Mindset damage and lack of power: The roots of Africa’s plight

Sun, 16 Feb 2020 Source: Benjamin Kwasi Tabi

Historically, Africa has been subjected to exploitation by imperial powers, and this has impacted negatively on Africa’s socio-economic development and human dignity.

But why have these injustices persisted unchallenged by Africa despite their negative impacts on that continent and its peoples?

When rapacious-minded Europe met resourceful Africa on resource expedition in the 15th century, Europe had an imperialistic agenda for unsuspecting Africa. In order to realize that goal, a “master” and “servant” relationship was forced on Africa by Europe. Africa’s considerate posture in that relationship made slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonization possible to realize by Europe.

After going through all those dehumanizing regimes over several hundred years, the mindset damage of Africans was highly probable. Today, Africa is cowed, its humanity dented, its culture rubbished, and dissipating quickly, whilst its resources are rendered susceptible to pillaging, yet Africans mysteriously remain helpless salvaging its humanity and resources.

By machinations, Africa has ended up been controlled politically, socially and economically by imperial regimes till now. France, in particular, has notoriously excelled in this highly nefarious craft against Africa. This persistent travesty and the cruel process by which it has been delivered, has undeniably crushed the dignity, humanity, and self-worth of Africans leaving our mindset ruffled, and rendering us even incapable of vouching for our own interest. In the process, some Africans have unconsciously become willing participants of our predicament.

If Houpouet Boigny, Mobutu Sese Seku, and Mousa Traore devoted their political lives working for the geopolitical interest of their colonial masters, at the expense of Africa’s, it was highly likely that the psychological intricacies embedded in colonial processes such as Francafrique rendered their own African identity and interest irrelevant, therefore the option of vouching for the interest of their colonizers’ instead, appeared to them as though a commonsensical or even a sacred duty.

If Africa still exports gigantic timber to Global North cheaply, and in turn, imports wooden toothpicks at a higher price, it’s only doing so according to the dictates of the servant and master economic relationship forced on it by imperial powers. Our former colonizers have arrogantly assumed absolute power over us, including even setting up prices for commodities their own land cannot produce.

African policymakers are aware that this economic arrangement has been pernicious to Africa’s own development, but besides lacking the power to effect a change, it is also equally likely that the colonial legacy has had a sway on them to the extent that they hardly see the need to cease patronizing this unfair economic tradition, so they follow it devotedly like a religion.

At the moment, one of every four Ethiopians depends on the Coffee industry for a living, according to the International Coffee Organization. This means, the continued unfairly lower-priced coffee beans on the world market, translates into approximately 25% of Ethiopians being pushed into poverty.

This fate is a common thread across Africa, because our continent has been cajoled, and or coerced into adhering to the so-called economic principle of “comparative advantage” by sticking to exporting commodities cheaply in raw form. Why hasn’t it occurred to policymakers in Africa to treat this economic policy with scorn, since in real terms, Africa has all the human and material resources to do better than just harvesting and packaging raw materials and exporting them for a pittance?

Besides material resources, post-colonial Africa’s human resources are also technically still under bondage by the same powers that enslaved and colonized Africa: This time, if the slave ship did not

dock at Goree Island, Cape Coast or Apapa, to pick up “human properties”, The Highly Skilled Migrant Program and Diversity Visa program take care of it. Those programs are “structural slave ships” taking out Africa’s brightest human resources required for Africa’s own development, yet they are schemed to be viewed as an “opportunity” to escape “primitive” Africa to “civilized” Global North.

Africa has been helpless unplugging the “sharp claws” of imperialism stuck deep in her “fresh”. Even long after Africa’s political decolonization, the imperialists continue to exploit Africa, albeit subtly, but even more cunningly over time, and they have proven to be very insatiable predators indeed. Why should Africa settle permanently for a world system that feeds on it dryly with impunity and scorn?

Pan Africans like Kwame Nkrumah, Modibo Keita, Patrice Lumumba, Sekou Toure, Robert Mugabe and later, Thomas Sankara and others, who stood out for Africa’s interest against blatant imperialism, were labeled as “communists” and either incarcerated or taken out by the imperial powers in order to continue sucking Africa and undermine its interest as if Africa does not deserve any interest of her own at all.

Africa has been a perennial victim of imperial regimes, therefore it’s about time Africa made either a human right case out of its relationship with its exploiters, or empowered its stance against the tyranny of the latter, in order to bring it to a civil level - if Africa’s plight could be resolved-, but with the caution in mind that no prey has even been able to beg its way out of the grip of its predator.

The Global North has the finest human rights organizations which are always at the backs of African countries to ensure conformity to “acceptable” human rights practices, but interestingly, Africa’s plight as a result of imperialistic exploitation or neo-colonization does not reflect on their agenda.

Their attitude is reminiscent of the early Christian missionaries to Africa who apparently operated in cahoots with European monarchies and merchants to enslave Africans: the castles that held slaves in shackles destined for the Americas also accommodated churches. How did religion or Christianity in this case, reconcile its supposedly divine mission with its solemn endorsement of slavery?

As if Africa is not maligned enough, multi-national companies (MNC) doing business in Africa are milking our continent by billions of US dollars, by way of dubious deals. According to The Royal Society of Africa, between 2000 and 2008 alone, MNC from the Global North duped Africa by the tune of US$437 billion through tax havens. Statistics also show that Africa lost US$ I trillion in 28 years between 1980 and 2008 alone.

In the extractive sector alone, MNC siphon US$50 billion annually out of Africa. These multi-faceted robberies are detrimental to Africa’s development, but again, where is Africa’s ability to stop them? African countries have compromise these robberies, but surprisingly, they run to the culprits (who double as former colonial masters) when their annual budget falls short of the target, expecting the latter to make up for the loss by way of “budget support. “

But interestingly, that so-called “budget support” is just a small fraction of the total capital flight from Africa, to begin with. Why have African countries accepted this repugnant status-quo like a tradition, if we have the power to stop it, or a pristine mindset to begin with?

It could be argued that no society which has power clout tied with unscathed mindset of its people would leave any space for such magnitude of robbery and pillaging to flourish, without putting in place any effective structural mechanism to stop them.

Assuming the colonial institutions were designed to pillage Africa’s resources, and therefore did not require viable institutional structures in place because it would have hindered that purpose, why has post-colonial Africa maintained those maligned structures, even several decades after decolonization? I believe that the right responses to

that question could be argued from the perspective of the colonized state of mind of Africans, relative to the context of cultural imperialism, and lack of power on the part of Africans.

The contradiction of Africa’s enormous resources and poverty is impossible to explain independently of imperialistic discourses. The most palpable question is, why is Africa so rich, yet engulfed in abject poverty? For instance, The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has mined mineral ores for many years, but while resource-barren Belgium has tangible assets to show, as a result of resource exploitation in The DRC, The DRC on the other hand, has rather mercury polluted river bodies, alienated indigenes devastated by conflicts and abject poverty to show, as evidence of resource exploitation and political interference by imperial regimes.

Here again, it is obvious that human rights issues have emerged from the “master” and “servant” dichotomy between Global North and Africa respectively, but, do Africans themselves see this scenario from a serious human rights perspective? If we do, what have we done to change it? And if we don’t, why not, since it impacts negatively on our humanity? Has the colonial scheme conditioned us to be unconsciously indifferent to our interest and plight, or the lack of power on our part is to blame, or both?

After over half a century of decolonization, what prevented Africa from changing its ”assigned” subordinated role in an unbalanced world system that milks us cheaply and disrespectfully, if it’s not lack of political power, paired with damaged mindset? For their selfish interest, the imperial forces have made sure our plight (which is conducive for exploiting us) remained unchanged, but as I pointed out earlier, people who have the power clout and unadulterated mindset would have long changed that unfair state of affairs nonetheless.

Africa cannot afford to be a sacrificial lamb for others permanently, because that’s a sure path to obliteration or permanent servitude as a people. Our relationships with our Global North cousins on this shared planet must be mutually beneficial going forward because it has never been: When it was not about enslaving us, it was about colonizing us or exploiting us in all forms with impunity.

Sometimes citing their ambiguous “national interest” or “geopolitical interest” (as if Africa’s own interest is irrelevant) to justify ridiculously clandestine operations against progressive African leaders and stifling Africa’s development in the process.

Recently, ”Nollywood” and “Ghallywood” have emerged in the West African sub-region as drama and entertainment industries. To begin with, was it by chance that the names of both industries rhymed the American entertainment nerve, “Hollywood”? It is disturbing to note that in their episodes, African cultural content relating to courtship, marriage, baby naming, dispute resolution, and even food, yield to Euro-American alternatives.

Like all cultures, Africa has a great history, customs, and lifestyles of typical peculiarity considered intriguing and therefore worth selling, if you can, to the rest of the world, so why are the African custom and culture absent or marginalized in their dramatic presentations?

By contrast, Hollywood movies always leave legacies that impact positively on the US economy and image: The American lifestyle, culture, and fashion are shrewdly portrayed in Hollywood’s episodes, and The US business community dutifully captures them and sells to the curious people around the world, but unfortunately, the African Arts industry cannot boast same for Africa. The African Arts industries promote further the already well-known Euro-American culture and lifestyles rather, just like Hollywood would, as if Africa has no culture of her own to present to the world.

It is therefore not surprising why in Africa, we appreciate and copy alien lifestyles and adore imported merchandizes and flaunt them with passion and assumed sense of belonging, but in most instances, display resentment for indigenous traditions and merchandises, and sometimes stamping them with derogatory labels, the same way colonial bigots did to everything African when they forced their juggernaut of culture on colonized Africa.

I am not arguing against patronizing foreign merchandizes, but if the willing choices we make, appreciate everything foreign, but take out our own culture, deprive resilience to our economy and even our health, and contribute to our plight altogether, then, it is obviously a self-defeatist attitude which is reminiscent of damaged mindset.

If none of us is admitting and subjecting our colonized demeanor and lifestyle to questioning, wouldn’t it be fair to conclude, that cultural imperialism has succeeded shaping our mindset to serve only the interest of the imperial regimes and making that behavior commonsensical, and therefore evasive to our sense of questioning what is clearly detrimental to our interest?

Africans should be free to appreciate and patronize African cultures with unquestionable confidence, sense of entitlement and satisfaction without the need to judge them by using any alien cultures as a standard of measure. Custom is dynamic, so, even if an African custom loses its relevance over time, as all cultures do, it should only be faced out or be fine-tuned by default without any foreign interference and coercion.

Mass appreciation and patronage of our culture and custom alone which include, but not limited to food, fashion, entertainment, and local ingenuity, will not only boost the economies of Africa countries but the self- confidence of Africans as well, which in my opinion, is a prime human characteristic condition required for development to take off.

Judging by our self-disliked attitude, I am highly persuaded that Africans have acquired mindset damage as a result of colonial subjugation and prolonged cultural imperialism. I think this mindset issue may require a tremendous revolution of our psyche to unwind, especially, in this era where every corner of Africa is been bombarded with alien cultures conflicting with, or in many cases, taking out indigenous ones in the name of ambiguous “globalization”, or ”modernization”.

Of cause, all cultures embrace alien ones and sometimes give them a local touch, if you like, but doing so should not be at the detriment of one’s own unique culture and identity.

In my opinion, the trend in Africa that one African culture “substituted” by a foreign one, passes as “progress” or modern” is not only wrong but unwise, because culture is loaded with economic benefits, and dignity of its owners, provided stakeholders view it positively, by patronizing and utilizing it with commitment.

Pre-colonial Africa had its head up intact, until European usurpation and subsequent acculturation replaced that confidence and stability with self-doubts and inferiority complex.

Even science was compromised and religious doctrines twisted as part of a grand scheme to break Africans and render them as mere hewers of wood and drawers of water for imperial powers. What may be required now, by Africans in order to reverse the damage colonial subjugation has done to our thinking, is a mindset change.

The mindset change will question why we have settled for poverty if indeed natural resources- which we have in abundance - constitute real wealth. A mindset revolution will prompt us to consider a serious inquiry into why we have what it takes to be powerful, but have resignedly settled for weakness, and have done the same humbly.

A mindset re-think will require that our leaders meeting in Addis Ababa yearly, for the past 60 years, over the “political unification” of Africa, without success, opt for “scientific unification” of Africa instead.

This means, research and development cooperation in all disciplines, will likely improve agriculture, tackle diseases and strengthen the continent’s economic and political power required to protect its resources and interest as well. Still, rethinking our mindset will question why even African languages are tossed aside and not

considered as compulsory school certificate subjects in our schools, but only the languages of our former colonizers are, in most African countries. So, even decolonized Africa is still unable to appraise African languages even as we endorse foreign ones?

European settlers in Africa never adopted any African culture, because they were on a mission to make African culture and beliefs irrelevant and replace it with their own, as part of their scheme to assume “superiority” over us.

It is a common knowledge that European settlers in Africa never gave their children born on that continent any African names, but the reverse appears to be obligatory, thanks to what the colonial project did to our mindset. To make my point clearer, even the name of our landmarks such as Africa’s biggest lake and that of an ancient Kingdom like Zimbabwe succumbed to English ones: Lake Victoria and Rhodesia respectively. This attitude clearly shows a lack of regard for Africans.

Submitting all the unpleasant categorization, trends and tags hanging on Africa’s neck, to critical scrutiny, will no doubt, expose the hypocrisy and power play that are against, otherwise the most resourceful landmass on the surface of the earth: Africa.

Identifying and admitting our flaws that compromised our plight, and amending them now by way of mindset review, will give future African generations the blueprint to reverse our plight efficiently and successfully. But again, in my opinion, reaching that goal may highly require that we repair our mindset, which our actions and inactions give us away as being still under colonial bondage.

It is highly plausible that a stronger- teethed Africa, with a revolutionary mindset, would be required to reclaim, and sustain our identity, resources, and humanity which have all been subjected to defilement by arrogant, imperialistic and self-centered powers for so long.

Columnist: Benjamin Kwasi Tabi