Future of Social Work in Africa

The future of African social work is shaped by decolonisation and indigenisation. For several years, decolonisation and indigenisation have been talked about in theory but action has been slow. To accelerate action, we have created a protocol that provides a process, principles and template to decolonise and indigenise.


A Decolonisation Protocol  (DP) is a plan to take action to remove colonial elements. Usually, this is done together with an Indigenisation Protocol (IP) – a plan that allows for maintenance and introduction of indigenous approaches, content or knowledge. The aim is to recognize and value local culture, histories and knowledge in our institution. The template is usable to decolonise:

  • The Library
  • The Syllabi/lecture
  • Practice and Fieldwork
  • Research and Publishing


Appoint a DPIP coordinator or committee. The coordinator can do most of the work alone but a committee is important to provide oversight. If a committee is not there, a current institutional committee can be used to provide oversight. The committee a 1-2 people knowledgeable about African social work, 1-2 family members who have experiences of African social issues, 1-2 who are community leaders, 1-2 people who are cultural leaders or activists and 1-2 people who are pan-Africanists and 1 person with knowledge of higher education.

Use the template below to create actions and when you plan to have them executed. Make sure actions and expected outcomes are clear. You can set a semester or annual plan. Review the plan at the end of each period.  


The coordinator and committees must be guided by these principles:

  1. If found, any colonial material or practices must be removed immediately.
  2. Indigenous material and practices must immediately replace it.
  3. If the language is colonial, no matter how good a resource is, it should be removed.
  4. A book written by an African can be colonial if it does not utilise African philosophy, theory, literature, methods and examples.
  5. Valuing local languages and oral sources of knowledge.
  6. Training and education must be based on local people’s aspirations, histories, knowledge, needs, laws, environment, culture and spirituality.



Name of institution
Committee members 
Date adopted 
Date of review 
Any other details 

Action Plans

Focus areaActionsTimeframe
LibraryLibrary team orientation or training on decolonisation and indigenisation
We will remove from shelves all content that was published before independence (almost all was colonial)
Literature with colonial language will be removed
Our online library will prioritise African resources, databases and publishers
The library will give each student orientation or training about decolonisation of the library and literature and the role of students  
Creating local sources of knowledge – making videos, documentaries, audios, songs, and inviting guest speakers for oral knowledge
Order literature including laws from the African Union and African institutions
Literature in local language
Creating a publishing unit
SyllabiSubject coordinators orientation or training
Remove and replace all syllabi borrowed from western countries immediately
Ensure subject aim and objectives respond to the aspirations of African people
Document and teach the history of African social services and social work not the history of American of European social services and social work
Change syllabus to be developmental, focusing on subjects that increase the productive capacity of families and communities and empower them to fight poverty and avoid donor or welfare dependency
Remove colonial content and language from syllabus
Use African philosophies, theories ethics, and literature including oral literature
Our assignments will be revised to remove colonial content
Lecturers will give each student orientation or training about decolonisation of syllabi, learning, teaching and literature and the role of students
Value oral sources – guest speakers who are users of social work, community members, cultural leaders, spiritual leaders, pan-Africanists, activists, law makers
Ensure subjects like psychology, sociology, history and anthropology that are heavily colonial are indigenised. These are often taught in other faculties.Using local language
Practice and FieldworkOrientation and training of alumni and practitioners in decolonisation as part of continuous professional development (CPD) and reskilling
Remove laws or processes that are colonial
Orientation and training of employers and agencies in decolonisation
Orientation and training of fieldwork supervisors.
Using local language
Research and PublishingOrientation and training of researchers and research assistants in decolonisation
Valuing African publishers, publishing in AfricaValuing oral literature
Valuing African methods of data collection, data analysisValuing
African ethics and ethics committees
Including community members, African cultural and spiritual leaders in Ethics Committees
Using local language
Create local publishers, local data bases, local research centres etc
OthersMake graduation process indigenous
Make graduation attire – hats/cap, hood and dress more suitable to local situation in terms of colours, meaning and symbols
Make names of institutions or buildings more appropriate
Value local people who contributed to the institution or to social services Use artwork, sculptures, artefacts and landscaping that is African
Institutional leaders leading decolonisation and indigenisation by exampleInvite cultural and spiritual leaders to events and graduations
Advocate and promote decolonisation of primary, secondary and high school education
When making slides, posters and any content that needs pictures, use local pictures not pictures of white people found on the internet
The African Union has a lot of indigenous content – policies, conventions, guidelines etc
International partnerships, participation and funding must not assume Africa’s inferiority.
Take note that Black American literature and views do not necessarily reflect decolonial ideas, their ideas are shaped by history of slavery, American ideals but also assimilation into white race and culture. They have changed the meaning of Black to include people who would otherwise not be included as Black in Africa.
Migration out of Africa to practice social work derails decolonisation, the practice is in itself colonial and leaves Africa without the experts it needs after training them.  

Suggested literature

In this article the author presents the Decolonise First Model.

Cite as: Tusasiirwe, S. (2022). Is it indigenisation or decolonisation of social work in Africa? A focus on Uganda. African Journal of Social Work,