Why Africa Is Lagging Behind: President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda Explains in This Thought-Provoking Article, Why Africa Is in Its Current State. He Starts by Recounting the History of the Continent over the Last 500 Years-From Pre-Colonial Days to the Present Day-And Offers Pertinent Suggestion on How Africa Can Solve Its Pressing Problems

Article excerpt

Can Africa claim the 21st century? The answer is that Africa can, although it may not. I will explain later. However, for now I would like to point out that we cannot chart Africa's possible progress without looking at why Africa has marked time for the last 500 years.

By the time Black Africa came in contact with Europe in the year 1434 when the Portuguese explorer, Gil Eanes, sailed along the coast of Sierra Leone and the Cape Verde Islands, Africa, like Europe, was a three-class society: feudalists, artisans mad peasants. Since that time, European society has metamorphosed into a middle class and then into an industrial working class while Africa socially regressed into almost a mono-class society of peasants.

There is now a narrow stratum of Africans speaking European languages with a cacophony of accents, wearing European suits, eating European foods but who are divorced from both traditional production modes of Africa as well as the modern ones. In terms of historical relevance, they tend more towards irrelevance. Historical relevance here refers to the justification of one's role. How useful are the black elite (the African speakers of European languages) to Africa?

Black Africa it under-performing in all aspects of human endeavour: GDP per capita, infant mortality tares, literacy rates, average life expectancy, per capital protein consumption, HIV infection rates and so forth. This is in spite of the presence of the English, French, Portuguese and Arabic speaking black elite on the sea of African peasantry:

Of the roughly 800 million Africans, about 120 million are Arabs or black people of Arab origin. The remaining 680 million are black people. If we extrapolate Uganda's example, then one can assume that approximately 560 million black people in Africa are peasants. This is the scale of the social regression in the last 500 years. The population of Africa, including Arabs, was 140 million in 1900. Therefore, more Africans are peasants now than in 1900.

The African feudal class was wiped out because it was in competition with the colonialists for power and did not warn to give up African sovereignty. Many African kings fought the colonialists and, therefore, the African feudal class had to be eliminated.

The African artisan class also had to be eliminated because the items they were making for use in households--as weapons or capital items--had to be replaced by European-manufactured goods, e.g. plates, spoons and cups supplanted enyabya (clay bowls) and endosho (wooden spoons), buckets replaced amachuba (wooden pails); Gillete razor blades substituted for orumwaiso (shaving knives) and African war implements declined substantially after the Europeans took over defence responsibilities.

The artisan class was nearly wiped out, though there were certain categories which survived, e.g. musical instruments. In Uganda today, indigenous instruments are gaining hegemony over imported ones due to their sophistication. These are endingiri (violin), enanga (harp), emdongo (big harp), engoma (drum) as well as amadinda, embuntu, enjebajebe and esheegu--none of which have a European equivalent.

As you all know, the entire human race originated from Africa. During the six million years of human evolution, the hominds (human-like creatures), including the most advanced Homo sapien sapien (the wise man) only lived in Africa. The first human beings to leave Africa for other continents left only about 100,000 years ago. Hence, all of you are Africans but have lost your pigmentation because of your stay for prolonged periods in the cold climates of your "new homes".

Why is it then that this cradle of humanity, nay the cradle of civilisation, could capitulate to the colonialism of the returnees? Why has Africa lagged behind?

Most of Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, is a plateau. The rivers in much of Africa cascade from the interior to the coast by way of waterfalls, cataracts, and rapids, which do not permit easy navigation. …