VarsityMentor Moonlight Talk: Introduction to Africa 101

Obinna Anya
Published in
4 min readJul 4, 2023

In the 1920s, the University of Buffalo invented a course-numbering scheme as a way to structure the university’s course catalog. Over the years, the scheme has been adopted by most colleges and universities all over the world as a tool not only for organizing their courses but also for standardizing courses across different colleges. In this scheme, introductory courses are commonly suffixed with 101. Today, the term “101” is widely understood, even outside academia, to refer to the most basic or elementary knowledge about a subject.

For every African, the most basic aspect of their education — especially, at this juncture in the development of the continent — should be “Africa 101.” While the past and present policies and actions of Europe and other world powers, in the form of slavery, mercantilism, colonialism and neo-colonialism, remain a significant contributing factor to the underdevelopment and impoverishment of the continent of Africa, the onus for the development and advancement of the continent rests squarely on the shoulders of every African.

As Walter Rodney puts it, “every African has a responsibility to understand the system and work for its overthrow” — a responsibility that I believe should be nothing short of a moral imperative.

In Africa 101, author and diplomat, Her Excellency Ambassador Arikana Chihombori Quao, presents a starting point for taking up this responsibility. The book explores the story of Africa from the Transaltantic Slave Trade, the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, poor governance, the brain drain syndrome, to the present-day exploitation of Africa and Africans by forces within and outside the continent. Using personal anecdotes, her experiences at the African Union and historical references, the author highlights the struggle that Africans have endured and continue to endure in order to survive in a world where Africa supplies more than 30% of the world’s mineral resources, 12% of the world’s crude oil, and 8% of its natural gas, not to mention her pool of talented human resources dispersed across the globe. According to the author:

… the greatest challenge facing continental and diaspora Africans is not an economic crisis or racial oppression, terrible as these issues are. There is a much bigger problem … the shackles of the mind which are holding us back as a people. This disease is a direct outcome of slavery and colonization.

Undertaking this responsibility does not, and should not, in any way mean that Africa should isolate, or even distance, itself from the rest of the world or that as well-meaning Africans (and well-wishers), we should resort to finger pointing or get mired in contemplative analysis of past wrongs and mistakes.

Rather, we should learn very well the lessons of the past and, going forward, challenge ourselves to strategically deploy our education, resources, unique knowledge systems and numerical strength to build “The Africa We Want” and ensure a better world for all.

It is my staunch belief that should we fail to ground our education in “Africa 101,” no Harvard or Oxford degree, and no Ivy League-level education or Silicon Valley executive-level position can restore our self-worth or equip us to cure our dear motherland of the malady of underdevelopment.

As the Pan-Africanist, Marcus Garvey, warns us several years ago, without knowledge of a people’s past history, origin, and culture, they are merely “like a tree without roots” irrespective of the levels of achievement, education, wealth, or fame they may have to their credit.

I fervently hope that the departments/ministries of education in all the 54 countries of Africa can make Africa 101 a mandatory course in every primary and secondary school in Africa. The basis (101) of education, after all, is the knowledge of self.

Without 101, we can rev up the engine of our social and economic advancement, we can even propel it forward every now and then, but we are never headed in the right direction. As Maya Angelou rightly puts it, “No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.”

If you are a college student in Africa, and you want to read this book but have difficulty getting a copy, email us at or, and we will send you a copy free of charge. Do this now. VarsityMentor is only able to redeem this offer for the first 18 students.

If you enjoyed this post, get in touch to learn more about what we do at VarsityMentor to tackle the problem of graduate unemployment in Africa.