A professor of Journalism at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Howard French, has said Africa provided gold and cheap labour in the form of slaves for the transformation of Europe into a prosperous and economic zone in the 19th century.
French, who was a guest speaker at the hybrid 4th edition of the Sterling Leadership Series with the theme: Born in Blackness: Truth, Lies and X; over the weekend in Lagos, contended that it was gold from Ghana and slaves from the rest of Africa that served as cheap labour for three and half centuries during the slave trade that made the difference in terms of Europe’s economic prosperity compared to other parts of the world.
He argued that it was Africa’s wealth and labour that enabled the settlement of the Western Hemisphere and ensured the transformation of that part of the world into a prosperous economic zone.
He said, “Without Africans, the prosperity of Europe would never have happened on the scale it is today. Europe would have been a minor player in the history of the modern world. It is Africa and its people that made the difference for Europe.”
French, who had worked with the New York Times as a foreign correspondent, remarked that the enslavement of Africans was the basis of economic life in Barbados, which the British took over in 1630.
Speaking further, he said: “The Portuguese were the first to discover gold in Africa before they moved to Brazil because they were the earliest explorers. They were followed by the Spanish while the British were late comers to territorial expansion in Africa.
“The French, looking at the English, would say we can’t let the English run away with all of this black wealth. We have to do this too. And so the French came looking for what is left in the Caribbean and this is how they grabbed hold of Martinique and Guadeloupe, which are also known today as the Eastern Caribbean.”