Simultaneous to writing my first bit of code in college, I was actively studying Pan-Africanism and protesting for racial and economic equity for the Black diaspora. I was experiencing two liberations at the same time, the first coming from the active objection to colonial institutions of education and business maintaining the systematic disenfranchisement of Black people and the second from removing the limitations in my mind around the expansive possibilities technology held to allow my community to design and implement a radical Black future with creative imagination, planning and some lines of code.
Few works impacted the shaping of my critical Black consciousness during that time as much as Walter Rodney’s seminal book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. In the groundbreaking text, Rodney outlines a historical evaluation of underdevelopment in Africa stating:
“The question as to who, and what, is responsible for African underdevelopment can be answered at two levels: First, the answer is that the operation of the imperialist system bears major responsibility for African economic retardation by draining African wealth and by making it impossible to develop more rapidly the resources of the continent. Second, one has to deal with those who manipulate the system and those who are either agents or unwitting accomplices of the said system. The capitalists of Western Europe were the ones who actively extended their exploitation from inside Europe to cover the whole of Africa. In recent times, they were joined, and to some extent replaced, by capitalists from the United States; and for many years now even the workers of those metropolitan countries have benefited from the exploitation and underdevelopment of Africa. None of these remarks are intended to remove the ultimate responsibility for development from the shoulders of Africans. Not only are there African accomplices inside the imperialist system, but every African has a responsibility to understand the system and work for its overthrow.” (Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa)
It’s been nearly 50 years since Walter Rodney wrote about his urgent concern for what he called the “contemporary African situation,” and I find myself reflecting often on the next important impasse we’re approaching with the progression of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” and “future of work” resulting from the increasing automation and computerization of roles. As a Black creative-technologist based in the United States I believe it is important for myself and others to concern ourselves with the development of the African continent with a similar seriousness and historical awareness as Rodney. In order to engineer a radical black future we need to actively inspire and prepare Black youth worldwide. The consequence otherwise will be centuries longer racial oppression, structural violence and global conflict exacerbated by the growing economic divide worldwide.