Where to start? Why not in the fifteenth century! Now we are in the second decade of the twenty first century.
Not easy to traverse six centuries back through the roughest road in the history of the African continent, and the same with other major parts of the rest of the world. Is there any significance looking backward for events that dominantly crafted the destiny of Africans still not clearly defined beyond the horizon?
In the fifteenth century, Africans were healthy. There is nothing written about major diseases then in the continent. There is no indication of any sort of disaster. Africa was comfortably safe then.
Did history read itself before and up to the fifteenth century any difference in knowledge, material wealth, differences in cultural developments between Africa and its neighbor, Europe? In Europe, there was almost nothing significant in contrast to backward cultural developments in the rest of the world until the fifteenth century. Witch craft for treatment of diseases dominated the health services. That there was no science in the life of humanity then was a reality for all the inhabitants of the planet. There was no technology to meaningfully update human life on earth, and the same with Europe. Religion-and-none-religion, that was the order of the day. The human race was equally ignorant of its surrounding.
What happened in the sixteenth century, seventeenth century,…along the line?
Life in Europe became unbearable for its inhabitants. The continent’s parts had to burst out of their cocoons. They formed an army of European countries on a desperate move to an unknown world. Regardless of what on the way, Europe cut across nations and continents it had never heard of before. It mercilessly fought with millions of native inhabitants, eliminated whole races and occupied their habitat. It ended up in ownership of a big chunk of the planet’s landmass and the oceans. And the consequences for the world, and Africa?
Between 15 and 20 million young Africans and children, as slaves for sale, massive agricultural workforce and home services, fell in the hands of European countries – England, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Switzerland, and the American colonies. The infamous history of the Atlantic Slave Trade is attributed to the 16th through the 19th centuries fall of African youth in the hands of Europeans. That marks the worst chapter in the history of the human race.
And what happened with Europe proper and its new colonies of the Americas?
The unpaid forced labor of African youth under slavery released the Europeans from laboring for the needs of their life. They got free time in abundance. This gave them all the opportunities to become the Europeans not of the 15th century but those who colonized the land the oceans and the wealth of others unknown to them until they crushed them to extinction.
Once that in their hands, it didn’t take them for a new devastating campaign – to colonize the rest of the world guided by modern warfare, “civilization” as is articulated in the 21st century too, and “rightful” confidence as the rulers of the whole planet Earth. This resulted from slave trade and slave labor – 100% of the African youth.
It may need some study, research, and intellectual exercise to have a good grasp of the Atlantic Slave Trade to understand primitive Europe so changed within a short span of four hundred years. Inhabitants of the north, blocked by the Alpine mountains from Mediterranean – Greek, North African, Middle East and Roman – influence were raised to civilization by inhuman barbarity on their slaves – young Generations of Africans, the youth and the children..
What was wrong with those falling prey to colonial Europe?
They had no prior awareness of any force devastatingly walking over them undermining their dignity, plundering their wealth, ruling them under severe punishment for their dissatisfaction in alien hands.
How did all that happen?
The accumulation of wealth from the sale of millions of African youth, from the free slave labor in the production of sugar, cotton and rice in the occupied continents gave enough leisure time to Europeans. They exercised with political theories, literature, science, theatre and drama, industrialization, architecture, religious “refinement” and armament that never existed before the Atlantic Slave trade of the 16th century up to beginning of the 20th century. It took them four centuries of unpaid slave labor of African youth for the division of the American colonies among themselves and to accumulate enough strength to devastatingly occupy the rest of the world in the 19th century, until driven out in the 20th through the 21 first century, though still occupied parts of the world permanently..
The unpaid labor of African youth under European slavery changed the pattern of life in the whole continent of Europe. The sugar, cotton and rice market worldwide was dominated by the British for long. Those agricultural products were from the unpaid labor of millions African youth and children. How many among the youth perished as a consequence of the severity of the institutional slavery may not be known to history.
The history of The Atlantic Slave Trade tells of millions of slaves taken to England, France and the other colonial countries. But there is no trace of those Africans in form. There is no claim of any African in Europe from those taken as slaves. They must have perished in their millions.
Europe, though too much is said about its renaissance or revival while there was nothing from its history to revive, marauding the African youth gave it recipe to think, and prepare itself for further plunder and ship generations of Africans to its slave market. In real terms, it joined old nations with their golden history of the past, regardless of its brutal history stamped with slave trade and pillage worldwide.
Not to mention Greek Civilization – which was just part of the Mediterranean civilization of Egypt and the Middle East, and none European – there was nothing of the sciences, literature, and history of the European continent until the latter got “blessed” with shipping those millions of African youth and children for slavery and trade as commodities.
Why was Africa exposed to shame of historical magnitude?
It neither suspected enemy attack of that level nor had any preparation for eventualities. If so, how could it guard itself not only from the European Atlantic Slave Trade but from that of the nineteenth century colonization under same enemy?
What is worthwhile about this Gap Gap Gap! article?
It is about paying attention – learn from the past – to the economic, scientific, military and knowledge gaps which exposed the continent to predators – and to slavery. The gap has grown worse. Its consequences are felt silently and absorbed in the life of Africans. The continent is not worried about its ignorance of the danger of the gap that must be closed for its survival.
Within multiplicity of uncertainties – which the whole planet is facing – it is those who feel it to prepare for new developments, then whose survival wouldn’t be endangered. After all, history is about the past. It tells the good and the bad days of generations. Even if it doesn’t tell anything about the future, it warns that the future too will come up with its good and bad days for which generations should prepare themselves, and more so for African generations who have read The Atlantic Slave Trade where more than twenty five generations of Africans, in millions were traded by Europeans and bought to European agriculture and home services.
If Africa doesn’t take note of the past coming back in different forms, it will sink in an ocean of surprises. It has to think at least in terms of reducing the gap in everything between itself and the world that has for long undermined it. A question may be raised, as to HOW. First, it is a matter of accepting the facts, and the realities. Then follows thinking how to go about it. It will not be a one or two years project, and neither will it be in narrow fields of specialization only. It will be a strategic endeavor, and will need strategic resources, and a strategic period of its own. Without this, Africa will have exposed itself to untenable disaster.
What is more! Generations should be able to imagine of the life, security, and guaranteed peaceful existence of future generations. That thinking will help existing generations to clear the road for their heirs in life.
There is no other choice. Don’t postpone your homework: Closing the GAP Between Your Continent and others in all walks of life and confidence of the survival of generations coming after you!! It won’t be easy going. You will not have slaves to shoulder your other responsibilities. Though abominable, only Europe was destined to that “opportunity” of dirty history on the planet in modern days.
*The author Astewaye Beyene is a guest author at HornAffairs.