Africa is richly endowed with an abundance of natural resources as well as human capital. Yet, the continent is lagging in different aspects of existence. The leadership of the continent has embraced capitalist ideologies at a ferocious, dangerous rate which threatens the lives of the masses.
Poverty is widely rampant and the gaps between the rich and the poor are widening more than ever. Any discussions of progress are not inclusive as leaders are interested more in the elite class benefiting through the cheap labor of the poor. This poor state of affairs is increasingly getting worse in many African countries due to the influence of major foreign players – mainly China and the West. The interactions between African countries and the world superpowers are not mutually beneficial. Africa keeps losing. This is compounded by the continent’s leadership which is prioritizing the accumulation of private profits more than the overall betterment of the people’s welfare. And the only way to fight this is to master one vital element, which is unity.
Disunity is one tool that has been used historically to subjugate black people. When the colonizers invaded Africa and ruthlessly conquered it through murder, they relied on traditional chiefs to apply their colonial policies on the people. It was an effective tactic – the traditional significance of chiefs was stripped by the colonizers. Traditional leaders were used by the colonizers through patronage to make them amenable to colonial policies. The principle of divide and conquer worked with brutal effectiveness for the colonizers.
For the chiefs to cooperate with the colonial authorities, they were vested with more power than they enjoyed before colonization. This alienated them with the people and explains why the role of liberation was undertaken by the educated elites – the educated nationalists – who are now oppressing their own people. Traditional institutions were undermined in order to create division among the people. Traditional religions, customs, and chiefs were seriously undermined. The system of values that guided the existence of Africans was desecrated through the introduction of Christianity and other Western customs.
This division seriously affected the psyche of African peoples. Africans were made to believe that they are inferior, that they should wait for the West to introduce modernity to them, that their own religions were evil, and that everything African was backward. The resultant effect was an erosion of self-confidence and self-worth. The dehumanization of the African that was brought by the imperial conquest of African lands left a long-lasting mark. One that is still palpable today.
The emergence of the educated nationalists, who were loyal to Marxist-Leninist principles, ultimately saw European colonial empires being formally destroyed. Wherever there was independence, the euphoria was accompanied with a sincere hope that these nationalists would usher a new era of inclusive progress. Colonialism was an inherently exclusionary exercise by the European powers. The development of towns, cities, factories, roads, and other infrastructure was meant to benefit the whites first. Black Africans were only accommodated if they served as laborers for white capital. And they were paid measly wages that did not suffice for a decent existence.
The history of black Africans, not only in Africa but in the Diaspora as well, has been one predicated on a degraded kind of existence. When one looks at the horrors of slavery, it becomes clear that black people have been oppressed for too long. The oppression of black people as seen from history is one that was well-calculated, with the intention of boosting profits for white capitalists who owned farms and factories in almost every part of the world. The slave trade saw Africans being taken to Brazil, the Caribbean islands, and America. In America, black people have not known peace. They were subjected to lethal racism and segregation, and these are evident up to this day. The racism in America is crystal-clear in their banking system, housing system, education system, the media – all of which have a prejudice against black people. They push the biased narrative that nothing good comes from black people. With America being filled with media oligarchies, these stereotypes are spread across the whole world and should be fought.
This is where the emergence of leaders such as Malcolm X becomes of unparalleled relevance. Malcolm X, being an activist for black people in the United States, envisioned a situation where black Americans are taught properly about black history so that they can relate with their motherland, which is Africa. Malcolm X advocated that black people can only be respected worldwide if Africa becomes truly independent. To him, the pride of Africa was supposed to be restored “by any means necessary.” Decades of suffering, from slavery to colonialism, mean that already the Africans have a gigantic task to undertake as far as restoring their pride and confidence is concerned.
The exploitation of Africa’s resources did not end with colonialism when African countries got their independence. But continues up to this day in new forms of neo-colonialism, couched in seemingly free but dictatorial neo-liberal policies. These policies mean that only the elite keep enjoying the (privatized) profits from Africa’s natural resources while critical social services such as healthcare, education, transport, access to water remain a problem. The West, China, Russia, and other superpowers are now colluding with African governments to siphon profits from Africa’s people. And it is this influence that must be thwarted through a united African front.
Malcolm X believed in the internationalization of black people’s problems in the world. Africa now needs to be united against the influences of foreign superpowers who continue to exploit Africa’s resources for their own benefit. African governments are now putting emphasis on privatizing their economies – from the provision of healthcare to education and access to water/power. Private companies, usually with foreign origins, are now making huge profits through the provision of these fundamental social services – services which must be a basic right for every individual. Foreign companies are being courted to extract minerals and oil in Africa, but they go off with the profits and leave a trail of massive environmental degradation and marginalized communities. These are areas which the governments must strongly regulate so that the welfare of African people is improved through these resources.
The people of Africa need to be united in their efforts to achieve organic, homegrown solutions that are central to the African people. This is what Thomas Sankara advocated for before he was assassinated as seen by his refusal to be assisted by Western capitalist institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. And this was at a time when African countries were subjected to neoliberal structural adjustment programs that saw African governments reducing government expenditure in critical areas of their economies. Sankara was always reluctant to pay back the debt to the global north superpowers arguing that this debt was an imperialist attack on Africa and therefore the whole continent was supposed to refuse that.
It is time for Africa to disregard financial advice, recommendations, and directions from the hegemony of the global north. It is now time for Africa to discard the debt owed to foreign capital. Africa should now step up, buoyed by the renewed confidence through Pan-Africanism, and stop giving foreign companies power over its resources – resources which should benefit the people of Africa not companies with offices in New York, London, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Abu Dhabi, Berlin, and so on and so forth. Africans should put up a united front and ensure that social services such as health, education, and access to water are properly provided for through diligent efforts of government intervention. Foreign companies (and even the companies owned by the African ruling and business elite) should stop profiting through social services.
The history of suffering, as it continues today, should be fought by doing what is right for the African people. Which is giving them a decent existence? A dignified existence. An existence that inspires self-love, self-worth, and boosts the esteem of African peoples around the globe. The resurgence of the African continent through concerted efforts means that the pride of black people will be fully restored.
It is time to do away with the divisions and be united for a common purpose – which is organic, homegrown development which improves the welfare of the people. African governments must unite together under a robust Pan-African ideology with a people-centered focus so that they can resist the influences of the global north and the global east. Africa must stop copying everything as dictated by these world powers, and truly independent.