‘Africa Fact Book’ sets the record straight

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Harare - For more than 600 years, Africans have relied on outsiders - especially their former colonisers - to tell them their own stories.

The effect has been what historians and educators call a debilitating distortion of African history.

With this in mind, the Institute if African Knowledge (Instak), with The African Union, set about compiling the first edition of “The Africa Fact Book”, which was appropriately themed “Busting the Myths”.

The compilation and publishing process, funded by the government of Zimbabwe, culminated in the book’s launch in Harare on Wednesday.

The book is in sync with the AU’s Agenda 2063, particularly as regards enhancing 

the strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics of Africa.

At the launch, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa challenged African intellectuals and the media to take a lead in telling Africa’s story.

“Furthermore, let us draw from our African heritage and knowledge to develop new technologies, innovations and systems that will improve our agriculture practices, accelerate the industrialisation and modernisation of our economies and ultimately lead to a better quality of life of our people,” President Mnangagwa said.

He said the achievements of Africa’s ancestors - who built pyramids and cities like Great Zimbabwe, navigated to the Americas in prehistory, and made numerous scientific discoveries, among other firsts - should inspire current generations to reclaim Africa’s place in science, technology, innovation, research, culture and politics.

 “The continued narratives and myths which must be debunked vary from time to time and across generations,” he said.

“Some purport that the that the people of Africa have no history and that our colossal monuments were not built by us the indigenous local people while other myths assert that Africans are not innovators, discoverers and inventors.

“All these have been undeniably deconstructed by scientific facts, impeccable sources and astute scholarship.”

He said the Africa Fact Book shows some of the origins of the world’s inventions and discoveries that came from Africa.

“We learn that the pyramids were built by our forefathers. We learn that the Dogons of Mali, experts of astronomy, space and stars, existed hundreds of years before Nicolaus Corpenicus.

“We further learn that the greatest traveller of the middle ages was in fact Ibn Battuta of Morocco, who wrote a book that was used by many explorers including

Christopher Columbus as reference for exploratory maps and cartography,” President Mnangagwa added.

South Africa’s President and AU Chairman Cyril Ramaphosa, who was represented by his top diplomat to Harare Ambassador Mphakhama Mbete, endorsed the launch of the book.

In his foreword to “The Africa Fact Book”, President Ramaphosa said:

“Some stories are well-known some are still to be told. For centuries the story of Africa has largely been told by others especially those who have taken over our land and subjugated our people.

“The time has come for the African voice to be heard and champion the African cause.”

President Ramaphosa said the book marked a milestone after 600 years of African silence.

He said a lot of negative myths about Africa abounded and there was need to set the record straight.

Instak chairperson Professor Simbi Mubako said, “For the African reader it is important to note that for the most part information about Africa has been written and taught by non-Africans and these non-Africans wrote the views of Africa in their own perspectives.

“As a result most Africans view themselves through other people’s lenses.”

 

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