Because this is getting too long, I’ll mention this next time. No I’ll go ahead and mention it now, but I’ll be short. Different guests and friends have come through town at one time or another. And I remember one saying something that sounded offensive (though he did not mean it as such). He said that the people are very luck to have benefitted from the development brought by the Europeans who both came and stayed in the country through today. Being one who is studying African history, I’ve had to relearn or correctly learn about the amazing civil and civic potentials of African societies and nation-states past and the truth of the history of this continent. And being someone who works in development whenever I can, I began to question what is development.
Sometimes I feel like development means Western-style sociotechnological advances. The problem is that you can actually be “advanced” without having such technological advances. And it’s not a question of stupidity or inferiority but one of choice if that makes sense or even comfort (lack of necessity). Even today we have some tribes that still live a Stone Age type of existence in the Kalahari, for instance (pygmies). It has nothing to do with intellect.
And when you study African history from the Iron Age on (500 BC - ), even before you arrive in the “middle ages” you come across great civilizations—the Egyptian civilizations (north, south, the unified kingdom, etc.), Ancient Ghana (Ghana is a Soninke word for “war chief” and the Ancient Ghanaian empire reached its peak at the same time as the Franks were growing their empire in Europe) and Kanem-Bornu (Idris Alooma was the most “successful” West African monarch of his day, a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I, and having diplomats in Cairo and Tripoli while exchanging gifts with the Ottoman empire), Ancient Mali (rose to power after Ghana) and Songhay, etc.
It’s definitely true that parts of Africa developed differently due to various factors (Check out Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel”) like the plough which developed in the north as early as the 4000 BC (around then) but whose development in the south and central was troubled by the tsetse fly pest which has been around since earliest human habitation. So, as Professor Basil Davidson says, if mining materials proved useful to some parts of
So in the Iron Age period on, some Africans accumulated wealth especially due to position along desired trade routes (for instance with the high demand for West African gold and North African salt; that’s a good potential for trade just with those two commodities placed in different locations not to mention international trade routes). But for others it was undesirable or impossible.
The Dinka are an example. Some would have labeled them primitive (“undeveloped”). They lived in the Upper Nile where south of them were swamp wastelands of the early
Even subconsciously attaching a notion of size in the definition of development is questionable. The size of a polity or administration does not relate to its efficacy or its ability to adhere a people and govern well. The village governments of Igbo in