Africa’s hurt revisited

By George Alleyne
August 01, 2012 – newsday.co.tt

EmancipationWhat has been suppressed by British and European reactionaries with a vested interest in justifying slavery was that long before the slave trade Africans were well advanced in mining and metal-working, agriculture, food production, cotton weaving and garment manufacture.

But there were other Britishers and Europeans, who not unlike Caribbean persons such as Walter Rodney, CLR James and Max Ifill, were concerned with the truth. Indeed, Helge Kjekshus in his work “Ecology Control and Economic Development in East African History: The Case of Tanganyika 1850-1950”, Page 17, published in 1996, has pointed out that Mogadishu had been already identified as a major cotton weaving centre when the Portuguese first went there in 1498.

In turn, Richard Burton, on Page 278 of “The Lake Regions of Central Africa”, published by Longmans in 1859, had spoken of a plentiful supply of cotton in Tanganyika which at the time had cotton looms in every village. Burton would add that he found the cotton to “rival in fineness, firmness and weight the medium staple cotton of the New World”. AG Hopkins, on pages 58-59 of his celebrated work, “An Economic History of West Africa”, published by Longmans in 1973, would note that long distance African trade was a feature even after the arrival of Europeans in Africa.

Among the exports from Sierra Leone were camwood, ivory and beeswax, while gum was the chief export from the Senegal Valley and the Mauritanian coast in the 17th and 18th centuries. Meanwhile, the metals being mined in large quantities in West Africa at the time of the arrival of Europeans were gold and iron, and to a lesser extent copper and tin. Significant manufacturing industries were ceramics, clothing, construction and food processing and the most important of all — garment manufacture. The famed city of Timbuctu is said to have had no fewer than 26 master tailors at the end of the 16th century!

Early into European contacts with West Africa, several centuries ago, Europeans would buy cloth from the Ivory Coast, Benin, Mauritania, Senegambia and Yorubaland for export. The Kongo, formerly Zaire, has been described by the writer, John Thornton, in his Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800, published in 1992, as “among the major textile producing centres in the world”.

The famous Guyanese author, Walter Rodney, on Page 121 of his monumental work “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, published by Heineman Kenya in 1989, revealed that as early as the 15th century the Portuguese had interrupted trade along the coast of Upper Guinea.

Employing far superior weaponry, including cannons and rifles, to that known and possessed by West Africans at the time, the callous Portuguese blocked the peaceful trading in raw cotton and indigo dye, among others engaged in by various areas. Rodney would write that the Portuguese interrupted an active canoe trade between what is known today as Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, by constructing a fort at Axim.

Over the years, European traders, generally, would halt the expansion of cloth manufacture by Africans — Rodney. This would be extended to iron smelting and the manufacture of iron tools which had dated back, in sub Saharan Africa, to 1000 BC. Copper smelting in West African Sahara and Sahel had been around at least since 2000 BC. For the record, in 1859, iron produced in Usangi, in then Central Tanganyika, was described “as famed as Swedish steel”.

Metropolitan nations established colonies in Africa in which they discouraged established industries. Instead, the emphasis was on the provision of raw materials which would then be shipped to the European countries in control, at low prices, to be refined there and then re-shipped to the colonies at far higher prices. Later, many African countries although they had achieved political Independence, but with economies underdeveloped and restrained by a lack of revenue and deliberate deindustrialisation by former colonisers were and are literally trapped.

One of the worst examples of this was the 1975 ACP-EEC Convention of Lome, later the Convention of Cotonou, which ended a handful of years ago. Meanwhile the prices of goods emanating from developing countries were often, as Alvin Toffler would note on pages 88-89 of his book, “The Third Wave”, published by Bantam in 1980, depressed yet further by “The Law of the First Price”. The early price structure set for crude oil was the best or worst known example. It would remain at a low level until effectively challenged in 1973 by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

http://www.newsday.co.tt/commentary/0,164186.html

10 Responses to “Africa’s hurt revisited”


  • While our historical past covered periods of innovation and progress in academics, engineering and manufacturing, our ancestors never laid the groundwork for us to increase capacity or spread knowledge. While it is evident that the Europeans were complicit in building a narrative that we are not builders of nations or cultures, we often times have amassed a wealth of our experiences to master anything that we are really good at. For example our pan. There should be no question about who developed, invented and mastered its growth. Yet, as we stand today there are lawful challenges to these simple questions by people whose knowledge of the subject are limited and their cultural interest questionable. As a people we stand by and watch all that we stand for taken away, manipulated and distorted to the point where our involvement appear marginal at best.

  • From this article it appears as though Africans were doing better than Europe and the rest of the world. My memory of the slave trade according to the book I studied showed slaves walking around naked…

  • you can also read about the Kongo Kingdoms african had money before european came,you just need to do some research
    dont just belief the eurocentrics we even did math in africa thousands of years ago check the ishango bone,science check the dogon the list goes on…here is a link about the kongo kingdom
    http://www.google.de/imgres?um=1&hl=de&biw=1241&bih=615&tbm=isch&tbnid=HhpMGRzLZogpQM:&imgrefurl=http://wysinger.homestead.com/loango.html&docid=hWqqrYq5SCfsWM&imgurl=http://wysinger.homestead.com/loo_op.jpg&w=800&h=487&ei=jqwmUIzKBMLJtAaVi4DQDA&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=107&vpy=315&dur=1127&hovh=176&hovw=289&tx=190&ty=82&sig=114147108256799988552&page=1&tbnh=111&tbnw=182&start=0&ndsp=20&ved=1t:429,r:13,s:0,i:111

  • There are those who feel benefitted by portraying black people as fools then and now. They can find every reason to substantiate their claims. Our colonial masters did not have to remain in Africa because the have taken the gold, silver, diamond, cultural artifacts and where necessary historical remains that would have lended credibility to their prior existence. That is the history people like Mamoo feels more comfortable with. Anything that puts Africa in a favourable light is, according to their understanding ‘revisionist’. Well, ‘revisionism’ is taking place right now in Trinidad but Mamoo will have no fault with that because the new history of Trinidad and Tobago will show that the lazy, poor and uncaring African made no contributions to the development of Trinidad and Tobago. The white man comes to our shores, sports a shorts. scanty body shirt and a pair of dark glasses and he is labelled as sophisticated and smart. the black man does it and he is a lazy good-for-nothing. The revisionism that we have to be concerned about is our willingness to be very receptive to colonial history and perspective while denying the African his own history and past. Those of us who are survivors of this history till this day do not know or have any geographical perspectives as to where our forefathers came from or what their cultures were because the European knewm that that would have meant too much to us, so it was destroyed, tarnished and replaced by ‘real’ history (the European one) which our well learned friends like Mamoo speak with so much authority.
    This, my friends is what passes for knowledge and education in our learned society. When we as black people keep absorbing, believing and re-gurgitating the lies that have been thrust upon our existence then wee too, make fools of ourselves.

    • One cannot blame other races of people for portraying people of African descent as fools, when so many of our people continue to engage in self-destructive behaviour (Irresponsible sexual behaviour leading to STDs, high rates of crime among black youth, among other societal ills). As I get older and, thankfully, wiser, the way forward as I see it for the African in Africa and in the Diaspora, to return to the glories enjoyed by the ancestors is for the man to regain leadership in the African community. For the feminists on here, I know that this is a controversial statement, but I stand by my assertion. The African male has to remember himself and regain the leadership of his community, with principled and like-mined females by his side. The paradigm that I am suggesting in no way relegates the female to the background, because there is a lot of truth and wisdom in the saying that “behind every great man is a great woman.” Whoever came up with that saying has uttered a powerful truth.

      It is my humble opinion that until this can happen, the only thing that the African can continue to do is to find (scant) solace in a past, which many revisionist historians are threatening to blot out of the collective memory and psyche of the African.

  • Maybe what Africans have had a grasp of since time immemorial is that No-Thing and No-One ever defeated “Mother Earth and Father Time;” as evidenced by those still untouched by Asiatic and European religious pretentiousness; remain possessed of their unwavering empathy for the rest of all creation. It should therefore come as no surprise that all human innovation emanating from the continent was perceived as an enhancement for all humanity and not just for Africans; no intellectual property rights needed! The very idea of “civilization” was conceived on the African continent and from them, dispersed throughout the inhabited and un-inhabited world.

    For all the religiousity that pervades the globe there is yet to exist ONE Guru to satisfactorily explain the inescapable conundrum that humans reveal on a daily basis; how to reconcile the nature of the parasite with the ultimate realization that “Parasites are US.”

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