why is Africa poor

Or better still, how did/ does Europe underdevelop Africa?

Before some of you start throwing stones, I have only reframed this question from quora

Why are some former British colonies like Canada and Australia well off while former colonies in Africa are poor?

Well, they are white and Africa is black/ brown. Look at India & North America. Same thing. They are brown.

Africa did not industrialize but remained a next importer of produced goods, whose prices fluctuate depending on the weather and this is bad in the long term.

Africa’s produce is exported as raw material and sold back at very high prices.

When many African countries got independence 50-60 years ago, thieves, idiots and collaborators took the reigns of power and then their sons. Where anti-imperialists took over, they were summarily killed with help from the West.

Did I already say trade agreements that are unfavourable to Africa. Now I have said it.

Then there is that World Bank program of the 1980s- Structural Adjustment Programs that did finally mess a struggling continent.

The education the first generation of African leaders received was as clerks or worse- i mean clergy, for example. No philosopher kings, no science degrees and this coupled with European admins who were misfits at home or had failed at anything they tried to do.

Well, there are many other reasons that have been put forth but these are the ones that come to me easily.

How Europe underdeveloped Africa

Amilcar Cabral writing about ignorant white people who were appointed as supervisors, writes thus

I was an agronomist working under a European who everybody knew was one of the biggest idiots in Guinea; I could have taught him his job with my eyes shut but he was the boss; this is something which counts a lot, this is the confrontation which really matters.

How Europe/America underdeveloped Africa

Is a book by the late Walter Rodney. It’s one of those books that everyone should read. It’s not written, for lack of a better term, to seek sympathy but as things stood then( maybe even now). And it is in this respect that I find it quite powerful.

The liberation of the European or American workers is tied to the liberation of the black body. And the same argument has been made about feminism. The American and European worker however has been bamboozled by the capitalist who has made some luxury goods available to them at a small price or accessible loans and has therefore co-opted them in maintaining a border regime that is antithetical to their interests and liberation from a system of exploitation.

In fact, the case of the American worker is worse. They celebrate Labour Day in September! A plot by the capitalists to fight an international workers movement.

But I digress.

You must be asking how the current border regime is antithetical to the interests of the American or European worker. Your capitalists have somehow convinced you brown people are taking your jobs, creating insecurity and so the government is justified in militarizing your societies. What this does is to force other workers elsewhere, whom you should be in solidarity with, to work in less than inhumane environments. It means Amazon can be valued at a trillion dollars but have workers who can’t take health breaks. If workers can move freely, no one will take a shitty job. Capitalists everywhere will be forced to pay a decent wage or shut down. Everyone benefits.

You must be wondering what this has to do with the title of the post. Well, Rodney wrote, and I quote at length

European workers have paid a great price for the few material benefits which accrued to them as crumbs from the colonial table. The class in power controls the dissemination of information. The capitalists misinformed and miseducated workers in the metropoles to the point where they became allies in colonial exploitation. In accepting to be led like sheep, European workers were perpetuating their own enslavement to the capitalists. They ceased to seek political power and contented themselves with bargaining for small wage increases, which were usually counterbalanced by increased cost of living. They ceased to be creative and allowed bourgeois cultural decadence to overtake them all. They failed to exercise any independent judgement on the great issues of war and peace, and therefore ended up by slaughtering not only colonial peoples but also themselves.

And this my friends, is the reason why those who have been more articulate than yours truly have argued that the liberation of the world depends on the liberation of the black body, but especially of women and children wherever they are to be found.

How Europe underdeveloped Africa

By Walter Rodney

I just started reading this book and it is one of those that need to be read with others, in community. It is not enough to read it alone.

Elsewhere on this blog, I have said education is the chief way we will address the challenges facing us in this century, in Africa and the world as a whole. What type of education? A problem posing, as Paulo Freire put it in the pedagogy of the oppressed. This, problem posing education, is, I aver, what has been lacking in our curriculum.

I digress.

This book first published 46 years ago today is still so relevant it makes me want to cry.

For example, Rodney writes

The incomes given to civil servants, professionals, merchants, come from the store of wealth produced by the community. Quite apart from the injustices in the distribution of wealth, one has to dismiss the argument that ‘the taxpayers’ money is what develops a country. In pursuing the goal of development, one must start with the producers and move on from there to see whether the products of their labour are being rationally utilised to bring greater independence and well being to the nation.

Elsewhere he writes, and it is true, painfully so,

It has been noted with irony that the principal ” industry” of many underdeveloped countries is administration. [……]the salaries given to the elected politicians are higher than those given to British MPs

And this, my friends, is just the beginning of the book and I am already annoyed.

#couldhavebeenatweet

ignorance

In the dear white people post I wrote a while back, there is this ignorant fellow who has written

You seem to have forgotten the endless flow of medical aid, vaccines, humanitarian volunteers, and tax deducted donations given to many countries.

When you look at natural population levels before and after European colonization, you’ll find increases of 400% in some cases. Almost as if our agricultural and technological advancements make it easier for people to live.

Yes, some European advancement was made easier by enslaving others. But, we also lead the charge in fighting slavery and are the most effective abolitionists. In contrast, Africa is still a hotbed of slavery, human trafficking, disease and ethnic cleansing.

We can withdraw our aid, our companies, our colonists, our technology and trade. If you want.

On diseases, I suspect Gentleman’s foundry hasn’t read any historical works that show many of the diseases for which Africans have needed vaccinations originated from Europe?

What quality of life are these large populations enjoying? I would rather a population of 200 well fed idiots than 80000 emaciated sick idiots, but that’s me.

Europeans did not lead the fight against slavery. That’s revising history. It’s only after the first successful black revolt against slavery in Haiti did some Europeans find the courage to join the fight. So please, shut the fuck up. You talk of ethnic cleansing as if that’s not what world wars were? Your ignorance and bias is showing but carry on. Human trafficking of Africans to Europe and Arabia. Maybe you should get a mirror.

By all means withdraw your aid, and stop the theft, we will do just fine.

Africa Writes 2016: Nawal el Saadawi

I don’t listen to podcasts usually but I enjoyed this one too much. It is great. Saadawi is awesomeness personified.

I like her comments on middle east, on identity politics, on academia, on post modernism, on being a doctor and an author. In short, I am, for lack of a better word, in love. I am going to look for her work.

This podcast comes highly recommended.

On African time

Many times I have heard visitors to Africa and even educated Africans complain about our seeming inability to keep time. All these complaints are born of ignorance of the African and their conception of time. It should be understood, as Mbiti writes in African Religions and Philosophy (1969), that time is simply a composition of events which have occurred, those which are taking place now and those which will immediately occur. In our conception, the future is virtually absent because events which lie in it have not taken place, they have not taken place and cannot, therefore, constitute time.

For us, then, time has to be experienced in order to make sense or to become real.

How, then, do we reckon time? We reckon time for a concrete and specific purpose, in connection with events but not just for the sake of mathematics. It is for this reason we had phenomenal calendars, in which events or phenomena which constitute time are reckoned in their relation with one another and as they take place writes Mbiti.

It is for this reason, therefore, it doesn’t what time the sun rises- whether at 5am or at 7am- as long as it rises.

For the technological mind, time is a commodity which must be utilised, sold and bought; but in traditional African life, time has to be created or produced. Man is not a slave of time, instead, he makes as much time as he wants.

As I said in the beginning of this post, many foreigners when they say Africans are always late or wasting time, they are talking from ignorance of what time is in Africa. We are not wasting time, we are either waiting for time or are in the process of producing time.

Next time you are visiting Africa or scheduling an appointment with one, don’t depend too much on your wrist watch, relax. We are never late. Morning is any time between sunrise and midday so be sure we will honour that appointment.

Here is a case of educated African reckoning time linearly 🙂

why the Medu-Netchher- Hieroglyphics have never been deciphered

I am no student of ancient writings or symbols of Egypt.

Walter Williams makes the above claim and gives the following as his reasons

  • in order for the Medu-Netcher or hieroglyphs to have been deciphered, one would have had to ask the ancient Egyptians who drew the symbols what he/she meant for them to be
  • no one can put a phonetic alphabetical value to symbols
  • you cannot apply a language or languages to symbols that one does not know the meaning of
  • it is impossible to reduce the 400 or more symbols of the hieroglyphs to 26 letters of the alphabetical system

HE argues further that pioneers in Egyptology (sic) as Barthelemy, Count Silvestre de Sacy and Champillion arbitrarily assigned letters to symbols and these were then accepted by Western academia.

Quoting Carol Andrews writing for the British Museum on the Rosetta Stone who wrote

it is not possible, strictly speaking, to compile an alphabet of hieroglyphic signs. For practical purposes, however, certain unilateral hieroglyphics have been selected to form a kind of alphabet which is universally used for the organization of dictionaries, word lists, index and for general reference purposes,

he makes the point that one can not use the Rosetta Stone to decipher the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Historians and linguists, what say you?

Atheist experience in Africa(?)

It is while reading this post that the question occurred to me of what is the atheist experience in Kenya. First, works such as those by Mbiti add credence to the claim

that Africans are deeply religious and theistic.

I also think the main thesis of the piece, that

The way and manner that atheists in Africa are treated have largely been overlooked. What atheists encounter in the course of their lives has not been adequately highlighted.

Is largely true. Unlike the author, I have not had the opportunity to attend a large gathering of freethinkers or agnostics and atheists. Well, I have attended a beer drinking session organised by my godless friends but never a conference.

Those who have followed this blog long enough recall the furore over registration of an atheist society in Kenya that wound up being decided by the high court in the favour of atheists. Generally, however, it can be argued almost convincingly that atheists are invisible. It is however hard to tell if it is by design or whether it is as a result of mistreatment or a fear of atheists to speak up.

Because I am not a social scientist, nor am I going to do a longitudinal study of atheist experience in Kenya any time soon, the sample for this post is yours truly and the conclusions drawn from it cannot be said to apply to the general population.

In many instances when I have spoken of my godlessness, others have claimed it is a phase, while others think I am confused or worse still others think I am pretending. They convince themselves that I am a believer in their god, maybe even more devoutly so, especially since to some of them, my knowledge of the bible is superior to theirs. The explanation that I read it every so often just to be able to respond to their claims doesn’t cut it with many people.

My workplace is the best. I love my colleagues. While majority are christian only divided by the cult they have opted to associate with, religious discussions hardly feature in our interactions except when I am in my cheerful self and making fun of a thing or two about their beliefs.

While I have read of people who have been disowned by their families, especially America or whose relationships have broken down, I have no such fear. My immediate family is resolved to my godlessness. It bothers no one. My extended family has no such say in how I live my life, so there is no chance they would do something so drastic. Besides, how would they achieve their ends? Block me from going to my house?

What I would however hope for is to get more writings by African scholars on atheism from an African perspective. The Judeo-Christian and Muslim conceptions though interesting, are no longer attractive to me. I am interested in whether in the traditional African societies, atheism existed and how was it articulated? How did society respond to the claims of atheism or is it a western thing in the continent finding its foundation in the rejection of both the missionary and colonial overlord.

I am aware that some of the Kenyans who were at the forefront in the fight for independence, who had at first converted to christianity either quit or only appeared to believe while in public. It is also the case that some of the Independent African Churches were a repudiation of some of the teachings of Jesus, some to the extent of claiming divine revelation without the need for Jesus. These aspects should interest a cultural anthropologist which I am not. My interest would extend only as far as how they treated of houses of worship, if they had such or whether worship took place under sacred trees, stones or in caves. The rest lies in the province of social and cultural anthropologists.

In the next month or two I will read Nkrumah’s Consciencism (if I can find it) and his exposition of materialism as a philosophy. Two books by Okot p’Bitek Decolonizing African Religion and African Religion in Western Scholarship will also be looked at.

I think the thesis of the article attached above has some truth in it, considering for example the experience of atheists in Egypt, Nigeria and so on. But since a study or poll covering Africa hasn’t been done, we can agree there is much more work to be done. Asking atheists of their experience would not be enough. To be meaningful for our purposes, I do think it would be useful to also find out how the rest of society views us.

As a starting point, any atheist, especially of African descent and living in the continent should weigh in. Ark you are not counted :0

The Kingdom of Bananaland by TT

but known here as Veracious poet

A review

But first a story. Many of you know my complains about poetry. It is not that I couldn’t understand poetry, I think it was my teacher of literature who maybe did not try to make poetry interesting. It felt much harder than plays or novels. Or maybe, I was the problem it could be an attitude thing and I have not been able to cure myself of that attitude. I tell you this because it is important for this post.

I hope my friend will make the anthology available for sale soon or if he decides to be generous to make it available to all and sundry.

The Bananaland is an anthology of poems. I want to start with the epilogue

Man is indeed capable of great feats
But he is an animal, a political animal.
And all the wrestling is with himself

I find this a great ending to an anthology of poems that in the main make me quite sad. Sad because how accurately they describe the situation in Africa and sometimes the world in general.

Having said that, and this I will only say once, I understand the artist can take poetic liberties in his choice of characters and the names he or she gives them, but the choice of ape and banana ring too close to me of a history of racial disrespect, if such exists, where although all humans are great apes, the colonizer, the racist has always seen the African person as more ape than they. There was, I think, in a football match somewhere in Europe where a banana was thrown at an African player for one of the teams which was interpreted as a racial attack. To that extent and that alone, do I have a problem with the choice of apes and bananas in this great anthology, for great it truly is.

In this short anthology, of about 60 poems that can stand on their own, or can be read as a story, one truly sees the African nation state as it is currently. The nation buys weapons in the guise of protecting the citizens from external aggression but the moment there is dissent, these guns are trained on the citizens, whose taxes were used to buy them. I agree with his constant refrain that the ape is truly stupid.

He is right on the mark when he writes elections mean nothing in Bananaland. The elections, are for him, nightmares. And I agree with him. Look at us, we have gown through two farces of elections to have the same thieves in office, whose only goal, as he says is the case in Bananaland is personal enrichment. The citizens be damned.

In Bananaland, they say we have fertile soils, a big workforce but we import bananas. Kenya imports maize from Mexico. That’s not the tragedy. The tragedy is that when farmers have harvested their crop, the national cereals board, the same idiots who will be importing maize, will do almost zilch. The farmers will sell their output at throw away prices. Because they are not in the business to keep making losses, they stop growing maize, then the idiots in government turn around and tell us some percentage of the population is not food secure. You would expect that these idiots would invest in agriculture, encourage people in rural areas to till their farms, provide necessary extension services to improve production, but nah, they steal and as for our country, they steal by borrowing loans which future generations will pay.

The current regime employs fools generally. I can say this without fear of contradiction. I can also say it hates thinkers. As in Bananaland where the author says the thinker is disdained, so it is in many African countries. Moi’s regime exiled, imprisoned, tortured intellectuals. Muigai’s regime has excelled that instead of doing that, it employed school dropouts to be at the helm of driving policy. Even our ancestors would disapprove this. They were not literate but they were knowledgeable. You cannot have an ignoramus lead. Our communities would not have long survived had they been led by idiots. This regime has made idiocy its greatest motto: in stupidity we rule. Somebody should say that in Latin. Mottoes sound almost sexy in Latin.

Two issues VP treats exceptionally well is reason and its place in human progress, and here before Brian asks, I mean with progress a society where freedoms are guaranteed, access to healthcare and decent housing are guaranteed and where the standard of life is acceptable. People are not starving because of poor planning and such like. His treatment of how Christianity has made the African subservient waiting for a heaven, suppressing his reason and initiative speaks to my heart.

He writes, and I almost want to shout with him, on the mountaintops

If one doesn’t like his or her living condition here on
Earth he ought to change it before death knocks
On his door and drags him away into hades.
One needs courage to change one’s circumstances.

That Christianity promises a heaven where there is gold, milk and honey, things which my lecturer would call goods of ostentation means the poor person is contented with their miserable existence here as long as a heaven is guaranteed. I would even propose that miserable fellow hastens their departure by killing themselves. At least they will have done one act of courage in their existence.

I wasn’t sure whom the ants were, but either way, I liked the analogies. And I think, with Mark Twain, we can all say, man while descending from all the higher animals lost all that was great. Only saving grace for humanity is it retained the capacities to do that which the higher animals are capable of but no more.

On taxes, the less said the better!

Corruption, nepotism and all social ills that bedevils us do not need much attention. All I will say is they are well dispensed of by our author.

Equality, justice and truth especially their absence is common in Bananaland. The meaning of these words change depending on what side of the political divide one finds themselves. This is a law in all Bananalands.

I laughed at the requirements of kingship and then I looked at the Kenyan situation and laughed much more. A section of the population believes and strongly so, that for one to be fit to lead, they must be circumcised. One would think this would be the concern of those they choose to have sex with, but no, in Kenya, the prepuce is more important in determining one’s ability to lead. I am sure, the ancestor are proud.

Our politics, he calls

Apemocracy means a rule by political apes.

And he hasn’t been more right.

Since, I took liberties while doing this review to start with the epilogue, I will end with the beginning. He writes

Between ape and banana
There cannot be morality,
Ethics, law or constitution.
There is only one thing and
That is desire or instincts.

I hope, VP, that I have done justice to your great work. I also hope that I have kept my word and as such, the word honour can be applied between us.

Thank you for sending me the book.

It was hilarious, poignant and at the same time easy to read.