Traditional Institutions and Economic
Development: The Mossi Naam
ELLIOTT P. SKINNER
When, in August 1989, the jury for the "Africa Prize for leadership," under the chairmanship of Bradford Morse, former director of the U. N. Development Programme, chose Bernard Ledea Ouedraogo as one of the co-winners of the 1989 award, the citation praised him for his "bold, visionary work in organizing hundreds of thousands of peasants to take command of their own development and thereby end their own hunger." Ouedraogo had become somewhat of a celebrity by attempting to use a traditional institution, the naam of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso, as an instrument of contemporary economic and social development.
In his response to Morse, Ouedraogo gave credit to the women and men of Africa "who are forming development agencies in a climate of generosity, altruism and unselfishness." Aware of the importance of cultural tradition in human affairs, Ouedraogo cited a Chinese axiom: "If I give you an egg and you give me an egg, each of us has one egg. But if I give you an idea and you give me an idea, each of us has two ideas." 1
The relative success of Ouedraogo with the Mossi naam, gives us an opportunity to look, once again, at the possible role of traditional cultural institutions in development and other aspects of social change. Importantly, Ouedraogo's activity revived the debate about autochthonous development in Africa and in Third and Fourth World countries. Nevertheless, his work has raised the suspicion that here is just another example in which cynics in the development community are passing the buck. Unable or unwilling to obtain and to use the tremendous amount of resources necessary for helping Africa, they have decided to turn the problems of development over to Africans. The concern is that this is the ultimate cry of "WAWA: West Africa Wins Again," but on a continental scale. When erstwhile development experts were faced with