14.03.2024 Author: Simon Chege Ndiritu

Africa Demands Reparations for Transatlantic Slavery and Colonization: It should also Reject Neo-Colonialism

Africa Demands Reparations for Transatlantic Slavery and Colonization: It should also Reject Neo-Colonialism


African and Caribbean leaders are uniting to pursue reparations for horrendous atrocities perpetrated during transatlantic slavery and colonialism (here). On 30th January 2024, the Ghanaian Times published an article featuring the Guyanian president’s appeal to African leaders to expedite mechanisms for reparations for slavery and colonization (here). Similar calls were made by the Ghanaian president, Nana Akufu-Adoo (here) including earlier at the UN General Assembly, where he described how these crimes resulted in adverse economic, social, and psychological effects on Africans. Both presidents addressed the matter during the African Prosperity Dialogue (APD), organized in late January in eastern Ghana. Guyanian President M.I., Ali reminded audiences how the issue of culpability for these crimes had already been resolved since perpetrators had recognized their responsibilities and apologized. Audiences can note that leaders of German and UK states had recognized their colonial atrocities (here), with the former apologizing in November 2023. The Ghanaian president, speaking during the Presidential Panel Dialogue (PPD) part of APD pledged to rally African leaders to develop legal mechanisms for reparations. Also notable was PPD’s theme “Leveraging Reparations for Infrastructure for Africa and Global Africa,” which suggests urgency among some leaders to pursue compensation, including by selecting projects that will be funded with the expected sum, when challenges to the process are overcome.

West’s protecting Illegally-Acquired Wealth

Western Europe and the US feared economic loss if reparations followed emancipation and decolonization, and are still unwilling to surrender some of their illegally acquired wealth to their victims. They wish to maintain economic and political advantages gained from plunder. M.I. Ali noted that facilitators of slavery waited for 100 years after abolition to admit that the practice was a crime, and can delay reparations for the next century. Also, creating a mechanism for reparation needs protection from sabotage by some compromised African leaders, who can be likened to House slaves who protected the masters’ interest over slaves’.

Western Europe and the US still maintain an Atlantic Alliance, based on a global system that resulted from slavery and colonialism, to benefit from controlling global production and trade. Reparations can only be meaningful if Africans and the global south free themselves from the Atlantic alliance, which is based on the transatlantic system that designated Africa and South America as sources of raw materials and cheap labor. The latter system is described below from an excerpt from Hunt’s book The Making of the West;  

At the center of this new global economy was the Atlantic system, the web of trade routes that bound together Western Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Europeans bought slaves in western Africa, transported them to be sold in the colonies in North and South America and the Caribbean, bought raw commodities such as coffee and sugar that were produced by the new colonial plantations, and then sold those commodities in European ports.

The transatlantic system expanded and Africa’s Land was taken over by Europeans in subsequent centuries, while local populations were used as forced labor to produce cheap goods for Europeans. The Atlantic Alliance to date has kept the global south as a source of raw materials and labor, by arresting real development (here). Today, migrant workers are taking themselves to the US and Western Europe to be modern slaves while resources in the Global South are sold for the cheap to Western countries, which should change.

Western Europe’s plunder of Africans and Asians

Africa and Asia engaged in production and trade before Europeans arrived, and must prioritize development rather than accepting exploitative patronization under the West’s modern Atlantic Alliance. Modern Slavery and Colonization started with Europeans’ quest to inject themselves into previously thriving trade to control it through plunder, sea piracy, and tributes, as noted in the voyage of Vasco da Gama, sponsored by the Portuguese from 1497. A video by History, glorifies da Gama’s exploration, and his sea piracy, plunder, and terrorism, as the basis of Europeans’ and Americans’ wealth today. It features professors Claude Hulet, and Gayle Brunelle from the University of California hailing how da Gamma was the first Westerner to navigate to the East African coast and India, to find (not create) spice markets (here). Da Gama, who left Portugal with cannons, returned with valuable spices from Indian Ocean markets and received a hero’s welcome, before he was sent on another voyage in 1502. He was tasked to impose a monopoly on the Indian Ocean’s trade. He arrived in Mozambique and Sofala where he plundered gold and forced the sultan to pay tribute to Portugal before proceeding to Calicut, India. In Calicut, he captured and tortured captives to threaten the sultan. He later camped in the Indian Ocean, pirating on Muslim ships. The video explains that da Gama was chosen since he was able to use cannons to blast his way into spice markets, events that were followed by looting. The Portuguese returned with looted products, which were sold to Europeans, making Portugal rich and an example for the Dutch, French, Spaniards, and Britons to follow later. The example opened European merchants, and governments, to plot other ways of obtaining exotic goods for free, to be sold at low prices to their populations.

From Indian Ocean Plunder and Piracy to the Atlantic System

Europeans later (In 1699) discovered coffee in the Middle East, but noted that the price was high due to the Arab’s monopoly on trade (here). Dutch traders bought coffee plants and established plantations using forced labor in Java, Indonesia, on land seized from natives. The Dutch obtained and sold large amounts of coffee beans to Europe after only two decades. This experiment was repeated in Martinique, the Caribbean, and North and South America using African slave labor. It was introduced in Africa later. In all instances, the approach was the same; forceful acquisition of Natives’ land, enslavement of the local population, or acquisition of African slaves, to produce commodities at nearly zero cost and avail them at low prices to Western consumers. Merchants with the government’s assistance expanded slave plantations and diversified to produce sugar and tea. Others made additional incomes by capturing and trading slaves to satisfy rising demand, while European and American consumers obtained previously exotic products at low prices. Repetition of this process for the last 400 years has created the prevailing inequality in the global systems, which must be addressed alongside reparations for slavery and colonization.

Going Forward

Slavery and colonization were deliberate economic crimes created and maintained by Western Europeans and the US against Africans, Asians, and native peoples. Its modern expression, including in the Atlantic alliance, should be pointed out. These practices contributed to the wealth advantage that the transatlantic international system of empires such as the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, British, and American empires, their allies, and successors maintain to date. The deliberate nature of these activities, any effort to allow perpetrators to go without economic consequences, a dangerous precedence in a period of desired shift to a fairer international system. Perpetrators should face repercussions for the same reason that criminals at the village or city level are brought to justice. African leaders should develop mechanisms to guide reparation and reject neocolonialism.


Simon Chege Ndiritu, is a political observer and research analyst from Africa, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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