Scrambled Africa on Toast

Scrambled Africa

Scrambled Africa on Toast

A Note From the Editor: Ken Aston, who was mentioned in the previous post, was a fair-minded and principled referee. However, there have been some awful referees in history:
One of the worst referees were the Clergy in Salamanca, Spain in the 15 Century. The Portuguese merchants and traders who sailed the high seas from Lisbon to Goa to the Vice-Royalty of Brazil, had a proposition for the Clergy: they wanted to enslave the native Indians in the Portuguese Vice-Royalty of Brazil to increase profit margins on sugar production by lowering labor costs – with slave labor.The Religious Referees decreed as follows: Native Indians are God’s children – they cannot be slaves. They won a point with the referees. But Africans are not children of God – so the merchants can go and grab as many of them as their hearts desired, and then put them to work in the sugar mills in Brazil. Thus began the slave trade and the subsequent Scramble for Africa. Africans scored a “zero” with the referees.
The contribution below is by Emmanuel Brace, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins:

Within the solemn walls of Salamenca the harbinger of gargantuan atrocities (?) was nigh. Vintage capitalism lured the church elders of old to deliberate on the fate of the native Indians….To be or not to be in servitude. Alas the die was cast. How do children of God serve in bondage? Sacrilegious! It was refereed: Brazilian Indians were “children of God”; Africans were “not children of God”.

The clergy refereed this outcome, and thus the slave trade and “Scramble for Africa” was launched because the Native Brazilian team won the match that day, and the Africans lost:


The Salamanca Score Card Native Indians… in Brazil = 1 Native Africans in Africa = 0

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Bartholomeu Diaz’s voyage intricately wove slavery, spices and sugar into the social fabric of many nations; a blessing or a curse? Sigh!

SLAVES: Descendants of Sundiata Kieta, Mansa Musa and Tunka Manin… descendants of scholars, physicians, and skilled artisans from Timbuktu devalued to mere laborers deserving to be plucked and shipped. From the Cape Coast castle door of no return to the trading posts of Mozambique… the human plunder pervaded.

SPICES: King John II in his savvy wisdom yearned for a commodity trade albeit ensuring efficient use of time and travel resources. To the orients it was…where the aromatic spices sourced would elicit a glint of envy from the eyes of the Chivas brothers’ grocery shop on 13th King Street (Aberdeen) would have relished such a supply. From Lisbon to Goa, India (Spices), then down the coast of Africa to Mozambique, around the Cape to Angola (Slaves) and then on to the Vice-Royalty of Brazil where they operated their (Sugar) production mills… Jackpot! Spices and slaves… spicey slaves – just add sugar – cook up a New World Order!!

SUGAR: A sweet tooth can do wonders: pastries changed the dynamics of the world.

shackles.jpg … I fell into a deep slumber. I had a dream… I was a grandfather and my boisterous young granddaughter asked to be told a story as she daintily nibbled on a piece of sugar coated pastry… (A reward from the local missionary for learning hymns so well in Sunday school) while we sat under the tropical moonlight in our village, nodding heads in sync with a young mother crooning a lullaby in a nearby hut. The crickets chirped away, remnant aroma of smoked glasscutter meat, placating, pure bliss… In a hearted voice I said to her , “Once upon a time…” She excitedly responded, “Time.” Then I launched into an elaborate story of sugar mills in Brazil, the supply of sugar to Europe, and the progressive innovation of the time by ingenious chefs… as determined to churn out more cookies as the Fat Chefs on the food channel are to burn calories. Most importantly I explained to her how very soon some of the strong men and beautiful women in our village would be going to Brazil to help produce sugar with the help of our local missionary. He was going to give us more cookies, adult soda, some cloth, some guns to kill, more grass cutters!!!!

… spicey slaves – just add sugar – cook up a new world order

The climax of my story was interrupted by Djimon Hounsou bursting out of the thicket and screaming: “Give us free!“ “Give us free”. Lo and behold there was Kunta Kinte hot on his trail with the agility of Michael Jordan and the tenacity of Terrell Owens in his prime.

There was total cacophony: barking dogs, gun shots, menacing voices, and local missionary singing forgiveness hymns!! The look of terror and utter confusion on my granddaughter’s face was jolting and snapped me out of the slumber. The image of her sugar-speckled chin and mouth still lingers.

The intricacies of supply and demand and culturomics in the historical context of the three S’s have clearly been key drivers in most of the culture and economics of Africa as we see it now… and of course, the world. Perhaps Paul Collier’s The Bottom Billion has to be well assimilated for some of the answers. I attended Mfantsipim School; a mission school founded my missionaries.

I am grateful to the founders and I am a proud alumni. But I still ponder the Three S’s

By Emmanuel