For the vast majority, time has never really changed. Life is still characterised by the nocturnal weekly drumming and dancing even when everything around them had drastically and dramatically changed and drumbeats no longer connected to the spirits of the ancestors, who at least in times past, provided the essence of life and blotted the pathos of sojourning under the sun.
But why is Africa poor? Poverty may never fit into one swimsuit definition. However, suffice for this discussion to define the condition as the inability to live within the comfort zone of life made easy by high levels of production and utilisation of both domestic and foreign resources. To overcome poverty, one has first to hate the condition and hold “Holy envy” against those more developed than them.
As they look to their centenary year of independence and beyond, Tanzanians have to hate poverty if they are to overcome the many challenges inherent in a life of deficiency, which many sadly, accept as the ideal state and inevitable way of life. As individuals, a good number of Tanzanians have done very well. There are many super rich Tanzanians today who were only paupers yesterday! However, as a nation, we remain among the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). That can hardly be the reason we fought for independence.
Poverty in Africa has historical and a train of other reasons that predate colonialism. In fact, colonialism only exploited the existing poverty to hold sway over the entire black nation in order to “civilise the natives.” For that matter, poverty in Africa is an intellectual question, which can only be solved through intellectual input and approach. Africa cannot overcome poverty by blind pursuit of the levels of development that other parts of the world have attained. No region of the world was created developed. Whatever we see in Europe, admire in America, appreciate from the Far East and be inspired to witness as emerging from Latin America, is a result of human industry, labour and sacrifice.
Africa can only kick poverty when the Blackman rediscovers who he is and why he presents seemingly multiple layers of not only income poverty but also deficiency in literature, science, education, agriculture, the spiritual realm, culture and many other simple philosophies of life that constitute the intangible wealth of a people. It is those seemingly innocuous layers of poverty that have left him a victim of exploitation and manipulation by other human beings. To be discriminated against is the greatest wrong and evil that men can do against fellow human beings. Yet, Africans are largely discriminated against not because of their colour but because of their low level of consumption and a seemingly fatal deficiency in the other areas of ‘intangible wealth’ that raise the collective profile of a people and fortify them against prejudice.
Admitted, the lack of the printed word, created serious disconnect in the accumulated wisdom of the people of Africa, which made some critics to suggest that Africa had no literature, meaning an absence of handed down philosophies of life from one generation to the next, a level that could only be equated to the very simple forms of life. But such critics talked from a point of grave ignorance. For reasons of geographical isolation, Africa for many millennia remained outside the major crossroads of global trade and was thus unscathed by an infusion of external cultures that historically have been pivotal for change and development in many societies. However, Egypt is the modern world’s earliest known civilisation. And, that civilisation, which built the pyramids and mummified their rulers or pharaohs, was black civilisation. In fact, Egypt itself means black.
There is ongoing debate that Greek philosophy, and therefore western philosophy, was actually stolen African philosophy. In the book: Stolen Legacy: Greek Philosophy is Stolen Egyptian Philosophy, the author George G. M. James, Ph.D. writes: “The term Greek philosophy, to begin with is a misnomer, for there is no such philosophy in existence. The ancient Egyptians had developed a very complex religious system, called the Mysteries, which was also the first system of salvation.
“As such, it regarded the human body as a prison house of the soul, which could be liberated from its bodily impediments, through the disciplines of the Arts and Sciences, and advanced from the level of a mortal to that of a God. This was the notion of the summum bonum or greatest good, to which all men must aspire, and it also became the basis of all ethical concepts. “The Egyptian Mystery System was also a Secret Order, and membership was gained by initiation and a pledge to secrecy. T
he teaching was graded and delivered orally to the Neophyte; and under these circumstances of secrecy, the Egyptians developed secret systems of writing and teaching, and forbade their Initiates from writing what they had learnt. After nearly five thousand years of prohibition against the Greeks, they were permitted to enter Egypt for the purpose of their education. First through the Persian invasion and secondly through the invasion of Alexander the Great.
“From the sixth century B.C. therefore to the death of Aristotle (322 B.C.) the Greeks made the best of their chance to learn all they could about Egyptian culture; most students received instructions directly from the Egyptian Priests, but after the invasion by Alexander the Great, the Royal temples and libraries were plundered and pillaged, and Aristotle's school converted the library at Alexandria into a research centre. There is no wonder then, that the production of the unusually large number of books ascribed to Aristotle has proved a physical impossibility, for any single man within a life time.”
The author states the aim of the book as “to establish better race relations in the world, by revealing a fundamental truth concerning the contribution of the African continent to civilisation. It must be borne in mind that the first lesson in the humanities is to make a people aware of their contribution to civilisation; and the second lesson is to teach them about other civilisations...
“Consequently, the book is an attempt to show that the true authors of Greek philosophy were not the Greeks; but the people of North Africa, commonly called the Egyptians; and the praise and honour falsely given to the Greeks for centuries belong to the people of North Africa, and therefore to the African continent . Consequently this theft of the African legacy by the Greeks led to the erroneous world opinion that the African continent has made no contribution to civilisation, and that its people are naturally backward. This is the misrepresentation that has become the basis of race prejudice, which has affected all people of colour.
For centuries the world has been misled about the original source of the Arts and Sciences; for centuries Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have been falsely idolised as models of intellectual greatness; and for centuries the African continent has been called the Dark Continent, because Europe coveted the honour of transmitting to the world, the Arts and Sciences.
“I am happy to be able to bring this information to the attention of the world, so that on the one hand, all races and creeds might know the truth and free themselves from those prejudices which have corrupted human relations; and on the other hand, that the people of African origin might be emancipated from their serfdom of inferiority complex, and enter upon a new era of freedom, in which they would feel like free men, with full human rights and privileges.”
The author was born in Guyana, studied in London and taught in the United States. The book was first published in 1954, a time of heightened racial tension in the US and a period when Africa generally agitated for independence. Poverty hazes that dream and throws Africa into identity crisis and erosion of its confidence. If Africa is to develop, then it has to bestride this world not only as the cradle of mankind but global civilisation.
I can only hope that 2012 will make the beginning of new dawn for Africa, a year that the continent will welcome new hope and make poverty history. Else, others will take their place. Africa is perhaps the most metropolitan continent in the world, settled by all races and still more others coming. Africa has never been poor. Everybody knows it and that is they are flocking to the continent. But therein lies the potential danger of the continent one day not belonging to the Africans themselves because everyone else, sees how rich it is and do not want to go back from where they came from. Unfortunately, the Africans themselves do not seem to see it that way. I can only hope that 2012 is the year of that big change.