Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
Caribbean 360

In his new book, South African academic Ndangwa Noyoo contends that Africans can longer continue to attribute their underdevelopment to the machinations of Europeans and other foreigners. Africans themselves are to blame for their own failings. An excerpt.

Dear Editor,

I immensely enjoyed Wazir Mohammed’s presentation about the assassination of Walter Rodney. I would like to add my voice to this debate by contributing an excerpt from my latest book - which has been labelled “controversial” or “unAfrican” by some commentators. It is entitled Wrong Things About Africa. Since Rodney’s passing, I contend, we Africans have not been serious about our liberation and development:

Even though I studied African history, politics and development - from primary school onwards – this account is mainly non-academic and from an African, non-conformist perspective. Indeed, that is why I argue in this book that Africa’s continued underdevelopment is perpetrated and perpetuated by Africans themselves, through their imprudent and even nonsensical actions, stemming from, for example, political ineptitude or retrogressive cultural practices. This sad reality continues to replicate itself on the African Continent, half a century after many African countries gained “independence” and after those who had originally underdeveloped Africa - as Walter Rodney had observed three decades ago – had packed their bags and left Africa.

Rodney’s famous text: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was almost like a Bible to me when I was a young student at UNZA in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I thought to myself then that at last here was a book that systematically showed how Europe had benefited from the rape, plunder and pillage of the African Continent and was unlike other works that had just huffed and puffed hot air, without corroborating their criticisms of Europe with hard evidence.

In the days when Rodney’s book was written, and even in decades before, Europeans had always tried to blame Africans for the problems that had created in the first place. Europeans would sanitise and then absolve themselves from most of the mess that they had created on the African Continent by selling the silly story that Africans were the “white man’s burden”. In so doing, they attempted to paint a glossy picture of colonialism and airbrush slavery and colonial exploitation in the historical books. Therefore, it was gratifying to read and cite a book such as Rodney’s in order to factually counteract some of ethnocentric works that had attempted to exonerate Europe from Africa’s sad predicament.

Rodney’s book had also proved very popular to my forerunners, who had passed through the intellectual corridors of UNZA in the 1970s. In the same league, was also Frantz Fanon’s book: The Wretched of the Earth.

Nevertheless, the reality is that since Rodney’s and Fanon’s books, Africa continues to be underdeveloped, not solely because of Europeans, but because of Africans themselves. In fact, I would even venture to point out that Africans seem actually to epitomize the wretched of the earth well into the Twenty-First Century, due to African people’s imprudent actions. The sooner Africans come to grips with this reality, the better it will be for all of us, especially Africans who want to see Africa rise to zenith heights.

Indeed, the questions to now ask are: Since the publication of the aforementioned books, how much of Africa’s underdevelopment is being perpetrated and perpetuated by Europe? Surely, Africans are not hapless and helpless pawns in the Game of Life, so to speak. Really, can they be at the mercy of European powers and their allies in perpetuity?

In fact, we have failed to ask this simple question: How much of Africa’s underdevelopment actually emanates from African people’s own foolhardy actions? Are we such a clueless people that we cannot chart our own destiny and be free from other peoples’ machinations?

Nonetheless, I also argue in the book that the chief contributors to this deplorable state of affairs in Africa are Africa’s so-called leaders. I have referred to the leaders as “so-called”, because many of them are not worthy of being referred to as leaders, or are even equipped to lead their respective countries. Instead of spearheading their countries to development and prosperity, as well as to better states of existence, where everyone is prosperous, happy, free, productive and innovative, African leaders have been very good at driving their countries into states of deprivation, humiliation, poverty, chronic hunger, oppression, desolation and death. Citizens of many African countries often end up on the road to incarceration and even premature death, just for speaking out against political misrule, myopic governance or poor leadership.

* Ndangwa Noyoo is Associate Professor, Department of Social Work, University of Johannesburg.



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

* Please send comments to [email=[email protected]]editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org[/email] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

Comments (1)

  • sahcloud's picture

    Her absence from the Ebola saga during the initial days when African solidarity was needed could only be described as shameful, particularly given the very early Un-African position taken by S. Africa. When she finally condescended to visit the countries, she remained at the airport. What a sad commentary on the history of the AU. I guess upon her return to S. Africa, all illusions about what she is capable of will be shattered; and if accorded a leadership position, we should begin to commiserate with the citizens of her country.

    Jul 08, 2016