Africa continues to be misunderstood by the world, and it is frequently misrepresented in global conversations, whether in the work of scholars of Africa and African specialists or even in journalists’ and aid reports. They all tend to see Africa as exceptional and different, and Africa’s central role in the making of modernity almost disappears from mainstream world history that prioritizes Eurocentrism, focusing on issues such as the discovery of the New World, the development of the scientific method and the spread of European philosophies.
Africa’s confrontation with the Portuguese marked the beginning of a pivotal point in modern history from the late 15th century CE to the 17th century. The gold and slave trade fueled European interest in Africa and resulted in the establishment of the slave plantation system that was the cornerstone of European wealth and global inequalities. In a report published by the American magazine “Foreign affairs”, writer Olofemi Tayo says that Africa in terms of geographical concept is still described as a fraught region, and the continent is often divided between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, a division dating back to the 19th century. It is rooted in racist beliefs about the differences between ethnic groups in the Arab-majority northern regions and those in what was then called “Black Africa”. Africa also stands outside time, as it is the only continent whose history is satisfied with reducing its history to only 3 eras: a long pre-colonial era, a relatively short colonial era, and the current post-colonial era. As a result, African history revolves around the European conquest in the late 19th century of much of the continent, and this understanding of the African past is incomparable to Europe, whose history is divided into a large number of eras such as the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, and no one dares to reduce the history of Europe based on on the colonial era. As for Africa, it is the land forgotten by time and which appeared in history only through its confrontation with Europe. The writer adds that the undeniable result of this line of thought is the almost complete erasure of Africa in terms of social, political and cultural terms, in terms of its intellectual contributions and biographies of its thinkers from the records of world history. The challenge of reclaiming Africa from this silent existence is what brought to light the book “Born in Darkness: Africa, Africans and the Making of the Modern World… From 1471 to World War II” by writer and journalist Howard French.
The book explores the complex relations between Africans and Europeans in the centuries leading up to official colonialism at the end of the 19th century, rejecting many of the prevailing data about this era, to show that Africa was never marginal in global events but rather the cradle of the modern world. He explains how the sugar-growing system developed in Sao Tome, West Africa, to Brazil and the Caribbean; It causes an economic development that leads to the provision of high calories that contributed to the development of manufacturing and the spread of ships, and thus the birth of the modern public sphere. And the role of the African kingdoms in that story – such as the kingdom of the ruler of the wealthy Mali Empire, Mansa Musa – in that story, including the slave trade, was no less than that of their European counterparts, but the movement of Africans to operate European farms in the colonies made the brown continent weaker and less populated.