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Slave trade, major source of underdevelopment in Africa – Official

Mr Joseph Ejukwa, the Principal, Ethnographer, Slave History Museum in Calabar, said colonialism and slave trade were major hindrances to the development  of Africa.

Slave trade

Ejukwa made this known in an interview with newsmen in Calabar while commemorating the International Day for the Remembrance of Slave Trade and its Abolition on Friday.

He lamented that it was unfortunate that Africa with all its abundance of technocrats, mineral resources and unsurpassed history of the development in the areas of science, arts, culture, banking and finances “is left so barren by the invading exploiters’’.

He said the trade had many negative effects on the African society because the growing civilisation of the region was halted when most of its able-bodied men involved in various crafts were forcefully shipped abroad to work in plantations.

Recall that between 1400 and 1900, the African continent experienced four simultaneous slave trades.

The largest and most well-known is the trans-Atlantic slave trade was beginning in the 15th Century, slaves were shipped from West Africa, West Central Africa, and Eastern Africa to the European colonies in the New World.

The three other slave trades, trans-Saharan, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean slave trades – are much older and predate the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

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During the trans-Saharan slave trade, slaves were taken from south of the Sahara desert and shipped to northern Africa.

In the Red Sea slave trade, slaves were taken from inland of the Red Sea and shipped to the Middle East and India.

In the Indian Ocean, slaves were taken from East  Africa and shipped either to the Middle East, India or to plantation islands in the Indian Ocean.

Ejukwa said if the slave trade had not occurred, then over 80 per cent, the average income gap between Africa and the rest of the world would not exist today.

“And the wide income gap between Africa and the rest of the developed world is just too wide.

“In terms of economic development, Africa would not have looked any different from the other developing countries in the world if it was not for the slave trade.’’

He said Africa would have been more civilised if it was left alone to grow because it had its own civilisation but the backwardness was due to over 400 years of the slave trade.

“We had the Defuna Canoe which had existed for 8,000 years; it was the first discovered canoe in Nigeria and Africa, this means that we already had the knowledge of water transportation before the slave trade.

“There was also the Nok Terracotta which was the first cultural artefact to be discovered in Nigeria as it shows the earliest formation of iron culture between 500 BC and 200 AD.

“We also had the hides and skin business, which was prominent in the present day Kano and Jos but were not developed because the men who were involved in these trades were taken away as slaves and this halted Africa’s civilisation,” he said.

The ethnographer said that 41.4 per cent of the slaves that left Africa were shipped from Nigeria making it the highest victim of the illicit trade.

According to him, 30.1 per cent of these slaves were shipped through Calabar while 11.1 per cent were transported through Badagry.

“The highest numbers of slaves from Africa were Nigerians as 41.4 per cent of the slaves were from our ports in Calabar and Badagry, while the remaining 59 per cent were from the other coastal regions in Africa.

“This building we are in now served as a `barracoon’ where slaves were kept for two or three days awaiting the arrival of the ship with which they were transported abroad.

“Today, however, slave trade has been abolished but a new form of slavery called “modern-day slavery” is growing.

He urged Nigerians, especially youths who wanted to travel abroad to stay and develop the country.

Ejukwa disclosed that about 17 million people were transported against their will from Africa to the North, Central and South America during the 16th Century up until the 19th Century.

He, however, appealed that all forms of modern-day slavery must stop for total freedom and peaceful coexistence.

The International Day for the Remembrance of Slave Trade and its Abolition is commemorated annually on Aug. 23 to remind people of the tragedy of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, its historic causes, methods and consequences.

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