Joachim Breitner

African: Africa should stop blaming others

Published 2006-10-13 in sections English, Ghana.

At this school, every friday morning one member of staff holds a speech full of wisdom, insight and motiviation. While usually I find these quite transparent and full of good-sounding, not-very-helpful advices, today's speach by a history teacher was different.

He talked about how africa keeps blaming the European colonialisation for it's current state, and that it should rather look ahead and "forge forward" (I didn't even know you could use "forge" as a verb implying movement, and doesn't know either). He listed other countries with a devastating event in their history who were successful afterwards: Japan, after the the atomic bombing, became an “industrial giant”, German's economic miracly after being bombed to ashes and the Jew's will to go on after the holocaust.

He assumed that if the bombs had been dropped on an African country more than half a century ago, people would still be blaming their current problems on the bombs, and demanding compensation, which some Africans do now regarding the slave trade, and which the teacher thinks also displays of lack of own initiative. Again, he compared that to Germany and Japan who did not think of expecting compensation (but then, these two have started the war that caused their bombing, so this comparision is, in my opinion, not entirely valid)

Also interesting was the thesis that if these days a large slave ship would land on an African harbour, and announcements would be made that 200.000 slaves would be needed to work on American farms, people would thrash forward to go on that ship. Although it was probably a citique on the mentality of some Africans, it could also be seen as a reference to the state of affairs in Africa, where to some work as a slave might be the better choice.

All in all a very interesting point of view that I wanted to share with you. It definately made more impression than my talk about Free Software, but that one went ok as well, I think.


"Forge ahead" is normal usage.

Interesting article, seems a bit harsh on mindset of Africans. I don't believe that most think like that. Given proper access to education and opportunities to use it those that do would be less disenfranchised.
#1 JP (Homepage) am 2006-10-13
Yes, one has to consider that it was a speech to wake up the students, to make them "forge ahead", and not a political discussion with westerners, so the harshness is probably intended.
#2 Joachim Breitner (Homepage) am 2006-10-13
For the other visitors, JP has made a comment on this on:
#3 Joachim Breitner (Homepage) am 2006-10-13
NPR just finished a 5-part series on why Africa continues to lag in economic success. Recommended if you're interested in this topic.

Top page of the series at
#4 Eric Prestemon am 2006-10-13
"forge ahead" from [1913 Webster] :
(Naut.) To move heavily and slowly, as a ship after the sails are furled; to work one's way, as one ship in outsailing another; -- used especially in the phrase to forge ahead. --Totten.

Regarding African slavery: Europeans did not have to chase thru the hot, steamy, jungles after Africans to capture them. Slavery was common all over the continent for 2000 years before the White Man arrived. West African kingdoms did a huge trade with the Portugese and Brits, trading guns and other advanced goods for slaves.

Sadly, it's bad manners to talk about that anymore.
#5 Ron am 2006-10-13
If bad things were done by Caucasians in Africa in colonial times and they had then left then things might be different now.

Consider blood diamonds (, the same thing applies to most natural resources in Africa.
#6 Russell Coker (Homepage) am 2006-10-14
No doubt.

However, it is human nature that the strong conquors the weak. For 250 years, that was The West.

Now the Chinese have broken out of their isolationist mold, and, just as Europe learned of Ancient Rome & Greece from the Arabs, China is learning "science and technology" from the West and is becoming ascendant, while the West is (slowly) declining, just as other great civs before it did.

Do I begrudge them that? No.
#7 Anonymous am 2006-10-14

There's an old adage about might makes right. The reason that states think twice before attacking a nuclear state is the same thing.

Africa's position of weakness, has grown out of its legacy past, but the problem has never been the past. It has always been the present. And the present then becomes the past.

If today, we decide to take a look at how things are done here in Ghana, you will see a lot of influence from foreign interests and it usually goes hand in hand with corrupt local interests. The two are almost inextricably linked.

You can always say, well, stop moaning about the past. I would like to moan about the present. Such as why our consumers don't have credit cards but we do have Barclays and Standard Chartered, so I know the technology is there. Or why our goods are sold for prices determined by the commodity exchanges which are located in the financial centers of the world. Or how the EU and US keep on subsidizing their farmers to moronic levels. Or on specific policies linking the development of the third world to decreased Western prosperity and the inevitable conclusion that our growth should be slowed down as much as possible.

Or why the West keeps on pumping in money to refugees, water for people etc and totally neglecting things like education and health, the real things that will benefit us in the long term. Or how Ashanti Goldfields (the largest gold mining company, owner of one of the single richest gold mines in the world here in Ghana) and how they used a hedge mechanism to put the company in debt and sold it out when leveraged to the traditional big boys. Or how Mark Thatcher was planning to overthrow an African government. Or how the Swiss government is seriously dragging its feet over returning billions of dollars to America. Or how the Swiss government and the other governments know how much people here have stolen and yet let them keep it, without returning it to the countries. Or how US congressmen have been linked to people like Charles Taylor and to shady deals in Nigeria.

So yes, let's not moan about the past, but let's not be ignorant either about how the present becomes the past and about how Africa is not given a really fair chance and everyone turns around and blames us (we have a fair share of that, but are by no means the only culprits).
#8 Guido Sohne (Homepage) am 2006-10-15

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