Africa: Five Hundred Years to Progress

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

To hear scholars tell it, Africa is the center and the beginning of humankind, dating back 200,000 or more years. Africa, they contend, was the home to well structured and well organized city-states, thriving empires and unique Kingdoms. The works of Toyin Falola, Ali Mazrui, Festus Ohaegbulam, Basil Davidson, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and J. F. Ade Ajayi all supports these assertions. Furthermore, it was the work of these and other Africanists that helped dispel the insidious inference that Africa had no history and contributed nothing to civilizations. Along that continuum was the thinking in Europe, which posited that Africa was “nothing but the unrewarding gyrations of barbarous tribes.” Back then, Europe and the New World never thought much of Africans. And they still don’t. Oddly, Africans themselves don’t think much of their land and their people.

Africans themselves don’t think much of themselves, their peoples and their land, and have, for the most part, contributed to the continuing underdevelopment, chaos and anarchy that have come to characterize the continent. Long before the Trans-Atlantic and the Indian Ocean slave trade, Africans have been trading and dehumanizing their own peoples. Call it servitude or call it indenturedness, slavery is slavery: the long term exploitation, maltreatment and dehumanization of another human being. It’s been more than one hundred and ten years since formal slavery ended, but one might not know this as a sizeable number of Africans are still involved in dehumanizing their fellow Africans. No group is guiltier of this than African Presidents and the political/economic elites.

Beginning in the 1960s, in one country after another, African Presidents and Prime Ministers have been physically chaining and mentally abusing their own people. What’s more, they collaborate with foreign and domestic agents and saboteurs to loot their own resources. Not only are these leaders involved in enslaving their own people, they are also involved in the economic exploitation of the continent. Africans are doing to Africa what despicable Europeans did to Africa from the 14th century onward. Essentially, slavery and the economic exploitation of the continent have not ended. It is in full force now. After slavery was colonialism which formally began after the Berlin Conference hosted by Otto von Bismarck and attended by major European powers, notably Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal — from November 1884 through February 1885.

History shows that the scramble for Africa was necessitated by commercial greed, territorial ambition, Christendom and proselytism, reckless adventures, and political rivalry. Today, European and other western powers need not plan for the partitioning and looting of the continent. No. African leaders and African elites have been doing the partitioning and economic exploitation on behalf of these Powers. In recent years — under the guise of the Cold War — the continent was overran and overtaken by the East and the West. Since the end of the Cold War, the continent continues to be overtaken and overran by foreign powers; only this time, other powers are involved in the exploitation and enslavement of Africa. The Chinese, the Israelis, the Indians, the Lebanese and every other big, small and inconsequential Power are all roaming the African woodland, digging into the African soil for minerals, and exploring the oceans and waterways for treasures. Former colonial powerhouses never left; they have the continent in the palm of their hands. Vultures, big and small, have descended on Africa.

For the old and new powerhouses, Africa has become their playground, their dumpster, their killing field, their Wall Street, and their spit-bucket. While the Vultures are feeding off of the fat and riches of the continent, Africans themselves — much like some of their forefathers — are on the sideline as though watching a freak show. There is nothing freakish about what is happening to Africa and Africans. There is nothing amusing about five hundred years of exploitation, servility and bastardization. At home and overseas, the vast majorities of Africans are slaves and hired hands; and in most cases, are treated like dirty rags. Blacks in the Caribbean, Blacks in Africa, and Blacks in the United States, as with Blacks everywhere, all suffers the same fate: second class citizens to be used and exploited and discarded. More so in Africa — they allow themselves to be used, exploited and discarded like spent dolls.

Social historians and chroniclers of events in and around the continent cannot but notice the fact that the average Africans give their leaders the permission to exploit and abuse and to steal and mismanage their resources. In country after country, African leaders steal and commit all sorts of crimes and iniquities with the full acquiesce of their people. In turn, African leaders green-light foreign powers and foreign entrepreneurs the power to exploit, subjugate, and to steal their continent’s resources. From Tunisia to South Africa, from Nigeria to Djibouti, and from Mauritania to Tanzania, the reality of the continent is the same: lacking in economic power, lacking in technological know-how, and also lacking in political will. What’s more, Africans seem to lack commonsense, sense of purpose and sense of self. Otherwise, why would they allow their leaders, and outsiders, to basically mess with their continent and their destiny? What rationale people would allow such?

One need not dig deep into the mind of White Americans and their European counterparts to know what they think of Africans. You know it, and I know it, too: people incapable of common task and unable to solve complicated tasks. The residual effects of slavery are very much in evident. Beyond the lingering effects of slavery, there are the delayed effects of colonization vis-à-vis economic, political, cultural, social and psychological. For instance, “Political instability, border disputes, ethnic suspicion and primordial fear, economic ruin, and massive debt continue to plague Africa.” We have a continent that is being plundered every which way by every body. We have a people that do not care about their land. And because of the people’s attitude towards their land, we now have a land that has become the world’s whore — to be used and abused and toyed with and then discard without much thought.

As an African, one cannot think of Africa and not cry. One cannot visit the continent and not feel depressed. Sure, there are moments of pride and joy and euphoria. There are moments when it feels good to be Black and African; there are moments when some aspects of the African culture makes ones soul sing and dance; there are moments when being an African, is the damn best thing in the whole wide world. Truly, to be an African is a privilege. The blessings and the pride is boundless. But there are many more moments when it sucks — truly sucks and irritating — to be Black and African. The African continent has been severely impacted by several factors: slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism, the Cold War, globalization, self-immolating leadership and the mental and physical abuse of Africans by their own leaders. How to wiggle out of the current and residual effects of the aforementioned are some of the challenges young Africans will have to contend with in the 21st century; otherwise, it may take five hundred years before there is noticeable progress in the continent.

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Jaja Opobo February 8, 2008 - 9:24 pm

Couldn’t have said it better!

A.A.Nuhu February 8, 2008 - 6:17 am

A really nice piece, Mr. Sabella. Actually the woes of Africa and Africans are without limits. By common sense, Africa should have been the most developed part of the globe since human civilization, according to the numerous theories, started there. Alas, opposite is the case in large part due to our very nature; our depraved rulers bleading us white and flying out to enjoy and comfort their wicked and avaricious souls in other places that have transcended those mediocrities to put their countries in better and enjoyable shapes; the majority of masses at home sing praises to those driving them to the hangman. It comfounds my humble self to understand the stuff we are made up of and to fathom this difficult irony.

Michael Suberu February 7, 2008 - 3:51 pm

What else can one say?

Tokunbo February 7, 2008 - 12:40 pm

Well said. This is another excellent piece from Sabella. However we need solutions now, we do not have another five hundred years to waste.


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