A Reading in the African Reality

A Reading in the African Reality

There may be pure strategies that were the result of force majeure rather than of free choice or deeply rooted wisdom. As such, they are considered strategies of necessity instead of strategies of choice, of survival rather than of triumph.

With these words I concluded my last scholarly lecture for the students of Ancient African History at the University of Minnesota, Dakar, who asked me the question: “Is the social and political composition of the ancient African society so fragile that it did not stand up to Western cultures which spared no effort to destroy its remaining values”?

The capital of Ivory Coast, Abidjan may be the first African capital in which I abandoned all my old notions and created new convictions that motivated me to adhere to them despite being unwilling to discuss them. Because whoever desires to acquire the true knowledge found in the sayings of the Latin African thinker Walter Rodney, the novels of Chinua Achebe, and the history written down by Samori Toure, then he has to live for a long time in West Africa, which once brought to the world those men who created a cultural and moral heritage for Africa felt by those living in the civilized world and lost there.

During my trip from Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city to Yamoussoukro, the political capital of the country, I stopped for so long before that reality destined to ever repeat itself though it sometimes allows changing of faces if they guarantee the repeating of this reality over and over.

In his book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, African thinker Walter Rodney emphasizes that before connecting with Europe Africa was a mixture of growing and developing groups and kingdoms with a rich history. The backwardness Africa witnessed was not due to natural conditions, historical and cultural models or rich internal dynamics but rather due to European communication which has had an impact on the disruption of social development and class immaturity, which is the basis of the evolution of any society. Social classes are the cornerstone for building developed political structures, and the nature of economic activity is normally responsible for that class maturity. The underdevelopment we see today in Sub-Saharan Africa is the result of that negative communication. It is worth mentioning that the level of development experienced by Africa prior to colonialism was not exploited to advance the political and economic structures for the benefit of the peoples of Africa but also had an impact on the development of capitalism in Western societies. As much as Africa contributed to the development of the West, the latter played its role in the underdevelopment of the African continent as well. For example, Europe’s domination of international trade led to the creation of central and marginal states. The first thing the Europeans did was to make the Africans unable to dispense with the European goods, which were given out in exchange for the most precious metals. Following the discovery of the New World, the need for labor arose and the slave trade began with devastating effects on the African continent represented in the destruction of African social and economic structures.

On the other hand, the slave trade had positive effects on the West, which succeeded in creating dissension and guaranteeing the continuation of the slave trade. What’s more, internal slavery started by those serving the interests of capitalism, especially in West Africa, one of the most areas affected by this trade. The West tried to invent means and policies that maintain the African continent in the way that best serve its interests, besides it also attempted to question the independence some African states had achieved.

The African elite today is agreeing on one thing and that is the attempt to take steady steps in reconciling three ever-conflicting versions of Africa, namely the traditional or local Africa, which has historically been punished and branded as backward and primitive, yet it is advancing though slowly which otherwise would not have been able to sustain its peoples over the centuries and still struggling for survival, the modern Africa and the moderate Africa. The latter represents the unofficial sector that is transitional between the traditional and the modern sectors and which deems that most of the problems of Africa stem from the modern sector. Accordingly, some find it difficult to reconcile these two versions of Africa, but the reality indicates that Africa is climbing to the top with difficulty and that is the evidence of success.

This article was published in Al Bayan Newspaper, UAE on the following link:


Dr. Amina Alarimi

UAE researcher in African affair

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