Seminar Delivered by Me at the Department of Political sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ibadan On 23 April 2008
Will sub-Sahara ever develop? In order to answer this question, we must examine other related questions and find answers to them from ancient and contemporary history. We need to examine the mind and the capability of the African.
- Had the African ever been capable of any development?
- What happened to the African in the course of history that truncated his development capability?
- What has been the African response to these development-blocking factors?
- Can Africa ever recover from these negative influences and develop?
Had the African ever been capable of development?
Let us look into ancient African history, un-influenced by foreigners and much before the arrival of Islam on the African soil in the 8th century: We now know that the much celebrated ancient Kemet civilization, the Meroe, Ethiopian, and the Nubian civilizations were orchestrated by Africans and were pure black African civilizations. Of these civilizations, the most famous still remains the Kemet civilization, which until the works of Cheik Anta Diop was considered and presented by Eurocentrists as a European civilization – the result of an invasion of the “primitive peoples” of the Nile delta by “northern tribes.” From research, in the field of construction, we now know that the famous Giza pyramid was constructed by the black King Khufu, who is also known by the greek name "Cheops," He ruled from 2551 - 2528 B.C.
In the field of medicine, Imhotep, the royal advisor to King Zoser during the Third Dynasty of Kemet is now regarded as the world's first recorded multi-genius; Imhotep was an architect, astronomer, philosopher, poet and physician. As an architect he was responsible for designing the Step Pyramid and the Saqqara Complex. As a physcian, Imhotep is believed to have been the author of the Edwin Smith Papyrus in which more than 90 anatomical terms and 48 injuries are described. This is well over 2,200 years before the Western Father of Medicine Hippocrates was born. Some 2,000 years after his death, Imhotep was deified by the inhabitants of Kemet and was known later as Asclepius, God of Medicine, to the Greeks. As a philosopher and poet, Imhotep's most remembered phrase is: "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we shall die."
On the religious front, facts have also emerged that Akhenaton (1375-1358 B.C), another black Kemet pharaoh, was the first ruler in recorded history to invent, believe and propagate the concept of One God. He and his wife Queen Nefertiti changed Kemet's culture so radically that their influence is felt for centuries right up until today.
On the military front, Greece's Father of History, reported that Greece had once been conquered by a king named Kepre Kare Senwosert I, Twelfth Dynasty King of Kemet (1897BC) known to the Greeks as Kekrops and Sesostris. Greek mythology also indicated that the legendary founder of Athens was an Egyptian named Kekrops. Further, Taharka, the king of Nubia (710-644 BC) probably one of the most famous rulers of Napatan Kush. He is said to have commanded military campaigns in Western Asia as far away as Palestine and led expeditions all the way to Spain. Mention of his great campaigns can be found in the Bible (Isaiah 37:9, 2 Kings 19:9). During his reign, Taharka controlled the largest empire in Ancient Africa. He was able to initiate a building program throughout his empire which was overwhelming in scope. The numbers and majesty of his building projects were legendary, with the greatest being the temple at Gebel Barkal in the Sudan. The temple was carved from the living rock and decorated with images of Taharka over 100 feet high.
These are to prove that before the arrival of foreigners on the African soil in the 8th century, the black African had the knowledge, the ability and the skills to develop on his own soil, in his own way, and indeed, he laid the foundations for today’s development through his influence on ancient Greece.
What happened to the African in the course of history that truncated his development capability?
The contact with the outside world in form of invasion whether for religious reasons or economic reasons truncated the development of Africa by Africans and charted a retrogressive path for the African. In the course of these contacts, which would later result in occupation of the land and the mind, the African was reduced from the originator of ideas to a rabid consumer of other’s ideas. The transatlantic slave trade probably had the most damaging impact on the mind of the African as regards his subsequent loss of confidence in himself. We shall briefly examine the slave trade: The transatlantic slave trade which began in the middle of the 15th century denuded Africa of 15 million and 25 million able-bodied men and women respectively. This calamity did not only truncate the natural development of sub-Sahara Africa (the foundations of which had been laid many centuries before), but also took away the confidence and the dignity of black Africans. The relative ease, with which Africans were deceived, manipulated and run over by marauding slavers laid foundations for future exploitation and manipulation of Sub-Sahara Africa. It also gave rise to supremacist ideology and views of Western scholars, politicians and the clergy who relegated black Africans to the bottom of the human ladder and even sought to exclude them from the human race. Georges Curvier, a French biologist, once wrote, “The African manifestly approaches the monkey tribe. The hordes of which this variety is composed have always remained in a complete state of barbarism…”. America’s Thomas Jefferson also shared this position and said, “...I advance it therefore as a suspicion only that the blacks whether originally a distinct race or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of the mind and body…" Georg Wilhem Hegel in his Philosophy of History, said this of Black Africans: "….their condition is capable of no development of culture, and as we see them at this day, such they have always been..." The Vatican, through Pope Julius II after having declared at the beginning of 16th century (1512) that Indians in South America could be considered the sons and daughters of Adam and thus could not be enslaved, but that Black Africans could be enslaved as they were not of Adam and Eve, recanted in 18th century by advancing the doctrine that indeed, Africans could also be considered as children of Adam and Eve, but that they were the accursed sons of Ham (Genesis 9: 18-27). Africans came and continue to be viewed as objects of history. Any role of Black Africans as agents of history is either actively negated (and backed by “research”) or given a Eurocentric twist when physical facts make induced amnesia impossible. One may want to think that these Eurocentric views have changed over the years (following multiple declarations and charters of human and peoples’ rights), however, like many bad ideas, this negationist ideology has taken firm roots in the Caucasian mind and has, to a large extent contaminated the minds of peoples from other cultures including modern day Black Africans. It has become the basis of policy and decision making in matters that concern Africa. Mr. Nicholas Sarkozy, the French president put the cards on the table for the Africans to see when he declared on 26th July 2007, in a speech in Dakar, Senegal that “The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history. The African peasant, who for thousands of years has lived according to the seasons, whose life ideal was to be in harmony with nature, only knew the eternal renewal of time, rhythmed by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words. In this imaginary world where everything starts over and over again there is no place for human adventure or for the idea of progress. This man (the traditional African) never launched himself towards the future. The idea never came to him to get out of this repetition and to invent his own destiny. … Africa’s challenge is to enter to a greater extent into history. Africa…is to realise that the golden age that Africa is forever recalling will not return because it has never existed.”
The effect of this aggressive negation of the contribution of the Black African to human development on the black African is the loss of confidence in himself and his ability. This would later make him prone to near fanatical embrace of values of other cultures. An inveterate consumer of others’ ideas and values. The ease with which Africans abandon their values to embrace new ones on contacts with foreigners is a telling symptom of the loss of confidence and it is one of the root causes why the Eurocentrists feel vindicated and why the humanity back-seat has been permanently attributed to the African.
What has been the African response ?
We shall look at the African response from the leaders’ and the common man’s perspectives:
The politically “independent” Africa was born into an ideologically polarized world and the pre-independence vision of fathers of modern Africa leaders of a strong unified Africa by and large became a casualty of the cold war. It served the interests of the two ideological blocks to see Africa divided and polarized along their own philosophy of life. Though the two blocks had strong differences in their political and social structures based on capitalist and socialist ideologies, they both had a common goal as regards Africa; that Africa should never constitute a threat either militarily or economically to their interests. This, they could only achieve if Africa was in disarray. It is tempting to imagine what would have been the relationship between the two blocks as regards Africa in a hypothetical event of an economically strong and militarily capable and unified Africa during this period. This however was not to be; and Africa became a free and willing field for putting their theoretical military and espionage lessons into practice.
The different ideological and philosophical approaches to governance in post independence Africa failed to address the problem of loss of confidence before proposing solutions. Amilcar Cabral conceded that “History teaches us that certain circumstances make it very easy for foreign people to impose their dominion...…….." What were these circumstances?
The approaches adopted in the diagnosis of these circumstances and solution proffered had their shortcomings in being offshoots or negations of different European schools of thought. Either they swung towards socialism as an antidote to the capitalist colonial system or they further entrenched the colonial system of governance. More importantly was that they all had their basis in what they claimed to have mentally rejected with the attainment of political independence. This so-called independence comes under question when viewed in the light of Dr. Chancellor James Williams’ declaration that “those who do become free in fact, will no longer grab the white man’s ideologies….whether capitalism, Western version of democracy or communism, without a critical review and analysis to determine whether Africa’s own traditional system, when updated, may not be superior and best fitted to meet the aspirations of the Black world.”.
The system of governance, the judiciary and the parliament were fashioned after one colonial form or the other. It is an absurdity of Africa that the judiciary and educational system of many African countries still strongly retain their colonial roots. In the case of the judiciary, there are the orthodox courts and native (sometimes called traditional or customary) courts. One is inclined to ask who is the native in 21st century self-governed Africa? Is there something wrong in merging the so-called orthodox judiciary with traditional one to produce something more understandable and readily accessible to the largely traditional African population? It is an absurdity that Westernized Africans and their international managers in 2004 and 2005 expressed worries of miscarriage of justice in village courts set up by the Rwandan government to try genocide suspects! The performance of these courts has proved the inherent superiority of unexplored home-grown African ideas to imported ones.
The colonial administrative system was created by the colonialists to facilitate the oppression of the colonized peoples and to repress any form of challenge to their pillage and enslavement. The administrative structures were not put in place to favor the oppressed but to serve the oppressors. With the attainment of independence, one would have expected that this form of governance and public administration would be gradually dismantled and substituted with an alternative home-grown, people-friendly system of governance that would plug all the holes of plunder committed by the colonialists. The famous declaration of Sekou Toure that the colonial “structures that we have inherited would be reconverted so that they would serve the aspirations of the people” was however not to be. The system that facilitated the plundering of Africa by the colonialists was adopted by African leaders to further plunder the continent. In the words of Frantz Fanon, “spoilt children of yesterday’s colonialism and of today’s national governments organize the loot of whatever national resources exist”[i].
The erstwhile plunderers now shout foul on their African successors. The founders of corruption and plunder now call their pupils names. In order to reverse the situation and armed with incredible foresight, the former colonialists invented institutions which would slowly permeate into the very fabric of the “independent” national governments. The system of governance and public administration structures in present day Africa gradually evolved from a colonial tool into a powerful field of play for the IMF and the World Bank. In present day Africa, ministries bear similar names across the continent on the prescription of the IMF and the World Bank. The functions are required to be similar in order to facilitate the parasitic work of the pundits of these neo-colonialist institutions. Regrettably, Africa has not deemed it fit to put its feet down and insist on home grown alternatives that would serve its people.
Some would be quick to argue that there would be less misery if these institutions were to function properly. This is an illusion. The alien nature of these structures and the legacy of pillage and plunder which they represent make it impossible to expect any useful outputs from them.
In the absence of any viable African alternative to governance and public administration, the African successors of the colonialists dearly held on to their heritage of colonial system. The common man whose aspirations during the liberation struggle had been based on the emergence of a new system, where he would not just be a number, but an active member soon became disillusioned. This appears logical given that the system was in the first instance created by the colonialists to serve their own interests to the complete exclusion of the interests of their African victim. The common man, not understanding the absurdity of keeping this oppressive colonial system and its tools of oppression intact in the post-independence period soon became disoriented and consequently estranged and disconnected from the system of public administration and governance. The administrative structure with its accompanying political system came to acquire an abstract form in his mind, and he began to feel anonymous in the new dispensation.
The abstract form of this alien form of governance and the complete disconnect of the common man from it inform the relegation of any imported form of modern governance to the backseat in favor of a more familiar, home-grown traditional one in which “the individual is very much exposed to the community and anonymity is virtually out of the question”[ii] as John Mbiti declared in his paper titled General Manifestation of African Religiosity.
Western democracy falls within this alien form of modern governance and does not and will not have an appropriate response to the aspirations of the common African man because the alien nature, manipulation, oppression and exploitation inherent in the historical raison d’être of the system have alienated any form of possible association or even the remotest sense of ownership of this system from his mind.
The Response of the Common Man
The feeling of anonymity of the African common man within the abstract structure of governance and public administration left by the colonialists and adopted by African leaders engenders his potential disregard for system-imposed civic duties or norms. He deregulates his behavior as a form of silent protest against the system and as a means of survival in an unfamiliar environment. In the words of Wole Soyinka, “abstract...fetters…make passionate revolutionaries of the most cosseted life”[iii]. The defacement of major African cities, crime, and systematic destruction of scarce public infrastructures are all symptoms of estrangement of the common man with the system of governance. There cannot be a sense of ownership of an abstract alien system and its structures.
It goes without saying that the same African would behave quite differently in his own village or community where he readily identifies with the traditional community form of governance. He lives within the norms of his environment, respects the tradition and culture even when he is convinced that these might be based on superstitions. In the same manner, he would behave differently in other cultures. Most black African professionals who have left Africa to work in Western countries are known to be very hardworking, assiduous and competent. This attitude sometimes surprises their Western colleagues who are inclined to think that if Africa has such hard working and competent professionals, why is it that the continent continues to face the enormous problems which it faces.
The black African working in this environment does not necessarily form any opinion on the abstract form or otherwise of the system in which he works, nor does he worry about anonymity or not within it. He is simply part of a system that works for its creators. And he has other concerns too. He feels constantly challenged to prove his ability to his colleagues; and he contents himself by doing much more than is expected of him. Contrary to what people like to think, financial remunerations, though important occupy a secondary place in his mind.
The African professionals working in Africa are not less competent than those working abroad. Their presence is however unfelt because they fall into the African society mentality trap; the team becomes abstract and they function as independent individuals within this intangible nebula.
The new era of pseudo-democracy in Africa provides a thriving environment for further entrenchment of deregulated behavior and its consequent social ills. The ruling party irrespective of how it gets to be the ruling party wants to stay in the good books of the electorate, not by doing good for the society, but by allowing the electorate to do, in the name of civil liberties what it chooses within the framework of deregulated behavior. The ruling party employs a deliberate confusion of civil liberties with civic norms as a strategy. This strategy is useful both on the home front and the international arena. On the home front, it serves to obfuscate the common man’s potential demand by revolt for a favorable and decent environment for the legitimate pursuit of means of survival. In the international arena, it serves to convince the international community of the ruling party’s commitment to “human rights”. Under this smokescreen, the ruling party puts his colonial inheritance of instruments and structures of plunder into use.
Like the common man on the street, the civil service workers perceive the civil service as an enormous and abstract system, the role of which is questionable in their minds vis-à-vis their concept of a society. They adopt an indifferent attitude to their work. It is common knowledge that the civil service system is Africa is fraught with ineptitude and disorganization. Many cases have been reported in Africa where occasionally, the government in power makes a show of attempting to put the civil service “on track” by actively tracking punctuality of civil service workers at their posts. The show goes on for a week or two and soon everyone tires of the game and returns to business of lackadaisicality as usual.
The public office holder also sees the public service as an abstract structure towards which he feels no responsibility or sense of being there to serve. Like his common man compatriot, he feels also anonymous and estranged within this abstract situation and at a higher level shows complete disregard not only for the responsibilities conferred on him by his position but also on the direct consequences of his attitude. Under this situation, he gives no second thought to diverting into his pocket, funds which are meant to deliver public goods and services. He sees no link between his action and children dying from preventable diseases, the decaying infrastructure and the squalor that surrounds him in his opulence.
Behavior deregulation eventually leads to the known African trademarks of social disorder, corruption, wars, ineffective public services, non-functional public utilities. These problems of attitude later result in dire economic situations, that lead African leaders to Bretton Woods institutions, who in their “wisdom” and “knowledge of Africa” interpret the situation as an economic one and prescribe among other things further deregulations which translate into more social disorder.
Rudolf Julius Emmanuel, a German physicist, described entropy in his second law of Thermodynamics as a tendency of natural processes to move from order to disorder. In the case of Africa, this process was actively assisted by the incursion of foreigners on African soil and the subsequent occupation of the lands and minds of the people. It is an unfortunate course of African history that post-independence Africa still continues along this process. This same law also states that the greater the entropy in a given system, the less the available energy for useful work. Increasing entropy has consumed useful energy that could bring about any meaningful development of Africa inspired by Africans despite enormous human and natural resources in the continent.
One may ask the question that if the black African were indifferent to and felt anonymous within the imposed system, why then would Africans engage each other in wars which at times are senseless in order to take control of this same system? It would appear logical that there should be a general unwillingness to spill blood over an abstract concept.
It is generally assumed, based on alien economic theories, that most wars in Africa can be linked to access to and control of resources. This is true for the engineers of these rebellions, who in most cases are foreign interests and their local agents. The common man, the foot soldier in these wars does not engage in these conflicts for this reason. According to Wole Soyinka, the common man represents “…a people misled into making sacrifices for.…. the entrenchment of an exploitative socio-economic mutuality”[iv]. He sees his participation in these conflicts as a probable means of substituting the abstract system in which he has been reduced to an anonymous status with a more concrete system in which he will have a tangible and recognizable role to play. If the side on which he has fought wins, he soon becomes disillusioned in the post-war period when the abstract concept which he fought to do away with reinvents itself. If his side of the conflict loses, he remains with the thoughts and hopes of overturning the tables one day. In both cases, he remains a latent tool to be manipulated at any time into another conflict with the promise of his desired change.
Can Africa ever recover from these influences?
Sub-sahara Africa has fully accepted its subservient role in the world. It cannot and does not see itself as being capable of any form of development outside the scope of Western establishment. It has learnt and accepted to be a helpless consumer of political, social and economic ideas. This helplessness permeates collective and individual psyche of sub-Saharan Africans.
Some Western scholars and indeed some Africans would argue that Africa is making some progress according to its own calendar, making its own mark in its own way. This view is not only condescending but smacks of a deliberate conspiracy to delude the African that despite being stuck at survival levels of humanity’s pedestal he is making some imaginary progress. The quality of life cannot be relative; therefore human endeavor to improve the quality of life cannot be condemned to “African calendar” or to some other calendar. That Africa has to quickly move up from survival level is a historical obligation that cannot be spread over some spurious calendar. Africa has to know when to call its losses (not that it has much to lose now anyway), accept past mistakes and re-organize itself so as to occupy its rightful and dignified place among nations. Black Africa could only take this place among nations when it consciously makes efforts to put its human and natural resources to useful service in order to continuously generate home-inspired inputs not only to enhance its survival, but to improve the quality of its existence. As a continental goal, these inputs have to be proportional to the inputs of other nations, which have had a head-start that qualifies them as “developed”. The parameters of measurements of these inputs cannot be different from one race to the other; the parameters are universal and are the yardsticks with which groups of peoples are measured and classified as developed or primitive. The lower the inputs of a people as per universally acceptable parameters, the lower they are put on the scale of “development” and the more prejudice is meted out to them.
Africa belongs to the low-input group. Some have tried to console Africans by drawing parallels between contemporary Africa and the medieval times in Europe, arguing that internecine wars, corruption, disease are part of the process which Africa has to go through; “kinder” social analysts prefer to compare Africa with Europe or United States of 200 years ago. They argue that Africa may have to go through the experience of those on the upper part of the inputs scale, and that this is a long process which needs the support of those on top of the scale. The African experience has shown that those on the top of the scale use debts and aid as tools to kick the African off the ladder and to undermine any possibilities of Africa’s meaningful contribution except as a source of cheap raw materials. Africa is therefore left with no choice but to accept adapting outputs of other cultures to its reality.
Human history has shown that prejudices can be reversed against a group of people when their level of inputs becomes significant on the world arena. On the other hand, when the inputs of a previously performing people dwindle for any reasons, the respect and regard for the people are accordingly scaled down. The process of adapting others’ outputs to Africa’s plethora of problems has unsurprisingly become an onerous task, given the one-size-fits-all nature of these outputs and the inability of African leaders to either out-rightly reject those outputs that are prejudicial or cause the few useful ones to be transformed by Africans into more suitable tools. Africa is consequently regarded as a continent where tested and proven ideas fail.
Africans do know that only a very small fraction of foreign-conceived solutions and models are useful and are not potentially harmful to the African cause. The inability of African leaders to capitalize on the few workable outputs to begin the process of transformation of the continent is what raises questions and consternation. When these questions are raised, African leaders have their standard plethora of excuses linked to others but themselves. These excuses of debt burden, wars, trade barriers, unresponsive (to their stretched arms) international community are overflogged and nebulous; they smack of lack of vision and courage to seek and provide alternative home-grown solutions. Rather than sift through the mess of solutions (aid, debts, political orientation, etc.) and find the right adaptable output and identify the right partners, African leaders ask for more solutions in aid and debts. Africa is further not helped by placard-carrying activists in other cultures who either put these arguments into the mouth of the African leaders or help them echo these excuses. These arguments engender an acceptance of helplessness and undermine any desire or drive to explore latent potentials.
It is a natural human instinct that when confronted with immense odds, one puts all his resources to use to overcome these odds. This is also applicable to groups of peoples as nations, as a race, as ethnic or religious groups. In the case of a race or a nation, it is fundamental that internal differences be put aside and a common front be found to overcome the difficulties. Appropriate matured political philosophy, whether as a civil religion or ideology is crucial in this regard. The history of persecution of Jews around the world and the seeming un-end to these injustices culminated in the convocation of the first Zionist Congress in 1897. The Congress sought to unite the whole of Jewry in order to put an end to this persecution. Many other focused congresses and meetings with the same objective would follow this first initiative. In other words, conscious collective efforts were made by Jews as a people to overcome the odds facing them in all corners of the world. A direct or indirect consequence of these concerted efforts is the emergence of a powerful nation of Jews (Israel) strong enough to take on any nation that dares to repeat what happened in Nazi Germany. Even if there are still occasional anti-semitic sentiments in some parts of the world, the great lengths to which the political leaders of these countries go to, to denounce these sentiments and the magnitude of the state apparatus which they invest in curbing these sentiments are a confirmation of the successful strategy of Jews in affirming their right to self-esteem and dignity, not as a political concession but as a hard-earned right, supported by the might of their tiny nation.
Black African peoples, who have literally and figuratively been victims of atrocities for most of their existence, have not, not at any point of their recent history, been able to set aside their internal differences to overcome the odds that face them as a race. It is not enough to struggle to get the title of “human beings” or to veer off on exhumations of historical heroism in order to claim a place among other races. These claims have to be backed up with a continuous conscious process of re-inventing the self to meet the challenges of the world and thereby earn dignity and respect as a result of input, not as a political or moral concession. Unfortunately, Africa is synonymous with energy-sapping and time-consuming internal divisions founded on a repertoire of legitimate and illegitimate excuses ranging from ethnic differences, through differences in imported religions to differences in official foreign languages.
It is an absurdity of our helplessness that others who are alien to African culture, traditions and philosophy of life come with different tools and theory to decipher African problems. It is a known fact that the solutions of these “experts” have not in any way changed the continent. On the contrary, the repertoire of ideas they have proffered and experimented appears to have further muddled up the situation.
The overrated assumption that all problems disappear under the blanket solution of Western-style development is not only a gross misunderstanding of the underlying fundamental problem but it also highlights the unwillingness and probably intellectual laziness of African actors and their foreign development technical advisors to address the issue. The very nature of this problem renders ineffective any imported armchair economic theory or socio-political experiments.
Is the loss of confidence a symptom of a more profound problem?
The loss of self-confidence translates into fear. Sub-sahara Africa has, from slavery times, through colonialism and neo-colonialism learnt to live with fear. Fear permeates the society and undermines its development.
The combination of exploitation (internal or external) and fear are major setbacks for development of any society and they constitute the root causes of underdevelopment. Exploitation in this case is defined broadly as any direct or indirect conscious action or design, subtle or crude, pacific or violent, orchestrated to usurp, to dispossess, to steal, to manipulate or to beg for, under false pretences from a group of people all forms of resources (including the mind of the exploited) to which the exploiter has no moral rights to under natural laws. There is an inverse relationship between development on one hand, and loss of self confidence induced fear and exploitation on the other hand as the hypothetical equation below shows:
Development = 1/Exploitation X Fear²
.The more the fear or exploitation, the less the chances of development of a society. Moreover, there is a direct relationship between fear and exploitation. All forms of fear abound in situations of exploitation. Fear serves as an instrument to facilitate exploitation; and exploitation flourishes in an atmosphere of fear. If however, there were no exploitation and the only denominator is fear, one can deduce from the equation above that such a society would be much better off than another where exploitation increases the denominator and reduces the level of development.
The hypothesis inherent in this equation is based on the certain assumptions:
1. Varied levels of internal exploitation exist in all societies. These levels are graded on a rising scale of 1-10. The higher the exploitation, the higher the number on the scale.
2. Varied levels of fear exist in all societies. These levels are graded on a rising scale of 1-10. The higher the fear, the higher the number on the scale.
3. Therefore, the denominator in the equation can never have a value of zero.
4. Consequently, development cannot be infinite.
We shall consider two different societies (Society A and Society B) for the purposes of illustration of this hypothesis. In the case of Society A, the society makes huge investments in fear-overcoming skills and technology (and thus, largely dominates fear) and puts enormous human and material resources to reduce exploitation by others (outsiders) to the minimum. For this society, we shall attribute 2 points to exploitation and 1 point to fear. The equation thus reads:
Development: 1/2X1² = 0.5.
In society B however, there are no fear-overcoming skills and technology; the society depends on foreign aid, several multinationals are exploiting the natural resources, and the society is caught in a web of debts. We shall attribute 7 points to exploitation and 8 points to fear. The result will be:
Development: 1/7X8² = 0.002
From the example above, one can see that society A is 224 times more developed than society B. It is however important to note that society A, has not only used the resources of society B in the quest to overcome its fears, but has also deliberately kept society B exploitable through many devices like debts, political interference, deprivation of capital, commodity-price manipulation, and trade imbalance.
How then, can we calculate fear and exploitation indices? In order to determine the Fear Index, the following constitute some indicators that can be developed, and for which mathematical values can be ascribed (as is done with Corruption index):
1. External aid per GDP
2. External interference in political orientation
4. External interference in the political, economic and social directions.
5. Trade imbalances
6. Number of multinationals in the country
7. Employment policy of multinationals,
8. Tax payment by multinationals,
9. Income declaration by multinationals.
In the same manner, Exploitation Index can be calculated from several indicators derived from the above definition of exploitation.
Subjecting contemporary sub-Sahara Africa to the Equation
In order to answer this question, we will need to examine how colonialism and neo-colonialism ripped open Africa and sub-saharan Africans to exploitation. The destruction of the social and political fabric of the African society by slave trade reduced the un-captured African from the highly differentiated producer to a basic survivor, whose preoccupation was to escape being caught and taken into slavery. Walter Rodney in his book, “How Europe underdeveloped Africa” states: “the European slave trade was a direct block (to African development) by removing millions of youths and young adults who are the human agents from whom inventiveness springs. Those who were not caught by slave traders were pre-occupied about their freedom rather than with improvements in production.” The African producer was in this fragile state when colonialism settled in. Driven by its economic interests rather than any pre-occupation with the well-being of the slavery-traumatized peoples, the colonialist transformed the hitherto complex producer to a simple producer of its agricultural products. In other words, heterogeneous was forced back into homogenous; the complex back to the simple. This deliberate political agenda to force the Black African back to the bottom of human development ladder (which he deserted more than 5 thousand years ago) was frankly expressed by Hendrick Verwoerd, the architect of grand apartheid in South Africa. He said in 1953 “Natives will be taught from childhood to realize that equality with Europeans is not for them”. He said further, “there is no place for the black in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour.” This un-development doctrine was not limited to economic production only, but also touched on the cultural and religious values of the African. These values were dis-membered by the colonialists (the missionary faction) and then re-membered according to their own values and beliefs. The African mind was colonized. In the words of Steve Bantu Biko, “the most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Colonialists and neo-colonialists have since used this weapon very effectively against Black Africa. Under this assault, the African with little of no self confidence became a victim of fear.
The denatured and frightened African, the newly created “homogeneous structure” gradually moved towards “political independence.” Here, we shall not go into details on the different “struggles” put up by Africans to obtain independence, however, we will, with the benefit of hindsight look at the veracity of the claims of victory by our “freedom fighters.” Immediately after the partitioning of Africa, African rulers who had been collaborators with the European slave industry suddenly found themselves threatened by the loss of their land and their authority over their peoples. These leaders put up spirited fights to drive out the colonial adventures. They were however all defeated, and their lands colonized. There was a very strong economic interest on the part of the colonizers to take possessions of these lands. The motivating factor for the wars was economic interest. Had this economic interest disappeared at the eve of independence? No. Were the colonizers suddenly more sympathetic to the cause of the Africans? No. Hadn’t the colonizers enough guns to suppress the rebellions? They had. Honest answers to these questions would reveal that the granting of independence to African states was first and foremost an economic decision by the colonizers. The independence of colonized African states cannot be viewed as isolated, not-well-thought-out events, rather as part of a grand geopolitical and economic strategy by the colonizers.
Let us look at the role of Bretton Woods Institutions: In the wake of the Second World War and following the great depression of 1929, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (called International Bank for the Reconstruction and Development) were created in 1944 with two main objectives: Creation of global economic rules that would promote economic stability and Post-war rebuilding of Europe. These were lofty objectives. In parallel to the International Bank for the Reconstruction and Development, the Marshall Plan was created by the United States to rebuild post war Europe. By the end of 1953, the Marshall plan has successfully usurped the role of the World Bank in the reconstruction of Europe: over 40 billion US$ were transferred through Marshall Plan and only half a billion through World Bank for the reconstruction of Europe. This meant that nine years after its creation and eight years after the World War ended, the International Bank for the Reconstruction and Development had difficulties in achieving its objectives and the relevance of its existence came under question. In order to continue to exist, the International Monetary fund and the World Bank needed clients and they went to “emerging-from-colonialism” countries. African states constituted soft targets.
Between 1958 and 1966, all the component Institutions of the World Bank Group had been created: International Finance Corporation (1958), International Development Association (1960), International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (1966) etc. Many of the poor but resource-rich African states got their “independence” at about the same period. Whether this was mere coincidence is best left to imagination. The former colonisers, armed with the knowledge that they had left “homogenous producers” in their former colonies, began to manipulate the world market price of raw-materials, which were the main source of income of newly independent African states. The crash of the price of gold that sent Ghana on its knees in the mid sixties is a good example of this manipulation. Many newly independent African countries did not have any option but to go to the World Bank and the IMF for loans.
The IMF and the World Bank introduced political and economic conditionalities into lending. The conditionalities include reduction of public spending, elimination of subsidies, increase in taxation, liberalization of trade, privatization and general deregulation with the result that African states were sentenced to producing and exporting low value items (commensurate with their “natural capacities”) and were compelled to open up their markets for imports (they claim in order to generate revenue through import duties) resulting in the flooding of African markets with manufactured goods and even agricultural products – leading to a collapse of the local manufacturing sector, high unemployment rate, loss of revenue for the government and deepening the already bad debt crisis. The imposition of reduction in public spending and the loss of revenue for the African governments put the governments in an awkward position vis-à-vis their people. On the advice of the experts of these institutions, user fees were introduced for the basic services like education and health, thus alienating and de-legitimizing the weak governments. Within a period of 40 years, 75% of income of IMF comes from fees on debts of developing countries. However, the poor clients that sustain the institution have little or no say in the policy and decision making of the body: 75% of votes and representation on the executive boards are in the hands of developed nations, the former colonizers and their collaborators. Christian Aid estimates that Africa has lost $272 billion in the past 20 years from being forced to promote trade liberalization as the price for receiving World Bank loans and debt relief.
The Pacte de l’Independence, proposed and signed by France with its “former” colonies is another example of well a thought-out disabling economic strait-jacket to keep Africa open to exploitation and manipulation. As part of the agreement to grant African nations occupied by France independence, these countries were obliged to annually (and without any time limit) remit sixty-five percent of their foreign reserves to the bank of France. This is still in practice till today. This amount is completely out of the reach of these nations. This agreement in essence means that the more productive the people of these nations are, the bigger the amount that goes into the coffers of France. Beside this direct remittance, the Pacte de l’Independence further stipulates that France has the right of first refusal when any new natural resources are discovered in any of the “former” colonies. And French companies also have the first rights to any major public transaction by the governments of these former colonies.
Further on the economic benefit of granting independence to African states, I will cite a recent example:
Britain took away far more money from sub-Saharan Africa than it gave in aid and debt relief in 2006, despite pledges to help the region, the charity, Christian Aid claimed in a report. In all, it took away £27 billion from Africa. In the 12 months since an annual Group of Eight (G8) summit in Scotland July 2006, the British economy gained a net profit of more than £11 billion ($20.3 billion) from the region, Christian Aid said. The charity calculated that almost £17 billion flowed from Britain to sub-Saharan Africa in the past year, including donations, remittances from salaries earned by Africans in Britain and foreign direct investment. At the same time, more than £27 billion went in the opposite direction, thanks to debt repayments, profits made by British companies in Africa and imports of British goods and capital flight.
Do you think Britain ever made so much from Africa during colonial rule? No, when one takes into consideration the costs of running overseas administrative offices, problems with the locals etc.
In order to further incapacitate the so called “independent” African countries, skilled workers, the heterogeneous, the ones referred to by Walter Rodney as the bearers of ideas and inventiveness necessary for growth and development are being progressively taken out of Africa through discriminatory visa policies (American green visa, European blue visa and France’s Immigration choisi). It is claimed that in the US alone, “African immigrants are the highest educated class in the range of all immigrants….there are over 640’000 African professionals in the US; over 360’000 of them hold PhDs; 120’000 of them (from Nigeria, Ghana, Sudan and Uganda) are medical doctors. The rest are professionals in various fields – from the head of research for the US Space Agency, NASA, to the highest paid material science professors…..”
From the above, we can deduce the following:1- The Black African is a victim of ruthless foreign economic exploitation. We may, on the basis of existing facts, empirically assign “9” to Exploitation in the formula.
2- The Black African is helpless and entrapped by fear. We may, also here assign, albeit empirically “8” to Fear in the equation.
Thus, development index in contemporary sub-Sahara Africa will be:
= 1 1
9 X 8²
It is very unlikely that the development index was ever at this level before the arrival of foreigners on the African soil.
Solving the problem of Fear and Exploitation
How can Africa solve the problem of fear and Exploitation? We now know that we can only talk about African development, only if Africa can find ways to overcome fear and reduce exploitation (internal or external) on its soil. We are further faced with the following questions:
- Which of the two problems should be prioritized? And why?
- Should steps be taken to address the two at the same time? How?
Solving the problem of Exploitation:
There are two aspects to this: external and internal exploitation. The general tendency is to leave the question of external exploitation untouched because it touches on the economic (and the national security) interests of big powers. African governments that have challenged the exploitative relationship of big powers with their countries have either been unseated, demonized or killed. Sekou Toure of Guinea, Samora Machel of Mozambique and Patrice Lumumba of Congo are examples of such leaders. African leaders have learnt to leave this question under the table and have been encouraged by the big powers to take on less dangerous enterprise of fighting internal corruption (another form of exploitation). As a reward for turning the blind eye on the big fish of external exploitation and chasing the small fish of internal exploitation, African governments are rewarded with aid and access to credit. While it is true that reducing internal corruption might to some extent contribute to development, the major development-truncating economic predation is the external one, and there cannot be any talk of meaningful development until Africans have the courage to check it.
Solving the problem of Fear.
Intractable under-development is a major consequence of resignation to “fate” in the face of odds. Fear depletes society’s resourcefulness capacity. Knowledge is limited to the mastery of others’ outputs and the society is unable to generate adequate answers to its own problems. Some of the governments of the most under-developed (fear-incapacitated) societies in the world today are staffed by academics and scientists who have mastered other cultures’ outputs. However, their knowledge and skills crumble under the society weight of “fate” and self-induced helplessness.
The crippling toll of under-development, consequent upon its manifold phobias on a society demands that a solution be found to address the debilitating fears. If left untreated, phobias can have very dire consequences, as is the case with an individual. How then does one treat a society incapacitated by phobia? What kind of treatment can liberate it from fears of the known and the unknown, internally and externally generated factors of fear? In addition, who can liberate such a society from its fears and its consequences?
Can the treatment be found in throwing money at this society under any pretext? Can money help the society to overcome its fears? This is doubtful. If this external money helps bring about some transient changes in the society, the source of such money will, in time become an additional source of fear in itself. The society learns to add this source to its long list of fears. The strangling hold of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the different money-lending clubs on their debtor nations is a good example. The immense burden and stress that African governments face in “justifying” funds allocated by United Nations’ multiple agencies and their diverse funding systems have become a source of concern even for this organisation. A fear-debilitated society caught in this complicated web of dependency dreads the consequences of losing these funds, and it further digs itself into the trenches, giving more grounds to fear. Moreover, the managers of this money (the government) may in turn use this money to create more internal fear-inducing factors. A new chain of fear is thus established. The local managers of money fear the distant source; the rest of the society fears the managers of the money.
Can the treatment of society phobia be found in an imported socio-philosophical prescription? This is also doubtful. The exporters of such solutions like to use their society as a reference of successful treatment of fear. They seek, and readily find analogies between the fears that their society underwent at a particular time in its history and what the other society is undergoing. These similarities (the symptoms) end in their being identical as symptoms. The time and space of the events (the underlying cause of the illness) culminating in the emergence of these fears in the two societies under comparison are completely different. However, the doctor-society conveniently overlooks this fact in its self-deluding bid to cure the sick society. Thus, the imported prescriptions are directed at the symptoms in the hope that by curing the symptoms, the underlying cause of illness will somehow disappear. Experience has however shown that, when and if one symptom disappears, two or more new ones take its place. The doctor-society becomes baffled and again searches for another symptom-directed treatment, with or without the consent of the patient-society. After many trials of different treatments, the doctor-society, confounded by its failures, threatens the sick society to either get well on any of its treatments or face the consequences of doctor-fatigue. The sick society, high and confused on multiple concoctions of treatments soon adds the dread of doctor-fatigue to its list of fears. Fear gains more grounds.
Can the treatment be found in an imported political ideology? The appropriateness of an imported political ideology to address the problems of a fear-imbued society is debatable. Any political ideology takes its roots from the historical and philosophical specificity of its country or society of origin. It evolves to address the philosophy of life and the way of life of the society in question. It is tailor-made for that society. It is not an export material under any guise. The importation of a foreign-born ideology by a fear-afflicted society to address its phobias, and the consequences of this defeatist strategy are glaring symptoms of the magnitude of the power-balance in favour of fear in that society. It is a sign of intellectual laziness, a proof that the society has very little energy for resourcefulness. It seeks a ready-made solution, an easy way out. Not unexpectedly, this imported solution fails to cure the sick society of its fears. Confounded by their failure, and obsessed with keeping themselves in power, the managers of the society (importers of ideas) convert this ideology into an instrument of fear. The exporters of the ideology, who seek to re-create others in their own image or to execute their not so hidden agenda, go to great lengths to keep the importers of ideology in power. The reckless support of murderous regimes in Africa by belligerent ideologues of the cold war is a case in point. As is the case with the use of money as treatment, this ideological export-import strategy creates a new chain of fear in the phobic society.
Can the solution be found in religion? Members of a phobic society tend to look for individual solutions in religions. They flock to places of worship in search for individual way-out of the collective fear. This is another proof of the lack of energy reserves for resourcefulness. Through religion, they seek miracles to make fears disappear. They invest the little energy left to them in worship and leave things to take their course according to the dictates of “heaven”. The managers of religions aggravate the fear of their flocks by adding heavenly fears to their already long list of earthly fears. People adhere to religion because of fears and religion reinforces their fears and even adds to it. Fear again gains grounds on the religious front.
Civil societies, realising the debilitating effect of fear on development, advocate individual and collective empowerment. The word “empowerment” is however not clearly defined by its professional users and is loosely employed as a catchword, a fanciful rhetoric with diverse, colourful, and sometimes far from reality concept. Taken to its fullness, empowerment means overcoming fear, and when pursued as such, it provides the only plausible way out of the vicious fear-society energy imbalance. Unfortunately, however, this philosophy is confronted with many obstacles deliberately or inadvertently engineered by the advocates of empowerment on one hand and the victims of fear on the other hand. In being cautious not to offend the local sensibilities, the advocates of empowerment tend to leave out the most profound fear-inducing factors and deal only on the surface. Serious empowerment advocates that have at one time or the other attempted to go beyond the permissible surface have been accused of wanting to demystify the local culture, impose their own philosophy of life, and thus hold their beneficiaries to ransom. In other words, local interests tend to see and portray these advocates as having a hidden neo-colonising and acculturating agenda. The victim-society’s historical experience of oppression and injustices under different pretexts (trade, religion, civilizing missions, etc.) constitutes a major obstacle to this empowerment philosophy. Although, the history of fear-gripped society moves in circles and keeps repeating itself, the people, unaware of this fact are unwilling to consciously contribute to a re-enactment of their difficult past experiences. They are unconvinced even with the most powerful of arguments and are distrustful of any foreign abstract (to them) concept that does not address their immediate needs. This plays into the hands of the government; it is innately reticent to see its people liberated from some of the fears, which it has also put in place. It fears a change in power-balance between it and the people it governs. The government dreads a situation where it becomes the only victim of fear of its foreign friends on one hand, and of its people on the other hand.
The “what” as regards empowerment as a liberating philosophy is clear, however, the appropriate “how” constitutes a major challenge. Many see the “how” in human rights’ promotion and enforcement; however, many obstacles confront this point of view. There is no doubt that universal respect of the concept of human rights without double standards may reassure members of phobic societies and lay bare the irrelevance of their fears. However, the skewed demand of obligations by the impunible advocates of human rights who flout the same rights at will when their interests are perceived to be threatened constitutes another source of fear for phobia-gripped societies. Such societies in their fragile state want to know what moral rights do these impunible flouters of human rights have to impose their lopsided dictates and demands on others. Rather than seeing it as a liberating philosophy that can be modified, if only to have the freedom to overcome fear and thus acquire other freedoms, the phobic society sees another mangling manacle being waved about by the proponents of human rights.
How can Africa develop?
Africa needs to overcome its fears and take steps to rebuild self-confidence. This should be an all-inclusive, fear-banishing effort that makes the best of the potentials of the continent, and out-sources necessary skills from all useful sources. It does not imply copying verbatim what others have been able to achieve, neither does it imply seeing oneself through their mirror. Japan in the immediate post-Second World War period and current China are good examples of this option. The State of Israel with its less than one hundred year of existence is another good example of a society that has successfully employed this option.
The loss of self-confidence and the accompanying fear in the African following slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism truncated the development of Africa. The historical African heterogeneous producer and thinker was compelled to become a homogeneous one in order to facilitate his exploitation and the plundering of the continent.
Africa needs to regain its self-confidence and banish fear in order to develop. When Africa finally gets to accomplish this through individual and collective efforts, development will come as a collective decision and drive of African peoples to improve the chances of their survival by improving the quality of their lives. This mechanism to kick-start this collective internal drive cannot be imported or exported.
The failure to overcome fear portends a gradual extinction of the black African race.
References:[i] Frantz Fanon. Wretched of the Earth. Penguin Books 2001.[ii] John Mbiti : General Manifestation of African Religiosity.[iii] Wole Soyinka: The Man Died. Spectrum Books. Ibadan, Nigeria.
2002.[iv] Wole Soyinka: The Man Died. Spectrum Books. Ibadan, Nigeria.