Colonialism in Africa was a carefully planned generational strategy to perpetually enslave not just the people of the continent but their minds. The second half of the 20th century witnessed a wave of pan-Africanism and the rise of nationalistic instincts among African elites that led to the end of colonial rule in most African countries. Haven become independent, the ignorance and incapability of the leaders of Africa’s new countries became obvious in the ‘legendary’ way and manner they entangled their countries in a new brand of colonialism (a.ka. Neo-colonialism). this form of colonialism has to do with mental slavery, keeping African countries under control through ‘legitimate’ means.
Why did a rich, civilized, established continent like Africa fall for petty tricks of colonial invaders? The very wealthy Benin Empire, the Songhai Empire, the ancient Mali Empire and the rest; what happened? What were the great men (or their descendants) who built these magnificent societies thinking? What was their price? One will still wonder why even after the invaders ‘left’ Africa, the continent remained in bondage. Was it more comfortable thriving under the sheets of the ‘great’ colonial master? Did Africa choose to remain in between her culture and the culture of the invaders? Why didn’t Africa go on advancing her old civilisation? Why didn’t Africa fully progress with from where the invaders left it? Why did Africa change her language, political systems, economic systems, socio-cultural life, but refused to change her mentality? Why is Africa yet to sponsor her own growth? These and more questions are responsible for our collective perpetual insomnia.
The African continent is richly endowed with both mineral and human resources – in overflowing quantity. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we have one of the world’s largest deposits of columbite–tantalite, commonly called ‘coltan’; a rare mineral. Nigeria is ranked 10th on the list of countries with the largest crude oil reserve, ahead of USA. The second largest deposit of gold in the world is located in South Deep, South Africa. With more than 130 Mct, Catoca in Angola has the world’s largest deposit of mineable diamond. The world’s 5th largest Uranium deposit in the world is the Republic of Niger. The DRC is the world’s largest producer of Cobalt, accounting for roughly 60 percent of global production. Other natural resources include copper, bauxite, silver, iron ore, salt, the list is endless.
The common fact in all these is that Africans are not the direct beneficiaries of this wealth. African leaders, regime after regime, have perpetually remained part of an international syndicate whose sworn mission is to rob the African people of the benefits of simply having these resources in their communities, regions, and country.
The colonial and post-colonial interests of Belgium, France and the USA have perpetually torn apart great and wealthy countries like the DRC all I the name of ensuring the constant flow of key technologically essential minerals like Coltan and Cobalt. Dozens of multinationals including Barclays Bank, the Beers and Anglo American have been accused of facilitating the plunder of the DRC’s wealth. These include about 85 multinational companies based in Europe, the US and South Africa. In the process of all this scramble for wealth, thousands of lives have been lost, the progress of the DRC and Africa, in general, have been paused for another century, the resources that may have gone into building schools, hospitals and industries have been squandered by the Western looters and their African collaborators.
More so, Nigeria (Africa’s richest country), have stagnated for almost a century owing to cooperate organised theft of her resources (mainly crude oil) by multinationals. Of course, the activities of these multinationals cannot go on without genuine collaboration of the government. This is the reason why the country’s wealth doesn’t translate to that of the citizens. This is the case in Liberia, Sudan, Angola, Libya, Morocco and much more.
The saddest aspect of Africa’s anguish is that it has been padded into prizing itself so low that Africans believe all they’ve got are potentials. Africa’s story is likened to that of the bonded he-goat that got tied to the belief that there is no such thing as freedom, so that even when he was finally untied and set free he didn’t realize it; believing he was born to die in bondage, and that all he had was the potential to escape. In the case of Africa, the continent managed to escape but didn’t know what to do with herself and the ‘new freedom’.
What colonialism did to Africa is far more horrible than robbery. It was a result of decades of careful planning on how to perfect the art and craft of generational robbery and dominance of Africa as perfected by the Europeans. It was business, not enlightenment. They simply needed accomplices to take the stain through the fabrics.
Since the focus of this write-up is on proffering viable solutions, it is pertinent to mention that self-realization is key to actual freedom. There is very low awareness on what Africans can achieve by themselves. This is why despite the abundance of talent in the continent there is very low participation of Africans and African organisations in the determination of the continent’s future. This low level of awareness has inter-generational side effects; generations after generations are further weakened by ignorance aided and abated by the corruption of the ruling elites.
Realising the power within: I like to tell people of my generation that it has got to stop. The era of complaints and wailing has to give way for a more pragmatic era. We have gone through a lot of sober reflections already. It is time to act. It is time to start believing in our abilities as a people and stop believing our destinies depend on external factors we have no control over; like the price of crude oil and the USD, or a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. We have to realise that we have the guts to control what is naturally within our tents; our laws and way of life as a people. There is need to support every effort made by friends or foes to ensure that the freedom of Africa is effectively used for the good of Africans.
Negotiating an equal deal: English, French languages are only a medium of communication and a native language of some locals elsewhere and not a yardstick to measure intelligence or brilliance. There is basically no difference between the locally brewed Ogogoro in Nigeria and the world famous Russian Vodka. Maybe the Russians just understand how to celebrate and appreciate their local breweries more than we do. Therefore we need to grow our craft by ourselves; we need to market our wares to the rest of the world. All these cannot be achieved without renegotiating an equal deal in the international market.
Owning the growth process: there’s an urgent need for Africans to deliberately control the process leading to her own success. African countries need to cooperate more closely with each other; break the artificial boundaries created by religion, language and ethnicity. African countries need to trade more within than they are currently doing. A more effective agency within the African Union should be created and tasked with the goal of ensuring Africa’s economic freedom – with a decent timeline.
Return of legitimacy: African countries should renegotiate their membership of some international organisations. This is because these organisations serve as agents through whom national legitimacy of most African countries is eroded. This perpetually weakens the legal might of countries to act in the interest of their citizens in the face of challenges.
Stop the aid: In a State of the Nation address to members of his cabinet, Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president said “The issue of relying on others to pay for things that benefit us. It is really a question of dignity”. African political leaders often work hard to lower the standard of living in their constituencies in order to position them well to receive funds in aid from international organisations and multinationals. It has become a practice in the whole of Africa for leaders to solicit funds from various international organisations in order to undertake ‘developmental’ projects which never come to light. This practice deliberately hinders the growth of Africa as a whole; it does not only stain Africa’s profile in the global scene, always seeking international aids reduces drive for productivity and progress. African countries should develop mechanisms to discourage the practice of soliciting for external aids.
Invest in Africa: Governments and their officials travel around the world wooing investors only to end up stealing Africa’s common wealth and re-investing same foreign countries. That is the greatest tragedy of our generation. Among other things, Nigeria is yet to fully recover over 20 billion USD of stolen funds stashed away in Swizz banks by her former head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha. If these monies were invested in developmental projects in Africa, a reasonable amount of economic problems facing the continent wouldn’t have surfaced. It is important that African businessmen and political leaders work out modalities to strengthen policies that will ease access to investment in the continent as this will naturally end the investment of funds meant for African development abroad.
In order to fully rescue Africa from neo-colonialism, it is important for the leaders of the continent to, more than ever, cooperate more closely and take full control of the processes leading to her economic, philosophical, social and cultural freedom. Total freedom comes from within; there is need to realize that only Africans can help themselves become fully emancipated through enacting constant adjustments in developmental policies; engaging the youth in productive processes; investing in basic education; strengthening economic policies with a focus on internal growth; passing legislations that will ensure the ease of doing business in Africa, and focusing on local content support.