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“How does tribalism affect national development?”


ribal mobilization in political, social and economic entities has generally been considered to be very active in Africa and the Middle East countries (USAID 2010). However, individuals in a particular sect of tribe or tribes tend to present with contradictory positions on national system development (Beck etal 2003).

Tribalism was a concept adopted by 19th century colonial powers to indicate a primitive stage of social development in which loyalty was owed to a group with common descent (Pamela, 2007).

Development is the growth of the general capability and complexity of a society in terms of social, economic and political entities (Lorenzo, 2011). Development is thus affected by a number of factors of which include unit and co-existence (Bannon, 2004).

Divisions in a nation may be as a result inhibit development and as such tribalism is not an exception (Asongu and Tedika, 2015).

This essay is aimed at highlighting how tribalism affects national development.

Firstly, tribalism can inhibit financial development (Kumar, 2014). This may occur by limiting money supply liquid liabilities through promotion of money circulating within the same banking sector. In addition, tribalism inhibits financial growth by promoting stock market capitalization due to fear of losing tribal control on businesses (Beck etal, 2003). This occurs by restricting financial depth in which investors within a given tribe choose to employ informal banking institutions for financial transactions thus making lending and borrowing to be done among tribal affiliations. Besides, businesses with strong family and tribal inclination may be unwilling to trade their shares in stock markets for fear of losing control or according voting rights (Ake and Ognaligui, 2010).

Secondly, tribalism affects political development and governance (Bannon, 2004). This occurs by sharing of power with, and allocate significant government largesse to locally powerful families or tribes in an effort to maintain the peace and the own power. Since there are often many groups to accommodate, there is an unequal distribution of government largesse which changes the local balance of power between competing tribes and this produces conflicts (USAID, 2010).

Tribalism may also cause political leaders to engage in inefficient friendly practices and adopt policies that are unfavourable to national development. These ethnocratical tendencies expressed by political tribalist promote ethnic favouritism aimed at according tribal privileges in the distribution of positions that confer authority within a nation (Burges etal, 2010).

Thirdly tribalism affects social development by reducing innovations and essential interactions needed for national development (Frank et al, 2012).

As a consequence, individuals with brilliant ideas tend to be conservative in advising a competing tribe in power or are excluded in decision making (Burges etal, 2012). Tribalism also affects the education sector as it confers a negative externality an education (Asongu and Tedika, 2015) in which knowledge passed to a particular tribe is biased or against other tribes.

Additionally, environment of students in training institutions tend to be centered  on tribal lines rather than on merit (Asongu and Tedika, 2015). This leads to unequal distribution of educational resource in a nation which makes it difficult to break the boundaries of conservation created by tribes.

In conclusion, tribalism should strongly be condemned as it gives priority or exclusivity to the needs of one tribe or tribes in the distribution of collective resources and promotes conflicts. Thus, citizens of any nation, Zambia inclusive should be encouraged to view tribe as an ethnonym or classification and not to make their decisions and judgements based on tribal lines.

Instead, citizens should emulate the complexity of African pre-colonial societies in which tribal identity co-existed with other forms of identities such of village and community identities (Carola, 1995).


Ake B and Ognaligui R (2010),“Financial Stock Market and Economic Growth in Developing Countries”. International Journal of Business and Management, page 82-88.

Asongu A and Tediki K (2015), “Tribalism And Financial Development”. African Development institute, page 1-18.

Bannon Alicia (2004) “Sources Of Ethnic Identification In Africa”, page 1-24.

Beck T (2003),“Law E-Documents, And Finance.” Journal Of Financial Economics 70, page 137-181.

Bwgess et al (2010),“Our TurnTo Eat.” The Political Economy Of Roads In Kenya.

Frank et al (2012), “Does the Leaders’ Ethnicity Matter? Ethnic Favouritism, Education And Health In Sub-Sahara Africa”. American Political Science Review page (294-320).

Pamela Paglca, (2007),”Ethnicity And Tribalism: Are These The Root Causes Of Sudanese Civil Conflicts?” page 1-37.

Lorenzo G. Bellu (2011), “Development And Development Paradigms”. A Review Of Prevailing Visions.

USAID, (2010),”Tribalism, Governance And Development”. United States Agency For International Development page (1-38)

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