Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Letter of the Day | Don't blame Europe for all of Africa's ills

Published:Saturday | August 25, 2018 | 12:00 AM


Slavery and European imperialism in Africa are still controversial topics. It is not infrequent for one to hear the claim that poverty in Africa was caused by Western exploitation.

Though the problem of Africa's underdevelopment relative to Western Europe is multifaceted, local intellectuals refuse to objectively assess Africa's place in the world. Black academics, in their myopia, have allowed whites to control the narrative about Africa.

Too many scholars only study the continent in relation to its association with Europe. As a result, there is an overemphasis on researching how slavery and colonialism retarded Africa's development.

Black scholars tend to scrutinise less the geographical and political factors that enabled Africa to be exploited by Western Europe. Hence, if Africa lagged behind Europe before the slave trade and colonialism, it is illogical to posit that Africa is poor because of European imperialism.


Development retarded


The actions of Europeans obviously retarded development in some areas, but they also built institutions and infrastructure. Black scholars of African descent should pay greater attention to the study of pre-colonial Africa.

Prior to contact with Europe, the societies of Aksum, Egypt, Nubia, and Islamic West Africa were all seen as sophisticated. Yet this history has been documented mainly by white men and Arab writers.

Africa's history is more complicated than its relationship with Europe. It is ironic that local academics are quick to accuse others of suffering from mental slavery when they themselves continuously examine Africa in light of its connection to Europe.

History is the story of empire building and conquest. In the past, great powers built empires and subjugated those they conquered. So we need to ask why Africa was the conquered and not the conqueror.

Africans have to take responsibility for the state of their countries. They cannot blame Europeans for eternity.