Ghettoization or Globalization Of the African Literature By Raïs Neza Boneza (Bled, slovenia 2012)

Esteemed Comrades and Colleagues,

When contemplating Africa or delving into world history from the fourteenth century onwards, one might contend that the annals of human history have been dominated by warfare, conquests, wars, slavery, and subjugation. This trajectory has consequently given rise to the establishment of a global system. Over time, globalization has evolved into a more intricate force, altering its methods of subjugation by imposing industrialization and an exploitative marketization that result in widespread oppression and dehumanization on a global scale.

In the present day, Africa finds itself ensnared within the clutches of this new form of global influence. Stripped of its sovereignty, the continent is both economically and culturally stifled. It has become a sacrificial offering on the altar of IMF and World Bank policies, plagued by poverty, disease, and corrupt leadership. As Ngugi wa Thiongo underscored in his 2004 lecture at Girvetz Theater:

“Globalization has eroded the strength of post-colonial states to the extent that these states lack the power to interfere with the workings of international finance, allowing these financial powers to operate freely.” “External non-governmental organizations have taken on the role of modern-day missionaries, secular missionaries who operate as parallel entities outside the realm of state authority.”

The Western perspective, with its narrow focus, consistently portrays Africa in a prejudiced light. For instance, Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” could easily be characterized as biased, racist, and anti-African. Unfortunately, such perspectives have become the norm. Even in contemporary times, some critics view African writers as aspiring Westerners—artisans in need of Western influence to refine their craft.

While many African writers aspire to be recognized simply as “writers,” contributors to global literature, only those who manage to gain access to the Western mainstream production networks and secure media endorsements receive recognition. For these writers, countries like England, France, or the US, with their extensive publishing and distribution networks, seem to be the sole avenues for international acclaim. Choosing to become a writer in Africa is a formidable undertaking, given the continent’s lack of advantages.

In this global milieu, how can African writers transcend their individuality and merge with what we term global or world literature?

Just as the West has marginalized Africa through imperial dominance and the concentration of wealth and knowledge, the realm of world literature appears to exclude Africa. Africa remains under exogenous control and has struggled to assert its own standards of appreciation, rendering its literature susceptible to marginalization.

As long as it remains under the sway of total global influences (predominantly the West), African literature cannot truly enrich the continent. Its richness derives from its vibrant oral traditions, the diversity of its cultures and languages, which have significantly influenced figures like Aimé Césaire and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka.

Marketization and the Distorted Identity of the African Writer

Since a book is a product to be sold, Africa’s literary output receives scant attention due to the continent’s preoccupations with war, political instability, and disease. Books remain an unaffordable luxury in Africa. The cost of a book in Europe could equate to the monthly wage of certain African workers, sustaining a family for several days. However, within the global market controlled by the West, European publishers often seek marketable authors for their products. Consequently, African writers find themselves caught in an ongoing struggle. They attempt to maintain their African identity while simultaneously having to appease the demands of globalization. For instance, African writers based in Western countries often become disconnected from their homeland, retaining only a vague memory of their origins. They become uprooted, seeking to heal this disconnection through a “cultural imagery,” endeavoring to overcome the fear of not truly belonging anywhere. They adopt a caricatured identity, presenting themselves as “Citoyen du Monde” or “Citizen of the World.” In this new guise, the African writer exists in a state of perpetual exile, residing within a realm of fantasy—a virtual ghetto.


Africa is not a figment of imagination or a realm of fantasy with safaris, elephants, and lions. It is as tangible as reality itself—a continent inhabited by nations and millions of people, not a distant corner of the world far removed from civilized nations. Today, the African Union and various initiatives aim to enhance Africa’s economic and social conditions. The role of African writers is now more crucial than ever in the battle to liberate Africa from local and foreign oppressors. This role, however, cannot mirror that of writers in less tormented or afflicted continents. Yet, the call for engagement remains resounding. As Ngugi asserted, “values, cultures, politics, and economics are all tied up together,” and it is perilous for a writer to overlook this truth. Similarly, African writers who seek recognition and a place within global literature might struggle to attain it without fulfilling their roles as African writers—rebuilding their homeland and instilling a sense of purpose within their society. First and foremost, they must embrace their African identity.

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