For a long time, historians in the West have seen the Atlantic slave trade as shaping the beginnings of West Africa’s engagement with Europe. There is no question that the slave trade exerted a profound influence in many parts of Africa. However, to look at African history as the history of slavery and the slave trade is no more accurate than to study the history of the Nazis as the sum of the German past.That's how I was taught about Africa in world history more than four decades ago, and it continues even today. I often remind students to scratch the surface and discover the plenty that there is to learn.
At least we know something about Egypt, the Pharaohs, and the pyramids. But the rest?
Take a look at this map of the part of Africa that is south of the Sahara:
No, I am not going to ask you to name the countries--after all, I too would surely miss more than one. Take a moment to scan the map. The size. The number of countries.
Now, think about American Presidents making trips to African countries. Since the LBJ years, which is when most of the countries were finally able to shake their colonial masters off, how many of those countries have been visited by American Presidents?
It is a fair enough question, right?
Let's consider the two-term Presidents first. Nixon was nearly a two-termer. Yes? How many of those countries did he visit? How about Reagan? From 1968 through 1988.
Here's what Wiki tells us: Neither Nixon nor Reagan visited even one sub-Saharan country when they were Presidents. Not one.
I am sure there were geopolitical reasons during the Cold War era. But, still ... not even one country?
Clinton, W. Bush, and Obama have made a number of trips to Africa. But, the countries they visited? It feels like they were all on the same beat. Going to the same countries.
I don't care about what they do when they visit. But, when the President visits a country, Americans at least hear about it, perhaps for the first time ever. Imagine a President going to Congo--it does not matter which Congo it is. Or Gabon. Or Mozambique. At least for those couple of days, those countries will be "trending" in social media, and Wolf Blitzer will cover those countries nonstop on CNN.
But, it does not happen.
Now, we have a (P)resident in the White House who just knows only as shitholes, where people live in huts. He thinks there is a country called Nambia. No wonder he has steered clear of the continent when making his international trips as the President, including four to France. Maybe Macron can take him along to visit the old colonies on an apology tour!
|President tRump's 17 international trips to 23 countries|
But then, maybe it will #BeBest if he does not go anywhere near Africa!