Slavery is a very complex subject matter and manifests itself in various forms. Though its manifestations vary, they share a foundational philosophy characterised by two elements thus: an unbridled desire to gain economic dominance (power) over others and the creation of structures that ensure the sustenance of the economic powers gained. This kind of philosophy creates a mind-set that leads to unrestrained exploitation of people and their natural resources and remains undisturbed so that ‘Lazarus’ can no longer feed even from the crumbs of his table (Luke 16:19-31).
The economic relationship between Europe and Africa is worse than that of a kingdom and a vassal state; at least a vassal state lives in hope of becoming a free state one day even if the dream is never realised. Africa became a conquered and subjugated continent to Europe out of her own magnanimity. Through the centuries, Europe has set up and continues to consolidate its structures of subjugation so that the status quo ad ante with Africa remains. On the international stage, she plays the ostrich while adorning the toga of the sympathizer that feels very concerned about the poverty in Africa. AEFJN underlines that what Africa needs from Europe and the whole global north is a respect for our common humanity, manifested in all its ramifications. Yes! Historically, the instruments of slavery have changed and become complex while their impacts have become more systematic, more subtle and devastating but it is possible to identify three distinct epochs in the process of this development:
The Era of Salve trade. This era began with the European explorers of Africa and the trade in raw materials that accompanied the explorations. It culminated in the trade in human beings which involved the use of physical force. Trading in human beings was a part of the schema to boost economic power in the plantations of Europe and the Americas.
The Era of the partition of Africa. Some countries of Europe shared out the African continent among themselves without the consent of Africa. The single motive was continued access to raw materials and the expansion of their markets of finished products while changing their tool of slavery from physical to economic force. The structures of the economic and political dominance of Europe over Africa was laid out and consolidated within this period as African lands and peoples became ‘properties’ of European nations.
The Era of globalisation. The motive remains the same, but it is mediated through the global economic and financial instruments and systems and European development finances and programs. The quest for domination has transformed the structures into global instruments controlled by the Western World for more efficiency. Some of such structures include:
- The World Bank programs make it easy for Western corporations to gain access the heart and fabric of the African nations; giving unwarranted tax breaks, changing Africa land tenure systems etc. in favour of Transnational corporations and a few African elites. It is documented that Africa loses more than $50 billion dollars on tax evasion.
- World Trade Organization (WTO) principles facilitate trade policies that put the global south at a very big disadvantage. For example, the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between Africa and the EU are geared towards making Africa remain suppliers of raw materials to EU and providing a market for the EU’s finished products in a trading system that will never bring about any progress to Africa.
- International Monetary Fund (IMF) The structural adjustment programs are forcing African national governments to lose control of their economies and to remain in perpetual subservience to foreign powers.
- Economic programs that exploit Africa e.g. the G7(8) New Alliance, a private partnership program supposedly created to invest in Africa’s agriculture is a tool for wiping out Africa food systems and cultures, through propagation of GMOs and land grabbing.
- A financial system that breeds tax havens. Safe havens for resources stolen by corrupt African elites, while international alliances are formed and pacts signed to frustrate Africa’s fight against the syphoning of her wealth.
The result is a troubled world where true peace has become a globalised illusion. Some indices are clear for all to see –
- Endemic Poverty in Africa: Every foreign development program goes down the drain because the economic structures are geared towards the supply of raw materials.
- Endless wars and conflicts in Africa arising from the struggle for resource control. Meanwhile, the EU and her corporations fan the conflicts into flames with the supplies of arms so as to steal more of the resources and tell the world that their hands are clean.
- Collapse of infrastructure: It is not surprising then that Africa’s existing health systems, food distribution, electricity, portable water supply and other social infrastructures have collapsed.
- Widespread ecological degradation resulting from unrestrained resource exploitation.
- Forced migrations/Human trafficking. Countless number of Africans are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea in search of non-existing greener pastures in Europe.
It is very worrisome to see the global north create, sustain and even celebrate their instrument of slavery in the global south but what goes around comes around. However, AEFJN takes solace in the words of Luther King Jnr; ‘We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools’. Peace will remain an illusion to Europe without peace in Africa and the rest of the globe. All Europe’s efforts to discourage African migrants from taking the risk of crossing the Mediterranean Sea will remain an exercise in futility because the will to survive is very strong in the African, even when he has been stripped of his dignity. After all, what is the value of life when its innate nobility has been raped and emptied; it is only reasonable that migrants die seeking a better life in Europe. Unless a path is drawn in the Europe – Africa relationship, peace will continue to remain a subject of speculation because no one is free until we are all free.