Why is Africa still pandering to European whims?

by | Apr 16, 2024 | Business, International, Local News, Opinions, Politics | 0 comments

Why is Africa still pandering to European whims?

Nevanji Munyaradzi Chiondegwa

On March 23, Walter Anthony Rodney, the assassinated Guyanese historian, political activist, and academic would have been 82. His life was cut short on June 13, 1980 at just 38. In 1972, at 30, the man published the book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa which became required reading for many Universities and schools in Africa.

Sadly, 52 years after the book’s publication, 44 years after his assassination, and from my perspective, his martyrdom, his beloved Africa remains dominated by Europe, and still panders to the whims of Europe. Those who read his book never saw past its intended use nor put to effect the lessons learnt. To most, it must have been a bother to read something written by a black man.

As unfashionable as it was back then to do Literature in English, not English Literature, it must have gored at their innards to have to read a book written not by Hardy, Chaucer, Shakespeare or Blake. They must have been consumed with embarrassment that they could not rattle off quotes from The Bard’s works and instead had to contend with some black Guyanese with an English name. Cold comfort indeed rather than those who read Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiogo.

In How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney took great pains to argue that imperialism and the various processes that bolstered colonialism created impenetrable structural blockades to economic, political, and social progress on the African continent. He argued that it was Europe that retarded African development and halted it in most instances.

The wheel of development turns in every society until something else, often an external force, intervenes to halt its progress. Backwardness was a colonial term that was used to describe Africa, but no society is backward except when compared to another society. Rodney argues it was not European benevolence that attracted them to Africa but its resources which they sought to exploit and still do to date. From slavery to colonialism to neocolonialism and imperialism and now even sanctions on Zimbabwe. The plan has always been to exploit Africa.

The statement, “In the first place, the wealth created by African labour and from African resources was grabbed by capitalist countries of Europe; and in the second place, restrictions were placed upon African capacity to make maximum use of economic potential – which is what development is all about,” still cannot be argued with.

This article of course is not about Walter Rodney but about how his central ideas in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa seem to have been used by Europe to further exploit Africa than to free Africa from exploitation. Organisations formed in Europe by Europeans are thrust on Africa. Africa has to accept agreements authored under European conditions and implement them much to the detriment of their economic development.

How Europe which used coal, asbestos, and steel to power its development now tells Africa that asbestos is dangerous to health, that coal destroys the atmosphere and that exhaust fumes increase greenhouse emissions and cause global warming. Like, hello! Seriously? And so Africa must shift to green energy because of European decadence? Why are we pandering to the whims of Europeans?

Rodney wrote, ‘A culture, is a total way of life. It embraces what people ate and what they wore; the way they walked and the way they talked; the manner in which they treated death and greeted the newborn. Music and dance had key roles in “uncontaminated” Africa”

Now this is interesting, Europeans even expropriate mbira, a purely African artifact, and claim to have invented it. They introduced their cancer-causing diets and medication to Africa while calling Africans backward, a term meant to exclude Africans from economic development spheres and hence autonomy. In African culture, we do not hunt for sport but for food, to honour our kings. But Europeans came and killed all animals, chopped down all trees, and cleared vast tracts of land but now ask African leaders, shepherded to Europe to sign agreements that enforce and impose upon African governments the need to protect flora and fauna again for European decadency.

I read with great interest how HE Masisi of Botswana threatened to export 20,000 elephants to Germany. I ululated inside. He must simply do so as must Zimbabwe and any other country with an excess of elephants. Why must Africans feed elephants that destroy the environment, the same environment they say we must protect? If the carrying capacity of the land is exceeded, why must human beings and the whole country suffer? Why can we not cull the animals? Because European sentimentalities suffer?

Have we carried our research? Have we advanced our arguments to that? Why are we taking resources to develop proper infrastructure to focus on trees and elephants? To control greenhouse emissions, simply plant more trees, to erosion, let grass grow, seed the soil with grass, plant trees, have less animals grazing the land. Europe must fund afforestation and reforestation and stop telling Africa not to use fossil fuels and other minerals to fund its development.

Come on, it’s time for Africa to wake! As Zimbabwe celebrates Independence in three days, it’s time to embrace Rodney’s writing, find out where we have been going wrong, and focus on development as a country and continent!