Obianuju Ekeocha’s “Target Africa” exposes the imposition of destructive, elite American values on Africans by our government, our educational institutions, and our foundations. These “neo-colonialists” treat Africans as children by handing down to them decisions about how to live—decisions that have failed spectacularly in the Western world itself.
Target Africa: Ideological Neo-Colonialism In The Twenty-First Century by Obianuju Ekeocha (225 pages, Ignatius Press, 2018)
Take up the White Man’s Burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.
It is easy to heap scorn on the British imperialism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, depicted in the racist terms set out above in the first stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s famous 1899 poem, “The White Man’s Burden.” Ours is an age in which the phrase “decolonization of the mind” is bantered about as we congratulate ourselves on taking away the poetry, novels, and essays of white men and women of the past because the writers were not as enlightened as we are about such issues.
Yet like our obsession with slavery in the American and European past, there is something odd about modern self-congratulation about not being Kiplingites now. Today the world has, on most estimates, between 40 and 50 million slaves. Also today, the imperialism of the Europeans and Americans lives on and is perhaps stronger now than it ever was. Is our modern Western upper class better or simply different in its colonialism? The details are in the Nigerian-born and British-residing scientist and activist Obianuju Ekeocha’s book, Target Africa.
I had been aware of Ms. Ekeocha and her foundation, Culture of Life Africa, since her viral 2012 “An African Woman’s Open Letter to Melinda Gates.” In that missive she begged Bill’s wife not to spend her foundation money and the money of other donors in an effort to “replace the legacy of an African woman (which is her child) with the legacy of ‘child-free sex.’” She begged Mrs. Gates to forego the “drugs, IUDs, and condoms” and spend the nearly-five billion dollars pledged on healthcare programs (especially pre-natal and neonatal), food programs for children, higher educational institutions, chastity programs, and support for micro-business opportunities.
This letter is included as an appendix in Target Africa, which was published in 2018, but which I finally got around to reading this spring in preparation for her lecture this week (sadly now virtual due to COVID travel restrictions in Britain, where she now resides), co-sponsored by the institute I co-direct at the University of St. Thomas. What one discovers from a reading of Ms. Ekeocha’s book is that Mrs. Gates is not alone among those “modern day colonial masters” who are imposing their own white men’s—and in many cases women’s—burden on African peoples. And they have been doing it for some time.
Target Africa notes that the population controllers have always been among us in the modern world, but they really got organized in the 1990s in the age of third-wave feminism, which “started challenging binaries (such as male and female, father and mother) as artificial social constructs” and celebrated “self-determined sexuality as a means of female empowerment.” In practice, this means a defense and celebration of prostitution (known as “sex work”), pornography, sadomasochism, and transgenderism alongside support for abortion rights and all manner of sexual expressions and identities. This push for “liberation” gained steam with the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. It changed the focus of aid and development from issues of medicine and food to “reproductive rights” and a push for sexuality without children.
The Cairo conference led to the 2005 Maputo Protocol, a human rights document that slipped in abortion via article 14 about the “right to health and control of reproduction,” signed and ratified by all but a few African nations, though not fully implemented yet. Despite the voices of early African feminists such as the late Nobel Peace Prize-winner Wangari Maathai, who opposed abortion, Western feminists and sexual liberationists have been successful at importing their views to a number of African feminists and imposing their views on various parts of the African population using Western money that comes not only from NGOs such as the Gates, Ford, Rockefeller, and other foundations, but also from Western governments. One of President Biden’s first official acts was to reverse the Mexico City policy that banned federal funding of NGOs that paid and referred for abortions or advocated for the decriminalization or expansion of abortion services. And we are not alone. The Dutch, British, and various Scandinavian governments are among the leaders in using money to get African countries to adopt Western policies on sexuality and abortion.
The arguments of the neo-colonialists usually revolve around “human rights” (frighteningly, given the subjects of both abortion and sexual liberation, “children’s rights”), maternal health, prevention of violence, and the mythical overpopulation. Yet, while neo-colonialists have hit on some problems, Target Africa demonstrates that the solutions proffered do not solve much. Declines and lower rates of maternal mortality, too high in Africa to be sure, do not correlate with access to contraception or abortion. Similarly, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases does not correlate with Western-based campaigns to encourage free-wheeling sexuality as long as condoms and contraception are used. Ms. Ekeocha notes that Uganda, which heroically brought down the rate of HIV through an “ABC” program stressing Abstinence, Being faithful in sexuality, and Condoms only as a last resort, has been demonized by the West while South Africa, which has enacted the Western playbook, has had little success in reducing STDs.
There is a painful honesty in Target Africa, however. Despite the statistics she shows about African attitudes to sexuality and abortion, Ms. Ekeocha recognizes that the Western neo-imperialist steamroller has been very successful at flattening opposition in large part because of the corruption of Africa’s political class, which continually scoops out the wealth of African countries and then appeals to westerners for “aid,” much of which they also scoop up in the form of perks given for doing what the Western NGOs and governments want in the sexual and reproductive arenas. As has been shown time and again (I was reminded of Michael Matheson Miller’s fine film Poverty Inc.), and as Ms. Ekeocha herself says, aid often does not help development but hinders it. Ideological colonization, Ms. Ekeocha laments, may be paid for by the West, but it is “largely self-inflicted.”
The novelist Robert Kroese recently observed that thirty years ago he hoped America’s values could be exported to the world, while today his thought is “Dear God[,] please don’t let the contagion spread.” What saddens the reader of Target Africa is the realization that certain destructive values held by many elite Americans have been spread with the force of U.S. dollars for several decades now by our government, our educational institutions, and our foundations. And many of those crying out “colonizers” have been the leaders in doing it, treating Africans as children to be “patted on the head” as decisions about how to live are handed down to them. Decisions, we might add, that have failed spectacularly in the Western world itself.
They have nothing on Kipling. And they won’t even leave behind poetry.
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The featured image is courtesy of Pixabay and has been brightened slightly for clarity.