transformation and African Politics.

Jumanne Rajabu Mtambalike
4 min readAug 10, 2021


This article is an update of an article I wrote in 2016, “The Council Of Elders Is Feeling Exposed, My Take Away #FIFAfrica2016”.

Attending an African traditional community meeting, the first thing you learn is the position of the elders in the clan. Elders are never wrong, and they are always right. They make the key decision for the clan's well-being, and they preserve values that protect the clan from the curse of the ancestors, which might lead to calamities and disasters. Time has changed. Over the period of time, Africa has witnessed different elders; the traditional elders, the colonial rulers, postcolonial leaders, the puppets and the current government. One thing has never changed. Still, the elders are right, and everybody else is wrong, from an African cultural perspective.

Photo Courtesy | Fred Kearney — Unsplash

Internet freedom and digital transformation in Africa has been suffering the same fate that anything new to the African society has faced before, getting along with the elders. The internet has been trying to correct the elders in public, which is a serious offence and might lead you to be kicked out of the clan. It’s a shameful act that requires stern measures. The internet has given access to the clan members to contribute their thoughts and held the clan leaders accountable for their actions if they are leading the clan astray. Something that the clan leaders doesn’t like. They have never been questioned about their authority before and in the manner they deemed to be inappropriate. They feel the internet and digital transformation are a curse to the clan and should be avoided.

But why so? Is it the approach? Is it fear of change? What is behind all these? The only way to understand this is to go back again to the African cultural values. How do you approach elders when they are wrong? You sit down respectfully and talk to them. The challenge is you may not be matured enough to sit in the council of elders, or at least the elders may think that way. Fighting for the right to access the unlimited and uncontrolled internet is like requesting elders to have a seat on their council. It is not an easy issue, but it is not impossible.

Organizations fighting for internet rights should sit down with the government and help them to understand the internet is not a curse to the clan, but it is a blessing if it is to be spent nicely. A healer can be a witch, and medicine can be poison if the instructions are not followed. That is exactly what the internet is. Requesting internet freedom should go hand in hand with helping people to become responsible for their activities online and helping the government understand the positive side of the internet.

The informed council of elders will understand it is not about them. It is about the clan too. If the clan feels they benefit from the internet and digital transformation blessings more than the curse it has brought, they have the right to continue using it. The individuals should make the control and the decision within the clan rather than the council of elders. The council of elders should advise, educate and protect the clan from the curse that might come from the internet and not prevent them completely from accessing it. If the council of elders themselves is using the internet to push the council meetings' agenda, why should individuals clan members not enjoy the blessings of the internet?

It is human nature when you are attacked. You become defensive. To promote free and uncontrolled internet access, stakeholders should focus more on selling the internet as a tool for social and economic development rather than the tool to exploit and expose the weaknesses of the government. To the elders, the internet is the curse that came to destroy the clan and make them look weak. At least in Africa, nobody exposes the weaknesses of the council of the elders. Instead, you educate the elders about the consequences of their decisions and help them make a better one. They say culture eats strategy for breakfast. Maybe this is the right time to check if our traditional culture is eating our digital strategies.

The clan members should understand that they can’t make the clan's decision without the council of elders. It would help if you got them involved. It is also the right time for the elders to start listening. The time has passed, and things are changing very fast they can’t continue on the old ways of thinking. Everything new isn’t a curse to the clan. Some are blessings, and there is no need to resist. They can’t always be right, and that is why we occasionally offer sacrifices to the ancestors to ask for forgiveness for a wrong decision made by the council of elders. An informed council of elders makes better decisions for the clan than the one which is not informed. The question is, how do you want to inform the council of elders by attacking them or by educating them?

Jumanne Mtambalike is an innovator, entrepreneur, and technology enthusiast who is optimistic about the future of Africa. Follow me on Twitter @Afruturist



Jumanne Rajabu Mtambalike

Entrepreneur, TZ Patriot, Loves Tech, Founder, Project Management Consulting firm, Co-Founded and Sahara Accelerator.