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Family

What is the size of an average African family?

In traditional Africa, the more people one has as friends and family, in a way, determines one's value in society. For that reason, it is often said wealth is not money but the people one has in one's life, since one can talk and interact with people and not with money. Accordingly, the situation was such that in the past, African families went in for as many wives and children as possible, so as to continue with a family's name, and to benefit from the economic advantages such a labor force could provide. With colonialism and capitalism came a new life style, which made life a lot more difficult, as family heads indulged in different methods of fending for their families, some of which left families totally at the mercy of others who became their employers. Since then, families have had to reconsider the number of children they can have, given that bringing up children now is a whole different business, unlike before when the economy was mainly subsistence. Now parents must consider how much money they can come up with in a year to take care of family needs that have also changed greatly. For these reasons, the average size of an African family is becoming more like a European family—it is anywhere from two to six children or thereabout. The point is that ever since independence, mindful of the effects of colonialism on the people's way of life, which has become more complicated, the smaller nuclear family structure is quickly replacing the traditional extended family, which might also be polygamous. Even though the extended family is still very much in place, and likely never to be wiped out, it is now, unlike in the past, secondary to the smaller nuclear family.

What are African families like—the structure I mean?

African families are like families anywhere else in the world, but whereas the tendency in some Western cultures nowadays is to talk about equality in the family and not about the head of the family, Africa's family structure is still very traditional. There is the father and head of the house, the mother who manages the house, and then the children. Every member of the family has some function, at least, that is expected of him or her. Even until today, men are still considered the breadwinners of the family in most African cultures, even if the wife is equally gainfully employed and compensated. The well employed wife may assist in the financial needs of the family, but the husband is considered primarily responsible. The children have other functions that they must execute as their own contribution towards keeping the family running. The children, depending on their ages, do the dishes and take care of lighter chores in and around the home, and fetch water from the distance where this is applicable. Then the parents are expected to take care of the children until they are capable of leaving their parents and starting their own families. Children do not have to rush out of their parents' home in Africa, nor are they forced out by their parents for whatever reason. They can stay there with them for as long as they please, and there is no problem. After all, later on in life, it is the children's responsibilities to take good care of their aging parents, and this is done with a lot of joy and honor. In fact, in traditional Africa, the father always gave a portion of his land to his sons as they matured, for them to start their own families. Such pieces of land were usually close to the father's own personal property, and so the family remained very close.

Did industrialization and education have an influence on the people as it happened in post agrarian societies?

It must be remembered that even until today, not much of Africa, comparatively speaking, is industrialized. This is the case because the colonialists designed their African nation-properties (protectorates) to remain agrarian, and at the primary level of the production chain. In this position, these new African nations were to continue providing raw materials for Western industries. Not much has changed since then as many African countries remain heavily dependent on agriculture for foreign exchange—Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, and Senegal, are a few examples. This notwithstanding, the limited industrialization that has occurred and the trend in education have had significant influences on the people's lifestyle. For example, people now spend more years in school trying to earn a college degree instead of establishing their own families at a much earlier age as was the case before. Because of the availability of jobs in some of the industries in some African countries, the governments have to struggle with rural exodus as populations have shifted from the villages into the cities in search of jobs and quicker cash. This has affected the food sufficiency levels of most families who practiced subsistence agriculture, but have abandoned their farms and moved to the cities. Another consequence is the clash of cultural practices now frequently experienced in African societies. Some Africans, for example, still practice their African religion while being Christians or Muslims at the same time. Yes, industrialization, even though not as advanced as it is in the West, and new education trends have had significant effects on the peoples of Africa.

 
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