Africa, Colonisation, Underdevelopment, Crisis and History: What Happened?

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By Nneka Okumazie

There are African countries with an intermittent high-intensity crisis that often seem like the face of hell. The people there unleash the worse possible hell on each other.

There is often an issue at stake in every crisis. However, some watchers often wonder where does this cruelty come from or how do these people do this to each other?

There are people who blame colonisation or the incursion of foreigners, saying Africa had morals and a value system before they came, that it what afterwards that Africa lost a lot of those.

They say enticing elite Africans with material goods in exchange for people during the slave trade rid the society of values that had kept them going for centuries.

There are arguments that Africa had exceptional art, clothes, governance structure, commerce, cultural way, trade, creativity, self-sustenance, religions etc., without anyone, and that Africa would have eventually made it at their own pace and in their way. Yes, true.

There are still lots of things from the past that survive in African society, clothes, languages, religions, foods, culture, creativity, etc.

What is curious, however, is why didn’t some of the morals and value systems survive?

Did the acts of the elite permeate the rest of society, elevating material goods over humanity?

Did those that were not fully connected to the slave trade and the frontlines of colonisation find themselves unable to carry those values on?

It is often said that commerce in Africa did not necessarily require the presence of the seller so that the buyer could get to the shop, drop the payment, pick the product, doing it right, even without anyone looking.

There are stories of messages sent in quantities across provinces without ways to verify but were not tampered with. There are indications that pre-colonial Africa was a high-trust society.

This and other examples meant that there was integrity, fairness, discipline, good apprenticeship, kindness, a working law system, etc.

But where did all that go that in contemporary Africa, trust is almost non-existent, as well as fairness, etc.

What would have gone wrong that some cultural stuff remained, but some value stuff evaporated?

Is there a possibility that those morals worked fine at that level because they were not tested or challenged?

Is there a possibility that there was no difficult pressure of survival for some or that the community was small enough that investigation or verification was easier, making those things work?

Is there a possibility that some could have been faking it, or that there were other ways that some people bypassed that system?

Is there also the possibility that those morals were real and strong, but the parts of them that survived were not the parts that remain to date?

Of course, there is still some trust in society because no society can function with the verification of everything all the time. But that trust can be low-level, that even if there are things that can’t be entrusted to strangers, in contrast to the recent past or long ago, whatever is trusted can still easily be betrayed, circumventing existing checks.

Just like trust can be low-level, so can ambition. It is possible to do the best possible work or have the best possible skill within the confined of a place or task. However, without seeking out more, it may be unlikely to be ahead or make a greater difference because of that narrow outlook, no matter how excellent, if better alternatives emerge.

Expertise in fishing boat is different from expertise in boats for exploration. The fishing boat could be useful for self-sustaining feeding, income, trade and some goods, but there might be limitations for the merchant and the people if that did not become unique, ahead of or wanted by the wider world.

This does not mean that Africa was low-ambition or that it was necessary to pursue anything randomly, or that because of that focus, there was no progress.

Just like being born to a rich family guarantees a higher standard of living, so is being close to civilizations or looking like them, which guarantees some form of advancement, or copying or benefits over centuries, like the fertile crescent or the proximal civilisations of the bronze age.

Aside from skill, courage is also another value, there were daring hunters who went in the dark of night to seek their prey, they had courage, the fishermen, the medical system in Africa too, etc.

However, to what level was this courage?

These questions could be wrong, biased, or may not address the problems directly, but why have things failed so badly for present-day Africa?

The colonizers used cruelty as a weapon. The destroyed cultural evolution in many respects for Africans, but is there no responsibility at all, for something exceptional that would have survived in the values to get things right again?

The past matters to different people to different degrees, but how does Africa go forward in this time that seems to have independence and some level of autonomy for the nations?

How do the people build? What values, in trust, courage, fairness, discipline, sincerity, etc. can be applied to projects to ensure success?

The past was hurting for Africa, but the future is the responsibility of the people, who, without essential morals, would go nowhere.

[Hebrews 10:24, And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:]

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