Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 22:17:31 -0700 (PDT)
From: Art McGee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Ali Mazrui: From Slave Ship to Space Ship
From Slave Ship to Space Ship: African between Marginalization and Globalization
By Ali Mazrui, African Studies Quarterly, Vol. 2, issue 4
22 April 1999
When we formulated the title "From Slave Ship to Space-Ship", we did not
have Senator John Glenn's 1998 space odyssey in mind. By coincidence this
odyssey was happening at the same time as this panel in November 1998. We
did have in mind a link between the slave ship and the subsequent Western
capacity to launch space ships or space shuttles.
Africa and the African people made a far bigger contribution to the
technological revolution of the West than the West did to industrial
change in Africa. Walter Rodney was concerned about how Europe retarded
Africa's development. But is there not another big story--the story of how
Africa accelerated Europe's development? Did not Rodney also contribute to
this second debate? Especially in Chapters III and V of his book, How
Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
How Africa Developed the West
Each step in Africa's contribution to the development of the West was
itself a stage in the history of globalization. I referred to these stages
in my M.K.O. Abiola Lecture for the African Studies Association of the
United States in 1994. The era of the labor imperative was when the labor
of Africa's sons and daughters was what the West needed for its industrial
take-off. The slave ship helped to export millions to the Americas to help
in the agrarian revolution in the Americas and the industrial revolution
in Europe simultaneously. The enforced dispersal of Black people to serve
Western capitalism was itself part of the emerging globalization.
In the era of the territorial imperative, the West docked the slave ships
away forever and launched the gunboats in their place. This was the era of
imperialism and gunboat diplomacy.
Whatever happens, we have got
the maxim and they have not!
The West stopped exporting Africa's sons and daughters and colonized
Africa itself. Imperialism and gunboat diplomacy were part of the ugly
side of globalization. Raw materials for Western manufacturing industries
became a major temptation.
Then came the era of the extractive imperative. Africa's minerals became
the next major contributor not only to Western economies but also to
Western technology. Uranium from the Belgian Congo was part of the
original Manhattan project which produced the first atomic bombs. Other
minerals, like cobalt, became indispensable for jet engines. There were
times when Africa had 90 percent of the world's known reserves of cobalt,
over 80 percent of the global reserves of chrome, and a hefty share of
platinum and industrial diamonds.
Africa's impact on the West's technological history in this phase was
heavily based on Africa's industrial minerals. The space ship was slowly
in the making. As we have reminded ourselves at this conference, Walter
Rodney's most popular book looked at how Europe underdeveloped Africa (the
slave ship syndrome). The other side of the story is how Africa developed
Europe (the space ship potential).
Rodney is better known for the negative consequences. We need also to
investigate the positive consequences of Africa's impact upon Europe from
economic production to space communication and how Walter Rodney
contributed to this other debate. Also relevant was Eric Williams's
examination of the interplay between capitalism and slavery.
We now come to areas of metaphor. Walter Rodney's stay in Tanzania
coincided with the promulgation and aftermath of the "Arusha Declaration
on Socialism and Self-Reliance". Arusha is the name of the town where the
Declaration occurred in 1967. But what does the word "Arusha" literally
mean? It means: "He makes fly (into the skies)." In standard Kiswahili the
word is anarusha. In other dialects it is simply arusha: "He makes fly
into the skies." Who makes fly? Ancestrally it was God. In 1967, the year
of the Arusha Declaration, it was Julius K. Nyerere. He made socialism and
self-reliance (ujamaa na kujitegemea) fly. In the space age it could be an
astronaut or a cosmonaut who makes a space ship fly.
Why is Arusha town called "He makes fly into the skies"? Because the town
is located close to Mt. Kilimanjaro, whose pinnacle is the highest point
on the African continent. Kilimanjaro is the roof of Africa--from whence
God makes things "fly into the skies."
It has been alleged that Walter Rodney's inadequate command of Kiswahili
was no handicap for his communication with rural Tanzanians. I beg to
We must not trivialize the relevance of language in human communication;
otherwise we might sound like the song:
You don't have to know the language -- With a girl in your arms
and the moon up above,
you don't have to know the language!
Of course Walter Rodney could relate in friendly terms with rural
Tanzanians. But being friendly is different from being Socialist, let
alone being Marxist. He could not convey his socialism linguistically to
the Tanzanian peasant.
In Africa in the 1960s and the 1970s one could not be a Marxist without
being substantially Westernized through a European language. Walter Rodney
could not reach rural Tanzanians as a socialist or as a Marxist. He could
only reach them as a friendly man. In reality a friendly man could belong
to any ideology.
A dialectic faced Walter Rodney in relation to the twin policies of Julius
Nyerere's Tanzania. Under the Arusha Declaration, Nyerere's policy of
socialism brought the national ideology of Tanzania closer to Walter
Rodney's own leftist paradigm.
On the other hand, Nyerere's simultaneous language policy of greater
Swahilization made Tanzania less and less accessible to Walter Rodney's
ideo-cultural skills. Nyerere's socialist policies were opening up
ideological doors to Walter Rodney, while Nyerere's Swahilization policies
were closing down cultural doors to Walter Rodney.
Every stage of Africa's contribution to globalization was also a stage in
its own marginalization. Rodney was all too aware that African captives
who were turned into slaves entered the emerging world of international
capitalism. But those captives were simultaneously a symbol of the
marginalization of the African peoples.
Imperialism and gunboat diplomacy made colonized Africa part of world-wide
empires. But colonized people are inevitably marginalized people. The
extractive imperative made African minerals fuel the world economy.
African minerals enriched other economies rather than Africa's own.
The space ship was also born out of the rivalries of the Cold War between
the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies.
Sputnik in the firmament in 1958 put the Soviet Union first into orbit.
The Soviets borrowed a lot from Western technology, but carried it
further. The process of "Arusha" had been sparked out. Soviet Yuri Gagarin
was also the first man in space. The West was temporarily beaten at its
own game. The "Arusha" space enterprise had been accomplished.
A resurgence of American resolve under John F. Kennedy inspired the U.S.
space program and enabled the United States first to circle the earth
(John Glenn) and later to land the first man on the moon.
The Cold War: Globalizing or Marginalizing?
Africa's involvement in the Cold War was another globalizing experience,
but in this case marginalization was temporarily suspended. The rivalries
between the two super powers temporarily increased Africa's global
strategic value and enhanced Africa's influence in the United Nations,
UNESCO, the Commonwealth, and a number of other international forums. It
was the end of the Cold War which reactivated Africa's marginalization.
The end of the Cold War was a kind of "dis-globalizing" experience.
Part of the dis-globalization was good news. The end of the Cold War has
initiated the second phase of the French decolonization of Africa. This is
the gradual reduction of the French informal empire in Africa. Rolling
back French neo-colonialism from Africa is partly the result of the
decline of the strategic value of Africa and partly due to the rise of
French economic aspirations for the newly liberated former members of the
The good news is that the end of the Cold War has helped to initiate the
second phase of decolonization in Francophone Africa, although there is
still a long way to go before real independence for any part of Africa is
achieved. The sad news is that while Phase II of French decolonization in
Africa is part of the happier story of progress towards African
independence, French decolonization is simultaneously part of a more
sorrowful story about the end of the Cold War and that is the wider
marginalization of Africa in the world. Indeed, perhaps the worst news
about the end of the Cold War for Africa is that Africa has been
marginalized even more deeply in the following ways:
(a) Most of Africa has lost its strategic value which motivated the
Big Powers to take it seriously;
(b) Africa has lost its socialist friends in world affairs and in
the UN; the former members of the Warsaw Pact are now more eager to please
the West than to support Third World causes;
(c) Africa has lost its one third numerical advantage in the United
Nations. Some twenty new members have been admitted to the UN since 1990,
only two of which are African (Namibia and Eritrea). The others are former
Republics of the USSR, collapsed Yugoslavia, and divided Czechoslovakia;
(d) The end of the Cold War has turned the West's old adversaries
into Africa's rivals for the West's resources. Aid and investment will
increasingly give greater priority to former members of the Warsaw Pact
than to Africa;
(e) The triumph of "market Marxism" in China and Vietnam have
turned those countries into new magnets for Western resources, partly at
the expense of old African friends of the West;
(f) The collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War have
contributed to the renewed liberalization of India which in turn is
developing into a new magnet for additional Western investment and aid,
inevitably at the partial expense of Africa;
(g) The end of the Cold War has undermined part of the old Western
rationale for foreign aid as "enlightened self-interest" and so Western
legislatures are allocating less and less money for foreign aid. There is
less motivation for foreign aid in the absence of rivalry with the USSR;
(h) The end of the Cold War has reduced the internationalization of
African education. The golden days of diverse scholarships for African
students to study in Moscow, Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, and Belgrade seem
to be almost over and rival scholarships to study in Western countries
have been drastically reduced;
(i) The golden days of Czech, Hungarian, and Polish professors
teaching at African universities are almost over and resources for Western
visiting professors have been drastically reduced.
(j) Just as the end of the Cold War has deprived the West of a
cornerstone of its foreign policy, it has also deprived Africa of a
cornerstone of its own foreign orientation. Although the nonaligned
movement is still alive and well in the post Cold War era, yet is the word
"nonalignment" relevant any longer for African policy after the Cold War?
(k) While the West's triumph over Nazism and fascism in World War
II helped left wing parties immediately after the war, the West's triumph
over communism has helped right wing parties which are less
internationalist and less compassionate towards either the domestic poor
or poor countries abroad. And such old left wing parties as Labour in
Britain have moved to the right.
(l) Finally, the end of the Cold War is eroding French commitment
to Africa and reducing the level of France's financial contributions to
its former colonies.
The debate between Europeanists and Africanists continues in France; that
a US president could visit in 1998 a former French colony (Senegal) is a
sign of French withdrawal.
Is there anything that the international community can do to help Africa?
At the moment the flesh is weak and the spirit is not even willing. But we
need to set goals.
Apart from bilateral aid to individual African countries for economic
development, the three long term African oriented goals to be supported
(a) Establishing or strengthening region-wide African institutions
and promoting regional integration for greater African self-reliance.
(b) Encouraging and helping to institutionalize national trends
towards democratization in Africa, with resources for building democratic
foundations (free press, election monitors).
(c) Strengthening truly global coalitions for Africa including new
funding actors like Japan, Taiwan, China, and South Korea, as well as
traditional Western friends of Africa (partners as well as
The international community can also help in the long term solution of the
problem of Rwanda and Burundi which will require immense resources.
(a) The genocidal behavior of the Hutu and the Tutsi toward each
other can only be contained in the context of wider regional integration.
(b) Therefore, persuade Rwanda and Burundi to federate with
Tanzania, thus disarming Hutu and Tutsi armies. In the new wider society,
the Hutu and the Tutsi would rediscover what they have in common. In the
political process of the greater Tanzania, Hutu and Tutsi might even form
political coalitions against other Tanzanians in the democartic process.
(c) But what would make today's Tanzania accept federation with
Rwanda and Burundi? The international community would have to make it
worth Tanzania's while with large injections of funding for development
and resettlement in all three countries.
It should also be remembered that all three countries once constituted
German East Africa, and all three countries have been substantially
Swahilized. In any case, as matters now stand, Tanzania is constantly
forced to accept hundreds of thousands of refugees from Burundi and Rwanda
every time there is a blow up in those two countries. Disarming the Hutu
and Tutsi and making them part of a much larger country under Tanzania's
own control might be worth the risk.
A final word as to the choice of title "From Slave Ship to Space Ship".
While the slave ship can be regarded as the beginning of globalization,
the spaceship is, by definition, a symbol of post- globalization.
The space ship takes us beyond the globe. Do we really want to go beyond
the globe? Senator John Glenn has a wander-lust into space. Indeed, do we
really want to be globalized ? "To globalize or not to globalize." That is
the question for us and for Arusha, a town in Tanzania steeped in
APPENDIX: HEGEMONIC GLOBALIZATION
Globalization carries two inter-related consequences whose English words
sound similar--homogenization (making all of us look similar) and
hegemonization (making one of us the boss).
(emergence of Hegemonic centre)
among world societies.
Increasing world domination
by a specific power or
At the end of the 20th
century people dress more
the same all over the
world than they did at
the end of the 19th
But the dress which is the
same is overwhelmingly
Western dress code.
At the end of the 20th
century the human race is
closer to having world
languages than it was in
the nineteenth century -
if by a world language we
mean one which has at
least 300 million
speakers, has been
adopted by at least 10
countries as a national
language, has spread to
more than one continent,
and is widely used in
four continents for
But those world languages at
the end of the 20th century
European - especially
English and French -
although Arabic is putting
forward a strong challenge
as a world language in a
At the end of the 20th
century we are closer to
a world economy than we
have ever been in human
history. A sneeze in Hong
Kong or Tokyo can send
shock waves around the
But the powers who control
that economy are
disproportionately Western -
especially the G-7 (USA,
Germany, Japan Britain,
France, Canada and Italy in
that order of economic
At the end of the 20th
century the internet has
given us instant access
to both information and
across huge distances.
But the nerve center of the
global internet system is
still located in the United
States and has residual
links with the US Federal
The educational systems
at the end of the 20th
century are getting more
and more similar across
the world - with concepts
with paradigms shared
across the globe.
But those shared academic
ranks, semesters and
scholarly paradigms are
from the United States and
and Western Europe.
The ideological systems
of the world at the end
of the 20th century are
economies are triumphant.
Liberalization is being
embraced or enforced.
Even China has adopted
market Marxism. Egypt is
pushing the frontiers of
Intifada. India is
The people who are
orchestrating and sometimes
privatization are Western
economic gurus - reinforced
by the power of the USA, the
World Bank, the IMF and the
European Union. Indeed,
Europe is the mother of all
modern ideologies--good and
Marxism, Fascism, and
Nazism. The most triumphant
is Euro-liberal Capitalism.
(c) 1999 Board of Regents of the State of Florida
African Studies Quarterly is a publication of the Center for African
Studies at the University of Florida. All materials contained within the
journal are expressly copyrighted by the Board of Regents of the State of
Florida. Permission is hereby granted for individuals to download articles
from the journal for their own personal use, as long as this statement
accompanies all materials. Opinions herein are those of the authors solely
and do not reflect the views of ASQ, the University of Florida, or the
Board of Regents of the State University System.
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