The Rape of Africa (1)

Though Africans live in a different era, European subjugation and ill treatment of Africans have not changed since the initial contact. Africans (young and old) have to be destroyed by all means, that’s fundamental to the west. Two articles I read today bear that out: (1) Legacy of the slave trade on modern society by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o; (2) ‘Africa may have lost £1tn in illegal flows of money’, researchers say, Much of illicit outflow has gone into western financial institutions.

Read the two articles below:

1. Africa may have lost £1tn in illegal flows of money, researchers say –

More than £1tn may have flowed out of Africa illegally over the last four decades, most of it to western financial institutions, according to a new report.

Even using conservative estimates, the continent lost about $1.8tn (£1.18tn) – meaning Africans living at the end of 2008 had each been deprived of an average of $989 (£649) since 1970, according to the US-based research body Global Financial Integrity (GFI).

The report says globally in recent years much attention has been focused on corruption – the proceeds of bribery and theft by government officials – and this only makes up about 3% of the cross-border flow of illicit money around the world. The proceeds of commercial tax evasion, mainly through trade mis-pricing, contribute 60% to 65% of the global total, while drug trafficking, racketeering and counterfeiting make up 30% to 35%. The report says Africa’s percentages are likely to be roughly the same.

The scourge eats into Africa’s total GDP, says the report, Illicit Financial Flows from Africa: Hidden Resource for Development. Losses rose from around 2% of GDP in 1970 to a peak of 11% in 1987, then dropped below 4% for much of the Nineties, only to increase again to 8% of GDP in 2007 and 7% in 2008.

The GFI says that existing research shows that most flows to western financial institutions, and calls on G20 members to crack down on international banks and offshore financial centres.

Illicit outflows from Africa grew at an average 11.9% a year over the four decades. Some of this is attributed to oil price rises and increased opportunities to mis-price trade.

“It is not unreasonable to estimate total illicit outflows from the continent across the 39 years at some $1.8tn,” writes Raymond Baker, director of the GFI.

“This massive flow of illicit money out of Africa is facilitated by a global shadow financial system comprising tax havens, secrecy jurisdictions, disguised corporations, anonymous trust accounts, fake foundations, trade mis-pricing and money laundering techniques.”

This capital loss has a devastating effect on development and attempts to alleviate poverty, the report says. Even by a more conservative estimate, using accepted economic models from the World Bank and the IMF, Africa has lost $854bn in cumulative capital flight between 1970 and 2008, the report notes. This would be enough to not only wipe out its 2008 external debt of $250bn but potentially leave $600bn for poverty alleviation and economic growth. 

“Instead, cumulative illicit flows from the continent increased from about $57bn in the decade of the 1970s to $437bn over the nine years 2000-2008.” 

Africa lost around $29bn a year between 1970 and 2008, of which the Sub-Saharan region accounted for $22bn. On average, fuel exporters including Nigeria lost capital at the rate of nearly $10bn a year. “The impact of this structure and the funds it shifts out of Africa is staggering. It drains hard currency reserves, heightens inflation, reduces tax collection, cancels investment, and undermines free trade. It has its greatest impact on those at the bottom of income scales in their countries, removing resources that could otherwise be used for poverty alleviation and economic growth.” 

It says that the huge outflow explains why aid efforts to reduce poverty have underachieved in Africa. “According to recent studies by GFI and other researchers, developing countries lose at least $10 through illegal flight capital for every $1 they receive in external assistance.” 

2. Legacy of the slave trade on modern society by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o 

It is well known that both a person who perpetrates trauma and one who experiences it can often shut the trauma in a psychic tomb, acting as if it never happened. The recipient does not mourn the loss and the perpetrator does not acknowledge the crime, for you cannot mourn a loss or acknowledge a crime you deny. This can occur at a community level, where horror committed to a group is kept in a collective psychic tomb, its reception and perpetration, passed on in silence, which of course means that there is no real closure and the wound festers inside to haunt the future.

The West has never properly acknowledged this crime against humanity, for to acknowledge is to accept responsibility for the crime and its consequences. One can, of course, see why the perpetrator of a crime may want to forget it: uneasy lies the crown on the heads of they who have committed crimes against humanity. But post-colonial Africa has also never properly mourned this trauma on its own continent as well as its diasporic communities in the Caribbean and America. In Africa and the world, slave trade and plantation slavery have never been accepted in body and mind for what they were: genocide, holocaust, displacement of unprecedented historical and geographic magnitude. It was Hitlerism long before Hitler, to borrow the phraseology from Aime Cesaire in his book, Discourse on Colonialism. 

The economic consequences are obvious: the most developed countries in the West are largely those whose modernity is rooted in the Transatlantic slave trade and plantation slavery. The African body was a commodity; and manpower, a cheap resource. Note that this was continued in the colonial era where, once again, African human and natural resources were cheap for the colonialist European buyer who determined the price and worth of that which he was buying. Don’t we see echoes of that today in the unequal trade practices where the West still determines the price and worth of what it gets from Africa, while also determining the price and worth of what it sells to Africa? 

It is not a strange coincidence that the victims of slave trade and slavery on the African continent and abroad are collectively the ones experiencing underdevelopment. For example, Haiti in the 18th Century was the main economic mainstay of France, the coveted prize by the major European powers of the time. Today, it is the most economically deprived in the Western world. Haiti’s story is also that of Africa and the African people as a whole. The majority of the homeless in the world still come from communities that were the victims of the slave trade and the plantation.

But that is obvious. It’s the moral consequences that deeply worry me-the negative perception of Africa and Africans by others, and the negative self-conception of Africa and Africans by Africans. Those two conceptions have common ground in the devaluation of African lives. Massacres and genocide can happen in Africa, as in the case of Rwanda, with the world looking on. African governments can mow down their people and go to bed and sleep soundly as if nothing has happened; politicians who settle political disputes by inciting ethnic cleansing (and counter-ethnic cleansing) can go to sleep with consciences undisturbed by what they have brought about. Any life lost is, of course, horrifying, but we have seen how frantic the world and Africa become if a white European hostage is missing or meets death in Africa. It shows an indifference towards the descendants of slaves and deep concern for the descendants of slave owners. 

There should be proper mourning rites for the victims and proper acknowledgment of the crime by its perpetrators. But this means learning from what happened. The slave lost the sovereignty of his body, lost control of his labour power, and lost his language. And today in Africa, how much control do we have over our own resources? Divisions among Africans manipulated by the divide-and-conquer tactics of the raiders helped in the enslavement process by weakening the resistance. Today, the same divisions between and within African countries continue to weaken the continent. The slave lost his language unwillingly. Today, Africa loses its languages willingly. 

There are many questions that we should ask. But we can, however, learn from the “fight-back” culture and practices of the enslaved. Pan-Africanism was born in the diaspora: the new African in the Caribbean and America could look back to the African continent and see it in its oneness, not in its divisions. Denied their languages, they created new ones and made the best with what they had created. Their cultural achievements by way of literature and music are monumental, and have made an indelible mark on global culture. 

The world needs to learn from its past. Only by proper mourning rites and acknowledgment of the crimes committed can there come about the wholeness and the healing that the world needs so much. I hope that this day is only a beginning of the collective journey towards that wholeness. 

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Director, International Center for Writing and Translation, University of California, Irvine.

On Wa Thiong’o’s thesis above Felix Okafor wrote:

Dear Friend: 

Though we (Africans) live in a different era, European subjugation and ill treatment of Africans have not changed since the initial contact. Africans (young and old) have to be destroyed by all means, that’s fundamental to most Europeans.

European oppression always assume new dimension to suit the period, increasingly catastrophic. I’ll recommend “Death At An Early Age” by Jonathan Kozol to you. The book details the systematic destruction of African American children by the Boston Public School System in the 60s. It is an old book, however, its significance on Africa is not old, aging or lost, and it won’t. At tender ages, children of African descent were programmed to fail, and brainwashed to believe that they were inferior human beings.

Prof. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, reminding us our past and present history with the Europeans is sensible and great. Africans must remain committed to positive transformation of the entire continent. Africa is home to all of us. We must take care of her. Unfortunately, some Africans that marginally made it in the European world sometimes forget about their African origin, deny and betray Africa and act condescending to other Africans, until life events put them to check.  Africa, I believe will survive the European treachery and oppression.