As Africans stand with other people across the globe in the fight against racial injustice, there is a need to address similar issues affecting their continent. The movement of ‘Black lives matter’ should be an opportunity for Africans to seek support to fight exploitation from within the continent and outside. George Floyd sadly cried ‘get off my neck, I can’t breathe’, similarly the African continent neck has been choked for centuries. Africa needs solidarity with allies in resistance for all black lives around the world, including those in their continent.
Before the 20th century, the exploitation in Africa was highly visible during slavery and colonisation. Sadly, comparable exploitation still exists, it has just changed its nature. Today, many African countries are entangled by the colonial shackles, where ex-colonies cannot make substantial decisions without outside interference by former colonisers and other global powers.
Dr Arikana Chihombori-Quao, the former Ambassador of the African Union to the USA, has continued to campaign for African countries, who have paid billions of dollars from their revenue each year as colonial taxes to their ex-colonisers (and here). A few months ago, some of those treaties have been revised after decades of unfair exploitation. Nonetheless, there are more treaties and business deals that need similar revising.
Other African countries like the East African Community (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan) have tried to boost their clothes industries. They sought to reject second-hand clothes from western countries, but were threatened with global economic sanctions by the countries who dump their unwanted clothes and other unwanted waste into the African continent. As a result, the move to advance clothes industries for African people were stopped, as the African governments bowed to outsiders’ demands.
According to the Professor Wangari Maathai (the Nobel Peace Prize winner), most African countries are manipulated by big NGOs such as world bank, IMF (International Monetary Funds), when they get loans to fund development projects. Unfortunately, these African countries are forced to pay massive interest, as a result they spend many years paying interest, which in the end negatively impacts economies in the continent. Yet, when campaigns are launched for these ‘shark loans’ to be wiped out by the global powers, the calls fall on deaf ears.
The same countries are ready to throw peanuts to the African countries in the form of Aid as they mobilise their biased narratives that Africa is a poor continent. Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist, argued that the western ‘AID to Africa is Dead’. This is because Africans need to unshackle themselves from the entanglement of needing ‘AID’, without finding solutions from within their continent. They should be free to use their own resources and manpower without outside interference. The ‘western charity’ will never wipe out Africa’s needs.
On the other hand, the persistent use of negative photos in the global media continues to dehumanise Africans reinforcing the sense of their inability to solve their problems. The projection ignores the reality and complexity of the continent similar to every other part of the world. The relentless misrepresentation of Africans, especially of African children in the media, in pursuit of ‘charity’ money continues to be exploitative. The negative images violate Africans human rights for respect and confidentiality as I have argued in my book chapter advocating for African children’s representation in the global media.
The negative images and narratives have gone to shape the position of Africans globally despite being biased and racist. The majority of Africans have positive lives, are hardworking, and do not wait on charity. ‘Attribution theory’ in psychology has explained how inter-group processes work. One group of people (inner-group) representation of others (outer-group) could have attribution error due to biased stereotypes. These attribution errors seem to shape how most black individuals and communities have been perceived for many years.
These stereotypes have been embedded in education, politics, media, and even in charity campaigns. The resistance for ‘black lives matter’, aims to demand fair representation of Black people in all areas without bias. The majority of Africans being black people also need to be fairly represented. Renowned Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi has argued that there is danger of giving a single story about Africa because there are many other overlooked stories. The overlooking seems to be a systematic way to put Africans in a disadvantaged position where they cannot participate locally or globally.
As a result, there is a need for global solidarity to demand impartiality and seek for justice for Africans in many areas. There needs to be an end to the exploitation of mineral resources (such as gold, oil and diamonds etc) from the continent. There should be demand for fair world trade. In addition, calls for outsiders to stop the selling of guns to Africa and stop political interference which causes civil wars, among other demands. As an African, I believe it is a high time that we Africans recognise that our lives, our heritage, and resources matter. We need to stand against this exploitation, solve our problems and participate actively locally and globally without feeling like second class humans.
To our allies, instead of giving aid to Africa, you should join hands with Africans to fight exploitation in the areas outlined above. Once African countries are fully free politically and economically, then we can start to believe that Black lives do matter, including impartial treatment for all black people across the world and fair play in global fields.
A closer look inside Africa, which I choose to explore in terms of questions because many Africans know the answers. How many African leaders and governments have continued to exploit their people? How many people are languishing in poverty while some African leaders galivant around the world in the name of seeking trade? Are there government paid leaders who own private jets while many citizens earn less than a dollar a day? Do some leaders acquire masses of land or big companies as they exploit citizens who provide them with free labour?
How many billions of dollars have been borrowed by governments for starting projects to help citizens but end up in individuals’ pockets? What is the gap between the rich and the poor due to corruption and exploitation? Have any of these corrupted leaders have been prosecuted and made to pay back stolen money? Unfortunately, these African exploiters have behaved just like the colonisers and slave masters, the only difference is that they come from within these communities. These issues need to be addressed.
Some people ask why Africans cannot get their act together. The truth is, Africa has a multifaceted heritage. Some Africans are progressive and are represented in all social classes, while others are proud to keep their culture and customs, which is noble. Nonetheless, their success stories remain untold. There are several African countries where the economy is growing while other global economies remain stagnant. Most social amenities have improved over the years. However, these stories continue to undermine this progress due to the negative connotations that underlie racist narratives.
Despite a lot of progress, Africans are still humiliated in the global arena. Just like other parts of the world, the continent faces many challenges. Many of the people are traumatised by the injustices they have faced for generations through invasions by outsiders. Nonetheless, some of the injustices are by their own people through civil wars, corruption, and inequality.
Africans need to lead the fight against these injustices. First, by eradicating the colonial ideologies in their systems which have continued many years after independence. Some of the colonial ideologies are found in the education curriculum, which overlooks the African culture and upholds Western culture as ideal.
The African education systems need robust revision in their curriculum and teaching practices. There is a need for inclusion of African languages and culturally specific subjects in the curriculum as I have previously argued. The students going through education need to be prepared for their context. They need to be skilled to meet the agricultural market, have business skills, and be prepared for innovations to meet most of the continent’s needs and to utilise the resources within their reach.
The Pan Africanist, Julius Nyerere (the first president of Tanzania), urged self-reliance education bespoke for African people and their context. Although this ideology was dismantled by capitalists who sought western imperial ideologies, the overlooked ideas of Pan-Africanist are still viable and need to revisited. Although most African countries since their political independence from their colonisers have made some significant changes. More cultural and economic changes are still warranted.
There should be civil education for all to help eradicate poor governance, exploitation, address trauma from past injustices, and future plans. There is a need to celebrate their achievements, acknowledge their potential such as human power, natural resources available, and review their cultural heritage. Some of the African cultural values such as ‘Ubuntu’, ‘Harambee’, ‘Umoja’ (Humanity, collaboration, and Unity) are great ideals, among others.
There is a need for Africans to tell their stories of resistance, write about their lives, culture, and plan for their destiny. Africans should draw strength by reflecting on their historical successes that are often overlooked such as great civilisations for example Mali, Zulu, Kush and Egyptian empires among others. Overcoming slavery and colonisation among current successes such as impacting the world of sport, culture and art and providing great exports from the continent to the world. These great accomplishments need to be written about and taught to the younger generation to create better understanding of their heritage and enhance self-pride. The move will override distorted stories about Africa and its people.
To do so, African governments would need to fund education, innovations, and technology to advance creativity, industries and productivity within the continent. Furthermore, African governments should take the upper hand when involving outsider investments. They should scrutinise all business deals and investments made in the continent and review past deals that may have been exploitative. Africans should demand good governance from their leaders.
They should further seek to collaborate with Africans in the diaspora who have great wealth of knowledge and exposure. These collaborations should be fair for all involved. This is time for action in Africa, and they should choose their allies wisely.
To all the people worldwide rallying behind the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, let us continue until we see positive change. Let us as well stand in solidarity with Africans who similarly deserve good livelihoods, education, health care, jobs, and public services that protect their lives and dignity. They deserve to enjoy their land and resources without exploitation from outside, or from within. Africans deserve justice and superior governance. They deserve to be engaged in world trade fairly and to be impartially represented in the global fields. If all humans were created equal, then even African lives matter too.
Evelyn Corrado is a lecturer at University of Roehampton