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Slavery should have made Africa strong

by Michael A. Dingwall – Kingston, Jamaica
06 June 2014 | 958 Views

There is one thing about Africa and slavery that has perplexed me for a long time. Seeing that the Europeans were able to build great empires out of the slave trade, how is it that Africa too did not become powerful on account of the trade?

Before I begin, I should state very clearly that the morality of slavery is not an issue that should cause any dispute. When viewed within the context of its time – a time when there was virtually no understanding of the concepts of racial, ethnic or gender equality or the absence of modern technologies that would render slavery obsolete, slavery was appropriate, moral and necessary. I personally don’t have any issue with it when viewed within its correct context.

So, why did those African nations that exported slaves by the millions did not experience the growth in their power like the European nations? Some historians would want us to think that the Africans were unaware of how the European nations were using slavery to build powerful nations. However, this is not the case.

African nations like Benin sent their ambassadors to Europe and several African monarchs actually sent their children to Europe to be educated during the period of the slave trade. Surely, these elite Africans would have seen how Europe was developing on account of the slaves that Africa was exporting. Why then did they not try to replicate some of what they learned in Europe in Africa?

Africans were also largely aware of what was going on in the West, in respect of the slave plantations that were providing much of Europe’s wealth. For example, Kongo’s ambassador to the Vatican in 1604 went to Brazil to free an African who was wrongfully enslaved. Surely, he would have seen the plantation system at work.

Why then did the African states that were exporting slaves did not see any need to diversify their economies? Seeing that slavery was a part of African society as it was in the West, it is strange that they did not see, for instance, any need to replicate the plantation system in Africa. Africa could have been used to produce, on a large scale, agricultural products that could not be produced in Europe – using the western plantation system that they knew about.

Agriculture is not the only area that Africans could have used the contact with Europe on account of the trade to their advantage. Many of the African nations that exported slaves were only able to do so because of the weapons that the Europeans gave them. Why was there no effort in any of these African nations to manufacture these weapons? Why was there no African arms industry for ships, guns and cannons?

I think it is safe to say that our African ancestors squandered many of the opportunities that the slave trade gave them. The African kingdoms of Ashanti and Benin, for example should have had well-developed agricultural systems, with large slave plantations modeled after those in the West, exporting goods to Europe and elsewhere. These slave exporting nations should also have had strong manufacturing economies that should have been supplying the African market and perhaps even markets elsewhere.

I think that a part of the reason for the failure of Africa’s slave exporting nations to develop is cultural. Sadly, we still see this culture today, with the Chinese. Like the Europeans before, China is taking Africa’s resources and Africa is getting comparatively little in return. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if two centuries from now, our African descendants would start demanding reparations from the Chinese for “exploitation”.

By the late 19th century those slave exporting countries in West Africa should have been in a very strong state, strong enough to not only resist European conquest, but also strong enough to build their own empires. Instead, when Europe put the brakes on the slave trade, the economies of those nations crashed. In many respects, I still cannot understand why.

Source: Michael A. Dingwall – Kingston, Jamaica


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One comment to this article

  1. Anonymous

    on June 7, 2014 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    Maybe because African men are just weak and rass lazy, dem just want to siddung and chop 10 and chat all damn day long. At dem core dem is a tribal set suh there is never any cohesion between dem, country nuh count a tribe count. Women who are not as strong as men get stuck with the hardest work, to this day nuh di women do the most of the agriculture right cross di continent, so unfortunately it is never enough fi build up cause the physical strength level just not the same as if men took on those tasks. Di African man is the downfall of the entire continent, useless and shiftless dem be fi di most part. All now when dem teef up di donated funds dem teck di sed money and build up di west same way, buy di fancy cars and purchase mansions in the west, suh any way u cut it, dem forever building up the west instead of demself. China, nuh di ongle one wah got sense and use di west fi build dem up to di level weh dem can tell di west to f**k off now, a unno need we, we nuh need unno..China no deh build up Africa now, so we will see wah di outcome in di next 30yrs. African men are the downfall of Africa!

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