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Africa Then & Now!




New theory explains how pyramids were built

 NOTE: These are hi-resolution graphics and can be seen larger.


Associate professor Ole J Bryn over the last years has done vast research claiming that in the planning of these large and precise buildings, the Egyptians invented and developed the profession and knowledge of engineering as we know it today.

To finish a pyramid that today would be regarded as a skyscraper, a point high up in the sky, the Apex point, needed to be established. This was an extraordinary achievement.

In his book APEX: RETRACING THE EGYPTIAN PYRAMIDES he presents modern type of blueprints of the frst 32 pyramids of Egypt.

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For thousands of years, scientists from around the world have tried to understand how the Egyptians erected their giant pyramids. Now, an architect and researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) says he has the answer to this ancient, unsolved puzzle.

Researchers have been so preoccupied by the weight of the stones that they tend to overlook two major problems: How did the Egyptians know exactly where to put the enormously heavy building blocks? And how was the master architect able to communicate detailed, highly precise plans to a workforce of 10,000 illiterate men?

A 7-million-ton structure
These were among the questions that confronted Ole J. Bryn, an architect and associate professor in NTNU’s Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art when he began examining Khufu’s Great Pyramid in Giza. Khufu’s pyramid, better known as the Pyramid of Cheops, consists of 2.3 million limestone blocks weighing roughly 7 million tons. At 146.6 meters high, it held the record as the tallest structure ever built for nearly 4000 years.

What Bryn discovered was quite simple. He believes that the Egyptians invented the modern building grid, by separating the structure’s measuring system from the physical building itself, thus introducing tolerance, as it is called in today’s engineering and architectural professions.

The apex point a key
Bryn has studied the plans from the thirty oldest Egyptian pyramids, and discovered a precision system that made it possible for the Egyptians to reach the pyramid’s last and highest point, the apex point, with an impressive degree of accuracy. By exploring and making a plan of the pyramid it is possible to prepare modern project documentation of not just one, but all pyramids from any given period.

As long as the architect knows the main dimensions of a pyramid, he can project the building as he would have done it with a modern building, but with building methods and measurements known from the ancient Egypt, Bryn says.

In a scientific article published in May 2010 (Retracing Khufu’s Great Pyramid in the Nordic Journal of Architectural Research, vol 22, no. 1/2, 2010) Bryn discusses aspects that can explain the construction of a multitude of the Egyptian pyramids by taking the building grid, and not the physical building itself, as the starting point for the analysis.

A new map

If the principles behind Bryn’s drawings are correct, then archaeologists will have a new “map” that demonstrates that the pyramids are not a "bunch of heavy rocks with unknown structures” but, rather, incredibly precise structures.

 Ole J. Bryn’s findings will be presented and explained at the exhibition The Apex Point in Trondheim from September 13th to October 1st. The exhibition is an official part of the program to celebrate the centenary (1910-2010) of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

About the author:

Ole J. Bryn (b. 1965) is a former practising architect, and currently holds a position as Associate Professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway.

The development of Bryn’s theories on the building grids used in Egyptian pyramids has benefited from cooperation with Dr. Michel Barsoum, Grosvenor and Distinguished Professor at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Drexel University, Philadelphia.



Remembering Walter Rodney 40 Years After

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa



The Classic Book That Every Black Household Should Have and Discuss:



SISTAS! Time for Africans to use the opportunities available to us for our own development and sustainability of generations to come


Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is an ANC NEC member and Minister                                                   of Home Affairs. This is an edited extract of her lecture as incoming AU Commission Chairperson

Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation for good wishes both, during the run up to the election of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and following my successful election as the new Chairperson. This election poses a greater responsibility on women in general since it is the first time that a woman has been elected to this position in 49 years. It is also the first time that the incumbent is from the Southern Africa region.

Our history has both the positive, bright and proud side and the dark and painful history. All evidence, genetic, paleontological and linguistic evidence indicate that modern humans existed only in Africa until about 100,000 years ago, when they migrated and populated the rest of the globe.

There is no doubt therefore that Africa is the cradle of humanity and an advanced civilisation. We have had a very advanced architecture as evidenced by the Egyptian sphinxes and pyramids, Tunisian city of Carthage, Great Zimbabwe as well as the old city of Timbuktu in Mali to mention a few.

The intricate sculptures of Makonde of Tanzania, the Benin Bronzes of Nigeria, the beautiful paintings of the Drakensburg, various artistic creations of the Egyptians demonstrate to us a continent with a great past. Africa is a continent that boasts of old highly organised kingdoms from the Ashanti to Monomotapa to that of Timbuktu.

            Makonde Sculpture


                            Benin Bronze Sculpture


                       A Drakensburg Painting from a cave in South Africa

We also have rich astronomical heritage. The Dogon people of Mali have generational knowledge of the star Sirius A and B which appears only once in 50 years. Scientists and astronomers are only now discovering what the Dogon have known for generations.

Africa also has a tradition of highly organised kingdoms - to name a few, Mesopotamia, the Ashanti, Monomotapa and so on. Our history also speaks of an Africa that valued the matriarchal family, where women were the economic backbone of the continent in which the values of peace, justice and social well-being was promoted.

In many communities and kingdoms, women spearheaded development and led their countries with great vision.

In Angola in the 17th century, the powerful Queen Ann Nzinga kept the marauding Portuguese at bay by creating alliances with other kingdoms. She declared all territory in Angola over which she had control 'free country' and allowed all slaves reaching this territory to be free forever. She ruled a mighty army with great military strategies and tactics and did not surrender her country during her four decades of rule.

In Ethiopia in the 10th century B.C. Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, ruled the Kingdom of Saba with distinction.

In the lands of ancient Egypt, African lands, gender equality flourished and women occupied position of authority and influence. Queen Ahmose-Nefertiti fought in active battle to protect her lands from foreign invasion and held a high position as a priestess in the national religious center. Queen Tiye demonstrated remarkable diplomatic skill and as a consequence her advice was sought by others. Queen Hatsheput was known to have focused on the expansion of foreign trade, strengthening international diplomatic relations, initiated building programmes and building a navy.

In Cairo, there lies buried Sayyidinah Zaynab who is revered as a saint by countless Egyptians of every faith.


In Zimbabwe in the 1890s during the English invasion of this territory, Nehanda, the famous warrior, and her compatriots defended themselves and demonstrated astute leadership in the process.

In Ghana, Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti Empire, the brave Queen Mother of Ejisu, fought against colonial invasion, and in her efforts, she declared: "Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields."

In North Africa, in 690 AD, there was Dahia Al- Kahina of Mauritania, an African woman freedom fighter who resisted the invasion of the Arabs. She commanded her forces in battle, was a ferocious and courageous fighter who eventually took her own life rather that to admit defeat to the Arabs.

The great African city of learning, Timbuktu of Mali, is actually named after a woman called Buktu, and in this city of scholarship is the medieval mosque Sankore, also founded by a woman.

In the Diaspora, there were a number of heroines including Harriet Tubman who though born into slavery, led slaves to freedom from the Southern to the Northern States and Canada.
Rosa Parks' refusal to give her seat to a white man in 1955 was an act of courage that launched the civil rights movement. Parks, who was quite, soft spoken and diplomatic had the courage and dedication to make her country better than it was.

Women also played an important role in economic and governance structures on the African continent.

In Kenya, Kikuyu women occupied pride of place for their role in land cultivation, thus ensuring food security.

In Ghana, the Queen Mother of the Akan people protected the interests of the people by ensuring that the tax and revenue collected was used to further the education of the children.
In Nigeria, within the Igbo society, women spearheaded the development of a complex trade and market system and were highly respected for their business skills.

I remind you of the heroic role of ordinary women in the liberation struggle in Algeria in the 1950 and early 1960s. In East Africa women were vital in the struggles against colonialism, especially in rural and urban Kenya. Similarly in West African countries (such as Guinea Conakry, women pointed and embarrassed their men folk who did not join the anti-colonial movement, and of course, closer to home, we are familiar with stories of the brave women of Zimbabwe and Mozambique who joined in their struggle for liberation.

Women have played a pivotal role in sustaining communities and kingdoms, in nurturing nations and national economies and must play a role in the economic recovery of Africa. In the renewal of African economies and societies culture will be critical to this effort.

This is part of our heritage, of our history which we should be proud of, a history which should inspire us and generations to come, a history which should assure us that we indeed have capacity to overcome the present obstacles to the restoration of Africa as a great, prosperous continent.

The dark side of our history cannot be forgotten because it is part of what defines and shapes our present position as Africans. Slavery robbed the continent of its finest and fittest sons and daughters. It was the most barbaric and cruel manifestation of racism. It is my belief that it is only if you define a people as of an inferior race that you can trade them as slaves.

In its long history, Africa has given much to the world, from new forms of social organisation and technology to arts and sciences. I will give you just two examples that we use every day. The word paper derives from the Egyptian word papyrus, a plant from which the first paper was made; and the origin of the alphabet we use when we write can also be traced back to Africa.

The plunder of Africa by outside powers began with the rise of capitalism and happened in two phases. In the first phase, which lasted 400 years, slave traders carried away the most precious of our resources, the sons and daughters of Africa. An estimated 12 million Africans were shipped as slaves, mostly to plantations in the Caribbean and the Americas. The enormous wealth they produced provided the capital needed to industrialize Europe and build empires. Slavery also created the African diaspora, with which Africans and Africa needs to build much stronger links, as emphasized at a recent conference hosted by South Africa.

In the second phase, the imperial powers established colonies over almost the whole of Africa. This process was completed after they divided up Africa between them at the Berlin Conference of 1884. Their aim was to use the super-exploitation of African labour to extract raw materials, ship them to Europe, and turn them into products to be sold at a huge profit, including to Africans.

Colonialism and imperialism not only led to carving up of the continent amongst certain European countries but it also meant Africans, through violent oppression and divide and rule tactics were denied freedom, self-determination and access to education. Our culture was despised and destroyed, our languages were suppressed, our ethics and values were replaced by European values, languages and religion. We were thus denied of our identity.

However all was not lost, the great African armies in Isandlwana in South Africa and Sudan defeated the mighty armies of the British Empire. There were also heroic struggles of the peoples of the continent, which saw progressive decolonialisation of the African countries and defeat of Apartheid in South Africa and Ian Smith in Zimbabwe.

It is a recognition of this simultaneously glorious and dark past that let to our leaders attempting to ensure Africa's institutions were robust and adequately equipped to help create the conditions for an African Renaissance, an Africa destiny determined by Africans.

In this regard, the first half of the 20th century, until the end of the Second World War in 1945, was marked by the rise of new form of African Nationalism and new forms of resistance. This was aptly surmised by Pixley ka Isaka Seme in 1906, when a student at Columbia University in the United States:

"The African already recognises his anomalous position and desires a change. The brighter day is rising upon Africa. Already I seem to see her chains dissolved, her desert plains red with harvest, her Abyssinia and her Zululand the seats of science and religion, reflecting the glory of the rising sun from the spires of their churches and universities."

In 1960, no less than 19 new states were born in Africa and 19 new flags raised to salute their independence. This followed the independence of Sudan and Ghana in the 1950s and the victory of Egypt after invasion by British, French and Israeli forces. Almost every one of the leaders of these states had spent time in prison and their movements were harassed, banned and ridiculed by the imperial powers.

We are talking of leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Abdel Nasser, Ahmed Ben Bella, Patrice Lumumba, Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere. These leaders were visionaries who we must always be inspired by and learn from. They served their people, Africa and humanity selflessly and with great courage and wisdom.

In this same decade, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed in 1963. Amongst others, the OAU focused on unity and ending oppression on the continent.

Haile Salassie, the first chairperson of the OAU, made a powerful speech in this regard:

"We name as our first great task the final liberating of those Africans still dominated by foreign exploitation and control." He went on to say that, "Our liberty is meaningless unless all Africans are free. Our brothers in the Rhodesias, in Mozambique, in Angola, in South Africa, cry out in anguish for our support and assistance."

In the same speech he said, "History teaches us that unity is strength and cautions us to submerge and overcome our differences in the quest for common goals, to strive, with all our combined strength, for the path to the true African brotherhood and unity."

Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah in 1964 resonated the sentiments of Haile Selassie in an address entitled, "I Speak of Freedom":

"It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world. Although most Africans are poor, our continent is potentially extremely rich. Our mineral resources, which are being exploited with foreign capital only to enrich foreign investors, range from gold and diamonds to uranium and petroleum. Our forests contain some of the finest woods to be grown anywhere.

Our cash crops include cocoa, coffee, rubber, tobacco and cotton. As for power, which is an important factor in any economic development, Africa contains over 40% of the potential waterpower of the world, as compared with about 10% in Europe and 13% in North America. Yet so far, less than 1% has been developed. This is one of the reasons why we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty, and scarcity in the midst of abundance."

In 2002, the Organisation of African Unity was succeeded by the African Union. This was done not, because the objectives of the OAU had been achieved but because it was time for Africans to find African solutions to African problems, it was time for Africans to determine the nature of the relationships they entered into - to change the donor-recipient paradigm to one of a partnership amongst equals. It was envisaged that the African Union would therefore have the appropriate institutions and legal instruments to ensure a new era for our continent.

Evolution of the Organisation of African Unity into the African Union African Heads of State and Government converged in the Libyan City of Sirte in September 1999 for deliberations on the future of the Organisation of African Unity. In the Sirte Declaration adopted on the conclusion of their deliberations they said:

"We deliberated extensively on the ways and means of strengthening our continental Organisation to make it more effective so as to keep pace with the political, economic and social developments taking place within and outside our continent," and were in this regard, "inspired by the ideals which guided the Founding Fathers of our Organization and Generations of Pan-Africanists in their resolve to forge unity, solidarity and cohesion, as well as co-operation between African peoples and among African States."

In further recalling "the heroic struggles waged by our peoples and our countries during the last century of this millennium for political independence, human dignity and economic emancipation," and cognisant "of the challenges that will confront our continent and peoples [in the 21st century], [they emphasized] the imperative need and high sense of urgency to rekindle the aspirations of our peoples for stronger unity, solidarity and cohesion in a larger community of peoples transcending cultural, ideological, ethnic and national differences."

In their discussions on how to strengthen the continent and its peoples, the Summit decided to, establish an African Union. The African Union was established to, amongst others, accelerate the process of integration on the continent to enable it to play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing social, economic and political challenges.

Vision and Mission of the African Union


The vision of the African Union is that of: "An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena."

This vision of a new, forward looking, dynamic and integrated Africa will be fully realized through relentless struggle on several fronts and as a long-term endeavour. The African Union has shifted focus from supporting liberation movements in the erstwhile African territories under colonialism and apartheid, as envisaged by the OAU since 1963 and the Constitutive Act, to an organization spear-heading Africa's development and integration.

The Objectives of the African Union

To achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the peoples of Africa;
To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States;
To accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent;
To promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples;
To encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
To promote peace, security, and stability on the continent;
To promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance;
To promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments;
To establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations;
To promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies;
To promote co-operation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples;
To coordinate and harmonize the policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union;
To advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology;
To work with relevant international partners in the eradication of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.

The Organs of the African Union

The Assembly

The Assembly of the African Union is composed of Heads of State and Government or their duly accredited representatives. The Assembly of Heads of State and Government is the supreme organ of the Union.

The Executive Council

The Executive Council is composed of Ministers or Authorities designated by the Governments of Members States. The Executive Council is responsible to the Assembly.

The Permanent Representatives' Committee

The Permanent Representatives' Committee is composed of permanent representatives of Member States accredited to the African Union and is charged with the responsibility of preparing the work of the Executive Council.

The AU Commission

Mission of the African Union Commission

The Commission is governed by the following mission: to become "An efficient and value-adding institution driving the African integration and development process in close collaboration with African Union Member States, the Regional Economic Communities and African citizens".

The values that guide and govern the functioning and operations of the Commission are:

Respect for diversity and team work;
Think Africa above all;
Transparency and accountability;
Integrity and impartiality;
Efficiency and professionalism; and
Information and knowledge sharing.
Members of the Commission

Deputy Chairperson
Eight (8) Commissioners
Staff members
Portfolios of the Commission

Peace and Security (Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, and Combating Terrorism)
Political Affairs (Human Rights, Democracy, Good Governance, Electoral Institutions, Civil Society Organizations, Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons)
Infrastructure and Energy (Energy, Transport, Communications, Infrastructure and Tourism)
Social Affairs (Health, Children, Drug Control, Population, Migration, Labour and Employment, Sports and Culture)
Human Resources, Science and Technology (Education, Information Technology Communication, Youth, Human Resources, Science and Technology)
Trade and Industry (Trade, Industry, Customs and Immigration Matters)
Rural Economy and Agriculture (Rural Economy, Agriculture and Food Security, Livestock, Environment, Water and Natural Resources and Desertification)
Economic Affairs (Economic Integration, Monetary Affairs, Private Sector Development, Investment and Resource Mobilization)
Peace and Security Council (PSC)

Heads of State and Government in July 2001 decided to establish the Peace and Security Council. This decision was taken within the context of the prevalence of conflicts and civil wars in Africa and the requisite need for a robust framework for an African peace and security architecture.

Current members of the Council are: Libya, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe who are serving three year terms and Lesotho, Angola, Egypt, Guinea, Cameroon, Cote d' Ivoire and Congo Republic, Djibouti, Tanzania, Uganda are currently serving two year terms on the Council.

Pan African Parliament

The Pan African Parliament is an organ intended to ensure the full participation of African peoples in governance, development and economic integration of the Continent. The Pan African Parliament was established in March 2004 and is now fully integrated into the African Union system as an Organ, reporting to the Assembly and its budget is processed through the Policy Organs of the Union.


The Economic, Social and Cultural Council, an advisory organ composed of different social and professional groups of the Member States of the Union. It aims to:

Promote dialogue between all segments of African people on issues concerning the Continent and its future;
Forge strong partnerships between governments and all segments of civil society, in particular, women, the youth, children the Diaspora, organized labour, the private sector, and professional group;
Promote the participation of African Civil Society in the implementation of the policies and programmes of the Union;
Support policies and programmes that promote peace, security and stability and foster Continental development and integration;
Promote and defend a culture of good governance, democratic principles and institutions, popular participation, human rights and social justice;
Promote, advocate and defend a culture of gender equality; and
Promote and strengthen the institutional, human and operational capacities of the African civil society.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

Africa has specific instruments and systems for the promotion and protection of human rights - the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights provides for, among other things, mechanisms to promote and protect the rights embodied in the Charter. To date, all Member States of the African Union are party to the African Charter.

The Organ charged with the mandate to promote and protect human rights is the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights which has the following functions:

The promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights; and
The interpretation of the provisions of the Charter and any other task assigned to it by the Assembly.
The Commission is further mandated to "collect documents, undertake studies and researches on African problems in the field of human and peoples' rights, disseminate information, encourage national and local institutions concerned with human and peoples' rights and should the case arise, give its view or make recommendations to governments.

The Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, Adv Pansy Tlakula, currently serves as a Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights

The Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African unity adopted the protocol to the African Charter establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on 10 June 1998. The Court was established to complement and strengthen the protective mandate of the African Commission. The protocol provides for an 11-member African court with members that have expertise in human and peoples' rights. To date 24 member states have ratified the Protocol.

Our own Judge President Bernard Ngoepe has served on the African Court of Justice since 2006. His term will expire in 2014.

NEPAD (New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development)

The Continent's socio-economic programme NEPAD has been described as "a pledge by African leaders, based on a common vision and a firm and shared conviction, that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development, and at the same time to participate actively in the world economy and body politic."

NEPAD has received unanimous support from external partners as an instrument for forging partnerships among African countries, between African government and their private sector, and between Africa and the international community.

NEPAD promotes the key principles of ownership, leadership and development of appropriate capacity for the continental institutions, regional economic communities and Member States. It is also based on:

African ownership and leadership
Promotion and protection of human rights, good governance and democracy
Anchoring Africa's development on the resources and resourcefulness of Africans - people-centred development
Channelling resources to the highest-quality operation as measured by development impact and alignment with client objectives
Promotion of gender equality
Accelerating and deepening regional and continental economic integration
Building a new relationship of partnership among Africans, and between Africans and the international community, especially the industrialized world
A comprehensive, holistic and integrated development programme for Africa Synergy and complementarity with the African Union Commission (AUC)
The NEPAD frameworks were developed to place Africa on the path to sustainable development. These frameworks contain all the elements for continental integration and have all been developed collaboratively with extensive stakeholder participation.

The frameworks include:

The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP);
Africas Science and Technology Consolidated Action Plan;
Action Plan for Environment Initiative;
Framework for Water, Energy and Mining;
Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa;
NEPAD Infrastructure Short Term Action Plan (STAP);
NEPAD Spatial Development Programme (SPD);
Capacity Development Strategic Framework (CDSF);
Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW);
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPA);
Framework on Education, Health and ICT; and
Policy Framework for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD).
African Peer Review Mechanism

The preconditions for sustainable development have been entrusted to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) which is a voluntary mechanism to be acceded to by member states. A High Level Panel of Eminent Persons was also set up to conduct country reviews as part of the APRM.

ANC National chairperson, Baleka Mbete, was elected to the African Union's African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Panel of Eminent Persons in January 2012.

The Financial Institutions

The African Investment Bank

The establishment of the African Investment Bank is one of the three financial institutions mandated in the Constitutive Act of the African Union. It is based in Tripoli, Libya.

The mandate of the African Investment Bank was envisioned to aid in fostering economic growth and accelerating economic integration in Africa in line with the broad objective of the African Union. To achieve these objectives, the Bank will carry out the following tasks:

Promote investment activities of the public and private sector intended to advance regional integration of the member States of the African Union;
Utilize available resources for the implementation of investment projects contributing to strengthen the private sector and the modernization of rural sector activities and infrastructures;
Mobilize resources from capital markets inside and outside Africa for the financing of investment projects in African countries; and
Provide technical assistance as may be needed in African countries for the study, preparation, financing and execution of investment projects.

African Monetary Fund (AMF)

The establishment of the African Monetary Fund (AMF) is also mandated in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, in a bid to facilitate the integration of African economies, through the elimination of trade restrictions and enhance greater monetary integration. It is based in Yaoundé, Republic of Cameroon. It aims to, amongst others:

Provide financial assistance to African Union Member States;
Undertake macro-economic assessments within the continent;
Coordinate the monetary policies of Member States and promote cooperation between the monetary authorities in these states; and
Encourage capital movements between member states.

African Central Bank (ACB)

The African Central Bank was created following the 1991 Abuja Treaty. The 1999 Sirte Declaration called for its implementation to be accelerated. It is based in Abuja, Nigeria. The ACB, just like the other African financial institutions, is tasked with formulating a common monetary policy and to create the African currency to accelerate economic integration in Africa. The African Central Bank aims to:

Promote international monetary cooperation through a permanent institution;
Promote exchange stability and avoid competitive exchange rates depreciation; and
Assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments in respect of current transactions between members and eliminate foreign exchange restrictions which hamper the growth of world trade.

Opportunities and Challenges

While Africa continues to grapple with a number of challenges, it has even greater opportunities, which used strategically will certainly ensure that the 21st century is indeed the African century.

Africa accounts for more than one-quarter of the world's arable land and is a source of livelihood for 70% of our people. However, it currently generates only 10% of global agricultural output and imports tens of billions of dollars of food each year. Using our land resources more effectively will enable us to not only contribute to our economic growth but to ensure we can feed our people ourselves.

We will also be able to contribute towards job creation and income distribution. It will also enable us to use the foreign currency which at the moment is being used to import food for other developmental imperatives on our continent. Food security must therefore be something we strive to achieve immediately.

Africa is the continent with most possibilities and potential, with its vast mineral and natural resources including sunshine, wind and biodiversity. Amongst others, Africa has about 12% of the world's known oil reserves and 40% of its gold. We must use our natural resources more efficiently to benefit our countries and its people.

We committed ourselves in the Lagos Plan of Action to, amongst others, co-operate in the field of natural resource control, exploration, extraction and use for the development of our economies for the benefit of our peoples and to set up the appropriate institutions to achieve these purposes; and develop indigenous entrepreneurship, technical manpower and technological abilities to enable our peoples to assume greater responsibility for the achievement of our individual and collective development goals.

We need to take control of our mineral resources, in terms of extraction. We should beneficiate and also ensure that we do get sufficient benefit from these mineral resources. At the moment, the company doing the extraction/beneficiation gets the resources while the country and its people receive very little. Simultaneously, we have to confront the challenge of illicit outflows of capital that rob the continent of the much needed resources for its own development

Our collective resources, along with rising demand for raw materials from emerging economies especially, make Africa an attractive destination for direct and portfolio investors. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Africa reached US$62 billion in 2009, an almost seven-fold increase in a decade. This trend is expected to continue.

Meanwhile, rigorous implementation of the African mining vision adopted by African Heads of State and Government at their February 2009 Summit will strongly improve the development effectiveness of the continent's natural resources. We must develop infrastructure that facilitates connectivity between and amongst ourselves by road, rail, air, sea and telecommunication systems. This infrastructural development must lead to the promotion of inter and intra-African trade. Work has already begun in the form of NEPAD which is the economic blueprint of the continent and lays the basis for the political and economic renewal of Africa.

It cannot be that a continent surrounded by two oceans and many seas has no ship-building capacity. In the long term we should also look at the possibility of owning maritime transport facilities. This will increase our competitiveness as it will be cheaper for us to transport our goods within the continent and beyond. It is critical that we ensure that we build the North-South Corridor, from Cape to Cairo and the East-West Corridor, from Senegal to Djibouti. The construction of these, and other, roads must be accelerated. We must speedily implement our continental and national infrastructure plans to ensure we accelerate our development.

How can we improve tourism amongst ourselves if we are not connected by road, rail, sea and air? But it is not only the physical infrastructure. We need to align some of the regulations and laws while strengthening our institutions in order to be able to facilitate free movement of people, goods and capital flow.

African Union Decade of Women

The Assembly of Heads of State and Government in 2010 declared 2010-2020 as the Decade of Women. Working together with all member states and other sectors of society, we must ensure this decade lays a firm basis for the emancipation of women. Africa, nor any other continent, can achieve its full potential if 50% of its people remain under-development and marginalised.

The African Women's Decade is a mechanism to accelerate the implementation and attainment of the goals stated in the various declarations, protocols and conventions adopted by the AU. Among these, four are key, namely Section 4/L of the AU Constitutive Act, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality and the AU Gender Policy.

We cannot talk of the emancipation of women without mentioning the Beijing + 15 Review Conference, simply because our collective future is guided by the challenges that were deliberated upon extensively at that Conference.

These include women still lagging far behind men in areas such as access and control of productive resources, women having less access to education than men, fewer employment and advancement opportunities available to women, women's roles and contributions to national and continental development processes being neither recognised nor rewarded, women continuing to be absent from decision-making structures and processes, and women generally being excluded from peace negotiations even though they bear the brunt of conflict.

When it comes to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as set by the United Nations General Assembly, you may recall that the MDG 4 and 5 relate to children, infants and mothers, which is critical for the socio-economic development of Africa. It is thus important that we continue to prioritise maternal, infant and child health on Africa's development agenda.

Africa has the youngest population in the world, which is continuing to grow rapidly. We must therefore ensure our young people have access to good education, basic healthcare, nutrition and skills development to enable them to participate in the mainstream of our economies.

It is significant that the Pan African Women's Organisation (PAWO) which was formed in Tanzania in1962 commemorates its 50th anniversary this year. PAWO, established a year before the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) by the Heads of states and Government in the continent, is therefore one of the building blocks aimed at uniting and uplifting women in particular and citizens in general.

The role of African women in national liberation movements and calls for Independence is often paid very little attention. Women played an indispensable role in liberation movements across Africa from joining the ranks and fighting alongside their male comrades to marching and protesting against injustices.

In acknowledging the responsibility thrust upon us to ensure we leave a legacy that will ensure a better life for future generations of girl children, we must remember the fearless heroines who came before us in the struggles against oppression and colonialism - the Ghanaian - Ama Nkrumah, the South African - Albertina Sisulu, the Mozambican - Graca Machel, the Angolan - Hoji ya Hende, the Zimbabwean - Sally Mugabe, the Kenyan - the late Professor Wangari Maathai, the Liberian, President Ellen-Sirleaf Johnson, and many other unsung heroines of our continent who paid the supreme price in the just cause of their peoples.

We should try to achieve the vision of the late President of Mozambique, Samora Machel, said: "The emancipation of women is not an act of charity, or the result of a humanitarian or compassionate attitude. The liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition of its victory."


The African Union, and its structures serve as a vehicle for the transformation and defence of Africa and its peoples. These structures will only be effective, however, if they have strong political leadership and the necessary resources, In particular, the Commission of the African Union must be strong in order to be effective, efficient and able to respond timeously and appropriately to current challenges.

We must also be able to mobilise all sectors of African society to be part of strengthening the African Union, amongst other, women, youth, organised business, and civil society. This is after all, our continent and is the one we will bequeath to future generations of Africans.

We must therefore, without fear or favour, sparing neither strength nor effort, ensure the vision of our forebears becomes a reality - an Africa for Africans, a prosperous Africa at peace with itself and the world.

Indeed, if we are to achieve a better Africa like the Warrior of light in Paulo Coelho's book we must remember that,

"A Warrior tries to make most of his virtues. He knows that the gazelle's power lies in its legs. The power of the Seagull lies in the accuracy with which it can spear a fish. He has learnt that the reason the tiger does not fear the hyena is because he is aware of his own strength. We have to define for ourselves what we can truly rely on".

It is time we as Africans used the opportunities available to us for our own development and for the sustainability of generations to come.







African History in the Service of the
Black Liberation

By Walter Rodney


Speech Delivered in Montreal on October 12, 1968

at the Congress of Black Writers

[This is a transcription of a lecture given by Walter Rodney on 12 October 1968 at the Congress of Black Writers in Montreal, Canada. The original audiotape of the lecture and the others from the 1968 Congress of Black Writers are in the possession of the Alfie Roberts Institute, Montreal, Canada. They were entrusted to David Austin by the late Alfie Roberts in 1995. Before his untimely death in July 1996, Roberts and Austin were in the process of preparing the speeches for publication. The original lecture was transcribed from audiotapes by Mrs. Astrid Jacques and subsequently edited by Austin. The footnotes have been added in the process. Special thanks to Adrian Harewood for his comments on the text.]

Initially I had written a short supplementary paper to that which was to be presented by Mr. Richard Moore.1 Therefore, the order having been inverted, it places me in a rather tricky position. I had intended to continue on the basis of certain things which he would have said. However, very briefly, my position is this: Moore would have spoken on African civilizations according to the program. I myself had intended and, in fact, I will consider certain aspects of African history which would not normally fall under the rubric of civilization.

And in the process I would have liked to question the very concept of civilization. I entitled my paper "African History in the Service of the Black Revolution," and the first contradiction, the first dilemma which one faces in attempting to utilize African history as one of the weapons in our struggle is a realization that, in a very real sense, we, as black people, are placed in [the] invidious position of having to justify our existence by antecedents, having to prove our humanity by what went before. Now this is very invidious. Humanity is not a thing one proves. One asserts [it] perhaps, or one accepts [it]. One doesn't really set out to prove it.

But, unfortunately, the historical circumstances in which black people have evolved in recent centuries have implanted in the minds of black brothers and sisters a certain historical conception and, in order to destroy that historical conception, one has to engage in this type of game of saying, "This is what the white man said but no, it isn't really so, we have a past," and that sort of thing.

Now, if we are forced into that position, it seems to me that there are two rules which we can observe to make the exercise more meaningful. The first rule is that I, as a black historian, am speaking to fellow blacks. Now that means that, as far as the white audience is concerned, here and in the world at large, they are perfectly entitled to listen but I am not engaged in the game which they set up by which they say to me, "You prove, black, that you're a man. Prove it to me by showing that you have civilization," and that sort of thing. I'm not engaged in that job as far as white people are concerned.

I am engaged [with], I must address myself solely to, black brothers. To the extent that they have been involved and destroyed in a process, we are seeking to re-create. And, furthermore, as I said, it's "in the service of black revolution." Those whites, those few whites who may join the Black Revolution, will certainly do so for reasons which are far more profound than their knowledge or acquaintance with African history. So that's another reason why we don't need to address ourselves to them.

The second rule is that African history must be seen as very intimately linked to the contemporary struggle of black people. One must not set up any false distinctions between reflection and action. We are just another facet of the ongoing revolution. This is not theory. It is a fact that black people everywhere, in Africa and in the Western world, are already on the march.

So nobody who wants to be relevant to that situation can afford to withdraw and decide that he is engaging in what is essentially an intellectual exercise. The African historian, to me, is essentially involved in a process of mobilization, just like any other individual within the society who says, "I'm for black power. I'm going to talk about the way the blacks live down in the South," etc. That's a facet of mobilization. The African historian is also involved in that mobilization.

Now, having said that, I would like to illustrate the ways in which, in fact--if there's to be any proving of our humanity--it will have to be done with three examples. The first is Cuba. Cuba has proven very concretely that the way of asserting that humanity is by revolutionary struggle. And when I say it has proven that, it has proven it to the black people in Cuba. Now this is a question with which even black brothers outside of Cuba are not very familiar and so I'll, just for a minute, indicate what the position was and is for the black people of Cuba.

They started, like everybody else in the West, as slaves. They existed as slaves longer than any other group except the Brazilians, well into the 1880s. And subsequent to slavery, they became involved, very rapidly, in the new imperialist relationship with the United States, and this hardened the existing prejudice of Spanish slave and Spanish colonial society.

CUBA Then & Now
There is a very useful book recently published by Esteban Montego, a Cuban slave who was a runaway and who reflects on his life in this period and gives some insights into the type of pressures which faced the black man in Cuba after slavery.2 Now, with the intensification [of economic and political activity] by the United States [in Cuba and] the importation of Florida type qualities, a black man in Cuba was just dirt. I mean it was the South; it was apartheid.

If you (the black man) were seen in a certain part of Havana after a certain hour you were liable to be shot, guilty of being black, you see. So that the black situation in Cuba was as bad as any other sector that we can point to. But within the process of revolutionary struggle, first as slaves--because they were the first revolutionaries; we black people were the first revolutionaries, the first guerrilla fighters in this part of the world, this hemisphere--and then as freed men, the black people struggled in Cuba.

They struggled, of course, alongside white people who had a vested interest in struggle--white people who wanted to break the imperialists bonds. Not white liberals who are enjoying the luxuries of capitalism and give us some platitudes about behaving in the right way and so on; white people involved in struggle. It's a completely different conception of white from the metropolitan white who, whatever category he falls into, is objectively involved in our oppression and our suppression.

Every white person in this room is objectively involved in the oppression of black people so long as they live in a metropolitan center because the metropolitan center is dominating colonial black people. It is as simple as that.

Anyway, in Cuba that's not a position. Whites fought against the system, and in that process, the black people could be genuinely emancipated. Now, in Cuba today, barriers to entering certain buildings, certain eating houses, and that sort of thing completely disappeared. Juan Almeida, one of the members of the Politburo of the Cuban Communist Party, is a black man who was involved in the struggle from the time of the Sierra Maestra with Fidel Castro.

And the position of the black people is such, not only socially and politically emancipated, but moving in a direction of reasserting their culture (the Afro-Cuban culture), of getting official encouragement to assert that culture. So that we find in Cuba today more genuine interest in the African Revolution, more interest in the African plastic arts and in African drama than there exists in Jamaica, which is a place 95 percent black, because the black people of Jamaica are still involved [in,] and are dominated under, imperialist relations. So that is Cuba and that is Jamaica.

JAMAICA's Continued Colonial Dominance 

Now, it means that for the African historian in Cuba, he can go ahead and research and talk about African history in a new social context. But for anybody in Jamaica, he can't seriously talk about history divorced from revolutionary struggle. He isn't serious if he's doing that. You can't say that "African history will proceed as normal. We'll just teach it in the curriculum and that will be fine. Let imperialism proceed."

In any event, the system doesn't even want you to do a simple thing like teaching African history. The prime minister of Jamaica, a black man (you know he looks black anyway), 3 was approached with a request to let African history and an African language, Swahili, be taught in the schools, and he said, "No, we can't have any of that." He gave some reason--a curious reason--something about there being so many different races in Jamaica. Very curious.

I mean, 95 percent of the people are black but he can't teach an African language. They teach Latin, French, Spanish, and everything else. A lot of different reasons don't seem to come into that. But it shows that the colonial structure is itself aware of the fact you can't separate a new conception of self, which should spring from historical investigation with a new actuality, [from the] revolutionary process to change the situation that presently exists.

So that for the Jamaican, the system makes it impossible for him to come to this new awareness of himself because it doesn't want him to be involved in a revolutionary process. For any historian who seeks to reconstruct the African past, to reconstruct the past of black peoples in this continent, in such a context he cannot say that the revolution will wait until people are re-educated and that re-education reaches an advanced stage because he isn't even allowed to engage in that process of re-education.

Consequently, the revolution is with us already. The history will have to be subsidiary to that, it will have to come during and after the revolutionary process. In other words, the Jamaican freedom fighter will have to be a man [who] will, perhaps in his spare time, read some African history. You know Che Guevara said the guerrilla should always carry something worthwhile in his knapsack.

So the guerrilla fighter, the freedom fighter in Jamaica, would read some African history but he isn't waiting on that to move. He has to move because the only way that he can establish a relationship with his own past is, in fact, by breaking the present bonds which restrict and constrain us.

The US: Blacks Internalized Racism Because of Internal Colonial Status

In the United States (and this will presumably apply in Canada also) the situation is rather different. In the United States the national bourgeoisie is powerful, the most powerful national bourgeois group in the world, and undoubtedly, it will be the most powerful national bourgeois group in the history of the world because there won't be any more powerful group after the US, you know. That sort of thing is coming to an end.

Anyway, this national bourgeoisie, they have the confidence which comes from their wealth. The Jamaican petty bourgeoisie is a comprador class, the neocolonialist class. They don't have any confidence because they don't have any capital. They know they exist on handouts from the metropolitan system so they are very shaky and very uncertain of themselves. And they will even stop you from, as I said, studying African history. But the US bourgeoisie is employing a different tactic.

But the brothers and sisters, and here I am addressing myself particularly to the brothers who have come up from the United States, will have to be aware of the gambit which is in fact already being utilized with respect to African history and culture. And that is this: The national bourgeoisie in the United States appears to be giving a concession. They are saying, "Okay, fine, you go ahead and study African history and African culture," and they will give you so much African history and culture [that] you just have time for nothing else.

The object is to divorce the process of thought and reflection on our past from the process of changing the present so that you feel that you've gained something but you end up in some remarkable contradiction. What you will find is this (in fact it's happening already): Rockefeller--who is making most of his money out of South African gold, out of the Rand, out of exploiting and participating in apartheid, the most vicious racial system in the world--that guy is going to finance a chair in African history. That's the type of contradiction.

So that if a black progressive thinks he's doing something by going into African history, using up a Rockefeller grant, all he is doing is forgetting both the domestic and external implications of American capitalism and, in fact, supporting that system because the guys don't mind if you go in a library or museum and lock yourself up all day. That's wonderful; keep you off the street, keep you out of struggle. So we have to avoid that type of myth that cultural revival, per se, is going to carry us a long way. I don't want to seem to be critical of the development of interest in African history and culture.

Quite obviously not, that's what I myself am involved in. What I am trying to suggest is that sometimes, while involved in a process, we ourselves have to be very careful to delimit how far that process should go. Let's all wear afros, let's put on African clothes. Fine. But that doesn't mean we are not going to struggle. The system still has to be broken before we can express ourselves in any fundamental way.

I had to make that type of introduction before I could go on to talk about African history as such. And when I go on to talk about that I will return to my initial submission that I would like, in fact, to question these categories of civilization.

We start off with a conception of civilization and it can be proven, it can be demonstrated rather, that African history can provide us with examples of civilization in the terms which the Europeans have expressed.

In other words, we can go to Egypt; we can go to Kush, that's in the Sudan; we can go to the Western Sudan, to Ghana, Mali, Songhai; we can take the central Sudan, Bornu and Kanem; the Hausa states; Mossi, coming further South; we can go across to the eastern part of the continent and find the early Bachwesi empires and the later developments of Bunyoro, Baganda; we can go further south into Central Africa, the Luba-Lunda Kingdoms; we can take the development in southern Bantu in the eighteenth and nineteenth century in the Shona sections in the center and over in the far east, that's the Zulu rising.

We can build up a picture which conforms to a European conception. In other words, we can play the game of proving to white society that "you were wrong when you said we had no history, that we had no civilization. Look [at] what we produced."

EGYPT Is in Africa... Then & Now
Now, I'm only going to deal with one aspect of that and that's Egypt. Everybody knows about Egypt. I don't have to delineate the Egyptian civilization. But if you want to read about Egypt you have to go and check some books on the Middle East or you have to go and find some guy who calls himself an Egyptologist. You never find any assessment of Egyptian culture, any serious assessment, within the African continent. Not never.

Of late, it is changing. But the traditional approach, the years of study of Egypt, have taken place in a context of [the] Middle East, Mesopotamia, background to European culture, that sort of thing. Africa just doesn't come in.4 Very curious. To begin with, we have a simple geographical description. European refers initially to either what is actually within Europe or what proceeded from Europe as a geographical entity. American the same, Chinese the same. But curiously, Egypt is well entrenched in Africa but it never appears in any assessment of African civilization.

In other words, what I am trying to say, why I am taking this single point, is to show the ways in which the issue can be evaded. White society can either say you have had no history or, where they see an element of civilization in their terms, they can say that was not yours, either by saying it outright or ignoring it.

In the case of Egypt, a second argument is advanced: the question of color. If you press the first argument I made, then a white [person] will say, "Well, you know, the people in Egypt were white so that really it has nothing to do with Africa which is a place for black people." In that sense, one will have to go back and try to determine what was the racial composition of dynastic Egypt.

And, as far as we can tell, the Egyptians represented themselves as red- or copper-colored, as distinct from lighter-skinned white peoples living outside of Egypt and as distinct from darker-skinned black peoples living outside of Egypt also, to the south. So that their own conception of themselves was certainly not white. Furthermore, the whole history of Egypt is one of southward expansion and of contacts, sometimes not very pleasant contacts, in the form of slave raids with the south.

So that it is clear that the whole Egyptian population must have been infused with a large quantity of black blood, if we want to take it in racial terms.

We can go further than that. For the whole of the eighth century b.c., the Egyptian dynasty was actually in the hands of the Nubians, in the hands of the Empire of Kush. In other words, for that period, black men were ruling the society. Now, I found no evidence that the society itself was racially conscious. I'm only making this distinction in terms of race because we are attempting to break down certain myths. And the myth is quite simple.

In other words, if we look at Egyptian society we see that it certainly was not white, we can take the medial position that it was brown and that it had very large elements of black, including a whole black dynasty.

So this is just to illustrate the ways in which, even within the terminology which Europeans have established, one can indicate that African history exists, that African civilizations exist, that the black man can look back on this and gain the necessary revolutionary inspiration.

Eurocentric Categories of Societies
But I want to move on from there because I don't feel that we should accept these categories that have been established by European writers. These categories are established simply by looking at European society as it has existed, extracting out the elements which they consider to be meaningful in that society, and then judging the rest of the world with these standards as though these are universal criteria. It is what I call cultural egocentrism.

These fellows have no concept of judging any culture by attempting to get out of their own. They base themselves solidly in their own limited perspectives and then you judge everybody else by that. In Africa, even apart from the state systems which I have merely enumerated and which, presumably, Richard Moore will talk about in more detail, one could find a whole variety of people, millions of people, living outside of the normal political state.

And in European terms they were not civilized because to be civilized you had to be living in this large political conglomeration, you had to be writing, preferably (this is one of the criteria which is normally adduced for civilization), and you had to be engaged in a political and administrative process which is rather similar to that, let's say, of the modern United States.

In other words, the greatest expression of human progress is in terms of the size of the state, in terms of the size of the armies that the fellows can send against each other to kill each other out and the like. I mean it really is amazing because, even within white society, those people who question the society--and there have been many in the postwar epoch who question the very basis of the society--would wonder if, on sheer size and population and so on, the United States is the most civilized country in the world, if we use those criteria. We know that it is the most barbarous because of the way in which it has exercised its power, because of the way in which it has stifled its own population.

And that is not only the black population but the white population. So we have to challenge those criteria and when I look back at African states, at African society in the broadest sense, I would, in fact, like to throw out the word civilization. I think it is a very arbitrary word, I don't think it gets us very far. I mean, we use it as a prop so that we can advance our thoughts and at a certain stage it will abolish itself, as it were.

I abolish it on a whole variety of grounds. I mean, one could add, for instance, that we as black people--and this is a question that came up yesterday in an embryonic form when C. L. R. James was speaking--must define the world from our own position.5 So I want to talk about civilization and I'm a black man and i've been subjected to slavery. And I can't look around and say European society was civilized. I can't say this. I can't participate in what the French call la mission civilatrice when this is what colonialism was for them. "If that is civilization," as, was it brother Leroi who said it?6 "then give me back the jungle."

African Social Systems
So that is a definition which we as black people cannot accept at all. And once we throw aside that definition we have to start working with other things. We have to forget the sort of formal approach and start trying to determine what is meaningful in social relations and what were the features of African social relations which were most meaningful. Now that's what i'll talk about for a little while.

I think that, just as we can say, in the small societies, before the European arrived in Africa, certain states and certain political developments were in existence, similarly, we can emphasize the culture-history; we can try to determine, in the period before the fifteenth century, what were the lines along which African culture-history was developing. And here we must understand that Africans, for the most part, were living in small societies, some of them so-called stateless societies--just a family, an extended family; no superstructure of the state, no huge territorial delimitations.

But, whatever the situation in which they lived, whether it was an isolated family unit, whether it was a clan arrangement, or whether it was a state, it seems to me that certain principles can be extracted [as] the dynamic principles of African culture. And this is what represents the civilization--having eroded the erroneous concept surrounding it--of Africa in that particular period. I'll try to select just a few [of] the most outstanding (in my estimation) of these principles.

One of them is hospitality, the way people related to each other in terms of hospitality. Another one is the way in which the people of a certain age in this society were treated. Another is the whole question of law in African society, the way that the law was administered, the whole ethos behind the law. I think I would like to take those three points and start to have a look at them now. I start with hospitality.

In the African systems, Europeans who arrived in the fifteenth century or Europeans who arrived subsequently within an indigenous context saw the Africans living by themselves. It's amazing the regularity with which they stressed the nature of African hospitality, the extent of African hospitality. This was not just, as it were, an individual response of Africans. It was rooted in the nature of their social organization.

The extended family, for instance, was, in itself, an agency of social relief. It was, in itself, an agency which would deny the existence of the extremes of poverty and abandonment in African society, which we find in modern capitalist society. Because, as an extended family, it meant that the responsibility was theirs. All members of the family share a responsibility for others. This is the nucleus of the whole concept of hospitality.

One can go further and take the principle of the family when it is projected into the clan arrangement. A clan, in a rough sense, is a whole collection of families. It's a set of people who share a common ancestor [and] common totems, [as] sometimes the term is used. Now, within that clan there are numerous people who don't know each other. They just know they belong to clan A. They've never seen each other. Their relationship in terms of physical and genetic proximity is very vague. They acknowledge an ancestor who is very remote, on the borders between history and legend.

But, nevertheless, a clan brother is a brother and he's treated as a brother whenever the occasion arises. In other words, I belong to clan A and I come from three hundred miles away and I meet another clan brother; he has certain responsibilities towards me--to house, feed, clothe me. The system provides for that hospitality.

The Concept of African Hospitality
We can go further. Take the structure of authority, whether it be the chief, or a king, or a ruling group. They too have certain very clearly defined responsibilities with respect to the action of giving, the key being hospitality. So much so that I came across a very interesting incident of a small chief in a Sierra Leone system who they were about to elect into a king and the guy says, "Well sorry, I'm not going to take that job. I just don't have the funds to carry out the type of hospitality which is normally expected from a ruler." That's his job--to keep an open house. Guys just turn up there and, as I said before, a brother is a brother, a sister is a sister.

Now, I don't know how it will appear to you but when I started off and I looked at this, to me, this is a more profound aspect of relationship than how big the state was and how many armies were jumping across to kill each other. This was an aspect of interpersonal relationship. This was a quality of life that doesn't exist in our society. It couldn't exist in capitalism which is based on profit motive. This is not to say that there aren't individuals within the capitalist system who are hospitable.

All over the world one finds hospitable individuals. Here I'm talking about a hospitable society, not the odd individual. The whole society is geared towards a reciprocal relationship with those around. And this, to me, is very very striking and it seems to me that, as a principle for human organization, it is one of the facets about African cultural development to which greater attention should be paid.

Old Men In African Societies
Let me talk about the old men: age. Again, we'll start with capitalist society. The old people in the capitalist society have no value. Capitalism wants labor. You've finished working, well that's tough. In more recent times, you get a pension, but the system doesn't have any further value for you. In West Indian society, in the period of the slave trade, the planters used to make a concrete economic calculation. They had this discussion going.

The discussion went along these lines: "Shall we let these blacks work for us for a long time and get old and try to get the maximum period of work out of them? Or shall we work them to death in a limited period of time and get new blacks?"

And most of the planters, in fact, felt that it was more advantageous to avoid the problems of having old people in the society. What's an old black going to do? He can't produce. he can't work the eighteen hours a day which the plantation system required. So that it's better not to have old black people in the society. And capitalist society all over, not just on the question of race, adopts this attitude to elderly people.

African society is fundamentally different. Throughout Africa, the principle of gerontocracy prevails. The elder, by virtue of his age, is vested with certain authority and certain power. This is basic because, for them, wisdom is a reflection of an experience and, by that very fact, all things being equal, the older the man in the society, the more his experience in the problems within that society, the more his reflection on it and, therefore, the greater his wisdom.

There is more to it than that: it means that the older man had had an opportunity within that society to acquire [a] certain formal education, because African society had its aspects of formal education. There was a period of intensive education when a man or a woman, or should I say a boy or a girl, was about to be initiated into the society, to become a man or a woman. That was always a period of intensive education.

And subsequently, as individuals moved from age group to age group, or from one level in a secret society to another, or from one age sect to another--all these being institutions which related people on the basis of age--he was also privy to additional knowledge, so that he was going through a process of learning. So when he reached a certain stage he was supposed be historian, lawyer, guardian of the constitution, and the president of the state.

He was supposed to be a tutor to the young king when he came up, to the king's sons that is, or nephews depending on the system, and in effect, these elders were given responsibility. They were free, of course, because of the hospitality, from the task of winning a living, and the system asked them to be alert.

The West (i.e. Capitalism) Discards Old People
This is the difference. I've seen a lot of old people--in England in particular it struck me. It is not as bad in the West Indies. Our black people still manage to survive, even in old age. But I looked at English society and it has completely destroyed a certain sector of the society. These women who reach a certain age, they can't relate to anything else. They perhaps go to a little bingo party and then after a while they can't even totter out to that. And then you just herd them into old people's homes.

They have no function. They do nothing, so they rapidly degenerate and become cabbages, because your mind, if you don't keep it going, is going to degenerate. And this is our society that we live in now. African society catered for a completely different conception. The man is always growing, the man is always learning, until he dies.

And that is why field researchers have found that when you go into an African society you can go and find any old man. Find him, he might be sixty, he might be seventy, and with perspicacity he will point out to you elements of the culture and recall episodes of history going back more than a hundred years--in other words, more than his lifetime. He had been trained by the society to function in that way. Now this, to me, is tremendous. A society that takes you from birth and carries you all the way so that life has meaning to the end. Well, you judge that for yourself.

Law & African Society
I want to talk now about the attitude of the law in African society. This is my third episode, third area of illustration. The law in African society was, of course, customary law, rather than recorded law. In recent times, that customary law has become the subject of serious scholarship, and numerous treatises have been presented on African law.

The principles are very complex. To begin with, we must understand the framework in which it functions, a framework, as I see it, of social order, social stability. So that immediately limits the areas in which the law is going to operate. Let me illustrate. And this, again, is using European evidence. All the things I am saying I can quote ad extentum from European sources. It is a useful technique.

The man says, "No, that's not so." then you say, "well, this man said so, it wasn't me you know. White people went and saw this." So this is European evidence. They go to African society and they're amazed at the type of social security which existed there in the fifteenth century. All this stuff I'm talking about is cultural history, the period before the European arrival. Some of it carries over but I'm talking about traditional African society. All of the travelers into the Western Sudan, time and time again, they reiterated, "This is tremendous.

How can we travel such huge distances from one end of the Empire of Mali to another and we don't find any robbers, we don't find any vagrants. If we lose something, when we turn up at the court of the king we find that thing has been transmitted there to be given to us."

It was amazing to them because they were operating from the background of brigandage in Europe, highway robbery. I mean our society--well, capitalist society--is a robber society, so this explains the whole thing. [In] the whole development of capitalism--piracy, brigandage on highways, etc.--the security for goods and persons is a very late development in European and capitalist society and it has come about through the establishment of massive mechanisms for keeping people in their places; in other words, a police force and army.

But in African society this wasn't so. it wasn't the police who were all around to see that goods and persons were secure. It was the social constraints. People just didn't do that. Mungo Park went to the Gambia.7 He saw a little group called the Djolas. He said these are a bunch of savages. But yet, he himself had to concede. He says, "I left my goods there for months unattended and when I went back there wasn't a pin removed."

And this is a generalized type of remark that is made about African traditional society; a socially induced security. Everybody moves around and the like. Now, that's the norm. this doesn't mean that there is no crime whatsoever. I'm just suggesting the area that, in that society, was exemplary in its freedom, especially in comparison with Europe.

Now, insofar as there was crime, it had to be dealt with by the law. And the principle of the law was not to deal retribution to an offender, which has largely been the principle of European law until recent times [wherein] the whole penal system is still being questioned. But, fundamentally, it hasn't changed. The law is to deal retribution, the law is a means of controlling certain individuals. And this is, of course, particularly relevant to us as black people in white society.

But, that apart, what was happening in African society was that an offender was asked to make restitution, either to the individual whom he offended, or to the state if his offence was against the state, [or] against the society as a whole. So it was a question of restitution rather than retribution being meted out to him. It meant that if he stole, the object was to replace what he stole, not to put him into jail.

I have never ever read of a jail in traditional African society. I have never read of stocks and fetters and chains before the slave trade. This was the African traditional society which didn't jail people. It said to them, "You replace what you have taken."

Eurocentric Principles of Human Activity v. African-Centered Principles of Human Activity                                                                                                                                                           Again, the contrast with Europe is clear on all these points, and what I am developing, therefore, is the idea that there are principles of human activity which we need to look at which are quite distinct from the so-called principles of civilization, and that when we look at that, we begin to see how tremendously meaningful African life was.

Now, we as black brothers and sisters, we look around--in the West in particular, and even in Africa this happens because Africans too have been subjected to the processes of white cultural imperialism--and you want to engage in the exercise which I mentioned at first, that is trying to destroy the myths which the whites have prepared.

Even though this places you in a defensive position you have to do it for your own benefit and for the benefit of your brothers and sisters. And you look at the Western Sudan, and that is great. You see in the fifth century--and, no doubt, brother Richard Moore, [who] is here now, will talk at length about that--states which are developed in a period comparable to the European Dark Ages and Middle Ages. I shan't go into that, as I said. But there is a trick in that, when you are finished saying we have states, we have civilizations like the European, the guys are then going to say, "Well, what happened afterwards. We developed, we produced the modern state."

And that leaves you in a rather bemused position if your initial premise was that human development can only be expressed in its highest form in that type of structure which Europeans call a state and within the terms that they consider civilized. So that at some stage you have to supplement your awareness of the great achievements, of the striking achievements of African society. I know this from personal experience. I go to a black and you can see anguish in him. He says to you, "I want to know something about the great achievements [of] Africans. Tell me something striking."

So you start to tell him about Lalibella and about rock churches shorn out of sheer rock in Egypt. You tell him about the pilgrimages of Mansa Mussa to Egypt. A hundred years after, people in Egypt were still recalling it. He carried so much gold that, years afterwards, the Egyptian economy was still disjointed. You tell him about the sculpture of Benin and Ife and suggest to him that these things are the marvel of the modern European world. But then you go further. I would go further.

I'm suggesting to the black brothers and sisters that we need to go further than that in illustrating these principles which I indicated earlier. For an actual political purpose related to the revolution, we have to indicate that this cultural basis existed quite independent of states because, if not, there are certain types of contradictions into which we fall.

Rebuild Africa Thru the Past while Looking to the Future                                                                         Here I have in mind the way in which the white world normally plays up certain aspects of African contemporary development as relapses into barbarism. You say that what's happening in Nigeria, what happened in Congo, this is sort of atavism--the blacks have gone back to the primeval savagery once the restraining hand of white civilization has been removed. And to counter that type of nonsense one doesn't only have to point to the development of so-called civilization.

One also has to show these aspects of everyday life which were meaningful long before the Europeans arrived, and if we were to pursue the process, we could see how, in fact, these things were distorted during the era of contact with Europe; how they were distorted, particularly in West Africa, during the era of the slave trade.

My final reflections, before I give over to this brother, concern some other questions which brothers, in my part of the world anyway, have been asking. They say, "Well, if you recall African history and you recapture African culture, to what extent is it possible to practice this today? Is it just a question of doing this as a sort of catharsis to throw out what the Europeans said or is there a possibility of using these principles in constructive contemporary action?"

For Africa, the answer is clearly yes. In African society, any serious attempt to revolutionize the society will have to take serious cognizance of these principles. And the best example is the work being done in Tanzania today and the type of analysis being carried out by that remarkable man, Julius Nyerere.

Take a document like "Socialism and Rural Development," which is something blacks should all read.8 He is attempting to select the elements of culture in Tanzania, the process of cultural history before the Europeans arrived and as it was affected by European arrival, and then from that, to try and come to terms with the modern situation.

So you can extrapolate, you can see the process. It's not just going back and taking out, harum-scarum. It has to be a dialectical, you have to see what still exists in the contemporary situation that comes from the traditional roots.

The Use of African History in the Western World: Catharsis Towards Action

And, in that sense, the analysis of culture-history is extremely relevant to the present revolution. Now, I wouldn't go that far for the New World. I would not be able to say what the shape of this society is going to be. It's a very tremendous question, but one that i don't really need to ask. White people always keep asking, "After Black Power, what?" This is not really for all of us to determine. That's another epoch. it's like Marx writing about the class struggle and he says, "After all that is finished, the history of humanity will begin."

Well, I see it that same way. When we have achieved what we want to achieve, the history of humanity will begin. So humanity will work out its history. We are concerned now with the blacks. The blacks have to get something done and I don't think, really, that we can use African History in the Western World in the sense that Nyerere used it. I think we can only use it in the first sense, as a sort of catharsis towards action.

We probably could do more with our own history, the history of black people in the New World, as a basis for working out what is a revolutionary strategy in the New World and what will be revolutionary in the new situation. But that is another matter.

For me then, African history, as carried out by the black brothers and sisters, will have to be a process of coming to grips with all the aspects of African history and with trying to determine what are the categories into which we should fit things, as distinct from saying, let us start and try to determine whether we can reconstruct African history along the same terms in which European history has been reconstructed.

Because that analysis, where you utilize only the European criteria is itself the same process of bastardization; the guy oppresses you and then he selects your terms of reference [for you]. Even when you're fighting him you use his terms of reference.

But what I am trying to suggest here is that we have to break out from those terms of reference. Thank you.


1. Richard B. Moore was born in Barbados. Described in the Congress brochure as a "deep student of African and Afro-American history," and as someone who "played a significant part in founding the Barbados Labour Party," Moore is the author of The Name "Negro": Its Origins and Evil Use (New York: Afro-American Publishers, 1960), among other books. Moore, who spoke directly after Rodney, presented a paper titled "The Civilizations of Ancient Africa."
2. Esteban Montejo, The Autobiography of a Runaway Slave (Cleveland: World Publishing Company, 1968).
3. The reference is to Hugh Shearer, who was prime minister of Jamaica between 1967 and 1972.
4. Aspects of this important debate were recently precipitated by the publication of Martin Bernal's Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987). See the debate assembled inBlack Athena Revisited, ed. M. R. Lefkowitz and G. M. Rogers (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).
5. Rodney is perhaps referring to the negative response of some members of the audience to James's comment that Greek civilization represented humanity's highest achievement. Reference to this can be found in the 15 October 1968 issue of theMcGill Daily, 3.
6. Rodney is referring to poet Leroi Jones, otherwise known as Amiri Baraka, the renowned African American poet, playwright and politico whose work helped to define the Black Power period of the sixties and seventies.
7. Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa in the Years 1795, 1796 and 1797 (London: printed by W. Bulmer and Co. for the author; and sold by G. and W. Nicol, 1799).
8. Julius K. Nyerere, "Socialism and Rural Development," Uhuru na Ujamaa/Freedom and Socialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968).