Fahamu (Oxford)

Africa: The Removal of Agency From the Continent


When history is reduced from all the pages and pages to the underlining conclusion, we find regardless of if the author is British liberal, American conservative, or Australian the conclusion is the same. Africa has fostered nothing the Western World considers artifacts of civilization. With few exceptions, this is the underlying summarization on Africa, the pathology of discrediting and take-away, writes Owen Alik Shahadah.

To understand the entire discourse on Africa and African people is to indulge in a vivid exercise in the removal of agency. The primary purpose of this study, new and old is the continuous reassertion of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." This is the Eurocentric tradition in anti-African scholarship that provides the moral-academic justification for the slave trade: the most successful commercial venture in the history of humanity. In Europe's bid to protect their trade interest, it is clear, the marriage between racist academia and the exploitation of Africa had to be made. The need for the continuation of this tradition is not lost in today's markets, which are heavily dependant on sustaining the impoverishment of Africa. Africa today is the primary testing bed for new drugs, social experiments, cheap labor and raw material. A wealthy Africa would create stronger corruption-free government, which in turn would be an antigen to Western imperialist designs. These designs are in the form of the new slave masters--the multinational conglomerates. The reality of Africa on-the-ground is a continent locked into a blind subservient orbit. Africa is the junk-yard of the Western World, the sole purpose of the continent is not for the native African, but for the harvesting of materials to construct Western civilization.

Every people speak from their cultural perspective, this in itself is not a problem. It is a natural aspect of human behavior. The over used example of if a photo is taken of a group of people in a room, the first person each individual looks for when the photo is developed is themselves. When Americans speak of tragedy, they reference the destruction of the world trade centre, their 9/11. However, 9/11 is a date in world history and may have another significance to another culture. In Iraq they have much reason to identify with other incidence in their recent history to reference tragedy, like 11/23. [1]

Denial of agency

When history is reduced from all the pages and pages to the underlining conclusion, we find regardless of if the author is British liberal, American conservative, or Australian the conclusion is the same. Africa has fostered nothing the Western World considers artifacts of civilization. With few exceptions, this is the underlying summarization on Africa, the pathology of discrediting and take-away.

* Ethiopia - Not of African Origin

* Egypt - Not of African origin

* Sudan - Not of African origin

* Mali - Not of African origin

* The Moorish Empire - Not African

* Ancient Zimbabwe - Not of African origin

There is nothing glorious in Africa that has not been reassigned to "White" ownership. And some are confused about terms like Arab, but Arabs from the perspective of Eurocentric history are a "Middle-Eastern Caucasoid," so quite happily will they reassign Ancient Egypt or Islamic Spain to Arab people. The question for the discerning student of history is; why do all the conclusions always serve to empower Europeans and disempower Africans. It does not matter if they use archeology or genetics, linguistics or reasoning the conclusions always make a deposit towards the greatness of Europe, and a deduction from the glory of Africa.

• Who ended the slave trade- Europe

• Who stopped the Arab trade - Europe

• Who was the greatest Abolitionist - A European

• The greatest scientist, thinker, architect, composers, inventors - Europe

• Who invented modern civilization - Europe

• Who invented everything good - Europe

• Who is the most civilized - Europe

The question that should be put to these historians is "What has indigenous Africa contributed to the world?" Because the history of take-away has reduced Africa to nothing, thus implying the old statement "Africa is of no historical significance." So how are today's scholars any different from David Hume and Kant? If all their conclusions reduced all the nobility of Africa to given, borrowed or stolen.

There is generally no film, book, or report made by Europe that is so controversial that it indicts them in any atrocity against humanity. We often hear statements such as, after colonialism things collapse. The ultimate hero in every single story is the European; it is the most inescapable imposed reality the world is forced to accept.

Making a slave

In the analysis of the paradigm "the making of a slave" the removal of agency from Africa was the first instruction needed in the creation of a "cooperative work-force." Africans taken to the New World had no authority over their life; they were not even allowed to commit suicide. And the reason for adversity to African suicide was not religious or commercially motivated. It was not the fear of losing "merchandise" but moreover the mental domination and removal of all forms of self-ownership from the psyche of the African captives. The re-labeling and amalgamation of the Mandika, Fulani, Igbo, Asante, into one bland color label- black, was part of the greater process of absolute reduction of African identity: A color epithet that Europe believed to be the lowest color on Earth, thus reflecting the social designation of African people in European psyche. But for slavery to work this reality had to be transferred from the European mind to the African mind. Africans had to believe what Europe believed about Africa and Africans. Cultures, ethnicity, legacy, royalty, lineage was now melted down to a single entity--slave. The slave had no past and certainly no future, save for after death when they were allowed to service a white god in an abstract heaven.

When we traverse the globe today and look at oppressed people, we see that despite their oppression, they are fully conscious of self, they have religion and culture which they proudly use to distinguishes themselves from their oppressors. The Jews in Hitler's death camps knew they were Jewish, they had their Torah, they had the Talmud and they had their history, which was reinforced by a Jewish culture. No amount of "special treatment" could alter the Jewish religion or their historical legacy. However, Africans by a process of the most hideous system in humanity were removed and later denied access to their history. Africans could not be attached to greatness as this would then beg the question, if these people were capable of science, engineering, social structure and kingdoms, how can their function be as beast-of-burden? How can a people who forged Timbuktu, Aksum, Kanem-Bornu, Egypt, Nubia, Great Zimbabwe, Ancient Ghana, Songhay, Sokoto Caliphate, Monomotapa be now mere labor units, movable chattel, branded like cattle, confined, de-robed, whipped, and reduced?

It was absolutely essential to institutionalize the myth of a dark and savage Africa occupied by heathen cannibals who were saved by Europeans from absolute misery at the hands of their countrymen and marauding Arabs. History narrates that the European in their mercy did Africans a tremendous favor by bringing them to work in well-nurtured plantations in the West, allowing their lives to be touched by a white god, delivering them from savagery to culture, civilization and industrialization.

Academic racism and agency

The legacy of the African Holocaust has made a profound affect on African academics: We are playing chess on a board where all the pieces are white. As Africans have a profound disinheritance in areas of social-economic, there has also been a destructive disinheritance in areas of academics. The volumes of publish works by the Hitler's of the African Holocaust is impossible for Africans to gain any foothold and authorities stance in their history. Year after year, the bookshelves are filled with one opinion, which of Eurocentric thought. The most "popular" Africans are those singing from this music score. Some of the most racist and pejorative material is used today in an attempt to vindicate the continuation of academic racism.

Oxford academic [[J.R. Baker]] listed that a civilization is comprised of 21 basic components which where critical to demarcate the degree of civilization of a race. His conclusion was that Caucasians met all 21 criteria in Iraq, Crete, India, and in Egypt, and the Asians met them all in China. The Africans and Australian aborigines met virtually none of the 21 criteria. "Race". J.R. Baker", 1974, p 507-508

Baker, in his book, argues that a society originates a "civilization" if, prior to influence from outsiders, (FN1) most of its members meet most of these 21 requirements (), where "Africans" means sub-Saharan African

The self-referencing of the "old boys" like Hume and Kant is valid today because it is old, white, and used many, many times. It is thus impossible for the frustrated African to gain any ground because he/she is in a battle whose parameters are set by foes on a battlefield tipped economically, socially, in favor of the opposition. We often hear "so and so is acknowledged by everyone to be one of the most prominent scholars of ..." so and so is always white.

Scholarship is a white only seat, academic apartheid with no room for debate. Aspects of academia that are dead and buried, but still in use. They say with one breath that these academics were "men of their time" but still keep saying these people were the definitive guide to Africa. How can you say something is wrong but keep using it as a definitive source? The complete dismantlement (deconstruction) of the academic paradigm of authority needs to be a first step in a pure analysis, and it is for Africans to adopt this approach as bases for articulating and imposing a new identify. And in this we cannot overlook the significance of linguistics as a function of oppression.

Our history our schedule our format our agenda. We determine the placement and the process by which African history and culture is taught, disseminated, absorbed and weighted. The agenda setting and permission slips from Europe are the legacy of mental enslavement. The agency of Africa means just that African people as agents of all aspects of their history, politics and culture. This is not a statement of supremacy but mere equality. We discuss at the table the level of interface we want to have with aspects of our culture, not the other way around. And for this reason the Maafa study is a key sign of the Pan-African paradigm-shift where the legacy of the African Holocaust on African people globally is studied within the framework of the natural history in which the Maafa occurred. The emphasis in the historical narrative is on African agents.

Europe solution for Africa

"Begging the fox to save you from the wolf."

The premises behind much of the solutions for Africa are in the ideal that a hurting Africa needs a humanist hand from Europe. This is like appealing to the fox to save you from the wolf. An agreement in the United Nations' Security Council or other diabolical agencies such as the World Bank is like an agreement among a choir, and such agreements are not agreements at all nor are they meant to provide any succor to the problems of Africa. NEPAD insist that a richer Africa is in the interest of the entire world, true or false will not appeal to the morality of a world system that never in its legacy has and does not act along a moral compass. There is nothing but capitalism and illusions of democracy, which are alien to the aspirations of African people. From "Feed Africa" to "Make Poverty History" which are mere sloganeering programs with no genuine effect to the teeming population of the continent. These campaigns are industries unto themselves that create billions of dollars and generate millions of jobs. Entire business exists that sustain their products entirely from the poverty of Africa. We are naïve and childish to believe a richer Africa is in the interest of Europe. Poor people do not have the luxury of liberalism and freedom of speech. Poor people have no point of view other than "feed me", Poor people are absent from the luxury of agency. And a poor Africa will always be a slave to a richer Europe.

Today at every major anti-slavery or save Africa project it is Europe deciding and inviting personalities from the African world to sit at "THEIR" table, to discuss Africa's problems. The frontline for Make Poverty History is a "museum of rock star" beyond their performance years, probably seeking redemption and revival; Gedolf is the expert on famine, Bono the authority on AIDS. Bob Geldof, the Jesus and Tarzan character all rolled into one. The first name to come to mind when abolition is whispered is William Wilberforce and Granville Sharpe. Walking in the legacy of Dr. Livingston, I presume: A man who single-handedly ended the ENTIRE Arab Slave trade. Again, the agency in African liberation is Europe. Not even dealing with the aspect of how Africa found itself in the continuing hole. What kind of world do we live in when the views of the oppressed are expressed at the convenience of the rich?

Language of racism

To highlight the academic dilemma against Africans it is necessarily to just site one of Europe's key historians on slavery. The age of the work and the period it was written in seem to make little impression in universities today, who seem to neglect the social status of Africans in the time these so-called scholarly books were being written in. It also neglects to highlight the mindset of the authors of these works and their contribution to the obscuring and footnoting of African history and African contributions to civilization. Men who would be labeled by a self-determined African today are referenced and cited with little challenge. Despite all the new research and development, this dead racist scholarship is still held high as the authentic source on Africa. Almost as if the more you reference a bad source the more authentic it becomes. The foundation of history of Africa cannot be studied outside of the dynamics of race and racism in the writings of African conquers. This is not to dismiss their entire work, but surely to raise the red flag of sincerity, and subsequently expose the agendas behind these scribbling. J.D. Fage sits high on this throne of Anti-African rhetoric [2].

"Today, however, some scholars assert that slavery did not have a wholly disastrous effect on those left behind in Africa." [3]

Imagine begging the question and stating that some scholars believed the Jewish Holocaust was not entirely disastrous. We must assume there is again some degree of salvation in the actions of the Europeans who saved Africa from savagery. It is like saying the Jewish Holocaust was not entirely beneficial because some Jews got senior position in the Nazi army, or slavery was good because Africans got free Caribbean cruises.

"At its peak, the Atlantic slave trade took about 90,000 slaves per year out of a total population of around 25 million in just Guinea, where the vast majority originated. This number was significant, yet only a moderate annual growth rate in population was enough to sustain it by replacement. Therefore, the slave trade is unlikely to have caused a decrease in the population of West Africa, though it may have reduced or even halted population growth in some regions." [4]

Again, we see the apology and denial of the consequences of enslavement [5]. What this is saying is the harvesting of African people was done sustainable and that it had no demographic consequences on birth rate, it would be worth mentioning that the most viral and healthiest members where been exported overseas so it is inconceivable that it would not affect population demographics not to mention settlement patterns and human social potential.

The Nok civilization is argued by some to prove that Africa had a civilization prior to the arrival of Europe.

This kind of tone appears to vindicate Africa but it actually introduces reasonable doubt. Its references again the false notion of a primitive Africa as a half-valid hypothesis for it shows by implication that anything or everything in Africa has to be articulated by juxtaposition. African civilization does not require any proof or revolutionary rethink. This kind of reasoning follows from "he seems very educated for a black" or "you see they are not all savages." What needs to be done is exposed the motives behind those removing African agency from the annals of world cultural contributions.

"For those left behind in Africa the standard of living increased substantially and the region became divided into highly centralized and powerful nation states, such as Dahomey and the Ashanti Confederacy. It also created a class of very wealthy and highly Europeanized traders who began to send their children to European Universities. [6]

The contempt in Eurocentrism is so self-evident it almost needs no commentary to identify either intention or fallacies. It is be restated the source of this material comes from a respected seminal academic and authority on Africa. Before Europe, we know the Kanka Musa had gold reserves that made Ancient Mali one of the riches economies in the Ancient world. It is also a fact that Sankore was an African university so notable that Arabs and others came to study there. All of these non-direct facts retort the claims that contact with Europe brought power and education. Also the statement about Europeanized traders is intended by the author as a compliment a kind of accession of the African from savage beast to Europeanized. Fage trips and stabs himself with his own pen and exposes and implements himself as one of the historical agents of academic racism that has distorted the African historical timeline.


It is the responsibility of the next generation of academics to re-interpret the works of their predecessors. This is not a duty exclusive to the victims of Eurocentric academic racism but rather to all. The plurality and multicultural world is far safer if we all exist in an environment of truth and fairness overriding the miss-motives of the past. It is the racist contamination to all subsequent bodies of work.

The foundational paradigm must be truth; this is the driver for the next generation. We must sail the ship of truth on the sea of lies, against the tide of repetition, for this is the only way to erase the pre-assumed notion that washes and perverts the greatest human science--history.


1. On November 23, 2006, a savage string of bombing attacks erupted on the capital's Shi'ite Sadr City slum to kill at least 215 people and wound 257.

2. The reclaimed history Man http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/cameron_duodu/2006/06/the_eurocentric_view_of_africa.html

3. A History of Africa: J.D. Fage pg. 261

4. A History of Africa: J.D. Fage pg. 260

5. Maulana Karenga 500 YEARS LATER, Film

6 History of Africa: J.D. Fage pg. 274

* Owen 'Alik Shahadah is a director, African academic , writer, musician, photographer and music producer. He is best known for authoring works, which deal with African history, social justice, environmental issues, education and world peace. Born in Hanover, Germany and educated in both England and the Caribbean, Shahadah is of a new generation of African Diaspora filmmakers inspired by the likes of Ousmane Sembène and Haile Gerima. He produces work that articulates a multidimensional African world perspective. Testimony to this is 500 Years Later.

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