Psychological Society of South Africa
Psychological Society of South Africa

Obituary: Prof Bame Nsamenang, committed humanist and leader in African psychology

It is with great sadness that the world heard of the passing of Professor Bame Nsanemang on February 2018. He was one of Africa’s great psychologists.

A doyen of developmental science, whose lifelong commitment to building a discipline responsive to the needs of all of the people of the world, he will be sorely mourned and missed by the global community of which he formed such a valued and respected part.

Born in Kumbo in 1961, Professor Nsamenang was a Professor of Psychology and Learning Science and Director of the Teachers College, University of Bamenda in Cameroon where he founded the Human Development Resource Centre, a privately-funded research and intervention facility mobilised to serve Africa’s children and youth. It was in these roles that he dreamt of bringing the power of truly Africentric psychological knowledge to bear on understanding the pervasive challenges facing and improving the lives of children in the majority world. Although he delivered this knowledge in many forms it was perhaps best presented in his seminal book Human Development in Cultural Context: A Third World Persepctive (1992) in which he argued for the primacy of culture in accounting for important differences in the developmental paths of children – a foundational claim that set the tone for several globally significant contributions to inter-cultural and developmental psychology penned from this key scholar of the Global South. Professor Nsamenang also represented this ‘Southern’ constituency on several highly-visible, specialised societies within the discipline including as a member of the Executive Committee of the International Society for the Study of Social Behaviour (ISSD).

This intellectual presence foreshadowed Professor Nsamenang’s eminent leadership of organised psychology both locally and across the African continent. Alongside several colleagues, he spearheaded the recent invigoration of psychology in Africa. He was the President of the Cameroon Psychological Association (CPA) and was President-Elect of the newly-formed Pan-African Psychological Union (PAPU).

In the build-up to the inaugural PAPU Congress held in Durban in September 2017, Professor Nsamenang called for the continued re-scoping of psychological science such that knowledge about the human developmental lifecycle better reflected the majority rather than selected wealthy minority of the world’s inhabitants. Doing so, he insisted would require theorising new pathways to development that are “context-honed and culture-imbued” and grounded in the everyday lives of the majority world. Indeed, it was improving the everyday lives of the sizeable majority of the world’s children and youth that preoccupied Professor Nsamenang, the formidable intellectual and committed humanist. It was a preoccupation that would have formed the cornerstone of his leadership of an African psychology in the service of humanity.

Global psychology has lost an extraordinary thinker and devoted practitioner. This global community will continute to honour Bame Nsamenang’s life through an unwavering dedication to building the discipline and future world he saw and so dearly desired.

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