What is happening to Africa’s wealth?

The Guardian (20.10.2006) tells the story of a small Malawian boy’s adoption by an American superstar. There has been plenty of criticism and comment about a story which covers an uncomfortable reality, a reality which the intention of G8 has been unable to touch.
Africa is a poor continent. Wrong. It has wealth untold, as Botswana is demonstrating quite spectacularly. The problem is the distribution of wealth. When I visited Francistown there were new buildings appearing everywhere with the expectation this will continue. As I return to the station someone calls my name. It is a Nigerian I met in Birmingham. He has come here to find work, but he’s African and maybe it’s not that easy. The diamond mining is controlled jointly by De Beers, the company founded by Cecil Rhodes a highly controversial figure in his dealings with Africans and others.
Khami, Zimbabwe
Reconstruction of zimbabwe at Khami west of Bulawayo

The existence of a state of Monomatapa is still hotly debated. It includes present day Zimbabwe where there exist a number of stone houses, or zimbabwes, the most well-known being Great Zimbabwe itself. I visited the site at Khami which includes a Portuguese cross on top of the highest point of the hill complex. Khami is being reconstructed by an international group of volunteers with its walls showing the same patterns familiar from its predecessor at Great Zimbabwe. Peter Garlake, the Zimbabwean archeologist who has researched some of the sites and written about Great Zimbabwe, left the country of his birth in 1970 when the Rhodesian Front “instructed that no official state publications may state unequivocally that Great Zimbabwe was an African creation”. (Garlake 1982). Portuguese sources provide a different picture some of which are cited in W.G.L Randles’ “The Kingdom of Monomatapa” (1981).


Portuguese Cross, Khami
Portuguese cross at Khami with coins and other offerings
I have previously reported on seeing skeletons of Africans, two women and a man, crushed when the tunnels of the mine in which they were working collapsed 500 years ago. This is in the National Museum in Bulawayo. Now that white rule has vanished in Zimbabwe, many remaining cling to the folorn outdated philosophy and justify a lifestyle of a byegone age with African house servants. Given that they remain dispossessed such an income as they get is necessary for survival. Some of the more philanthropic support their families with educational opportunities and so on.
Now the Chinese are moving into Africa. However they bring with them their own labour force and apart from cheap goods there is little to help those excluded from the existing structures. On the other hand a small African elite has emerged which has added to the burden of the masses, many of whom have seen their houses bulldozed and their livlihoods heavily restricted.
The removal of one small boy from his home and family will not serve to change the structures imposed on Africa from the 1885 Berlin Conference onwards. Charity is not going to change the desperately ignorant view that Africa has no history, even though the fact of Egypt and its forerunner Nubia are only examples of kingdoms and empires which have come and gone at times when Europe was in a primitive state. When will Africans stop being blamed for being African?

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