The Best African Wise 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, wealth, poverty, 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

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 LearningLearning expands great souls. ~ Namibian proverbTo 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 Money, Wealth, Riches and Poverty

 Make some money but don’t let money make you. ~ Tanzania

It is no shame at all to work for money. ~ Africa

He who loves money must labor. ~ Mauritania

By labor comes wealth. ~ Yoruba

Poverty is slavery. ~Somalia

One cannot both feast and become rich. ~ Ashanti

One cannot count on riches. ~ Somalia

Money is sharper than the sword. – Ashanti

A man’s wealth may be superior to him. ~ Cameroon

The rich are always complaining. ~ Zulu

The wealth which enslaves the owner isn’t wealth. ~ Yoruba

The poor man and the rich man do not play together. ~ Ashanti

Lack of money is lack of friends; if you have money at your disposal, every dog and goat will claim to be related to you. ~ Yoruba

With wealth one wins a woman. ~ Uganda

Dogs do not actually prefer bones to meat; it is just that no one ever gives them meat. ~ Akan

A real family eats the same cornmeal. ~ Bayombe

If your cornfield is far from your house, the birds will eat your corn. ~ Congo

Money can’t talk, yet it can make lies look true. ~ South Africa

One cannot count on riches. ~ Somalia

Money is not the medicine against death. ~ Ghana

He who receives a gift does not measure. ~ Africa

Much wealth brings many enemies. – Swahili

There is no one who became rich because he broke a holiday, no one became fat because he broke a fast. ~ Ethiopia

What you give you get, ten times over. ~ Yoruba

Greed loses what it has gained. ~ Africa

You become wise when you begin to run out of money. ~ Ghana

If ten cents does not go out, it does not bring in one thousand dollars. ~ Ghana

You should not hoard your money and die of hunger. – Ghana

Wealth diminishes with usage; learning increases with use. ~ Nigeria

Wisdom is not like money to be tied up and hidden. ~ Akan

Having a good discussion is like having riches ~ Kenya

Knowledge is better than riches. ~ Cameroon

You must act as if it is impossible to fail. ~ Ashanti

Do not let what you cannot do tear from your hands what you can. ~ Ashanti

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!)


African Quotes on Food

As porridge benefits those who heat and eat it, so does a child benefit those that rear it. ~Amharic Proverb

The forest not only hides man’s enemies but its full of man’s medicine, healing power and food. ~African Proverb

One person is a thin porridge; two or three people are a lump of ugali. ~Kuria Proverb

The man who counts the bits of food he swallows is never satisfied. ~African Proverb

Wine, women and food give gladness to the heart. ~Ancient Egyptian Proverb

The food that is in the mouth is not yet in the belly. ~Kikuyu Proverb

You cannot work for food when there is no food for work. ~African Proverb

The chicken that digs for food will not sleep hungry. ~Bayombe Proverb

He who eats another mans food will have his own food eaten by others. ~Swahili Proverb

Food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with gravel in his mouth. ~African Proverb

No partridge scratches the ground in search of food for another. ~Xhosa Proverb

The grasshopper which is always near its mother eats the best food. ~Ghanaian Proverb

Don’t take another mouthful before you have swallowed what is in your mouth. ~Malagasy Proverb

Rich people sometimes eat bad food. ~Kikuyu Proverb

The impotent man does not eat spicy foods. ~Congolese Proverb

You should know what’s being cooked in the kitchen otherwise you might eat a forbidden food. ~African Proverb

When the leg does not walk, the stomach does not eat. ~Mongo (Congolese) Proverb

A healthy person who begs for food is an insult to a generous farmer. ~Ghanaian Proverb

One spoon of soup in need has more value than a pot of soup when we have an abundance of food. ~Angolan Proverb

Cooked food is not sold for goats. ~Kikuyu Proverb

The mouth is stupid after eating it forgets who gave it the food. ~African Proverb

A dog knows the places he is thrown food. ~Acholi Proverb

One who eats alone cannot discuss the taste of the food with others. ~African Proverb

Words are sweet, but they never take the place of food. ~Ibo Proverb

The man who has bread to eat does not appreciate the severity of a famine. ~Yoruba Proverb

He who doesn’t clean his mouth before breakfast always complains that the food is sour. ~African Proverb

The hyena with a cub does not consume all the available food. ~Akamba Proverb

When the food is cooked there is no need to wait before eating it. ~Kikuyu Proverb

What one won’t eat by itself, one will eat when mixed with other food. ~Bantu & Lamba Proverb

Man is like a pepper, till you have chewed it you do not know how hot it is. ~Haussa Proverb

No one gets a mouthful of food by picking between another person’s teeth. ~Igbo Proverb

It is not the cook’s fault when the cassava turns out to be hard and tasteless. ~Ewe Proverb

A housewife who complains that there is not enough foodstuff in the market should remember that if her husband adds to what is already available, there would be more for everyone. ~Nigerian Proverb

A spider’s cobweb isn’t only its sleeping spring but also its food trap. ~African Proverb

If you watch your pot, your food will not burn. ~Mauritanian, Nigerian, and Niger Proverb

Those who are at one regarding food are at one in life. ~Malawian Proverb

Fine words do not produce food. ~Nigerian Proverb

Even the best cooking pot will not produce food. ~African Proverb

If I could see your face, I would not need food. ~Amharic Proverb

If you find no fish, you have to eat bread. ~Ghanaian Proverb

War is not porridge. ~Gikuyu Proverb

The best of mankind is a farmer; the best food is fruit. ~Ethiopian Proverb

Slowly, slowly, porridge goes into the gourd. ~Kuria People of Kenyan & Tanzania

One shares food not words. ~Somali Proverb

If you are looking for a fly in your food it means that you are full. ~South African Proverb

Nature gave us two cheeks instead of one to make it easier to eat hot food. ~Ghanaian Proverb

A patient that can swallow food makes the nurse doubtful. ~Malagasy Proverb

If you give bad food to your stomach, it drums for you to dance. ~African Proverb

A bad cook also has his/her share of the bad food. ~African Proverb

The forest provides food to the hunter after he is utterly exhausted. ~Zimbabwean Proverb

Things are to be tried, an old lady cooked stones and they produced soup. ~Zimbabwean Proverb

You cannot tell a hungry child that you gave him food yesterday. ~Zimbabwean Proverb

Good music goes with good food. ~African Proverb

Rich people cook their food in a potsherd. ~Kikuyu Proverb

However little food we have, we’ll share it even if it’s only one locust. ~Malagasy Proverb

Water is colourless and tasteless but you can live on it longer than eating food. ~African Proverb

Eat when the food is ready; speak when the time is right. ~Ethiopian Proverb

The food eaten first lasts longest in the stomach. ~Kikuyu Proverb

When your luck deserts you, even cold food burns. ~Zambian Proverb

Happiness is as good as food. ~Maasai Proverb

Good words are food, bad words poison. ~Malagasy Proverb

The goat says: “Where there is blood, there is plenty of food.” ~Ghanaian Proverb

If you see a man in a gown eating with a man in rags, the food belongs to the latter. ~Fulani Proverb

They ate our food, and forgot our names. ~Tunisian Proverb

An abundance of food at your neighbour’s will not satisfy your hunger. ~Bayaka Proverb

Food you will not eat you do not boil. ~African Proverb

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