I really had to let this out, as a person of African descent, spending more time outside #Africa than in it, and here is why.
There is this deep-seated notion that Africa, that big giant and homogeneous country for some, was bullied, tortured and robbed of its resources or colonized, that I sometimes wonder how such fake news could spread for so long and so easily over a long time.
And when this topic is discussed in a larger audience, hilarity generally ensues:
- A first group believes that because of the so-called colonization, there is a humanitarian duty by the west to help Africa relief its self from the consequences of the colonization, and that “Aid for development”, is a duty that must be accomplished, no matter what.
2. Africa, never developed because it was prevented from using and profiteering from its resources, and that continues even today, alas.. say another party (the 2nd Group: the Justicier).
This is even tiresome when it is believed and propagated by the western-educated (believe me, you are also that even being taught in Africa), the so-called African intelligentsia, especially those happily part of the so-called “Brain Drain” (another conspiracy theory), the African Diaspora.
I want once for all to get this straight:
Africa was never colonized, deal with it!
For some it was a business, for the rest it was colonization.
If your thoughts align with any of the groups mentioned before, or worse, with both, this might be your chance at having a different more real perspective, but be warned; this might be brutal if you are and have been emotionally involved with that notion of colonization.
Let’s have a look at what actually happened before the so-called colonization to start with:
1. Europe was itching towards industrialization, new resources were needed, elsewhere than in Europe (waging wars in a fight for resources in Europe were a higher cost) and the business case for funding explorations was made.
2. The churches, those early mega B2C businesses capable of a global scale before the Google, Facebooks of this world came to be, understood the opportunity and went for it as the European market was hitting saturation anyway. Also, the previous crises, that unleashed a brutal separation of state and churches, were hampering their way of operating in Europe. Their income streams were, and are still properties and donations, and Africa was a huge property opportunity.
It takes multiple books if you wanted to verify the above, but apart from “The Scramble for Africa” by Thomas Pakenham, I would not bother putting any other reference: simply because they were all edited with the same perspective, the western’s.
And this perspective, coined and strategically coordinated in line with the very limited number of exploration financiers, evolved into the (fake) narrative that Africa was colonized.
For the Karma-list group, that narrative still serves to sustain the huge “Development Aid Industry” that has employed many in the west, while helping to generally accept the status-quo of well oiled economic relations between the west and Africa, despite of so many partakers who individually could be genuinely interested in “developing” Africa.
The funniest group is the 2nd one: the Justiciers, among whom I counted in the past, that go around reclaiming justice for a pure business handling that happened years back, the so-called colonization: it gets worse if you happen to be an African Diaspora member and among this second group, and here is why:
You propagate and perpetuate a narrative coined to advance the very same thing you wish justice for. Secondly, it is naive trying to get justice from the defendant; it only put you there where he initially wanted you to be: a victim.
Yes, I said/wrote it: a victim.
It doesn’t help to argue, and it doesn’t matter whether you hold a Ph.D. and have written a myriad of research papers on the history of Africa: if you, as an African accept the idea of colonization, you accept being a victim, and a victim needs a savior, a victim can’t change his condition, a victim, who can’t enforce justice on the defendant is a lost cause.
By now you might think that I have gone nuts, which is okay.
Instead of colonization, this is what actually happened.
There is a good essay from D. Acemoglu and Robinson on why nations fail for those wanting a starting perspective on it. I am not here to make a counter-essay, but it is worth mentioning that they got in with something like the quality of institutions as the reason why nations fail or succeed.
Then to the question of what defines the quality of institutions, they scored double: the climate was at fault. The climate determined what kind of institutions, settlers (read colonizers) or nations wanted for themselves. The bad the weather the more extractive, exploitative institutions and vice-versa.
It scores double because climate data are available for impact analysis, while avoiding the uncomfortable, somehow Darwinian reality of reducing institutions to the very behavior, or culture of the population in developing and not developing areas.
Generally, the African (economic) culture still sucks.
I have no problem reducing the quality of institutions to the culture and people, after all, even the west, especially Europe, has disparities in the strength of its institutions and development, and everyone agrees that it has to do with cultural and societal choices (Greece and Brexit are a case study for that).
If the culture determined the disparities of technological advancements between Africans and Western societies, then we have to agree that Africans had the choice of which societal model and culture to follow; they deliberately choose the one that didn’t foster technological development, and years later, allowed “to be discovered" instead of them “discovering” other continents.
African societies had a choice, knowingly or not, to chose the path that exposed them to technological inferiority compared with potential future colonizers.
By its societal choices, Africa invited the colons.
It is important to understand and own our failures before we can correct them.
In that specific case, there is no bad West or a victimized Africa. It is an opportunity taken by the West over less advanced societies.
It is an opportunity that can be taken by Africa when it does its homework, like ratifying and operating the African Continental Free Trade Area.
There is no right for (economic) independence for Africa, and even today there is no exploitation of African resources. No.
There are only choices, made by Africans and no one else, and they own them.
The choice for Africa, and Africans to take advantage of its resources, opportunities, it is their choice to be as (economically) nasty as anyone.
It is the choice of clawing back what it can.
“Lions don’t ask, don’t complain, they take". Simply.
This is not the end of the story, good alternatives are sought after and welcome, keeping the status-quo is not.
Make your voice heard below if you can, the least we all can do.