The Fortunes of Africa: A 5 000 Year History of Wealth, Greed and Endeavour

By Martin Meredith

Published by Simon and Schuster (2016)

ISBN: 978-1-4711-3545-3

AROUND early 1800, slave trade was abolished but that did little to take away the pain and scars, both physical and psychological, inflicted on Africans.

Even up to now, Africans are yet to come to terms with the atrocities of slave trade. 

It is not a secret that, for centuries, the African continent was robbed of its human resources which resulted in the stalling of her social, economic and even political development. 

How could nations in Africa develop in the absence of youths and the able bodied?

Slavery is one of the reasons that contributed to Africa remaining at the periphery of development. 

Years after using the Africans to build its capitals, the West is now using the continent’s vast natural resources to continue its advancement.

Africa provided slaves used to build North America and a number of Christian states in Europe in the last five-and-half centuries.

Millions of African slaves were exported via the Red Sea, Swahili ports of the Indian Ocean, the trans-Saharan caravan route and across the Atlantic Ocean.

Part three of Martin Meredith’s The Fortunes of Africa: A 5 000 Year History of Wealth, Greed and Endeavour is a focus on slave trade in Africa.

Part One of the book focused on how Africa was steadily developing before being rudely interrupted by foreigners. 

Part Two reflects on religion as a tool used to destroy Africa’s traditions and culture.

Of the many evils of slavery, conditioning of Africans to believe that everything white is superior is the most heinous.

Despite many decades of independence, most Africans are still mentally colonised and remain ‘slaves’ to all things Western.

This has resulted in many Africans putting their lives in danger as migrants crossing the Atlantic Ocean to do menial jobs in Europe.

“Slaves owned by rulers, state officials and wealthy merchants were commonly used as porters, agricultural labourers and domestic servants. 

In the absence of land ownership, they represented a major source of wealth. They were also principal commodity in trade, regularly exchanged for gold, ivory or copper, an essential medium of transaction,” writes Meredith.

Today, America boasts a number of landmarks built by slave labour, including the US Capitol Building, Wall Street, Trinity Church, Monticello, Castillo de San Marcos, Mount Vernon and University of Virginia, among others.

Blacks were sold into slavery against their will. 

“Most slaves were war captives…or family members sold for food in time of famine. Enslavement became a common method for disposing of troublesome individuals of every kind,” writes Meredith.

The Fortunes of Africa: A 5 000 Year History of Wealth, Greed and Endeavour is a historical narrative that attempts to highlight the cruelty and calculative nature of the West.

Meredith writes: 

“In the seventeenth century, new factors drove the trade. The Dutch emerged as a maritime power in the Atlantic and broke the Spanish monopoly on Carribean trade and Portuguese dominance in West Africa and Brazil. They spread new plantation technology from Brazil to Caribbean, supplying slaves from Africa at low prices to expanding sugar estates there.”

The history penned by Meredith goes on to show the suffering and pain experienced by African slaves.

Just like the character Kunta Kinte in the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley, the African man, after being forcefully separated from his kith and kin, survived harsh conditions in transit and under the slave master.

“Once brought to the coast, slaves were held in specially built booths or prison pens to await inspection by European agents.

“Those selected for purchase were branded with the mark of their European owners,” Meredith writes.

It is time all Africans become a self-determining people and stop operating like the ‘branded animals’ of the slave-trade era but work towards a better Africa.


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