The ancient African history is indeed distorted. The way the Africans lived and ruled themselves centuries ago sometimes is just a fascinating mystery to many people. Many believe that ancient African history is total savagery and primitiveness.
However, traditional African societies were well organised and sophisticated. When the other people came, particularly the white people, they misunderstood the lifestyle and traditional governance and power authority of the African people and concluded that Africans were primitive and had no administrative structures. They did not understand that African societies had sophisticated extended family relationships that developed into proper administrative structures and authorities. Of course, there was lack of sophisticated technology and the remoteness and isolation of Africa from the rest of the world created the perception that Africa was primitive and a dark continent inhabited by backward people. However, socially, politically and economically African societies had their own functional systems. African lifestyles were not so much centered around material benefits but more so around and on humanism and a communal caring lifestyle based on Ubuntu. Individual persons were expected to live in close and respectful relationships with each other.
The African philosophy of Ubuntu dictates that people can and should live as one unit which is bound together, in other words, people can be people only if their lives is dependent on each other. In that sense the African lifestyle and their political systems dictated that their societies remained inextricably interwoven.
In their relationships and family links their culture dictated that there should be love among all of them and uncompromising respect for human values, sex and age of the people. Because of these they put human values above materialist interest. The Western people who arrived were more materialistic and misunderstood these livestyles of African people.
These historical issues are many and need more space to be elaborated on. For this article it suffices to limit to a few aspects.
The black people had varied social and political structures as well as varied economic structures, beliefs and cultures. However, over the hundreds of years African societies built amazing and admirable life systems and relationships of mutual support and dependency.
The societies were interwoven and turned to each other for help and support in terms of need and during times of disasters and such help was given freely in the spirit of Ubuntu. Most of African communities were based on united and loving family units of extended family. Families lived together but as a son reached manhood and married he left his family’s household and established his own independent household while not breaking family relationships and unity. In that way the united clan was extended but family relationships and bonds remained intact.
In many African societies one tribal group has a number of sub chiefdoms consisting of thousands of extended families with numerous households which are working together, and have respect, love, and help each other. For example in Ovaherero there are Onguatjindu, Otjikatjamuaha, etc. All these sub chiefdoms constitute and make up the united tribe. The various black tribal groups varied in their culture, economic and social life but despite these there were still and are very many common and striking similarities.
One thing that colonizers did also not understand is that political and administrative systems of most African people were based on democratic principles. The powers of chiefs were controlled and the chief could not do things by himself but in concert and consultation with his counsellors and grass-roots input. The traditional African societies’ administrations were complex, sophisticated and based on extended family rules which were the cultural democratic norms. The white explorers did not understand this and concluded that ancient Africa was a backward and primitive place. The truth of the matter is that, socially and politically, Africa was more democratic than medieval Europe, which was ruled and controlled by autocratic and oppressive monarchies. It is also true that Africa technologically lagged behind but surely socially, democratically and politically Africa was not what white explorers concluded it was. In fact technological backwardness might be explained by the remoteness and isolation of the continent from the rest of the world.
However, the early discoveries did disclose that Africa was, indeed, far in front of the world in the Old Stone Age.
Africa is the cradle of humanity where people thousands of years ago used various tools in their lives to make their lives easy. Now we are in a different age and environment altogether. The whole world has become a global unit and Africa must go fast to advance its technical and scientific knowledge to catch up with those who in the meantime developed faster.
The situation where Africa will now freely exchange sophisticated technology with others will propel the continent into a high level of development. The continent is no longer isolated and it can immensely benefit from scientific knowledge and global cross-cultural experience.
However, to achieve these, the culture of self-enrichment and corruption must not be tolerated. I might end by saying that the best is still to come for Africa as long as we have the right and honest people in power in the continent.