Dr. Ken Vickery of North Carolina State University gave a talk on past leaders in Africa and their engagement in entrepreneurial zeal and partnerships on their own terms to benefit their people.
- Nzinga Mbemba the Manikongo (leader) of the Kongo in the 16th century who entered into a joint venture with the Portuguese where his people would receive education and Christianity in exchange for ivory and slaves. His son was eventually consecrated by the Pope as the first African roman catholic bishop. But the Portuguese did not fulfill their end of the deal, negotiating around him to get greater even greater numbers of slaves and corrupting his court. His relationship with the Portuguese is chronicled in 22 letters that are now widely published.
- Ja Ja, King of the Opobo Kingdom, in the 1880’s: Got into a partnership with the English for the shipment f palm oil. When he felt he was not getting a fair deal from shipping companies he set out to establish his own shipping line. For this, he was captured and exiled by the British.
- Third, was African countries in the post independence era (early 1960’s to mid 70′): Their economies GNP’s grew after independence and they delivered services such as education and health care and largely performed as governments. They were not basket cases until the oil crisis and collapse of raw material market shocks destabilized their growth patterns.
So even as we stand at the dawn of a new era of partnerships of trade, development, debt, aid, etc., remember that history rhymes.