Africa Was The Most Civilized continent 5,000 Years Ago – How to bounce back?
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Africa is the pioneer of civilization and the free labour of (African) slaves liberated Europe from poverty.
The Second-largest continent (after Asia), straddling the equator and lying largely within the tropics is the pioneer of civilization.
Africa's first great civilization emerged in ancient Egypt in c.3400 BC. Based around the River Nile in Egypt, it began 5,000 years ago and reached its peak in the 16th century BC. It was famed for its great power and wealth, due to the highly fertile lands of the Nile delta, which were rich sources of grain for the whole Mediterranean region.
But despite these early leaps, Africa in the last 600 years retarded, becoming a victim of slave trade, colonialism, neo-colonialism, genocides, poverty and other misfortunes.
As Africans, to continue blaming Western powers for under developing 6 decades after our countries have gained independence, is simply failure to take responsibility. This is not to discount the continued negative effects of imperialism and neo-colonialism, but a sheer understanding that for us to turn things around we must take responsibility for our own actions. We cannot keep blaming these imperial powers forever.
But how can Africa bounce back?
1. Establish strong institutions and a constitution so strong that even if it is the devil himself that comes to power, it is impossible for him to do what he wants.
Corruption and poor governance remain at the centre of Africa’s under-development. Due to corruption and poor governance, many of our African leaders have totally driven themselves further away from achieving the aspirations and needs of their people. They have created the “personal rule paradigm” where they treat their offices as a form of personal property and a source of private gain.
A 2002 African Union study estimated that corruption cost the continent roughly $150 billion a year. A massive sum of money, used for the benefit of a few private individuals and their families. If this amount were to be reinvested in the African economy, used to rebuild factories, schools and hospitals, I am sure it would result in economic growth. Thus, if we are serious about our development, we must fight corruption without failure.
2. Reform our politics and eliminate conflicts within our countries
The colonizer’s politics was “divide and rule”. And it does not help that after independence we inherited unstable countries with different ethnicities all bundled together into a single state.
But if we want peace, then our politics must be very inclusive. Wars and general civil strife have destroyed our much-admired human resource base, have forced Africa’s sons and daughters to drown in the seas trying to escape conflicts.
Our leaders also do divert funds meant for development in order to suppress dissent. We must abandon the winner takes all system that is so prevalent in many countries on the continent. Proportional representation and devolution can go a long way to achieve peace and stability, removing any cracks that may emerge along ethnic lines.
3. African Leaders must avoid speaking of grandiose ideas that have no bearing on the lived realities of their citizens.
During the colonial era, nationalist leaders identified with the ordinary peasants and workers to fight for independence. However, this harmonious social identity has now been replaced with a “us” versus “them” mentality. “Us” being the privileged ruling political class and “them” being the ordinary citizens. As a result, leaders begin to speak of grandiose ideas that have no bearing on the lived realities of their citizens.
Thomas Sankara, one of Africa’s greatest sons, showed us what can be achieved when a cohesive national identity is created. United as a country, Burkina Faso was able to fight corruption, disease and poverty. In the four years he ruled (1983-87) literacy levels improved from 13% to 73%. Land was redistributed from the feudal landlords directly to the peasants, making the country self-sufficient within three years. He reduced the salaries of all public servants, including his own, sold the government fleet of Mercedes Benz and made the Renault 5 the official government car. He forbade the use of first class airline tickets and appointed women to higher government positions. They were able to build railway lines and improve the general infrastructure in the country without the financial support from multilateral financial institutions.
That he was able to achieve all of this is not a miracle, but was due to good governance and a genuine desire to create a cohesive national identity.
The African political elites must always realise that their only purpose is to improve the lives of ordinary citizens and nothing else.
Africa’s future lies in our own hands
Instead of grandstanding at international platforms preaching anti-colonialism rhetoric, we must start addressing issues that affect Africa’s development. We must reduce poverty and increase access to health, nutrition, accommodation, education and income-earning opportunities for everyone, without fail.
We must develop an authentic ideology that we can use to further the development agenda and consolidate our independence. As Africa’s young generation it is our responsibility to shape and develop this ideology. An ideology that must address Africa’s challenges: income inequality, impoverishment and insecurity. We must always seek to improve the lives of ordinary citizens and not engage in an orgy of intellectual idealism.
To end the trend of underdevelopment in Africa, we must rise to the occasion and foster a common social identity, creating a social enclave, where we all belong with our diversity.
Africa, we are one.
Biography of Thomas Sankara: