By FRANCIS Ogbimi
TODAY, European nations, the United States of America, and some Asian nations enjoy high productivity, manufacture many products and have mechanised agriculture, and they are rich. However, African nations only produce agricultural produce – farm products; African nations do not produce manufactured goods and they are poor.
Why is that the situation? History also revealed that the existing productive Western and Asian nations were poor artisan/craftsmen nations for about 2000-3000 years before they became industrialised, productive and rich nations.
Most of the nations of modern Western Europe were harnessed into the Roman Empire in 55 BC; the western portion of the Empire broke up in 406 AD. England was formed by the various kingdoms in the Island in the tenth century, while England and Scotland formed Great Britain in 1625.
Britain achieved the first modern Industrial Revolution, IR, in the period 1770-1850. Other European nations followed the British evolutionary experience and became industrialised later. Thus, European nations achieved modern industrialisation after toiling for about 2000 years.
Lasting English colonisation of the New World (the Americas) began when a group of Englishmen applied for royal charters to authorise enterprise in America. King James issued a single charter to them as the Virginia company in 1606. Early Virginia was devoted to one crop: tobacco.
Over the period of about one century later, a tide of emigration swept from various parts of the world, especially Europe to the New World. Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Scots, Irishmen, Dutchmen, Swedes and Africans, willing and through force, took their habits and traditions to the New World. There were 13 original colonies by 1774. The colonies revolted against the British Crown in 1775, declared Independence in 1776 and fought the War of Independence in the period 1775-1783.
The Americans wrote and adopted the popular American Constitution in 1789. They fought a civil war in the period 1861-1865. Over 90 per cent of America was made up of tiny villages which had no contact with each other in 1800. The United States of America achieved the modern IR in the period 1850-1900.
The Japanese claim that the existence of their nation dates back to 600 BC; more objective sources suggest 300 BC. Japan, again, was an agricultural nation for thousands of years till it speeded up its process of achieving the modern industrialisation in the period 1886-1905.
The Chinese believe that the existence of their nation dates back to 4000 BC. Again, archeological research suggests 1000 BC, though there were separate local cultures, each developing on its own as early as 2500 BC in the same region.
Chinese rapid industrialisation began in 1949 when Mao Zedung mobilised all the citizens for learning and industrialisation. China is a 3000-year nation. The industrialised European nations, the United States of America and the industrialised Asian nations have not always been industrialised; they evolved from agricultural status and achieved industrialisation.
History teaches the wise people to avoid the things that delay progress and focus on things that promote rapid progress. History also teaches people to avoid the mistakes of others.
Brace (1971), observed that culture is central to man’s evolutionary success. Some aspects of culture are perishable or intangible and, therefore, do not contribute much to the cumulative which goes to show how long a culture has existed.
Brace’s postulate also includes the observation that non-perishable cultural elements have an antiquity of about two million years in Africa. The cultural tradition of which they are part continues without break, expanding to occupy the tropical and temperate parts of the Old World and ultimately developing into all the cultures in the world today.
Brace and his team concluded that Africa is the original birthplace for all mankind. How could the original birthplace of mankind become the most primitive place in the world? Before 1300 AD, the level of scientific and technological development in many respects was lower in the Western world than in the Great Medieval Civilisations, GMCs. The GMCs were the Chinese, Indian and Islamic cultures.
In those civilisations, science had flourished during the Dark Ages of the West. Also, during the period African empires flourished, Africans were very generous; Africans willingly transferred their inventions and those of other GMCs to Europe (Cardwell, 1974).
During the period 1470s-1870s, Europeans, through warfare, trickery, banditry and kidnapping, forcefully shipped many millions of Africans to Europe, the Americas and the Atlantic Islands, where they lived and worked as the properties of Europeans and Americans (Walter Rodney, 1972). In the Berlin conference of 1884 and 1885, European powers signed an agreement as to how to partition Africa. That was how Africa’s development experience moved from enslavement into the colonisation phase.
The period of foreign domination is one of cultural dislocation in terms of the rate of development and direction. Africans were traumatised by the Caucasians for centuries. Consequently, Africans have been planning based on the indoctrination of Caucasians. Latin American nations are the aftermath of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Latin-Americans have been planning based on the unexplained emphasis on foreign investments and small scale industries since they became independent in the 1820s. African nations have also been laying unexplained emphasis on foreign investment on foreign investment and small scale industries. Latin Americans have been operating Western education since the 16th century.
Africa will not make rapid progress with Europe and America thinking for Africa. Africa must do the thinking and acting to make progress. The time is now.
Our research showed that learning (education, training, employment and research) is the primary basis for achieving industrialisation. Western and Asian nations neglected to learn for almost 2000-3000 years when kings were ruling.
African nations would achieve rapid industrialisation if they mobilise all their citizens for learning and industrialisation like Japan did: 1886-1905 and China did since 1949. Mere capital investment, erecting complex infrastructure through jumbo loans, begging for foreign investments, keeping large foreign reserves and measuring mere growth without development, GDP, do not promote industrialisation.
The experience of many African nations, especially Nigeria, has demonstrated that Western thoughts about the development of society lack a sense of history and lack understanding of the science of industrialisation. They do not promote true economic growth and industrialisation.
A World Bank study: “Can Africa claim the 21st century?” showed that Africa was richer in 1970 than in the year 2000. African nations have been moving backwards and accumulating huge debts. African nations must acquire scientific knowledge and capabilities to become productive.
An unwise nation with an agricultural economy may borrow money to erect infrastructure but it cannot buy scientific knowledge and capabilities.
Prof. Ogbimi, a public affairs analyst, wrote via [email protected]