What If There Wasn’t a Scramble for Africa?

The idea behind DR was to be a voice for summer bunnies.

Well, no, not really, but it was based on kids who had been abroad and were now back home.

[Please note that I use the words ‘kids’ and ‘abroad’ loosely, since I’m almost three decades old, and I’ve only been as far as Dar.]

It’s grown into a lot more than that, and many of our guest writers have only travelled in their minds. Sometimes, our readers and observers write a whole lot more than we do, and it’s a really cool thing.

Lately, lots of Kenyans are coming back home. Some are coming from a sense of *cough*cough* patriotism. They’ve graduated college and they want to spread their wings right here. Most have been driven by the recession, but that’s not a bad thing either. Home is best and all that. Me, well, my case is special, but that’s a post for another day.

[My baby wouldn’t get back on the bus. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.]

There’s a common denominator with people who have come back home: we liked it better where we were. We’ll never actually admit it – not even to ourselves. But in moments of drunkenness/mellowness/random unguardedness generally inspired by pillow talk, we will let something slip about the stuff we miss. You know, like how Nairobi is the coolest city in the world … if only we had cheap ice cream, sandy roads, and a beach!

That said, people who come back home have … skills. We have done people, seen things, we know how stuff can be improved. We can civilize our homeland!

[Allow me to reiterate, again, that I’ve been no further than Dar. And I took the bus.]

The street translation for ‘civilize’ is ‘make it like that place we left.’ So, for me, the ideal Vision 2030 would be to turn Nairobi into a beach town with kisamvu, Morocco burgers, and Zanzibari Pizza. It shouldn’t be too hard. We are enkare nairobi after all … place of many waters … right?

The dreams of my fellow diasporans are a little less … humble. We come up with business ideas to turn Kenya into a little US/UK/Ukraine. We build websites that sell ring tones, we bring in franchises like Steers and *insert-appropriate-international-franchise-here* We build up ‘Kenyan versions’ of worldwide media hubs. We make our country ‘just like theirs’.

Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing. My wallet has benefitted from writing Kenyan versions of *name-withheld* and *I-don’t-want-to-get-sued* but I just wonder about the logic behind it all. I know there’s nothing new under the sun, but isn’t there some way we can develop without simply splashing Kiwi over someone else’s idea?

I was talking to a Mister NV the other day, and I wondered loudly: what if we hadn’t been colonized? In what direction would we have developed? Would we have invented our own wheel, or learned to move on cows and square boxes? Would we have created TVs or learned to make soap operas out of moonshine? I’d love to know. NV said you either conquer or get conquered. If we hadn’t been scrambled, we would have gone out and massacred some other nation.

For about five seconds, I pictured a guy dressed like Shaka Zulu shaking a spear, marching out of a boat on the Thames, and grunting, ‘Take me to your leader’ to some beefeater with a gun. These are the things in my mind when I’m sitting in a corner giggling to myself. Be warned.

Here’s an even more interesting idea of events. I’m reading a book called A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. It talks about how discoveries were made independently in different parts of the world. You know, like some dude in Sweden discovers Oxygen but doesn’t talk about it, then years later, some totally unrelated dude invents it in a lab in Uruguay, then there’s war over patents and things like that.

Suppose that had happened here. Suppose we had independently invented wheels and TVs and internet, while lugging spears and wearing skins.It could happen. Nothing is novel anymore, and we all have the same inherent DNA. It’s possible for two people to have the exact same concept without ever seeing, meeting, or influencing each other. And we have the raw materials after all.

Suppose we could do that now – come up with our own ideas, invent our own wheels, set our own agenda for 2030. Wouldn’t that be way cooler than, say, Kenyanizing Starbucks?

Disclaimer: The above argument does not apply to McDonalds. It has been my lifelong dream to try a Big Mac, and if anyone brings it to Nairobi, I’ll show my gratitude in cows. I will, however, settle for a neighbourhood replica of Morocco Burgers.

4 thoughts on “What If There Wasn’t a Scramble for Africa?

  1. This post had me thinking bout the Nas and Damien Marley song Land of Promise:
    “Imagine Ghana like California with Sunset Boulevard
    Johannesburg would be Miami
    Somalia like New York…
    Philadelphia like Sudan
    The Congo like Colorado
    Fort Knox inna Gabon
    People living in Morocco like the state of Oregon” etc etc.

    Yeah, what if we were never colonized? I agree with Mister NV that it was all about who would conquer who first…Maybe THE CHINESE and Aborigines would have scrambled for us… Its hard to re-imagine world history in isolation without also contemplating what another region would have been up to…But it really got me fantasizing!

    Your point is spot on… Maybe we can answer that question by looking back into the future…Here we are, 54 (55?) self-determining states. Lets continue unscrambling ourselves…

  2. I love what i found here… if we hadn’t been colonized, do you think I’d be able to walk around nude without seeming mad???
    Esp now the fashion industry strive on making people walk around close to nude…

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