By Chakamwe Chakamwe
WHEN the revolutionary party ZANU PF and its Government rightly decided to abandon the Europeans and Americans as Zimbabwe’s main trading partners and instead opted to trade with countries of the East and the rest of Africa, some from among us especially the MDC formations suffering from the evil disease called colonial mentality protested strongly that our government had made a terrible economic blunder to abandon the West.
They argued that, it was wrong to abandon our so-called ‘traditional trading partners’ for ‘new’ and ‘untested’ ones such as China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia etc because as far as they were concerned the above mentioned countries did not have robust economies that would help our countries prosper.
In this second part of our topic on the greatness of African governments and economies of the past we are going to show that on the contrary the European and North American countries are not Zimbabwe nor indeed Africa’s traditional trading partners.
Africa and Zimbabwe’s traditional partners were fellow Africans of the past and the countries of Asia such as India and China etc.
And related to this, it is our submission that when Africans were trading with their true trading partners of the past they were far and away more prosperous than the Europeans.
On top of this they were more skilled traders than the Westerners.
The coming of colonialism to Africa did not at all bring great knowledge of trading to Africans, but instead that evil development completely disrupted a golden era of African trade.
The result was catastrophic.
The once wealthy African empires and kingdoms suddenly plunged into abject poverty becoming what the arrogant racist former colonisers today refer to as ‘Third World Countries’.
For African States to become prosperous and great as in the past, they must go back as Zimbabwe has done with its ‘Look East Policy’ to their true traditional trading partners of Africa and Asia.
Below we highlight Africa’s great trading traditions which we must reinvent if our countries are to achieve economic greatness.
Basil Davidson tells as that while European countries developed greatly during the Middle Ages, but “for much of this period the Europeans were outshone by their African neighbours.
“This was particularly true of commerce and commercial production. “The great centres of banking and exchange lay in Africa not in Europe. “None of the new towns in Europe could compare in wealth or magnificence, in the power of their merchants or the quantities of goods they produced with the leading cities of Africa.”
Very true indeed.
For instance, at the very height of our own Great Zimbabwe City, at that time, Great Zimbabwe was wealthier and more cultured than the town of London at that very time.
Yes it’s a fact!
And the secret why Africa controlled the World trade was their complete control of gold.
Gold was at the centre of world trade.
European countries did not have gold to talk about.
The gold was in two major regions of Africa, Southern Africa centred in Zimbabwe and West Africa centred in Ghana.
It was left to these regions of Africa to supply the precious metal to oil world trade.
“Only Africans proved able to meet gold shortage of Europe.
“They did this from two regions (already mentioned above).
“Through Swahili or Sudanese and Berber middlemen, both regions did much to support and enlarge the commerce of Asia and Europe. “Africans produced and exported many hundreds of tonnes of gold.
“For several hundred years they ensured the supply of gold coins in many lands.
“They kept going a whole world of trade.”
Yes Africa was the centre of world trade and not Europe!
It is important to note that from AD1300 all the gold coins that were to be found in Europe came from Africa and the Europeans who were quite poor then were always desperate to get the gold in Africa.
It was therefore not surprising that in 1896 the British decided to use military force and not trading skills to acquire gold from Africa and so they invaded the rich gold Empire of Ashanti in Ghana.
It is therefore important to remember the fact that while today Western countries such as Britain have the largest gold reserves in the World this has nothing to do with British skills in trade, but everything to do with evil colonial plunder and piracy.
Coming back to our look at the great African traders of the past we come to East Africa.
And here we come face to face with the Swahili.
The Swahili are black Africans for the world Swahili simply means ‘Africans of the coast’.
“The Swahili became skilled and enterprising traders.
“They made contact with producers of gold and ivory in Zimbabwe”.
“That made them richer and richer resulting in them expanding their trade.
“Swahili merchants traded far and wide.
“When the Portuguese reached South East Asia soon after 1500 they found East African merchants in the ports of Malaysia and Indonesia.” Yes Africans were trading with Asia and not Europe in the past and prospered.
Some of the great African traders were the Zimbabweans of old.
“The Shona did business with the travelling Swahili merchants and sent their own agents to coastal ports.”
There is evidence which shows that there was a roaring trade between the great ancient city of Great Zimbabwe and China.
The Kingdom of Munhumutapa traded with Israel through the Queen of Sheba.
In Central Africa there emerged a very rich Kingdom called the Luba Lunda Kingdom which was centred in the present Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It grew to great prominence through inter African trade.
“These Central African peoples became prosperous enough to import foreign cotton cloth and other useful goods from suppliers on the coasts of the Indian and Atlantic oceans.
“By expanding to the West as well as to the East the Luba-Lunda were able to join the trade of the Eastern Ocean with that of the Western.” And this great trading tradition brought a lot of prosperity to these kingdoms.
For example, it gave rise to a great Kingdom called Kazembe.
It is quite clear that there was a lot of inter-African trade before colonialism which today is almost non-existent.
And the Africans are the poorer for it.
There was also a lot of trade between Asia and Africa which again made Africa richer than Europe because there was fair trading and no barbaric plunder of African resources which was later introduced by colonialism.
Therefore if African economies are to prosper we must go back to the old days when there was a lot of trade amongst ourselves as well as the rich nations of Asia.