BOOK TITLE – HOW EUROPE UNDERDEVELOPED AFRICA
AUTHOR –WALTER RODNEY (1972)
Re: Published by Panaf Publishing Incorporated, Abuja – Nigeria.
(By arrangement with Howard University Press, Washington)
Book page: 361 (Three Hundred and sixty one)
REVIEWER: NSE VICTOR O.
Modern Africa historians have correctly stressed that Africa had a meaningful past long before the coming of the Europeans. Also Africa has been argued to be the cradle of the world civilization, but whether or not Africa went to sleep or signed a supposed amiable pact with Europe and the Western Bloc which paved way for the woeful turn of events contemporary is contentions. For a full appreciated of the situation that present reputable scholars have argued that “for Africa to move forward, it must be understood backwards”.
It is based on the outlined issues sketched above that this book was written. The piece of literature is arranged in chapters from one to six with thought provoking and are stimulating issue at each chapter. A post script as well as a biography of the author is attached at the latter part of the literature. A chapter by chapter method of review have been adopted to do justice to this work for an incisive appreciation.
The conceptualization of the notion of development and underdevelopment took the central stage in the first chapter, as the author attempted a penetrating analysis into the duo concepts in order to demystify their justification of capitalism which myopically conceives economic development with little or no consideration for human social development.
Chapter two focused mainly on the developed nature of African territories before the coming of the Europeans up to the 15th century. The unique status of African civilization which is characterised by certain peculiarities some of which include the possession of distinct institutions/ideas of government etc as examplified by certain African territories like Egypt, Ethiopia, Nubia, Zimbabwe, the Maghreb, Western Sudan, etc were altered by culture contact which saw the infiltration of European civilization into the African system, though with its attendant consequence.
Africa’s contribution to European capitalist development during the pre-colonial period forced the major emphasis of chapter three. The unequal trade relations which saw the transfer of wealth from Africa to Europe was a direct consequence of trade internationalization which elevated Europe’s status as the dominant section of world wide trade system. By extension, the author argued that Africa’s contribution to the development of beliefs of early capitalists Europe was a confirmation of the dependent status of the European national economies which is in interconnectivity wit the world at large.
The fourth chapter is entitled Europe and the Roots of African underdevelopment to 1885. It evaluates the European slave trace as a dominant factor in African underdevelopment, all in the interest of European capitalism. Further, a penetrating discuss on the advancement of Europe technology as against that of Africa which is stagnant ( this culminating into a distorted economy) was evaluated.
Again, the continuing political/military development in Africa from about 1500 to 1885 was attributed to the imperialist incursion /scramble were African territories were partitioned in accordance with the sphere of interest of the colonizers with colonialism as a major expression in the entire process.
An assessment of African contribution to the capitalist development of Europe during the colonial period was discussed in chapter five. The author argued that the unequal international division of labour automatically assigned Africa the status of a primary producer whose surplus is extracted and channeled to the development of the metropolis at the expense of the satellite. Furthermore, it was argued that colonialism brought forth additional non-monetary proceed to the colonizers asides the conventional monetary rewards.
The sixth chapter attempts a rationalization of the colonial incursion, that is drawing a balance sheet of the effects of the brutal, nasty and obnoxious experience. The author argued contrary to pervasive sentiments displayed by bourgeois scholars who argue in favour of the good side of colonialism outweighing the bad side. Rodney, Opined that this contention is completely false. Colonialism had only one hand- it was a one-armed bandit. (Rodney, 1972: 247). This further saw to the power seizure from Africa which had damaging consequences socially. Economically and politically.
The structure of the colonial education system was not left out in the entire manipulation in consonance with the perpetuation of the existence of colonial dominance.
The last segment of this chapter (Development by contradiction) illustrates ‘white man in black man skin’, that is the withdrawal of direct control by colonizers with an attendant installation of indigenous incorporated dependent bourgeois comparados (tried and tested puppets in the hands of metropolitan superpowers) whose services are comparable to a conduit perpetuancy Africa’s underdevelopment.
This piece of literature is not without criticisms despite its wide range coverage. The author was not ignorant of certain positive features of colonialism rather he opined that they were grossly inconsequential when placed side by side it negative effects. In a much as this is contentious, critics have argued that the author was propelled by a value considered as being extreme in its bias in favour of the periphery.
Critiques have further argued that contemporary African territories have come of age after years of independence, it is absurd to hinge underdevelopment issues on the mythology of imperialism and colonialism as underdevelopment and development are both states of mind”.
The prevalence of this piece of literature cannot be overemphasized especially in the continent of Africa where the wind of globalization has almost blown off senses of our authentic ancestral antecedents. Though modernization and westernization have eaten up almost the entire fabrics of Africa but these phenomena have witnessed an extensive investigation into its realities and have formulated strategies and tactics of African emancipation and development which is situated in this book.
I recommend this scholarly, well edited piece to all African students and lecturers to further remain conscientized on the social realities of their contemporary world.