Focus on Africa
Focus on Africa
For better or worse the old Africa is gone and the white races must face the new situation which they have themselves created in this continent. Africa is going to be one of the major problems of the twentieth century, and the repercussions of that problem on the rest of the world may be very far-reaching yet.-J. C. Smuts: Rhodes Memorial Lecture, 1929.
WHAT cruel prophecy! Already a war is raging in answer to one of those problems: which among the European nations shall control this Africa? For, notwithstanding the fact that the battleground of the war lies in Europe and its approaches, there lurks behind the conflict the question of imperial supremacy, especially that concerning Africa. This nation, and that, wants Africa: Africa the mysterious, the dark, and the fertile; Africa of the green jungles and the brown deserts; Africa, bearer of jewels, producer of ivory, hoarder of metals; Africa, mother of man power. Yet, curiously, this great war, which has caught Europe by the throat, is perhaps of but small importance to the African continent itself.
Africa and Europe are built on different foundations. In Europe stability springs from the unity of nations; disturb the national equilibrium ever so slightly, and the mass of the continent, like Columbus' egg, rolls back and forth upon itself. Africa, on the other hand, is virtually lacking in national fiber. With her, the basic structure is the race, a broader, simpler, and more fundamental unit than the complex division embodied in the nation. Changes in national sovereignty may leave her completely unmoved; the egg rolls along on its side and comes to rest at any point of its girth. But interfere with the solidarity of races, and you attempt a feat like that of standing the egg on its small end: it quickly upsets; and its oscillations and gyrations give evidence of the drastic and unnatural experiment that has been attempted.
In the end it little matters whether one nation of the white man's Europe or another spreads its long fingers across the African continent. What does matter is the manner in which those fingers press upon the continent, how deeply they intrude into its affairs, and how actively stir and disturb the life thereon. It matters, for example, that Europeans recognize Africa as essentially the continent of the black man, since he . . .