It’s such an easy and logical rationale, that many, even Africans themselves have internalized it and began to preach the gospel: Africa cannot, in fact, should not continue to use the history and legacy of European colonialism as a way to explain the widespread state of economic, social and political calamity experienced by most of the continent. Many of us today, feel ashamed, backward even, to begin distilling the horrific atrocities of colonial rule as a way to argue the continent’s current state of acute famine, disease, and poor or absent governance. And, yes, this should make a great deal of sense. After all, by the 1960’s most former colonies were celebrating independence. Viva a free Africa! well, maybe not entirely free but really, why does Africa even need to be totally independent?
The latest comments by French President, Emmanuel Macron concerning the African continent’s “civilizational problems” hints towards the same narrow and worrisome ideology that still pervades many discussions concerning African development and prosperity. Instead of starting from the root cause of the African development palaver, the continent is continuously bombarded with a bucket list of suggestions, reforms, and overpriced projects. Macron’s comments at the G20 Summit provide ample reason why unpacking and detangling the history of colonial rule in Africa is still a necessary step for progress to take place. Simply put, the careless statement should not be dismissed but rather, analyzed as a prime example of the simplistic approach that Africa’s complex issues are often viewed by the West. And yes, throwing ‘millions of dollars of aid’ also falls into that category. As the Guardian’s Eliza Anyangwe so eloquently notes, “Macron’s statements make the blood boil not because they are novel but because they make no mention of the root causes of the challenges of which the president speaks. Gone is the lucid, welcome admission that France’s role in its former colonies was anything but laudable.”
So, no Macron, you cannot get a gold star for stating that Africa’s problems are to do with a lack of civilization (which your people supposedly brought, all quite confusing, right?) or that we have too many babies (which is done out of a need to survive, rather than our senseless desire to copulate). Such simplistic comments demonstrate the Western world’s lack of accountability and respect for the African continent. Most importantly, they tell us, as African people that de-colonialization still needs to happen both physically and mentally. We cannot argue that away, we simply need to deal with it.