The late historian, Professor Walter Rodney spent 361 pages of writing in 1972 trying to convince readers on how Europe underdeveloped Africa. The book was a masterpiece, as it was one of the best literatures on European imperialism, especially as it relates to Africa. The late historian did a magnificent job in explaining how slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism of Africa by Europe and other western imperialist robbed Africa of development.
Walter Rodney was very much right in his views, as he based his analysis on the prevailing events of immediate post- African independence period of late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He completed his book just about a decade after most African countries got their independence. At the time his book was published in 1972, some African countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and Namibia were still under colonial rule. Therefore the issues he raised were very much relevant at that time.
We are now in 2014, 42 years after the book: ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ by Walter Rodney was published. This is almost half a century, yet Africa is still in search of development.
This time around, we truly know who are under developing Africa, certainly not the Europeans.
Had Rodney not being assassinated by a walkie talkie bomb in 1980, I have every reason to believe that he would have lived to develop a different viewpoint about the underdevelopment of Africa. Probably, he would have written a new book with the title: ‘How Africans Underdeveloped Africa’. Between the period 1950-2010, the world witnessed some of the greatest transformations ever to have happened to this place called earth. However, Africa is not going along with the world and we should have no one to blame but ourselves. In the world of today, it is every man for himself; no one can develop you, no matter how much he wants to if you don’t want to develop yourself.
Since Rodney was not opportune to witness the Africa of today, we must take it as a duty, to bring out the role of Africans in the massive underdevelopment of contemporary Africa. This is by no means an attempt to sweep under the carpet, the brutal, selfish, exploitative and inhumane roles played by the western imperialists in Africa’s underdevelopment.
We must tell ourselves the bitter truth that what happened in the past belonged to the past and those who are still thinking of the past are wasting the present and would therefore have no future. Currently, Africans are the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment. Slave trade and colonialism are things of the past and they did not occur only in Africa, they happened in Latin America, North America, Asia and other parts of the world. Can we compare those regions with Africa today? Are countries like India, Malaysia, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore and the likes still blaming the Europeans for their past misfortune or have they transformed themselves into powerful economic and political blogs. Brazil is now the 7thlargest economy in the world, 37 places above their former colonial masters Portugal who are 44th.
In the history of the world, every civilization as well as every country has had its ups and downs. Europe bounced back from World War I and II, the U.S.A bounced back from civil war and racism, Asia and Latin America bounced back from colonialism, dictatorships and political turmoil, why will A
frica not bounce back from salve trade and colonialism?
At present, it is obvious that Africa is the least developed inhabited continent of the world. The region suffers from all sorts of problems, 90% of which are man-made. Naturally, the region seem to be the luckiest, because it is the one of the most geographically stable continents with least occurrence of natural disasters like earth quakes, vulcanicity, hurricanes, tornadoes, acid rain and the likes. Most parts of the region don’t have unbearable weather like the extremely cold Polar Regions or extremely hot Arabian regions. This is in addition to the abundance of mineral and other natural resources. Africa is the global chief source of raw materials because rather than process and manufacture its raw materials, Africa exports them for others to process and sell finished products to them at exorbitant prices. Nearly 10% of the world’s known oil reserves are in Africa but all for nothing.
The most prominent problem of Africa is leadership failure. Most past and present African leaders have failed the region woefully and their brutal sit-tight phenomena have made it very difficult or impossible for them to be replaced. More than 85% of African elections are not free, unfair and not credible. Only Ghana, Senegal, South Africa and some few other countries can boast of relatively free and fair elections. Until very recently, elections were not even conducted at all in almost the entire North Africa.
African leaders steal public funds in millions and billions of dollars and invest same in European economies. How many leaders in other continents steal public funds and invest in Africa?
Another problem in Africa is the failure of its citizens to recognize themselves as each other’s natural brothers by virtue of being human beings. Hardly, could you find an African country that is completely devoid of religious and ethnic crisis. Every year thousands of lives and properties are being lost in Africa in the name of religious and ethnic differences. Just 20 years ago in Rwanda, more than 800,000 people were estimated to have been killed just because they belong to a particular ethnic group. Currently in Central African Republic, people are being massacred in their hundreds because of their faiths. According to Wikipedia, between 1.2 to 2.4 million Africans died during the Atlantic Slave Trade over a period of about 360 years. In my estimates, the amount of those who died as a result of ethnic and religious crises in Africa between 1980-2010 have since exceeded that figure. The people who died in the 34 months old Nigerian civil war alone are close to the entire number of Africans who died in the 360 years of Atlantic Slave Trade.
When we look at the very few African countries claiming to be recording progress in economic growth, we find out that their people are in deep suffering, as if increase in national economic growth is directly proportional to increase in poverty and suffering. What these African nations are having is development in irony, a development that increases the suffering of the people, makes the poor poorer and the rich richer. For example the minimum wage in Venezuela is about N80,000 but in Nigeria workers are struggling to have a minimum wage of N18,000. Venezuela has a labour force of 13.5 million people with 5.6% unemployment rate while Nigeria has a work force of about 52.5 million people with 24% unemployment rate. With this analysis, why will Venezuela’s minimum wage more than quadruple that of Nigeria?
Despite these problems and troubles, Africa still has a chance to develop. The resources, manpower and all the potentials are there. What are lacking are the will and the determination. Let all Africans put their hands on deck to make sure the region is pulled out of this mess and placed in its rightful place in the global development map by the year 2030.
Amir Abdulazeez is the President of Foundation for Better Initiatives (FBI) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed above are solely that of the writer
This essay is very relevant to my research work 🙏