wise African proverbs and inspiring quotes


Wisdom is wealth! One thing I respect deeply about Africa is the treasure of wisdom our ancestors have handed down to us. While some of our leaders may have forgotten them, the rest of us don’t need to. From prudent sayings on wisdom itself, to judicious encouragements, warnings and even quirky advice on learning, patience, unity, community, family, love and marriage, these quotes will inspire you to be the best you can possibly be.

When you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him. ~Ashanti Proverb

Photography by Eric Lafforgue – http://www.ericlafforgue.com

African Quotes on Wisdom

  • Wisdom is wealth. ~ Swahili
  • Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it. ~ Akan proverb
  • The fool speaks, the wise man listens. ~ Ethiopian proverb
  • Wisdom does not come overnight. ~ Somali proverb
  • The heart of the wise man lies quiet like limpid water. ~ Cameroon proverb
  • Wisdom is like fire. People take it from others. ~ Hema (DRC) proverb
  • Only a wise person can solve a difficult problem. ~ Akan proverb
  • Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand. ~ Guinean proverb
  • In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams. ~ Nigerian proverb
  • If you are filled with pride, then you will have no room for wisdom. ~ African proverb
  • A wise person will always find a way. ~ Tanzanian proverb
  • Nobody is born wise. ~ African proverb
  • A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning. ~Kenyan proverb
  • Wisdom is not like money to be tied up and hidden. ~ Akan proverb

African Quotes on Learning

  • Learning expands great souls. ~ Namibian proverb
  • To get lost is to learn the way. ~ African proverb
  • By crawling a child learns to stand. ~ African proverb
  • If you close your eyes to facts, you will learn through accidents. ~ African proverb
  • He who learns, teaches. ~ Ethiopian proverb
  • Wealth, if you use it, comes to an end; learning, if you use it, increases. ~ Swahili proverb
  • By trying often, the monkey learns to jump from the tree. ~ Buganda proverb
  • You always learn a lot more when you lose than when you win. ~ African proverb
  • You learn how to cut down trees by cutting them down. ~ Bateke proverb
  • The wise create proverbs for fools to learn, not to repeat. ~ African proverb
  • What you help a child to love can be more important than what you help him to learn. ~African proverb
  • By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed. ~Ashanti proverb
  • One who causes others misfortune also teaches them wisdom. ~ African proverb
  • You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. ~Congolese proverb
  • What you learn is what you die with. ~ African proverb
  • Instruction in youth is like engraving in stone. ~Moroccan Proverb
  • When you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him. ~Ashanti Proverb
  • Ears that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off. ~African Proverb
  • Advice is a stranger; if he’s welcome he stays for the night; if not, he leaves the same day. ~Malagasy Proverb
  • Traveling is learning. ~Kenyan Proverb
  • Where there are experts there will be no lack of learners. ~Swahili Proverb

African proverbs on Peace and Leadership

  • Peace is costly but it is worth the expense. ~Kenyan proverb
  • War has no eyes ~ Swahili saying
  • When a king has good counselors, his reign is peaceful. ~Ashanti proverb
  • Peace does not make a good ruler. ~Botswana proverb
  • A fight between grasshoppers is a joy to the crow. ~ Lesotho proverb
  • There can be no peace without understanding. ~Senegalese proverb
  • Milk and honey have different colors, but they share the same house peacefully. ~ African proverb
  • If you can’t resolve your problems in peace, you can’t solve war. ~ Somalian proverb
  • When there is peace in the country, the chief does not carry a shield. ~Ugandan proverb
  • When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled. ~ Swahili saying
  • Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far. ~ West African proverb
  • He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him is only taking a walk. ~ Malawian proverb
  • An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep. ~ Ghanaian proverb
  • He who is destined for power does not have to fight for it. ~ Ugandan proverb
  • Do not forget what is to be a sailor because of being a captain yourself. ~ Tanzanian proverb
  • Without a leader, black ants are confused. ~Ugandan proverb
  • He who refuses to obey cannot command. ~ Kenyan proverb
  • He who fears the sun will not become chief. ~Ugandan proverb
  • A large chair does not make a king. ~ Sudanese proverb
  • Because he lost his reputation, he lost a kingdom. ~ Ethiopian proverb
  • Where a woman rules, streams run uphill. ~ Ethiopian proverb
  • A leader who does not take advice is not a leader. ~ Kenyan proverb
  • If the cockroach wants to rule over the chicken, then it must hire the fox as a body-guard. ~ Sierra Leone proverb

African Quotes on Unity and Community

  • Unity is strength, division is weakness. ~ Swahili proverb
  • Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. ~ Bondei proverb
  • It takes a village to raise a child. ~ African proverb
  • Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won’t eat you. ~ African proverb
  • Many hands make light work. ~ Haya (Tanzania) proverb
  • Where there are many, nothing goes wrong. ~ Swahili proverb
  • Two ants do not fail to pull one grasshopper. ~ Tanzanian proverb
  • A single bracelet does not jingle. ~ Congolese proverb
  • A single stick may smoke, but it will not burn. ~ African proverb
  • If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. ~ African proverb

African Quotes on Family

  • A family is like a forest, when you are outside it is dense, when you are inside you see that each tree has its place. ~ African Proverb
  • A united family eats from the same plate. ~ Baganda proverb
  • A family tie is like a tree, it can bend but it cannot break. ~ African proverb
  • If I am in harmony with my family, that’s success. ~ Ute proverb
  • Brothers love each other when they are equally rich. ~ African proverb
  • Dine with a stranger but save your love for your family. ~ Ethiopian proverb
  • There is no fool who is disowned by his family. ~ African proverb
  • Home affairs are not talked about on the public square. ~ African proverb
  • If relatives help each other, what evil can hurt them? ~ African proverb
  • He who earns calamity, eats it with his family. ~ African proverb
  • Dine with a stranger but save your love for your family. ~ Ethiopian proverb
  • The old woman looks after the child to grow its teeth and the young one in turn looks after the old woman when she loses her teeth. ~ Akan (Ghana, Ivory Coast) proverb
  • When brothers fight to the death, a stranger inherits their father’s estate. ~ Ibo proverb
  • Children are the reward of life. ~ African proverb

African Proverbs on Friendship

  • To be without a friend is to be poor indeed. ~ Tanzanian proverb
  • Hold a true friend with both hands. ~ African proverb
  • The friends of our friends are our friends. ~ Congolese proverb
  • A friend is someone you share the path with. ~ African proverb
  • Show me your friend and I will show you your character. ~ African proverb
  • Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you. ~ African proverb
  • Between true friends even water drunk together is sweet enough. ~ African proverb
  • A small house will hold a hundred friends. ~ African proverb
  • A close friend can become a close enemy.~ African proverb
  • Bad friends will prevent you from having good friends. ~ Gabon proverb

African Proverbs on Beauty

  • One who plants grapes by the road side, and one who marries a pretty woman, share the same problem. ~Ethiopian Proverb
  • Beautiful from behind, ugly in front. ~Uganda Proverb
  • The skin of the leopard is beautiful, but not his heart. ~Baluba proverb
  • Ugliness with a good character is better than beauty. ~Nigerian Proverb
  • A beautiful one hurts the heart. ~African Proverb
  • Anyone who sees beauty and does not look at it will soon be poor. ~Yoruba Proverb
  • The surface of the water is beautiful, but it is no good to sleep on. ~Ghanaian Proverb
  • If there is character, ugliness becomes beauty; if there is none, beauty becomes ugliness. ~Nigerian Proverb
  • You are beautiful, but learn to work, for you cannot eat your beauty. ~Congolese Proverb
  • The one who loves an unsightly person is the one who makes him beautiful. ~Ganda Proverb
  • Having beauty doesn’t mean understanding the perseverance of marriage. ~African Proverb
  • You are beautiful because of your possessions. ~Baguirmi Proverb
  • Every woman is beautiful until she speaks. ~Zimbabwean Proverb
  • Three things cause sorrow to flee; water, green trees, and a beautiful face. ~Moroccan Proverb
  • A beautiful thing is never perfect. ~Egyptian Proverb
  • Patience is the mother of a beautiful child. ~Bantu Proverb
  • There is no beauty but the beauty of action. ~Moroccan Proverb
  • Judge not your beauty by the number of people who look at you, but rather by the number of people who smile at you. ~African Proverb
  • A pretty face and fine clothes do not make character. ~Congolese Proverb
  • Youth is beauty, even in cattle. ~Egyptian Proverb
  • A pretty basket does not prevent worries. ~Congolese Proverb
  • It’s those ugly caterpillars that turn into beautiful butterflies after seasons. ~African Proverb
  • The most beautiful fig may contain a worm. ~Zulu Proverb
  • It is only a stupid cow that rejoices at the prospect of being taken to a beautiful abattoir. ~African Proverb
  • A woman who pursues a man for sex loses her spiritual beauty. ~African Proverb
  • A chicken with beautiful plumage does not sit in a corner. ~African Proverb
  • The cook does not have to be a beautiful woman. ~Shona Proverb
  • Beautiful words don’t put porridge in the pot. ~Botswana Proverb
  • She is beautiful; she has love, understands; she respects herself and others; everyone likes, loves and honors her; she is a goddess. ~African Proverb
  • There is always a winner even in a monkey’s beauty contest. ~African Proverb
  • Dress up a stick and it’ll be a beautiful bride. ~Egyptian Proverb
  • An ugly child of your own is more to you than a beautiful one belonging to your neighbor. ~Ganda Proverb
  • Even the colors of a chameleon are for survival not beauty. ~African Proverb
  • Beautiful discourse is rarer than emerald ~ yet it can be found among the servant girls at the grindstones. ~Egyptian Proverb
  • When a once-beautiful piece of cloth has turned into rags, no one remembers that it was woven by Ukwa master weavers. ~Igbo Proverb
  • A woman’s polite devotion is her greatest beauty. ~African Proverb
  • There are many colorful flowers on the path of life, but the prettiest have the sharpest thorns. ~African Proverb
  • He who marries a beauty marries trouble. ~Nigerian Proverb
  • Despite the beauty of the moon, sun and the stars, the sky also has a threatening thunder and striking lightening. ~African Proverb
  • Getting only a beautiful woman is like planting a vine on the roadside everyone feeds on it. ~African Proverb
  • Greatness and beauty do not belong to the gods alone. ~Nigerian Proverb
  • Roosters’ tail feathers: pretty but always behind. ~Malagasy Proverb
  • Beauty is not sold and eaten. ~Nigerian Proverb
  • She is like a road – pretty, but crooked. ~Cameroonian Proverb
  • Why they like an ugly person takes long for a beautiful person to know. ~African Proverb
  • If you find “Miss This Year” beautiful, then you’ll find “Miss Next Year” even more so. ~Nigerian Proverb
  • The beauty of a woman becomes useless if there is no one to admire it. ~African Proverb

African Love and Marriage Quotes

  • He who loves the vase loves also what is inside. ~ African proverb
  • It’s much easier to fall in love than to stay in love. ~ African proverb
  • Coffee and love taste best when hot. ~ Ethiopian proverb
  • Where there is love there is no darkness. ~Burundian proverb
  • If you are ugly you must either learn to dance or make love. ~ Zimbabwean Proverp
  • Pretend you are dead and you will see who really loves you. ~ African proverb
  • To love the king is not bad, but a king who loves you is better. ~ Wolof proverb
  • A happy man marries the girl he loves, but a happier man loves the girl he marries. ~ African proverb
  • If you marry a monkey for his wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains as is. ~ Egyptian proverb
  • Love never gets lost it’s only kept. ~ African proverb
  • Never marry a woman who has bigger feet than you. ~ Mozambique proverb
  • One thread for the needle, one love for the heart. ~ Sudanese proverb
  • Love has to be shown by deeds not words. ~ Swahili proverb
  • Love is a despot who spares no one. ~Namibian proverb
  • Marriage is like a groundnut; you have to crack it to see what is inside. ~ Ghanaian proverb

African Quotes on Patience

  • Patience is the key which solves all problems. ~ Sudanese proverb
  • Hurry, hurry has no blessings. ~ Swahili proverb
  • Patience is the mother of a beautiful child. ~ Bantu proverb
  • To run is not necessarily to arrive. ~ Swahili proverb
  • Patience can cook a stone. ~ African proverb
  • A patient man will eat ripe fruit. ~ African proverb
  • At the bottom of patience one finds heaven. ~ African proverb
  • A patient person never misses a thing. ~ Swahili proverb
  • Patience puts a crown on the head. ~ Ugandan proverb
  • Patience attracts happiness; it brings near that which is far. ~ Swahili proverb
  • Always being in a hurry does not prevent death, neither does going slowly prevent living. ~ Ibo proverb
  • However long the night, the dawn will break. ~ African proverb (personal favourite!)

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One Response to “wise African proverbs and inspiring quotes”

  1. Ghana : When you learn Akan - whose language do you learn? SocioLingo Africa Says:

    [...] wise African proverbs and inspiring quotes (innerstandingisness.com) [...]

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