Western wealth, African exploitation: Dr. Beckford's Channel 4 documentary
I set up this blog as a forum where I, and others interested, would share thoughts and ideas on the various topics that must be discussed and thought about as we continue envisioning the rebirth of Afrika. The Afrikan renaissance is a topic that hardly gets mention in the world media, let alone on the Afrikan continent. The reason is that most African elites in control of the media and other institutions that shape and reflect public opinion view the world from the perspective created by the global North, which they feel more of a part of, than the perspective obtaining among the majority of the Afrikan population.
Afrikans who worry about these issues are quite few, and they have an uphill task in trying to push an agenda that questions dominant views of how the world works, and the place of Afrika in the world. These few Afrikans are joined by an equally small number Europeans, Americans, Asians, and First peoples around the world, who also work hard to question dominant views, and expose the suppressed histories that have shaped the contemporary world.
Dr. Richard Drayton, of Cambridge University, UK, is one the few Europeans doing this type of work. Dr. Drayton's article in The Guardian's Saturday, 20th August issue has a title that immediately captures the interest of anyone concerned with the issue of global social justice for Africa, a continent that most people choose to analyze ahistorically, focusing only on the heat of the moment. Titled "The wealth of the west was built on Africa's exploitation," Dr. Drayton's article focuses on a documentary titled The Empire Pays Back, shown on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, on Monday August 15, 2005, and produced by Dr. Robert Beckford, of the University of Birmingham, UK.
The issues being addressed by Dr. Beckford in his documentary, and being written about by Dr. Drayton, form what I believe to be the most important perspective necessary in envisioning the Afrikan Renaissance, namely, global social justice. Dr. Drayton writes: "There are many who like to blame Africa's weak governments and economies, famines and disease on its post-1960 leadership. But the fragility of contemporary Africa is a direct consequence of two centuries of slaving, followed by another of colonial despotism. Nor was "decolonisation" all it seemed: both Britain and France attempted to corrupt the whole project of political sovereignty."
Afrika pays a huge price for the lack of awareness on the history that has created the various contemporary crises in Afrika. Many politicians and elites have given up hope in the search for solutions to Afrika's problems; keeping up the hope that only they themselves and their circle of patronage can improve their lot.
This is the kind of thinking I see at work in the type of politics pervading Malawi right now, with the majority of Members of Parliament, mostly from the United Democratic Front and the Malawi Congress Party plotting to impeach President Bingu wa Mutharika for problems that could well be handled through already-existing mechanisms and channels. An impeachment is not a joking matter, especially when there are more urgent matters to attend to. The news on Malawi in the rest of the world is on how to avert the starvation that is threatening up to 4 million Malawians, while the news in Malawi itself is on the efforts by the disgruntled UDF and MCP to impeach the president.
It will take time to advance the debate on global social justice for Africa on the continent and around the world, but the work of Dr. Beckford, Dr. Drayton and others is crucial, and must be supported. Those of us who work with teachers and schools need to find ways of enriching teaching and learning to accommodate these issues of global social justice.