An acquaintance once expressed in my hearing the following opinion : "Without oyinbo, we would have nothing. No jobs, no money, no cars, no electronics, nothing. The oil and other minerals in the ground would be useless without oyinbo to give us money for them and, the money itself would be useless paper if oyinbo were not making things that we could buy with it. So, you people need to stop criticising 'whites', Indians and Chinese because without them, you would have no life."
Now, even though I found much to offend my pride in what this person said, I also had to admit that it contained truths about the world we live in because, what had been so plainly stated was the framework of a way of percieving which has its basis on the logic that since Africans are fundamentally 'non-productive' in all areas of human activity, it is a waste of time to expect anything from them.
A consequence of this perspective is the passive acceptance of worlds that are defined by eurocentricism, arabocentricism, and perhaps eventually also sinocentricism and indocentricism. (It should be noted that while those who accept these worlds may also be capable critics of the debris each leaves in its wake as it passes through history, the foundational rationale behind the assumed supremacy of the chosen master is never questioned.)
In a world of materials, any of these perspectives will cause those who make a living from trading in commodities to place the highest value in markets outside Africa and, in objects that are sourced from outside Africa. This materialistic attitude also extends into the world of ideas since those Africans who make a living with their minds also place the greatest value in rewards that come from audiences outside Africa.
This is why prizes awarded by bodies outside Africa mean a lot more to us than any type of validation that is given by indigenous Africans. And, while we may mine our lands and cultures for treasures, the greatest value of those treasures will only be confirmed for us when markets/audiences outside Africa tell us what they are worth.
So, it is true, as my friend said, that without oyinbo we are basically "nothing". Which is probably why, in the view of our 'leaders' as they move through the nothingness that is our collective Self, no effort need be made to add value to what they see until the opportunity arrives when those many things that are worth nothing in the African world can be taken into (or offered to) those arenas where 'meaningful' values reside.
Therefore, when our African 'leaders' tour their domains, they are more likely to be accompanied by goons and sycophants than by researchers who could function as collectors of data that can be used (in the present as well as in the future) to plan the best ways forward for the country.
This lack of curiosity by African 'leaders' about the productive potential of the people they claim they represent is one of the reasons why people from countries like Guinea and the DRC described as 'poor' while others who live on lands that are not as naturally endowed are described as 'rich'.
Most Africans are not 'poor' because we live on lands that are barren; we are not all poor because our climates are hostile to human presence or, because our lands are geologically unstable. We are poor because we would rather eke out a living in the most miserable city slums than labour in the village or, rural town. In other parts of the world, people left the villages because they had no access to farming land. In Africa, we who had access to good farming land left those lands because we prefered to have access to the dubious glamour of our over-crowded cities.
Africans are poor because we would rather wear the cast-off clothes of Europeans than our own traditional wears. We are poor because as entepreneurs, we would rather acquire bales of unwanted worn-out attires from Europe than invest in cotton farms and cloth manufacturing industries at home. Africans are poor because we would rather prostitute or clean toilets in foreign lands than seek a living from our fertile lands.
We are poor because, while we have become unsatisfied with the world the Almighty put us in, we are also unwilling to remake this world into what we now desire.
What we know as wealth, even though it manifests as a state of material surplus, is in actuality a concept. So, our poverty is not based on a fundamental lack of materials but is instead conceptual. Something that is probably obvious to most who are reading this - but it is neccesary that we go deeper in order that we may gain a greater overstanding.
Everything that exists must have a meaning and, the uses that things are put to is dependant on the meaning given to those things. Now, not all things that exist have an intrinsic meaning but, all things that exist, in addition to their intrinsic meanings, also have man-made meanings. [Appendix : 1]
These man-made definitions for existing things (some of which are visible/material and some of which are not) are always the end-result of processes of introspection - processes that are designed for the purpose of enabling beneficiaries to gain a more useful knowledge of the self and, of the world around the self.
These processes, while always ending with the collective's arrival at a consensus, are sometimes done by individuals and, sometimes by the collective itself. And, like all processes, there is always a supporting infrastructure in place that :
- Guides the manufacturing sub-process
- Deseminates the product
- Guards its integrity
- Archives historical material
The world as it exists today is divided between nations/peoples who have gone through this process of introspection and those who have not.
Peoples that lack an ability or willingness to develop for themselves conceptual infrastructure through which meaning can be given to the main components of the current reality will have to borrow these infrastructures from those who have them. However, the five qualities listed above also ensure that the borrower countries these peoples belong to will always remain in relative poverty when compared to those countries who own the conceptual infrastructures.
What this means is that the real poverty in countries like Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, etc. is a poverty of will and ideas. And until the people are prepared by themselves to give meaning to their countries and the resources they contain, the largest segments of the populations in these countries will be poor. And by "poor", I do not mean that ones are unable to buy the latest gadgets - when I speak of "poor people", I speak of those who are unable to get what they need from their immediate environment.
In other words, African countries are not poor because "the average African earns $1 a day"; African countries are 'poor' because the average African is given worth by a set of values that he/she, through the efforts of his/her highest level representatives on the global stage, have no control over.
Few rules in the worlds of humanity are universal. In the main, we have rules that are only applicable to one part being described as universal while those that actually fit the description are hidden away or, guarded by sanctions and, one of these genuine universal rules is that the wealth of a country is directly proportional to its ability to define the world in its own terms.
[Appendix : 2]
In the case of African nations, this will mean first defining what we are, defining what others are, and, defining, as previously stated, what our resources (which includes the sum of our working hours) are worth.
- While things like money and jewelry, cars etc. derive their meanings from the values given to them by humans, air, water, fire and other elemental materials/forces have intrinsic meanings - e.g. fire will burn, water is wet, etc. They are also given man-made meanings through manipulation in various productive purposes.
- An operational fact within which the true meaning of "globalisation" can be found - i.e. what is called 'globalisation' is actually nothing more than a new label for an old product. As others have pointed out, the Atlantic 'Slave Trade' was globalisation - and, the 1884 Berlin Conference, the composition of the United Nations Security Council's Permanent membership, and the institution of Bretton Woods were all instances of globalisation. In other words, globalisation has been nothing more than another name for the imposition of eurocentric values (guarded by sanctions) on as many Earthly human communities as possible.