My daughter was just in East Africa for some medical research work she is doing. She described the three ‘cities’ she visited in Kenya and Tanzania.
She saw poverty, illness and urban filth.
I was there long enough to see the lives of people and tribes beyond that. I also knew what African life was like when the first non-Africans arrived. I had done the primary research, as a graduate student on the economic history of Africa.
What we have in Africa is the application of the fruits of modern commerce on top of an unchanged tribal world. Africa is tribal in everyday and every way. Modern commerce doesn’t fit on top of a tribal life any better in Africa than it does in most of Arabia or the tribal areas of Latin America.
Modern commerce when experienced as a porridge of goods and services is bizarre and cruel in some ways.
Africa is not the by-product of European imperialism. Europe tried to create a world that would buy European exports and produce a few local exports. The century of European contact was basically a failure because few Africans could fit into an industrial work schedule or a life as an individual self motivated being. Even without meritocracy, the European ideas of work and individual self motivated being are fundamental for local people to accommodate to modern commerce.
Africa is a case of vast explosion of population because of new food sources laid on top of a tribal world that never changed. Having non-African materials and products has changed local life very little.
What my daughter saw in East Africa is an example of a person who puts on a European suit over tribal underclothes, with no shoes, driving an auto he could never repair on his way to an all night tribal dance in preparation for a distant cousin’s ritual coming of age ceremony three days away.
The suit and the auto are superficial and largely irrelevant. They will still be irrelevant centuries from now.