African Moral Values Introduction

African communities were regulated by a strict code of laws and moral values. In this lesson we shall study moral values, which regulated individual members of society as well as the community itself.

Learning outcomes.

After reading this lesson, you should

  1. Give examples of cultural values
  2. Define moral values
  3. Identify forms of misconduct
  4. State a punishment for each misconduct


What is a cultural value?

These are community practices and beliefs. Each community has cultural values that it accepts and upholds. These cultural values are laws, customs, and forms of behaviour, regulations, rules, observances and taboos. The cultural values form a moral code, which regulates the community. For example, if the culture, values private property, it will have laws that forbid theft of property.


These laws are cultural values. Cultural values influence the social order and peace. God gives peace and harmony. God is seen as the giver and guardian of the law. Disobedience was and still is regarded as evil, wrong and was and still is punishable by law.


What is a moral value?

Moral values are standards of behaviour towards others. They are based on what is valued by the community. Moral values are also positive attitudes. Each community decided what is important to it and what is desirable for its members to practice and uphold.

The moral values that communities observed were many.

They included amongst others:

  1. Hospitality and Love for self and others. This is the habit of welcoming all people, treating oneself and others well.

Members of the community were taught how to be hospitable to visitors, strangers and how to assist the needy.

  1. Honesty. This is developing good habits like telling the truth, Loyalty, Respect, Co – operation with all.
  2. Obedience to parents, elders, community leaders and elders. Cultural regulations were followed and adhered to leading.
  3. Caring for others. This is being responsible to members of the community,
  4. Developing social moral behaviour like Humility, Sharing, Responsibility, Chastity, Integrity, Tolerance,Perseverance, and Courtesy.
  5. Working Hard. Do chores. These were according to sex, age and socialeconomic status.
  6. Cooperation. Members cooperated and worked together with others. Moral values were learnt in the process of socialization.


Leisure activities helped in acquisition of moral values. Learning moral values was a lifelong process. The most valued behaviour was obedience. Children were to obey their parents; wives obey their husbands; community obeys their leaders, and elders. Learning to obey was a lifelong process. An obedient person was respected and rewarded.


Misconducts. There were taboos that the community observed. Failure to obey community laws resulted in punishments. The community did not allow stealing of livestock. Domestic animals were the most valued private property. Individuals owned livestock while land ownership was communal. There were many forms of punishment for stealing livestock and committing other crimes.

For example

  1. Payment of heavy fines to replace stolen livestock
  2. Being beaten in a sack
  3. Thrown down a hill
  4. Cast out of community. Thieves and murders built their homes at the outskirts of the community.

They were not allowed to interact anymore with the members of the community. Being covered with dry banana leaves and then set on fire.


See also






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