Self Afrophobia in Black Majority Societies
The Discrimination Republic
“Looks like Heaven feels like Hell”
The Island of Hispanolia is one of the most strangest and weirdest places, with the most craziest and fascinating history you will ever see.
The Island of Hate
The independent Hispanic website Voxxi News reports that Haitian and Dominican relations are currently the worst they have been in 75 years.
Facts about about Hispanolia
- It was the first place settled by Europeans in the New World
- The Island was originally originally inhabited by Taino Native Americans who were brutally decimated and killed off.
- It’s name means the Spanish Island, but in reality it should be called the African Island. At 20 million people and 10 million divided for each country, these two countries are the largest Black Majority countries in the New World or the Americas. 85-90% is of African descent
- This was the place where idea of enslaving Blacks/Africans and sending them to Americas came about. Santo Domingo was the first slave port. The Spanish priest Las Casa was behind this idea.
- It became the richest colony in the world due to the sugarcane production
- The slaves in Haiti were the worst treated slaves. Which resulted in them revolting and successfully establishing the the Worlds first country ran by ex slaves, and the second independent country in the Americas.
The Haitian occupation, what was it all about.
- The misconception that Haiti invaded the Dominican Republic distorts events that took place on the island between 1795 and 1844. Shortly after the start of the Haitian Revolution in 1791, Spain ceded its part of the island to France in the 1795 Treaty of Basel. This resulted in the entire island becoming one single French colony. It is that colony that became an independent state in January 1804. All Haitian Constitutions published since independence through 1867 have referred to the entire island as the nation of Haiti because it was the entire island that won its independence from France. This is stated in Article 1 of the Constitution of 1805 where the country of Haiti is defined as the island of Haiti. To say that Haiti invaded its eastern part is like saying that Haiti invaded itself.Boyer never colonized nor conquered nor invaded the eastern side of the island because that portion of the island was already a part of Haiti. Revisionist historians constantly accuse Boyer of having invaded the eastern part of the island which supposedly belonged to Spain. If this were true, it would have been tantamount to Boyer declaring war on Spain. What sense would it have made for Boyer to fear war and buy peace with France while declaring war against Spain? The truth of the matter is that Haiti never attacked any Spanish owned territory. Boyer’s government became unpopular when it levied taxes on the island’s population to pay France, but it took a natural disaster to topple his government. In 1842, while the country was still under an American embargo, a powerful earthquake struck Haiti and crippled Boyer’s administration. The disarray empowered rebel groups throughout the island. An opposition group sprung in the south while in the east, a separatist movement led by Juan Pablo Duarte gained momentum and eventually led to the eastern side of the island declaring its independence in February 1844.President Tyler of the United States responded by saying that the United States, France, and Spain must quickly recognize this new nation in order to limit the influence of Black people in the Caribbean. The United States quickly recognized Dominican independence but waited 20 years later to recognize that of Haiti. With the eastern separatists backed by world super-powers, Haiti could no longer maintain the integrity of the island as one nation despite several subsequent efforts to reunify the island.Even years after the eastern side became the Dominican Republic, there was no defined border between the two countries. It was not until 1929, under US occupation that the border was created. The US occupation force was selected from the US south. The argument was that southern whites knew best how to control Negros. The border was drawn in a way that favored the lighter skinned Dominicans. Haiti was forced to overlook the 1795 Treaty of Basel that gave the entire island to France and return instead to the earlier 1697 Treaty of Ryswick which gave 2/3 of the island to Spain and 1/3 to France. That treaty predated and ignored the outcome of the Haitian Revolution.The history of how the island went from being one country to being two independent nations is reflected in Haiti’s Constitutions. Toussaint’s 1801 Constitution defined the entire island as one colony. From 1805 to 1849, all Haitian Constitutions refer to the country as the island of Haiti. Between 1867 and 1957, all Haitian Constitutions avoided the term island so as not to seem threatening to their new neighbor and refer to the country as the territory of Haiti without defining its boundaries. The first Constitution that acknowledges the existence of two countries on the island is the Constitution of 1987 which states that the country is bordered to the east by the Dominican Republic.The Dominican Republic is a country that sprung from Haiti. Today, Haitians and Dominicans who can trace their family’s history to the earliest days of the Dominican Republic will find that they have much in common. Indeed, the very founders of the Dominican Republic, among them, Duarte and Santana, were once Haitian citizens.
What did Haiti do that the Dominicans were angry during the 22 year occupation
-Took land from white landowners
- However, the real resentment was that they were Black ex slaves bossing around their former master.
- Haiti was doing well until France demanded they pay $21 billion dollars
- At the time Haiti had been more economically and militarily powerful and had a population 8 to 10 times larger than the former Spanish colony, having been the richest colony in the western hemisphere before the Haitian Revolution. Dominican military officers agreed to merge the newly independent nation with Haiti, as they sought for political stability under the Haitian president Jean-Pierre Boyer, and were attracted to Haiti’s perceived wealth and power at the time. The Dominican Republic had no military force. Haiti, on the other hand, had formidable armed forces, both in skill and sheer size (for such a small land), that had been hardened for nearly 10 years of repelling French soldiers, local colonialists and military insurgents (lesser armed factions).
- The Dominican Republic is one of the Few countries in the America’s that received its independence from a Non European country. Slavery was never big in the Dominican Republic.
- The ethnic composition of the Dominican population is 73% Mixed, 16% white and 11% black. The reason why there is so many mixed race people is that slavery was not a big industry there so people relatively got along and intermixed at high rates, and the ones that did own slaves there were notorious for raping their slaves or having Black concubines. There is a recorded incident of a White Spaniard slave owner having over 90 Black concubines and 200 children from them. Slaves were only 10% of the population.
- During colonial times Most whites in the DR were poor. Most whites in Haiti were rich.
- The ethnic composition of Haiti is estimated to be 95% black, 5% white and mixed
- The Dominican Republic has historically been more Whiter, but now that has declined, due to safety concerns
1790 (Haitian revolt White population was 32% ) (48.5%)
1920:(American occupation White population was 24.9%)
1960: (End of Trujillo Era 16.1%)
2006 survey: (13.6%)
- The Economy is mostly controlled By Whites. Since independence, most of the Dominican Republics Presidents have been White.
- The Black people in The Dominican Republic are brainwashed not to only to not see themselves as Black, but to deny they have any Black blood at all. This started by Trujillo and continued on by Balaguer in order to kill any spirit of unity the Black people who make up 85-90% of the population would have there. The Dominican Republic is probably the most racist antiBlack Nation in the Western Hemisphere. http://www.americasquarterly.org/content/my-struggles-black-american-dominican-republic. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/05/dominican-republic-kkk_n_4904849.html
Afro-Dominicans (who make make up 90% of the population) have traditionally failed to flaunt their blackness as a collectivebanner to advance economic, cultural, or political causes. Dominicans have, for the most part, denied their blackness. Faced with the population’s tolerance of official claims asserting the moral and intellectual superiority of Caucasians by white supremacist ideologues, analysts of racial identity in Dominican society have often imputed to Dominicans heavy doses of “backwardness,” “ignorance,”or “confusion” regarding their race and ethnicity.
- Dominicans Afro Descendants are very self hating. Nappy Hair is not just referred to as Nappy. It’s referred to as bad hair.
Do they look Indian?
- 90% of the economy is controlled by 25 White families. On average, only 45 cents of every dollar a tourist spends in a developing country remains in the local economy. Spanish hoteliers own many of the most popular Dominican chains. Still, about one of three Dominicans lives in poverty, according to World Bank statistics. The electricity cuts out daily and the country spends less of its gross domestic product on education than nearly any other Latin American country. Catholic Youth Ministry coordinator Luis Rosario said the country has more brothels than schools.
- In the Dominican Republic it is pretty common for parents to ask, or more like order, their children to drop out of school and start working. n the DR, you’ll see kids repeating the same grade 2-3 times and by the time they’re 12-13 they’re still in fourth grade. The government knows this but there’s not only a shortage of teachers, as there are in many other countries, but there aren’t enough school buildings to teach students, and lets not talk about the very low standards students have to meet and the really poor training.
- Moreover, the World Bank report points out that Dominican society suffers from much inequality, particularly in urban areas. The report paints a picture of a country in which the poor remain poor, trapped in their situation with little chance of escaping. Dominican society is highly unequal even in the context of the Latin American region, well-known for its gaping divisions; whilst over the decade an average of 41% of the overall population in Latin America and the Caribbean moved up to a higher income group, this figure was a mere 2% in the Dominican Republic.
- The U.N. agency says half of Dominicans younger than 18 live in poverty, struggling to get enough food, access to safe drinking water and adequate housing. Only 30 percent of kids finish primary school and that only 18 percent finish secondary school on time. Those schools are in poor shape: Nearly half have no drinking water and nearly 60 percent have no toilets
- Most of the Dominican media is White, and many upscale night clubs discriminate against anyone with African blood. http://nypost.com/2007/08/08/the-drs-dark-secret/.
- The chose to say they are Native American or Indian because Africans were just slaves. And the Indians resisted the Spanish, even though it was the Black Africans on that island who fought of the French, Spanish, and British and liberated that island, not the Indians.
Dominican Republic wasn’t always self hating. Americans commenting on racial matters in the Dominican Republic at the time. One is the sense that “no austere prejudice against color prevails” in the country, as one author put it, or, in the words of another, that “distinction of color, in social life, is entirely unknown” (Santo Domingo, 1863: 10; Keim, 1870: 168).
Dominican “Hitler” Rafael Trujillo
PlátanoCurtain,” also crippled theDominican Republic socially. It created an absolute seclusion from the rest of the world. It was impossible to leave the countrywithout state permission. Trujillo had a way of debilitating any sense ofresistance. People were scared to cross him. If it was not the paranoia that he was alwayswatching that was stopping you, it was the fear of the inevitable fukú that would curseyou and your family for generations to come. By instilling fear in the Dominicans, he wasable to get what he wanted. He “killed whomever he wanted to kill, sons, brothers,fathers, mothers, took women away from their husbands on their weddings nights andthen brag publicly about the ‘great honeymoon’ he’d had the nightbefore.” He wasruthless. He didn’t care who he was hurting; he had supreme control.
“The face of evil” Joaqin Balaguer”
While the majority of Dominicans are of African descent, Balaguer argued that after the decimation of the island’s indigenous population the Dominican Republic was repopulated by white Spaniards. According to him, African characteristics in the Dominican population were a result of Haitian infiltration of the Dominican Republic. Because of his fear of racial “contamination”, Balaguer became increasingly concerned about Dominicans born to Haitian parents. In the 1970s he commissioned several investigations into the issue, and numerous government officials informed him that the government could not deport Dominican-Haitians, because, having been born in the Dominican Republic, they were constitutionally Dominican citizens. However, born on plantations far away from medical care, many never received official birth certificates.
“La Isla Al Reves”
The Dominican Version of Mein Kampf”
- Most Dominicans will assure you that Haitians worship devils, and that they practice cannibalism.All will remark on their unperfumed body odor. The more refined Dominicans will express their pity for Haitians and say, alas, it is a shame they can not effectively govern themselves.The American and British expatriates I speak to tell me the same thing about Dominicans, who are largely African themselves.
- How Racist Whites feel about Dominicans
“They are pretty trashy and will swear on their afros that they are not black, which is just sad. ”
“The Dominicans are descended from slaves. I’m not aware of anything they have to offer save for steroid using baseball players who beat their wives. I wouldn’t let one in my house”
“The paramount realization we all must come to regarding Dominicans and other Latin American breeds is that they characteristically behave in the same revolting way and yet under the pretense of having a class-ladder, as though one hispanic is superior to another hailing from a different Latin American country. Dominicans are simply negroes who speak spanish, which, as I’ve observed makes them that much more flagrant and enigmatic than the typical american negro. They can’t seem to decide which element of their descent is dominant, however, most seem more heavily influenced by African characteristics. One example is in their musical tastes, which revolve around the ideologically bankrupt “hip-hop culture”. They’re not to be trusted and with the influx of Dominican people, they equally pose a threat to the well-being of the future of decent white people in the U.S. We should not view them as any different, greater or less than the common negro.”
“I don’t consider drug dealers to be hard working, but to each their own.”
“Dominicans are nothing more than African savages with a spic’s attitude.”
Dominicans in Spain
70% of the more than 100,000 Dominicans that live in Spain are unemployed. the majority of the Dominicans in Spain work in the construction sector, or as maids.
- Haitians are the cheapest labor force in the Americas, and one of the cheapest in the World. Many Haitians come to or trafficked to sugar plantations called Bateyes, where they make about $300 a year. The Dominican Republic is the largest exporter of sugar to the United States. There is a special agreement where the United States pays double the price for its Dominican sugar (Which the United States should boycott due to its treatment of Haitians). The Sugar Industry (100% Haitian), Hotel industry (50% Haitian) Banana Industry (40% Haitian), Construction Industry (85% Haitian) is dependent on cheap Haitian migrant labor.
- 30,000 Haitians were killed by Dominicans in 1937 in 5 days. There is no memorial for the murder.In 2007, the Catholic Church requested a national apology from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, archbishop of Santo Domingo, refused to comply because he said the Haitian massacre occurred 70 years ago, and Trujillo was killed in 1961. Rodriguez said: “In this case it’s Trujillo who should be asked to render account, who was the criminal. It doesn’t seem to me that the Dominican people have any guilt in that, honestly. Meanwhile Many Dominicans fault Haitians for the Haitian occupation of the 1800’s.
- Haitians get treated bad in Dominican society, from being called names in the street, to violence, one Haitian in Santo Domingo was beheaded in broad daylight amongst a cheering crowd.
- Dominicans make about $6,000 a year and unemployment is 15%, Haitians make $800 a year and unemployment is 40-70%
- The Dominican Republic is not perfect either, many tourists get robbed or killed in the DR, drug trafficking is a problem, prostitution is rampant, so is corruption, and power outages, Dominican Republic is the world’s sixth worse country in energy distribution and power lines losses, according to the World Bank study on World Development Indicators 2014, which evaluated 223 high, low and middle income countries, and AIDs is at 1%
- Dominican Republic put in a new birthright law, that is designed to strip all Dominican born Haitians born in the country after 1929 of citizenship, this is different than fighting against illegal immigration. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/07/30/dominican-republic-tourists-haiti-citizenship-immigration-boycott/30384635/ One could understand if the new birthright would be meant for Foreigners born after 2013 or 2015. But to push it to 1929 is very harsh.
- Many Haitian Dominicans are trying to file for citizenship, but immigration officers have been threatened by Dominicans who don’t want them in their country. Also Haitians in the Dominican Republic don’t need their passport or visa on them, but they also need their birth certificate on them. Many Haitians still get deported even when they have all their proper papers.
- Many Haitians have been victims of violence https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGgGmjNJ-IE
Positive Note the Dominican Republic was the first to help Haiti in earthquake (This was mainly because they didn’t want a mass influx of Haitians coming into the country) . Haitians pay the same as Dominicans to go to University. Trujillo’s attempt to carry out mass deportations prior to the massacre failed because local communities opposed the illegal targeting of Haitian immigrants. Indeed, Haitians and Dominicans lived together all over the country, and were often openly hostile to attempts by the central government to intervene in their lives. Both countries had limited paved roads and communication infrastructure, and Haitian and Dominican peasants had more in common with each other than with a distant elite. Far from an expression of popular anti-Haitian sentiment, the Trujillo orchestrated massacre was an attempt to breakdown the long-standing connections between Haitians and Dominicans that limited his power over the country.
Famous Dark Skinned Black Dominicans outside of Sports and Music
Jose Francisco Pena Gomez – Former Presidential Canditate who almost Became President of the Dominican Republic. A three-time candidate for president of the Dominican Republic and former Mayor of Santo Domingo. He is considered as one of the most prominent Dominican political figures of the 20th century. Santo Domingo’s airport is named after him.
(Note: The Dominican Republic has already had dark skinned presidents like Ulises Heureaux, and Gregorio Luperon)
Johnny Ventura, former Mayor of Santo Domingo
Miss Dominican Republic 2013. Representer of Dominican Republic for Miss World Competition
Dominican Republic is modernizing. It is the fastest growing economy in Latin America. But has a 40% poverty rate
Where as Haiti is destitute and poor
What should be done
- Black needs to be added as a category on the Census
- Dominicans need to learn more about Africa and their African history and contributions
- Dominican society needs more representative media
- They also need to need to get rid of the racist psychos hatemongers, and irrational people in the media.
- Haitians in Bateyes need to be treated better with better facilities
- End US military assistance to Haiti http://www.antillean.org/why-i-want-to-end-us-military-aid-to-the-dominican-republic-319/
- Dominicans need to change that law citizenship law and push the date to 2015
- Haiti needs to develop but what is going to happen to the sugarcane, banana, and construction industry if Haitians leave those industries, that issue needs to develop.
Fear, hate, or dislike of Black Africans and Black African descendant. Many people are debating whether to call the events of what is happening xenophobia or Afrophobia . However I decide to call it Afroxenophobia because it is both. It would not make sense to call it xenophobia because they are simply not attacking all foreigners, and it would not make sense to call it simply Afrophobia due to the fact they are themselves African.So it would make more sense to call it Afroxenophobia which is hatred or dislike of African foreigners. It is sad to note that the country with the highest dislike for African foreigners is in Black Africa itself. The violent incidences of Afroxenophobia far precedes anything that is happening in Russia， The Middle East, Israel,India, China, or elsewhere Here is why Afroxenophobia in South Africa is so stupidAfrophobia
1. They helped you during apartheid. The United States Uk France Switzerland did not initially go against apartheid In fact they labelled Mandela as a terrorist. It was other African countries that supported your leaders in exile and gave them money and support. Nigeria alone spent 61 billion dollars to fight apartheid.In Nigeria civil servants had to voluntarily donate 25% of their salaries to SA Relief Fund for
2. They are helping your economy. 50 percent of all employees in these African owned businesses are local South Africans.
3. Why cant you fight against the small minority who own 70 percent of the land
4. Digging a hole for yourself by cutting yourself from Africa and will result in less support in the future
5. Outside of Africa you are just seen as African and subject to racism as any other Africans
6. Immigrants make up only 10 percent nothing alarming
7. A place for wealthy African elites to travel. The tourism industry is going to be badly hit.
8. Would anyone hire violent hateful murderers
What others Africans can learn from this
1. People will pick on the weak regardless of what color they are whether in Greece India or South Africa. There is a reason that they are not attacking Whites regardless of nationality. Because Whites are strong and Africans are weak people. It is important as Africans to train ourselves to be strong minded and strong willed otherwise we will continue to be the objects of peoples misdirected anger 2. Hire more locals if they dont turn out to be good employees fire them until you find one who is. So called civil South Africans 1. It is not enough to simply say we are all not like that. 2. Attacking or blaming other Africans is not going to solve your problems. SA is a land of hate and the most unequal society in the world 1. Whites vs Blacks 2. Afrikaaners vs British 3. Zulus vs different tribes 4. Whites vs Nonwhites 5. Indians vs Blacks 6.Coloureds vs Blacks 7. South Africans vs foreigners What other African countries must do 1. Boycott all South African businesses and companies So dont shop at shoprite picknpay or eat at Nandos. As punishment not only for the murderers looters and attackers but South African society for not successfully educating its people in regards to this matter. http://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=355005http://www.cknnigeria.com/2015/04/xenophobic-attacksnigerians-scchedule.html?m=1http://www.lusakatimes.com/2015/04/17/qfm-radio-station-stops-playing-south-african-music-in-response-to-xenophobia-attacks/ http://www.nyasatimes.com/2015/04/15/malawi-to-boycott-south-africa-goods-after-xenophobia-attacks/ http://allafrica.com/stories/201504150234.htmlhttp://m.news24.com/news24/SouthAfrica/News/South-Africans-chased-out-of-Mozambique-20150417 http://www.citypress.co.za/opinion/lessons-for-south-africa-how-zambia-prevented-xenophobia/ 2.Procecute Zwelithini for incitement to genocide or have him make an apology
3. An aggressive anti Afroxenophobia campaign
Solidarity for Black Americans
Both of my Grand Fathers were in the US Air Force. One actually flew fighter planes in the second world war against the german army, the Luftwaffe. He was BLACK. In my family there are 6 doctors, one Graduate from M.I.T, and a surgeon to top it off. We are fiercely proud of our achievement.
I lived in an all-Black American upper middle class neighborhood where my neighbors and friends were of similar pedigree. My neighborhood buddies and I all played the same games and acted the same way it was an all American upbringing. UNTIL a new family moved across the street into the new house in our modern upper crust subdivision. They were different, they had the same skin color as us but there accent wasn’t familiar. They were from a place called “Uganda “, they wore colorful patterns and the parents were extremely hospitable to the neighborhood.
This is where the “Miseducation of Black Americans” occurred for me and many of our people.
My first visual reference to “ Uganda “ came by the way of a Black wrestler in the World Wide Wrestling Federation known as the WWF by the name of Kamala. He was 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighed well over 450 pounds. He wore face paint and made grunt noises like he was an animal from the jungle. Never mind that his name was James Harris and was from Mississippi and was a black man. That was my first introduction to Uganda through a Black wrestler who pretended to be a savage African who also made a mockery of Africans and Ugandans in particular.
After watching “Kamala “grunt and make guttural noises and speak in a click language. As a Black American child we quickly disassociated ourselves with anything African. We attributed anything wild and savage with Africa and Ugandans to our new neighbors who were the total opposite of Kamala. BUT as a child who doesn’t have the maturity to understand the differences we placed our ignorance above their humanity. Names like “African Booty Scratcher”, “Dirty African”, “Child Soldier” and “Swamp Runner” were used to demean them.
My friends and I were the worst ambassadors to help bridge the gap between Black Americans and Africans in the diaspora. Even we (Black Americans) had to deal with the hostility directed at us through the majority white schools that we attended where we were made to feel inadequate and different. The negative energy we received from the teachers, the administrators and the principals manifested in our own self-hatred of being who we were, “Black Americans”. This type of negative energy drives some Black Americans to deny their very roots. “Why would I want to be Black? Everyone hates us”.
That type of thinking drove my friends and me to make fun of our African brothers and sisters in our neighborhood which caused many fist fights and causing our families to disassociate with each other. As we grew up we attended the same high schools where other Black Americans made fun of their clothing choices.
To my African brothers let me explain this, we (Black Americans) sometimes have a warped sense of thinking. We think if you’d wear expensive shoes like “Air Jordan’s” or purchase designer clothing like “POLO” that then we’d be accepted, and it would protect us from ridicule. We were made to feel intellectually inferior in school so the only avenue for feeling better about ourselves were clothing.
As we made our way through high school I watched them (Ugandans) achieve academic brilliance while everyone else continued to dress well. Their clothing choices were not the best quality but their academic achievements soared, they were proud of it despite their cousins (Black Americans) making fun of them. It became a grudgingly respect in our neighborhood between their families and the Black Americans. I don’t know what happened to my Ugandan neighbors, I wish they could know me now as an adult because I am conscious about my roots.
Sadly many Black Americans and Africans can never get over this dispute between distant cousins. A lot harbor these feelings into adulthood. Fortunately my thinking of my African roots became more profound when my mother uncovered my family history. She mapped the first person in our family to wash ashore to America in the early 1800’s. That was where my Ancestral history stopped, we didn’t know his African name but he was a male at the age of 28. That was my confirmation, it showed me that over 200 years ago someone from a West African tribe was my forefather. At that point the images of Africa as a desolate, starving, war mongering and inhabitable place ceased to exist. I wanted to know more about what my family lost and how it can be regained. Luckily we took a DNA test and found out that my family is “Nigerian “. It may be just on a piece of paper but my life has a point of origin.
I really wish I could apologize for my ignorant statements towards my neighbors and other Africans I offended. Refusing to acknowledge your Blackness or African roots is a way of self-hatred that many Black Americans unknowingly participate in.
My friends who were with me as we said horrible things to our Ugandan brothers and sisters acknowledged their stupidity. When you don’t know your history or your family, ignorance is your best ally. I can now claim that I am no longer ignorant, my cloak has been lifted. I was a son of slaves who built America, I am a Black American, an African and now I am Nigerian and I will never be embarrassed to admit it. I just wish I could find my ex neighbor to apologize.
Roel van der Veen, for Addis Standard
Development in the non-Western world
In the 1870s Japanese public intellectual Yukichi Fukuzawa shocked his audience by stating that he thought Japan should leave poor Asia and join the modern world. Japan in those days was going through a phase of rapid change, which would eventually lead to Japan becoming a modern nation and the leading nation in Asia. Yukichi Fukuzawa, who founded a university and Japan’s first daily newspaper, travelled extensively in America and Europe, and his books about the development of the West became bestsellers in Japan. The provocative, brave ideas of Yukichi Fukuzawa angered many Japanese, but more important, inspired millions of his countrymen to support Japan’s modernization effort, thereby improving people’s lives. How does this story of 150 years ago in a very different part in the world, connect to Ethiopia and Africa?
Over the last decade, several African countries have made impressive progress in growing their economies and to some extent, reducing the poverty of their populations. Ethiopia has been one of them. Economic growth has in some years reached ten percent, and poverty has been reduced from about 70 percent of the population at the beginning of the 1980s to about 35 percent now, all in the context of a rapidly growing population. After centuries of limited wealth for only a small elite amidst mass poverty, should this improvement come as a surprise? Not really. I’ll explain.
For years scholars and politicians have thought that poor countries could not become richer because the rich countries kept them down. However, the rise of the poor countries in Asia over the last half a century, has falsified this theory. Many Asian countries have reached high or middle-income status, thereby joining, each in their own way, the modern world. How was this possible? Why did countries in Asia become substantially richer, whereas countries in Africa did not?
The Tracking Development research project
Dutch development co-operation sponsored a big international research project called ‘Tracking Development’, involving several African and Asian scholars to find out what governments in Asia had done to make their countries richer, and why governments in Africa had not done the same thing. In the project countries in South East Asia were compared with countries in Sub Saharan Africa, countries that were similar in many aspects, but differed in one crucial aspect: the Asian country became substantially richer, whereas the African county did not. Take the Indonesia – Nigeria comparison. Both countries are very big (by far the biggest in their regions), have a colonial past (with subsequent new state structures), have large natural resources (especially oil), are very corrupt, have very poor governance, have a large Islamic population, ethnic diversity, strong and politically active military, et cetera. But Indonesia became richer, whereas Nigeria did not. Why?
After several years of hard work and many lively discussions, the project came up with answers, some of them quite surprising (also to me, I must admit). The main thesis of the project, well explained by the project’s main researcher prof. David Henley from Leiden University (in his book Asia – Africa development divergence, Zed Books, London, 2015), is that countries will have their economic take-offs when three policy results have been achieved simultaneously. First, a government should provide macro-economic stability (so no high inflation, a balanced budget and the real value of the currency).Second, it should provide economic freedom for its farmers and small entrepreneurs (to sell their products at a market to whomever they like). And finally, and this was the big surprise to me, they should spend massively, and be pro-poor, in agriculture, to vitalize the economy of the countryside (for better seeds, training for farmers, fertilizer, small roads to connect to markets et cetera). More home grown food will feed the nation better, will save money (because no food has to be imported, it might at some stage even be exported), it will raise the incomes in the countryside, lower food prices in the cities (thereby making the population more competitive at the later stage of industrialization) and will set the stage for the first stage of industrialization, which almost always consist of food-processing. The main lesson is thus: agricultural development comes before industrialization.
So we know what South East Asian governments achieved, but how did they do it? How could they implement these policies with the poor and ineffective states of that time? In other words: what was the governance involved? David Henley gives straight answers to this important question by identifying three principles of the successful development strategies. It is amazing how much these principles differ from the principles of what we donors call ‘good governance’. First: outreach (or quantity, not quality). You have to reach the millions of poor people if you want to have an impact on poverty. Here we see the link with agriculture. The only way to really reduce poverty is to go were the poor masses live, which is in the countryside. Second: urgency (or priorities, not plans). Go for the few things that really need to be done, and use all capacity available to achieve it. Forget about the nice elaborated plans with their tens of objectives, drawn up by experts, because these objectives will never be achieved that way. And thirdly: expediency (or results, not rules). In a way it doesn’t matter how you do it (by breaking the rules or not), as long as you achieve the desired results.
But why did governments in South East Asia do this, and African governments not? In my personal view the answer lies in something quite simple: the number of people. At the time nations in South East Asia had their take-offs, the countryside was densely populated, mainly with poor peasants, who tended to go communist (it was the time of the Cold War). So it was really out of their own self-interest that governments decided to improve the lives of these poor people, so that they would become less angry towards the authorities. For the politicians it was purely done out of self-interest, it was the life insurance of the regime. In the same decades in Africa such forces did not exist, because the countryside was only sparsely populated. Politically speaking in Africa it would have been irrational to waste substantial money on the farmers. It made more sense to keep the jobless youth in the cities quiet by providing jobs in industry. This political rationality had the unfortunate, even tragic, consequence that no take-off followed, because (as we now know) starting with industrialization is starting at the wrong end.
Can Africa learn from the lessons of South East Asia? I don’t think there are blue prints of development. Even in South East Asia itself there are exceptions. Take Singapore, which does not even have a countryside. But the experience of that Asian region at least suggests which paths to development might be successful. And as David Henley always underlines: why not try? Because over the decades, with extremely fast population growth in Africa, the African countryside is beginning to look like the South East Asian countryside of fifty years ago. Political rationality is therefore changing in the right direction. Surely it is no co-incidence that countries with the most densely populated countryside, like Ethiopia and Rwanda, have the best developmental policies.
So does Ethiopia do the right things?
Looking at the statistics concerning growth and poverty reduction, the answer is simple: certainly, yes. The government was able to keep the macro-economic situation stable at sound levels and it has invested massively in the countryside. On economic freedom it could do better, but apparently this is not very harmful to the overall picture. Must we therefore applaud the Ethiopian government for its policy choices? Of course we must, but we need to be a bit nuanced here, because policy choices don’t fall from the sky just like that. There are good reasons why politicians make their choices – in a way they are forced to do so by the political forces working on them, although we like to think they have the freedom to make their choices.
Understanding the findings of the ‘Tracking Development’ project, we could more or less predict this would happen. The forces that are increasingly working on the Ethiopian government are the same forces that made the successful development policies of president Soeharto of Indonesia appear fifty years ago: a more densely populated countryside, with a majority of poor and potentially hostile peasants, who could make life very difficult for the government if their situation would not improve. So it is one of those rare occasions when the self-interest of the government (to politically survive) aligns with the self-interest of the majority of the people (to get a better life).This is the moment that policies can be implemented to start sustained development.
But right now we cannot say for sure if the take-off has already taken place. It might be, but it is simply too early to tell. There are always dangers that can still cause havoc to a promising start. To mention some for Ethiopia: the country is a haven of stability in a very unstable region, but this stability could easily be threatened by becoming involved in the violence from abroad or by unduly efforts to liberalize the Ethiopian state. Another risk is that the government, under pressure from all kinds of advisors and city-dwellers, will decide to try to industrialize, at the expense of agriculture. In Africa there is always this pressure, but it should be ignored as long as possible. To industrialize too early has the danger to ruin the current development project. The country should stay on the current development course for at least several more years.
This should not be too difficult. Africans have a tendency to blame the international environment for their hardships (often rightly so), but this does not hold for the future. In fact, the international environment is very promising for a country like Ethiopia. Especially for Ethiopia, I would say. Being stable in an unstable region, the country receives a lot of foreign aid to retain its stability. In return, it does not have to follow orders from anybody, because in nowadays multipolar world, it can choose its own partners – the West is no longer dominant. And with the growing world population, there will be a huge market for Ethiopian agricultural products in the years ahead. It looks all very favorable for sustained development in Ethiopia.
I always found the statement by Yukichi Fukuzawa, that Japan should leave poor Asia, intriguing. It signaled the birth of a new era not only for Japan, but in the end for all of Asia. Japan led the way, because after some time it was followed by its former colonies Taiwan and South Korea, which were then followed by Hong Kong and Singapore, et cetera. One after the other had its take-off, to fly following the ones in front. Observers recognized the pattern of flying geese in the air, in their peculiar v-formation, and called this pattern of development the flying geese model. So the thing is that as a country you can indeed leave a poor region, but that at some point your example will be followed by others, who will try to leave too. In the end, the whole region will have moved, from poverty to better lives.
Such a thing is about to happen for Africa as well. Ethiopia can leave Africa, but it will discover its example will be copied, and Africa will come after her, joining her as part of a materially richer world. So maybe we should speak of ‘leading’ instead of ‘leaving’. The difference is just one letter, and the difference in significance is indeed also very small. At the moment there are just a few candidates to become the first goose to lead the group, among them Rwanda (using a similar model as Ethiopia) and Ghana (using a more liberal model). The jury is still out which country will be the first to leave poverty and lead Africa in development.
Ed’s Note: Roel van der Veen is professor of International Relations at the University of Amsterdam. He wrote books on the development of Africa and Asia. He is also the Academic Advisor of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He presented this lecture at UN ECA in Addis Ababa on April 22, 2015.
What should be the response of other Africans
We must live by code of constructiveness