Africa Unity Will Erase Economic Slavery

African miners

The African continent will remain an immeasurable world treasure to the outside world, particularly the Europeans, the Americans and lately the Chinese if the Africans don’t get their act together.

The history of Africa is replete with exploitation, with Western Europe being the chief culprit, as European countries colonized the continent and also shipped out millions of Africans into slavery in the Americas and the Caribbean.

African colonization by Europe was essentially the enslavement of Africans on their motherland, the exploitation and export of African resources to Europe. One will be forgiven for stating that the current developed state of Europe and North America is a result of African sweat and resources.

The enslavement of millions of Africans stunted Africa’s development as the young and strong Africans who were in the prime of their lives were the ones targeted and shipped off resulting in the continent not having an economically productive demographic group to spur its development.

Developed countries like United States of America, England, France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy became world economic giants because of African resources and slave labour.

African slaves were shipped off to the Americas and the Caribbean to work on sugar and cotton plantations offering free labour from the 1600s right into the late 1800s when slavery was officially abolished, hence one cannot disqualify Africa’s contribution on the development of the world super powers albeit without it’s consent.

Africa is rich in mineral resources which range from diamonds, gold, oil, natural gas, uranium, platinum, copper, cobalt, iron, bauxite, silver, rare earth and many more. This has led to some of the world’s largest multinational corporations such as Rio Tinto, Anglo-American, DeBeers and many others setting up shop in Africa so as to exploit it’s resources.

However if Africa is to develop, unity will be a special requirement. One of the major reasons for the continent’s underdevelopment is civil war. Several African countries have been embroiled in unending civil wars, which analysts say are mainly sponsored by foreign powers and multinational corporations which need continued war and confusion to ensure that they enjoy easy and cheap access to Africa’s abundant natural resources.

Some of the longest running civil wars are in the Eastern DRC where various rebel groups control vast swaths of land where they operate cobalt, gold, and diamond mines. The proceeds from these mining operations are then used to finance the wars.

Yet a new war erupted in the Southern African nation of Mozambique, in the Cabo Delgado region, following the discovery of large reserves of oil and natural gas. The war has left over 3000 people dead and displaced nearly 800,000 others. The rebel fighters are allegedly sponsored by the Islamic state (ISIS) terrorist group and claim that they are fighting unjust wealth distribution policies of the ruling Frelimo government.

In a statement from the dock at the opening of the defence case in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court on 20 April 1964 the late president of South Africa Nelson Mandela said he dedicated his life to African’s independence.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” he said.

The late former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in his speech at Salisbury (now Harare) in 1962, also stressed that Africa must free itself from economic, political or cultural imperialism.

Robert Mugabe

“Africa must revert to what it was before the imperialists divided it. These are artificial divisions which we, in our pan-African concept, will seek to remove,” he said.

The African continent has huge potential to become a developed region, on the same scale as  western countries. However, a gaze from Cape to Cairo does not give a reflection of the massive potential the continent holds and the question that begs an answer is why? Why has the cradle of human kind remained a continent of huge potential, abundant natural resources but with nothing to show for it?

As much as it hurts to say, Africa is getting a raw deal in the exploitation of its resources and the situation needs to change if we are to realize our full potential. There is an urgent need to put a stop to the unravelling version of another scramble for Africa where the big super powers of the world only come to Africa to get cheap raw materials and labour. Granted it’s not and will not be an easy task to accomplish but it’s possible, but this can only manifest if the Africans themselves realize the anomaly in the status quo and take remedial action.

Africa must wake up from its deep slumber and accept that  the current situation where the continent continuously gets the short end of the stick in the world economics is untenable if we are to seriously develop and sit at the table of the elite.

It is imperative for Africans to come together and develop a standard way of dealing with the big super powers and their multinational corporations. United we stand and divided we fall, political independence on the continent came through collaborative work and it is going to take the same to attain the much needed economic independence sure to spur our continent to levels reflective of its richness.

As a continent, we are in dire need of a shift in our mind set; we need to adopt a dogged attitude that says we can do it as Africans. Economic development for Africa begins in the mind before being actioned on the ground. Lessons are abound from across the world of what unity of purpose and decisiveness can do to the aspirations of our continent, not so long ago China was classified a poor nation.

Now the Asian country is an economic giant. The question we need to ask ourselves as Africans is, what was China’s secret? We must be deliberate in policy formulation and implementation that will be beneficial to our interests. The continent needs to re-strategize and be deliberate in implementing economic policies beneficial to the developmental aspirations of its people.

Our bargaining power lies in numbers, where the continent’s population sits at 1.4billion made up of mostly the youthful demographic which makes up 65% of the continent’s people.  It is time to develop a continental value system that defines how we deal with the current super powers and their continuous enjoyment of African resources at the expense of Africa and its people.

We need a standard way of dealing with investors, a standard way of doing business and uniform set of rules governing investment into the continent, that way we can easily be heard and make whoever is coming to our continent for business conform to our demands as a people.

That way we can be able to defeat the often used divide and rule tactic that the super powers have for long employed in their dealings with us.

We need to create an investment climate that is identical, that frowns upon exploitation with no benefit, an environment that ensures we are equal partners at the negotiating table. A common value system will help Africa to force its hand and get its way. It will ensure a trickle-down effect of development.

The recently launched Continental Free Trade Area should be the building block for this new thrust.

A single investment should be able to create downstream industries and benefits for the host people. The exploitation of African resources should be nipped in the bud and become a thing of the past. Our hope lies in creating a single value system that will ensure we whip into line those bringing capital to our shores or we risk remaining a continent of great potential that will never be realized.


Article by Vanessa Zanele Bungu


A Journalist, writer and photographer

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