Africa’s history does not indeed start from slavery, although slavery is one pain that unifies many African voices. Till tomorrow, the wickedness of the various slave eras in Africa will be discussed. Many times when these accounts are given, detractors of African unity and progress, will insist that Africa should forget.
But how can we forget, when the effects of slavery are still present with us? We will continue to talk about slavery so that this generation and those to come will understand Africa’s journey and how we have fought to overcome.
Before we go any further we must first define and outline the two major slavery in Africa, and who perpetuated them. One is European slavery, and the other is the Arab slavery.
The European Slave Trade:
The Europen slave trade, which is majorly referred to as the Transatlantic or Atlantic slave trade involved the raiding of African villages and kingdoms and stealing of Africans, who were then transported across the Atlantic ocean to Europe and the Americas.
There existed a triangular trade route and a middle passage for the transportation of captured Africans. These routes were used from the 16th to the 19th century, which was the span of the Atlantic slave trade. Majority of the Africans who were captured and taken were from Central and West Africa.
At that time, the economics and commerce of the countries in the Carribean and South Atlantic greatly relied on the slaves that were brought from Africa. The slaves were used as forced labor. Since the owners of farms and plantations were using the slaves without payments, it meant more profit for them and their business.
It was Portugal who first took slaves from the Central and Western regions of African, in the 16th century, precisely around 1526, when the first slave ship landed in Brazil. After that, all hell was let loose on Subsaharan Africa.
The major nations who traded on Africans from the central and Western regions are Portugal, Britain (United Kingdom), France, Spain, and the United States.
The Arab Slave Trade:
The Arab Slave Trade was also as brutal as the Atlantic Slave trade. It was the capture and selling of Africans from Northern and East Africa by Arabs. The trade which started in the medieval era continued until the 20th century and is still being practiced till date, as is the case in Libya.
The slave took place chiefly in the Arab world, and the slaves were transported through deserts and the Indian ocean. Some historians have maintained that the Arab slave trade should be called East African slave Trade or the Indian Ocean Slave Trade. Towards the 19th and 20th century, lots of Europeans joined in on the Arab slave trade.
This slave trade commenced in the 9th century when the Muslim Arabs and Swahili traders took control of the Swahili coast and sea routes. The Muslim Arabs and their counterparts invaded and captured the Bantu people from the interiors of Tanzania, Mozambique, and Kenya and took them to the coast. Slaves were also taken from many parts of East Africa.
The Drastic Effects Of The Two Slave Trades
The European slave trade was in every way destructive to Africa. However, we will look at this subject from three major perspectives; the human assessment, the economic assessment, and the psychological assessment.
Geographer, Louise Marie Diop-Maes says that the European slave trade and the Arabic slave trade led to Africa’s loss of no less than 400 million people.
In the inception of the 16th century, South Saharan Africa had between 600 million to 800 million people. But by the end of the 19th century, the number had depleted to 200 million people, and it’s difficult to ascertain how much losses can be connected to each trade.
This loss includes deaths, deportations, decreased natality caused by a deteriorated socio-economic state. Within 400 years, Africa became a death zone as European slave traders invaded the continent’s western and eastern coasts, while the Arab slave traders took the eastern coasts by the Sahara.
It is difficult to ascertain how many people were deported, however, Mrs. Diop states that between 25 million and 40 million blacks were deported both by Europeans and Arabs.
Having that American academics, Ralph Austen found a corrected figure of 11 million as the number of slaves deported by the Arabs, it can then be said that between 14 million and 29 million blacks were deported by the Europeans in a space of 350 years.
Africa experienced an immeasurable loss when the European and Portuguese colonialist who arrived in Africa at the end of the 15th century made sure to destroy the richest and most boisterous economies, in the form of empires that Africa had.
Among these empires were the Kongo Empire, the Mwene Mutapa Empire, and the kingdoms of the African east coasts. In the 14th century, Africa, with the Mali Empire as a leading empire, was most likely the richest continent in the world, unfortunately, the dawn of colonialism in Africa would birth the devaluation of the African economy and to this day the poorest countries of the world, some of which were the richest empires of old can be found in Africa.
The Psychological Impact Of Slavery
The Europeans, in order to prove themselves innocent of the evil they meted out on Africa, came up with the fable of “Blacks betraying their fellow countrymen”. This distortion of African history has had an adverse effect on the psyches of the younger generation as well as left Blacks regarding themselves without dignity or honor as they continue to bear the guilt of being traitors to themselves and having a distorted image of themselves and their roots.
To further complicate this state, fellow Africans in the Western world have been conditioned to believe that Africa has nothing glorious about her origin, history or present to boast of or be proud of.
They unfortunately only have deranged pictures of Africa, thereby trivializing the very struggles of their ancestors and making way to many of them renounce Africa and fellow Africans. This, unfortunately, has weakened them in virtually every sphere as alienating oneself from there root results to being aloof and eventually unaccomplished.
These are mental barriers that Africans must acknowledge, face and solve in other to rise again. All these will also have to be brought before the tables and before international institutions in the event of demanding reparations of the countries that perpetrated this evil against Africa.
And if Westerners would say that Africa should stop blaming her present poverty on the slave trade, then Africans can as well say they couldn’t boast of their present wealth if it were not for the same slave trade.
Finally, here is how Louise Marie Diop-Maes, (1926-2016), French geographer and wife of Cheikh Anta Diop came about the figures 400 million to 600 million human losses.
She began her research from the first census made in South Saharan Africa, which records 148 million people in 1948, the population growth rate recorded by La Documentation Francaise takes her back to 127 million people in 1930, which happens to be the lowest number recorded, though it was in the same years that strict measures were taken to increase the population.
After details of the events of the colonial invasion, she arrived at 200 million people between 1850/1870, this would be the late era of European colonialism
She further used Prof G. Duby’s method which has been used to determine the results of hundreds of years of war in Europe which involves comparing the nighttime fires. She combines it with results from African contemporary documents and those of foreign explorers.
With her findings, she arrives at a ratio of 4 people before the slave trade to 1 person after the slave trade in West Africa, though the ratio is higher in Congo and Angola which was severely exploited as compared to Lake Chad where the population remained relatively the same.
With this, she carefully arrives at 3 0r 4 persons before the slave trade to 1 person after the slave trade or 400 million to 600 million people before the slave trade to 200 million people after the slave trade. These are all documented in her work “Afrique noire, sol, demographie et histoire.”
The various slave trades which took advantage of Africans should be discussed often; not because we want to cry over spilled milk, but because the effects of those evils are still present with us Africans.
Many sympathizers of European and Arab wickedness are quick to Blame Africa’s backwardness on Africans, without giving attention and credit, to the effects mentioned above. The truth remains that Africa still has wounds of slavery, and they are yet to be healed. The more we talk about them, the more we find solutions to tackle the problems arising from hundreds of years of theft, murder, genocide, plunder, looting, and strife.