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Business groups are better placed to finance field research in Africa, argues                                                

Okello Oculi

In the 1960s, studies of countries outside the United States of America, were called ‘’AREA STUDIES’’.  In Euro-American memory, Christian Europe once sought new routes to spices and new knowledge from Ancient Civilisations of Africa, India and China by avoiding travel through hostile lands under Islam.

Adventures by Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci accidentally met the Caribbean Islands and lands of the Inca and Maya Civilisations.  Gold and silver were looted and herbal medicines, including Quinine, was extracted. The barbaric decimation of indigenous populations in North and South America was followed by hunting for Africans to labour in mines and plantations producing sugar, coffee, and cotton.

Knowledge of other lands became linked to European barbarism, looting of resources lacking in Europe; export of Europe’s tribal and religious conflicts, and genocide in Africa, India and the Americas.  Brazilian and Argentinean migrants from Europe gave the current political leaders and business groups associated with President Bolsonaro the tradition of hunting and slaughtering indigenous communities and destroying their habitat in the Pampas and Amazon basin.

In Political Economy, “AREA STUDIES” flourished during the Cold WAR (1945 – 1992). The current hostile posturing by President Biden against Russia and China  (and countries conducting economic relations with them), suggests that a ‘Hot War’  flickering flames in Ukraine, Libya,  Syria and Taiwan suggests that Area Studies has a reviving market.

Agriculture continues to carry the tradition of production by slave labour outside Euro-America for consumption by Europe and North America. Multinational Corporations, such as United Fruit, produce pineapples, oranges, avocado and bananas in South America and Africa and expect Political Scientists to do research and analysis of political processes in these countries; grasp trends and alarms.

 Che Guevara, as a new graduate from Medical School in Argentina, reports witnessing, in 1956, a military coup in Bolivia sponsored by United Fruit company against a leader who promised a “land reform’’ programme that would have grabbed land from the company to distribute to landless Bolivians. In 1972, Salvadore Allende was assassinated for a similar patriotism in Chile.

Armed struggles in Algeria, Tunisia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia and Angola were fought over land taken and protected with violence by immigrants from Europe. In 2020, a declaration by President Cyril Ramaphosa, of South Africa, to take back land from European immigrants and absentee land owners was followed by unemployed BLACK South Africans exploding in xenophobic attacks on BLACK immigrants from other African countries. A legacy of security operatives engineering ‘’BLACK –ON – BLACK” violence during racist rule, calls for research by scholars of AREA STUDIES.

Intensive studies of ‘’Voting Behaviour” is a lucrative craft for interest groups, including AGRIBUSINESS.  Drug barons in Columbia, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico have been accused of organising military coups – or “regime change” – in Guinea Bissau. Aircraft carrying COCAINE use the country’s flat coastline to land their cargo for onward distribution to Libya and European consumers. A friendly government in Guinea Bissau is very valuable.  Scholars who conduct research on countries along this trade route are valued.

“”Regime Change’’ is also valuable for America’s policy of finding hungry mouths and  middle class  groups  with ‘’stomachs colonised’’ by rice, condensed milk; frozen meat and chicken; alcoholic drinks, and beverages imported and locally produced by multinational corporations.  Rice imports from Thailand and the United States, enter ECOWAS countries, through The Gambia and Benin, and block rice produced in the First Delta on River Niger in MALI. Beneficiaries of this trade are interested in scholars of the politics of this trade zone.

Market-seekers would overthrow a government that is committed to increasing income among masses of citizens because they prefer widespread hunger so that farmers in Europe, the Americas and Asia can produce harvests whose surplus gets bought by governments for donation to the World Food Programme for television pictures of hungry crowds scrambling for food donations. The symbolism also justifies global exploitation of other resources from poor countries.

 Mungo Park graduated from medical school with an empty bank account. His father-in-law was the president of Britain’s “Royal Geographical Society”; an association of businessmen hungry for new sources of cotton and oil seeds. The 1776 successful anti-British revolution by American colonies had ended imports of these agricultural resources.

Mungo Park was offered money if he would trek along the River Niger and do the field research which scholars of AREA STUDIES must do. He took notes on cotton, groundnut and palm oil production along his route.  The lesson for Nigeria, ECOWAS and the African Union is that business groups must finance field research in Africa. In 2012, I saw signboards of some Nigerian banks at Nairobi Airport and in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.  My trip was, however, sponsored by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Prof Oculi writes from Abuja

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