Many Ghanaians are often uncomfortable with the candour with which the Member of Parliament for Assin Central, Mr. Kennedy Agyapong, communicates his views. His critics complain about his use of both verbal and non-verbal communication – especially his choice of words in describing some political and social issues. But like him or hate him, the outspoken Member of Parliament for Assin Central is fast-establishing himself as a true patriot of Ghana and a Pan-Africanist.
For some time now, Mr. Agyapong has been championing the cause of local businesses and indigenisation of Ghana’s economic system. He has spoken passionately against the privatisation of local services to foreign interests, for which Ghanaian companies have the resources and competences to manage.
According to him the over-privatisation of port services at the Tema Harbour is suggestive of Ghanaians lacking confidence in themselves and perhaps still reeling under the effects of ‘mental slavery’. “Africans, and for that matter Ghanaians, have failed to live up to their expectations because we have sold ourselves to the west.” Apart from ‘mental slavery’, Mr. Agyapong continually speaks about how indiscipline in the African psyche, especially Ghanaians, is thwarting economic development and nation-building.
Mr. Agyapong sees the late reggae legend Bob Marley’s philosophy that Africans need to emancipate themselves from “mental slavery”, as a critical lesson for Ghana. He therefore pointed at the need for an attitudinal and mindset change if Ghana is to achieve a major developmental breakthrough.
Mental slavery was a term developed by prominent Pan-Africanist and Black Nationalist, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Born in Jamaica, Garvey arrived in New York in 1916 – where he founded several successful businesses vested to promote Pan-African ideals. The prominent businesses include: The Negro World newspaper, the Black Star Shipping Line, and the Negro Factories Corporation.
Historical records indicate that his organisation, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) was the largest Black organisation of all time. Within a month, the organisation had attracted two million members across the United States. By the mid-1920s, the organization had 1,100 chapters in 40 countries around the world – including the U.K., Cuba, Panama, Costa Rica and Ghana among others.
Garvey’s Black Star Line was also the first ship to sail with an all-Black crew and Black captain. It sailed for three years, with the goal of transporting goods and eventually African-Americans throughout the African global economy. It is believed that though Dr. Kwame Nkrumah did not meet Garvey personally, he was heavily influenced by Garvey’s Pan-Africanist ideals. Small wonder that Garvey’s Black Star Line was later replicated in Ghana by Dr. Nkrumah, when Ghana gained independence in 1957. Undoubtedly because of his rising influence, Garvey was undermined by the U.S. government at several turns – but he was never deterred. He loved Africa deeply, but died at the young age of 53 without travelling to Africa.
When he coined the term “mental slavery” during a speech in 1938, he meant it in the context of knowing African history – including the plight and advances made by Africans in the struggle, tracing one’s roots, going back to Africa, and continuing the fight for liberty and national emancipation. Despite his short life, Garvey influenced the next and future generations of African liberation fighters.
When Bob Marley quoted the idea of mental slavery in his ‘Redemption Song’, he too meant it in the context of knowing one’s history – specifically African history – and again, continuing the fight for equality and racial justice. Marley said in Redemption Song, “Old pirates, yes, they rob I;
Sold I to the merchant ships…Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds. Wo! Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time. How long shall they kill our prophets, while we stand aside and look?”
Everything happening to Ghana and Africa at large confirms that our so-called independence is farcical and merely on paper. Sixty years on, as Kennedy Agyapong pointed out, we are not in control of our economies and development process. We still over-rely on the west to think for us and can never take our destiny into our own hands. Let’s consider a recent issue that occurred at the African Union and how our leaders proved they have no spine to fight a common cause.
The African Union appointed Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao as its Permanent Representative to the United States of America in 2016. However, she was fired in October 2019 for what many Pan-Africanists believe was her fearlessness in pursuing the Pan-Africanist cause. During her work in the United States, she persistently condemned and decried the detrimental effects of colonisation and the huge cost of French control in several parts of Africa.
She has brazenly criticised the west for maintaining neo-colonial policies that are meant to permanently keep Africa poor and under the water. She was and remains a strong advocate for Africans and friends of Africa to participate in the development of Africa. Dr. Leonard Jeffries – a prominent Pan-Africanist and former professor of Black Studies at the City University of New York agrees: “She spoke too much truth. She exposed too much, and it became too real.”
Since firing her, the AU leadership has come under heavy criticism for their hypocritical action, with many Pan-Africanists calling for her reinstatement. But the AU has put on a brave face, citing the flimsy reason that she was axed “for misconducting herself while in office”. In a statement, the AU said “A high-level team was deployed to the AU Mission in Washington DC from 16 to 26 October 2019 to audit the Office activities”. The statement claimed the audit team found evidence that she “initiated and implemented activities with AU funds that had no formal approval or legal link to the African Union, nor any of its organs”.
But many analysts have read meanings into the abrupt termination of her appointment. Questions like “”Why was she dismissed; or better, who benefits from her removal? Were African heads of states and governments consulted? Who called the shots? Or is Africa, and peoples of African descent, still facing the debilitating effects of modern colonialism or neocolonialism?”, are still begging for answers.
Our own Jerry Rawlings was among the Pan-Africanists who condemned her dismissal. On hearing the news, the ex-President of Ghana tweeted: “The dismissal of Arikana Chihombori-Quao, AU Ambassador to the United States, raises serious questions about the independence of the AU. The general conclusion in the court of public opinion is that the AU’s reasons are simply not adding up, and only explained by Garvey and Bob Marley’s theory of ‘mental slavery’ still bedevilling Africa.
Putin is right
In a recent social media post, Russian President Vladimir Putin was reported as saying that “Africa will never be independent; Africans believe in Europeans, Americans and Chinese more than themselves. They don’t trust themselves at all; African technocrats/Engineers aren’t given the platform to practice what they studied; instead they hire Chinese to construct roads for themselves”.
He continued: “A white man will commit a crime in Africa, but no action will be taken because the African authorities view us as demi-gods, which is far from the truth. A Black man can be abducted in Europe, get harassed and even be killed – but no African authority can even ask questions. Africans present themselves as weak people with no hope, especially when dealing with Europeans and Americans,” he said.
“They are their own enemies. They hate each other, and this gives their colonial masters the opportunity to continue exploiting their resources. As far as I know, Africa is more of God’s chosen continent: it’s a blessed continent and it’s time for Africans to realise they are in a place that Americans, Europeans and Chinese are jealous of and wish it could be them there…You can’t compare African weather with any other weather…African soil can feed the whole of Europe, America, and Asia – but their problem is just one, Their Leaders“, President Putin pointed out.
I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Putin. All the development challenges facing Africa goes back to the issue of ‘mental slavery’. It is a near-universal truth that Africa is the most endowed continent on the planet; yet with all these natural resources our continent is the poorest on the planet – with more than 80 percent of the continent’s two billion people living on less than a dollar a day. This is not only a shame to our leaders; it is a blot on our collective conscience as a people.
Two economies of the world
Recently, I read an insightful social media article on the plight of Africa. The writer argued that, basically, there are two economies in the world and every country on earth falls under the two economies. The two economies are: ‘The Knowledge Economy, and the Religion Economy’. All the rich and prosperous economies of the world belong to the Knowledge Economy, while the poorest and poverty-stricken nations belong to the Religion Economy.
The Knowledge Economy is one that engages the brain, rewards innovation and proffers solutions to problems. On the contrary, the Religion Economy is one that is naive and brainwashed to dump every responsibility on God. In short, while the Knowledge Economy tasks the brain, the Religion Economy numbs the brain.
Japan, for example, is a Knowledge Economy. It has no natural resources, but it is a prosperous nation – one of the richest on the planet. Japan has used technology, for instance, to disprove the Malthusian theory that population growth could not outstrip production and natural resources. At least five of every ten cars on Ghana’s roads today are Japanese cars.
The fact is that Japan is not a religious country, but it is one of the most corruption-free nations. Equally, China is not a religious country, but that country has over the last few decades leapfrogged from an agrarian economy to the world’s second-biggest economy through manufacturing and innovation. As a result, any nation that ignores China today does so at its peril.
Irony of Ghana
Ironically, Ghana falls under Religion Economy; depending entirely on God through prayer while failing to utilise our endowments and entitlements. As stated earlier, Ghana is one of the most natural resources-endowed nations on earth – yet it ranks among the poorest in the world. Given the recent airbus corruption scandal, Ghana also stands out as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa, though arguably.
Nonetheless, Ghana ranks as one of the most religious countries on the earth. Not that God does not answer our prayers, we are simply failing to live up to God’s expectations. Comparatively, whereas everything is working well for the Chinese – who do not believe in Jesus Christ – more Ghanaians and Africans who believe and trust in God are sinking ever-deeper into poverty: thanks to a multiplicity of factors like bad leadership, corruption and ‘mental slavery’.
Right under our noses, the westerners and Chinese have taken commanding heights in Ghana’s economy, including the exploitation of our natural resources, while we wallow in poverty and are overly-dependent on foreign donations and goods.
Israel and Saudi Arabia
The two major religions of the world, Christianity and Islam, emanated from Israel and Saudi Arabia. But none of those two nations fall under Religion Economy. One evidence of their subscription to Knowledge Economy is the yearly pilgrimages which generate billions of dollars in tourism revenue for them – mostly from African pilgrims. Sadly, rather than our elected officials, technocrats and public officials evolving good policies and innovative solutions to our economic problems, they ask Ghanaians to pray for the country’s success.
There are good reasons why, according to the bible, God created man in his own image. God gave man brains and instructed him to subdue the earth. While other people have used their brains to develop their countries, it appears the African brains have been screwed. A World Bank publication, ‘Can Africa claim the 21st-century? categorically stated that over the last century all continents achieved some technological and economic advancement, except Africa. Undoubtedly, African’s development efforts are being thwarted by three factors – neocolonialism, recolonisation and ‘mental slavery’.
Face2face Africa (2019) What is mental slavery and what does it have to do with Africa? Available (https://face2faceafrica.com/article/what-is-mental-slavery-and-what-does-it-have-to-do-with-africa)
Kofi Okyere (2020). Two economies of the world. Friends and supporters of Kwame Nkrumah
Mugabe Wisdom Africa (2019). “Russian President Vladimir Putin hits Africa Again.” Available (https://mugabewisdom.com/africa-is-just-a-cemetery-for-africans-how-could-a-cemetery-be-developed/)
(***The writer is a Development and Communications management Specialist, and a Social Justice Advocate. All views expressed in this article are my personal views and do not represent those of any organisation(s). (Email: email@example.com: Mobile: 0202642504 0243327586/0264327586