How the European slave trade destroyed Africa

The human assessment

According to the geographer Louise Marie Diop-Maes, the European slave trade human balance, combined with the Arabic slave trade, reaches at least 400 million human losses for Africa [1]. When in the beginning of the 16th century, Africa south of Sahara had 600 to 800 million people, the number decreased to 200 million people at the end of the 19th century. Yet, it is hard to know exactly the part attributed to each trade. This balance includes the deaths during the raids, the deported, the unborn children due to the implosion of the social and economic institutions.

African child enslaved in a cotton field, USA
African child enslaved in a cotton field, USA

As the Europeans attacked Africa on the West and East coasts, and the Arabs and allies attacked the East coast and along the Sahara, Africa became during 400 years a triangle of death. As for the number of deported people, it is very difficult to know exactly how many people were deported. However, Mrs Diop again reckons that the number is between 25 and 40 million people for both European and Arabic slave trade [2]. As the corrected figure of 11 million people found by the American academic Ralph Austen for the Arabic slave trade is considered [3], the evaluation leads to a figure between 14 to 29 million deported people in 350 years as for the European slave trade.

The economic assessment

When the Portuguese and the other Europeans arrived in Africa at the end of the 15th century, they destroyed among the best and richest empires and kingdoms Africa had. There was particularly the Kongo empire, the Mwene Mutapa empire and the kingdoms of the African East coast. To this point of view, the cost of the destruction of those empires and kingdoms is inestimable. In the 14th century, Africa – with at its head the empire of Mali – was probably the richest continent in the world; today, African countries are the poorest countries in the world. Our state of deterioration on the eve of colonization is the result of the European Terrorism. The European slave trade is THE turning point of the African history.

The psychological assessment

In order to clear their name after the destruction of Africa, Europeans invented the myth of Blacks who sold their country fellows. So today, Africans – because of the falsification of their history – bear the responsibility of the enslavement of their own. For a non African, It is hard to understand the huge psychological damages the falsification of history caused on Africans, who were supposedly betrayers and grasping people. This fact engendered a huge auto-depreciation of themselves who like to take this example to show how incapable they are.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the African descendants have been very deeply brainwashed. They only get chaotic images of Africa, with no glorious past and that has sold their direct ancestors. The result of all this is that the Afro descendants are most of the time highly alienated because they strongly reject Africa and Africans. This attitude weakens them in every domain, as they keep themselves away from their roots, without which nobody can accomplish himself or herself.

These are the moral barriers the Black world has to face and which it will have to solve in order to thrive. All this will also have to be taken into account in the demand of reparations expressed to former nations involved in this crime, before relevant international institutions. But many Westerners would say that Africans must stop blaming the slave trade for their current poverty. We would answer them that they are rich today thanks to the very same slave trade.

PS : We will explain here how Ms. Diop arrived to this number of 400 to 600 million human losses, which appears impressive. Professor Louise Marie Diop-Maes (1926-2016), French geographer and wife of Cheikh Anta Diop, has left to posterity the human toll of the Black Holocaust through her major work ‘’Afrique noire, sol, demographie et histoire‘’. She started from the first census made in Africa south of Sahara which numbered 148 million people in 1948. With the population growth rate recorded by La Documentation Française, she reached 127 million people in 1930. This figure was one of the lowest recorded but it is also in 1930 that sanitary measures have been taken, allowing the population to increase.

Louise Marie Diop
Louise Marie Diop

After detailing the effects of the bloody colonial conquest, Louise Marie Diop-Maes reached in her calculations 200 million people in 1850/1870, in the late period of the European slave trade. She then used the proven method of Prof. G Duby that has been used to determine the outcome of the Hundred Years War in Europe, consisting of comparing the night time fires. She combines this with the population‘s accounts identified in African contemporary documents and the ones of foreign explorers. She reaches a ratio of 4 people before the slave trade to one person after it in West Africa. The ratio was higher in Congos/Angola which were decimated, but much lower in the region of the Lake Chad where the population remained strong. So, it is cautiously that she provides a ratio of 3 to 4 people before the slave trade, versus 1 after the slave trade or 600 to 800 million versus 200 million. Hence the 400 to 600 million casuaties.


By : Lisapo ya Kama © (All rights reserved. Any copying or translation of the text of this article is strictly forbbiden without the written approval of Lisapo ya Kama)

Notes :

  • [1] Afrique noire, sol, démographie et histoire (Black Africa, soil, demography and history); Louise Marie Diop-Maes; page 272.
  • [2] Louise Marie Diop-Maes for Le Monde Diplomatique
  • [3] Le Partenariat Europe-Afrique dans la mondialisation (The European-African partnership within globalization), Emmanuel Nkunzumwami, page 28.
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