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Africa for Sale? Sorry No!

Why is it that a whole continent is considered as a prey to be hunted, controlled or owned?

© Stephen Audu

On March 9, 2020 at Brussels, “the EU unveils Africa Strategy to counter China, US interests and Russia in Africa”. People in need are shot by the police at Europe borders. Do they care about Africans? Of course not. We Africans, are like non-subjects. We have no say on our future. Others, Europeans, Euro-Americans, Russians, Chinese, decide what is good for our Mother-Continent. What does the Africa Union, whose budget is subsidized by the EU, say about the “commodification” of Africa? Is it continent for sale? We, the older generation of Africans have been complicit in the genesis of this idea, that Africa will belong to the best buyer. Africa cultures were thrashed and crushed. Some African countries do not even control their currency. A foreign ex-colonial power decides for them, can and has devalued their currency without them knowing. Sad to say, it is a long and deeply rooted history, but Africa’s youth and women have a totally different view. Africa is theirs; and it is to them to decide what its future will be.

The first significant colonial enterprise on Africa soil took place in the Nile delta, invaded from the 18th century before common era (BCE) by groups from Palestine called by Egyptians the Hyksos. They founded the 15th Dynasty in the Eastern Nile delta that ruled from 1630 to 1523 BCE. As is generally the case when dealing with Africa, the Encyclopedia Britannica explains that “the immigrants brought with them new technologies, including the horse and chariot, the compound bow, and improved metal weapons. Most of them settled in the eastern portion of the Nile Delta, where they achieved a dominant role in trade with western Asia. …. Their chief deity was the Egyptian storm and desert god, Seth, whom they identified with a Syrian storm god, Hadad”. The “Ex-Oriente Lux – [light is coming from the East ]– has been the mantra when it comes to deal with Africa long-term technological evolution. The Hyksos were expelled by the Ramessids, who in the process colonized Palestine. The Carthaginians founded colonies in Western Mediterranean, in present-day Tunisia around 1000 BCE. As the saying goes, in conformity with “Ex-Oriente Lux”, they brought advanced technology to Africa, in this case, iron metallurgy. It does not matter if archaeological research shows that iron metallurgy is older in West, Central, and East Africa than in Carthaginian North Africa. The same trope is maintained. Research discoveries are suppressed or ignored in desperate move to salvage the colonial template on Africa past.

The Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantine, and Ottomans had their Africa days. Arab and Islam expansion penetrated deeper in the continent, from the north and west as well east and southeast. The endogenous developmental trajectory that featured the emergence of African urbanization, early city-states, territorial states and kingdoms [Ghana, Tekrour, Mapungubwe, Zimbabwe, Swahili City-states], and empires [Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu, etc.] is ignored and buried out of memory reach. Then came the Great Bifurcation! The circum-navigation of Africa by Vasco da Gama fleet at the end of the 15th century and Christopher Columbus voyage to the Caribbean island of Cuba, he thought was India. The connection between the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean sealed the squeeze of Africa. Young and healthy Africans became commodities to be bought and shipped far away to produce others capital and wealth. Millions were captured and sold through the Saharan continental enslavement network and from the 15th century in both the Saharan-north African and Atlantic enslavement systems. For almost 10 centuries, starting from the 7th to the 19th centuries, young Africans, both males and females, were commodities used to generate Euro-America and Mid-Easterners wealth. Africa’s present demographic trends are simply a rebound from more than a half millennium of human haemorrhage.

Overview of the slave trade out of Africa, 1500-1900. David Eltis and David Richardson, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (New Haven, 2010).

Centuries of enslavement were not enough. European powers had to own the continent. As portrayed in African oral narratives, it was the fight of the clay against the iron pot. European powers, in their nation-states rivalries, called for an international meeting, the Berlin Congress (June 13 – July 13, 1878), to share “Cake-Africa”, and launched a scramble to eat it. The devastation of Colonial conquest was added to enslavement, then officially outlawed. The guns and cannons were pitted against spears, bows and arrows. African nations were crushed, with the significant exception of Ethiopia. Different colonial systems were put in place, initiating the extraversion of Africa and its elites.

Cartoon from 1885 titled "Division of Africa at the Berlin Conference - To each his own, if one is wise." Journal L'Illustration. (Wikipedia)

Africa struggles to move forward, but is still stuck there. Potentially, Africa has more leverage with non-colonial-minded partners than with colonial-minded ones. Beside political rhetoric, personal experience comforted the suspicion that Europeans and Euro-Americans countries and institutions [not individuals] are profoundly reluctant to accept Africa ones as equal partners. It is well-known that states have interests not feelings. It is to Africans to set their priorities and negotiate with their world partners. It will sound unpleasant to westerner friends and colleagues, but Western institutions have strived to tell Africans what is good for them, coerced them to implement their foreign-inspired social and political recipes. Africans are not naïve to be warned not to do business with this or that country. With China, India, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, etc.. it is business with all its perils, but not the double-edge Colonial complex. When Westerners will be ready, Africans will be happy to welcome them as reliable partners. Today, and right now, they are not, they impose themselves on Africans! They are stuck in the colonial complex! They think they own Africa. Afraid of being dispossessed, they devise a strategy to take her back from the Chinese. Sorry Ladies and Gentlemen, Africa is not for sale. Africa’s youth will decide the future of their continent. It will certainly take some time, but It will happen no matter what.

Augustin F. C. Holl

Distinguished University Professor

Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian, P.R. China

President, UNESCO International Scientific Committee for General History of Africa Volumes IX-XI


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