BY ANTONY MUTUNGA
“Africa shall no longer be described as the Dark Continent, she will be called the Sparking continent. The fire is not too far from catching on.” – Zenanu Kihme
Since the days of colonization, Africa has come a long way, despite still playing catch up to the developed countries, the continent has managed to handle the latest technology and integrate it in most of its industries. In fact, in some cases, Africa has managed to get ahead as in the case of mobile money, for example, Kenya’s M-Pesa which saw the country leap the reliance on plastic cards which was commonly used in almost all developed countries at the time.
For the longest time, the continent has been referred to as the Dark Continent, but with its achievements, despite having more potential, time has come for that to change. In some of the African folklore that was passed down to the young generations by elders, Africa is described as dark because once upon a time, the sun did not shine on the continent. These folklores would spread across different regions thus becoming part of the culture and contributing to the term dark continent.
Apart from this, the term was widely used when Europeans started swarming to the shores of Africa. Long before the colonialization of Africa, the continent was only known to a few. Once in a while, traders and adventurers would manage to reach its shores, and from time to time they would also venture into the interior to trade with different natives.
Most of the African tribes that the first travelers traded with were of people with a dark complexion in terms of skin color, thus one of the beliefs behind the dark continent. Before European powers looked to Africa to amass wealth and power, their travelers reported African cultures and taboos as uncivilized and primitive. Differing from their beliefs, European countries termed the African cultures as dark and created the need for enlightenment in Africa.
By hiding their true intentions to control the vast lands and raw materials in Africa, Europeans used the guise of ‘civilizing Africans’ in terms of missionaries and trade to enter much of the continents’ interior. The notion that most Europeans had little knowledge of the continent is usually a half-truth as traders had been coming to Africa as early as the 14th century. Having erased the guides and maps that former adventurers and traders had come up with from their previous visits, Africa was labelled as an adventure or as a place that needed saving attracting more Europeans to its shores.
In facing unfavourable climate, hostility from some of the African tribes, and attacks from wild animals in most of Africa’s regions, the Europeans continued to promote the thought of Africa as a hostile land with people who wouldn’t conform to their reasoning, thus growing the myth of the dark continent.
Fast forward to the present, and the continent is somehow still considered a dark continent. However, now due to the mystery it holds or the color of the skin of most of its inhabitants, Africa is considered so because a majority of the region still lacks electricity. In fact, according to a report by the international energy agency (IEA), in 2019 the number of people without access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa stood at 550 million people accounting for about 75% of the global population without electricity.
The most affected areas of the continent are the rural and remote areas that lack the right infrastructure to have access to electricity. The lack of lighting in Africa creates a large dark area when observed from a satellite above the earth. This has seen its continuous attribution as the dark continent. However, this is fast changing as access to electricity improves in the continent. Africa has the potential to become a leader in sustainable energies soon. This will surely drive the continent to tremendous change in terms of growth as well as ensure it develops even further.
Africa has come a long way; the continent is slowly catching up to the developed world not only in terms of technology but also in governance. The days of being referred to as the dark continent should be left in the past as the continent has proved that it can be a leader rather than a follower. Also, to do so the continent will require to reduce its over-reliance on the developed world and retain its culture towards an emerging bloc.