General News of 2013-12-05

Berlin Conference responsible for Africa's problems - Prof Williams

Ghanaian-based American Professor, Michael Williams says many of the developmental challenges confronting Ghana and the rest of the Africa can be traced to the 1884 -1885 Berlin Conference which authorised the partitioning of Africa for capture by European countries.

According to the former Director of African Studies and Dean of International Programs at the African University College of Communications (AUCC), the Berlin Conference which he describes as "the bulcanisation of Africa" is responsible for many ethnic conflicts in Africa.

This he noted in some instances, created small units of hostility by forcing rival tribes to live under one geo-political roof.

Speaking on 'Inside Afrika' a Pan-African development program on Accra-based Radio Universe, Professor Michael Williams who is also the Chairman of Aya Centre explained that, "by the late 19th century capitalism had reached a level where there was great need for more markets, more mineral resources, more raw materials, and cheap labour.

At that time Western European powers were in search for colonies and space, and resources and raw materials in Africa and so rather than to fight a bloody war over a large space such as Africa which is 12.5 million square miles, they decided to meet in Berlin to arbitrate and to negotiate so each can get what they wanted."

According to Professor Williams, Africans have experienced several developmental challenges as a result of the negative consequences of the Conference.

"We still suffer from it in every way imaginable. The greatest impact I think is on the mind of Africans. We came out of colonialism with a very low sense of self-esteem," he lamented.

Professor Williams also noted that another major effect of the Berlin Conference is that "it prevented Africa from interacting with itself, from trading with itself."

"If you study Africa before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and before colonialism, you see so much evidence of Africa interacting with itself, trading with itself but colonialism created a 'merchantalist' system where each country trades with its metropolitan or mother country [colonial master]. This created huge damage such that currently less than 10% of African trade is inter-African trade," he added.

Professor Michael Williams was of the view that the only Africans can overcome and reverse some of the effects the Berlin Conference is to expedite action on the African Unity and Integration agenda.

"The only way to fight this 'bulkanisation' of the continent is to unify our forces," he concluded.