AFRICA’S first-ever Factbook, a colossal 1,200-page tome, based on the time-tested philosophy that ‘until the story of the hunt is told by the lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter’, was launched on Wednesday, September 9 in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, to coincide with African Union Day.
Published by the Harare-based Book of African Records (BAR) in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC), the ‘Presidential Edition’ of The African Factbook (which is 800 pages long) was launched by the Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa who was supported by the AU chairperson and South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, whose speech was read on his behalf by the South African ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mphakama Mbete.
BAR’s sister organisation, the Institute of African Knowledge (INSTAK), produced the Factbook, whose main theme is: ‘Busting the Myths’ – the myths that the Western world has perpetuated about Africa and its Diaspora for the past six centuries.
President Mnangagwa also launched INSTAK’s other project, the Museum of African Liberation, the first-ever pan-African museum to chart the course of the liberation struggles mostly in Southern Africa. The physical version of the museum, which is yet to be built, will be based in Harare, but in the meantime, the mobile/virtual version is ready to visit schools and public events in Zimbabwe and other countries in Southern Africa to impact knowledge about the liberation struggles.
The Factbook was edited by the former editor of the London-based New African magazine, Baffour Ankomah. The full version of the book (1,200 pages, otherwise known as the ‘Scholar’s Edition’) will be available to the public in December.
The launch of the Presidential Edition fulfilled the prophecy of the slain Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba contained in his 1960 letter to his wife Pauline, sent from the Thysville prison where he had been incarcerated without trial.
‘History,’ Lumumba wrote, ‘will one day have its say. But it will not be the history which will be taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations. It will be the history which will be taught in the countries which have won freedom from colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history and in both north and south of the Sahara, it will be a history of glory and dignity.’
As Lumumba rightly forecast, The Africa Factbook contains ‘a history of glory and dignity’ written by Africans as a response to the 600 years of lies and calumny spewed against Africa and Africans by Euro-American historians, academics, writers, and journalists. And it is not ‘the history taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations.’
In the words of one AU Commission official, after reading the first rough draft of the Factbook: ‘With the right promotion, the Factbook should stop the process of maligning Africa and turn things upside down in the proportion of Darwin’s theory of evolution.’
The book was inspired by the former AU Commission chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who after receiving a copy in 2016 of the Book of African Records produced by BAR, advised BAR’s CEO, Ambassador Kwame Muzawazi, to produce a factbook that relies on African sources as the Book of African Records depended too much on non-African sources.
The AU Commission, therefore, signed an MoU in 2016 with BAR to produce The Africa Factbook. For logistical reasons, BAR farmed out the project to its sister-organisation, the Institute of African Knowledge (INSTAK), to produce the book. But fundraising became a challenge until the Zimbabwean government, headed by President Mnangagwa, stepped in to provide funding last year for the first edition of the Factbook, which took one year (from September 2019 to September 2020) to produce.
The book is divided into four sections. Section A sets out to bust some of the key myths that Westerners have published about Africa. Section B deals with country profiles and fast facts about Africa’s 55 nations. Section C is about African and black pioneers, inventions, journeys, discoveries, innovations, writing systems, etc.
Section D deals with the African Diaspora, otherwise known as Global Africa. These are the African-descended people scattered to the four winds, who should not be confused with the new Diaspora of continental Africans who live outside Africa today.
The definition of the ‘African’ that INSTAK worked with is the one popularised by the Jamaican singer, Peter Tosh: ‘Don’t care where you come from. As long as you’re a black man, you are an African.’
According to Editor Ankomah, ‘no cows have been sacred in the preparation of the Factbook. Tired of being libelled and slandered for the last six centuries, Africa has roused itself from sleep and done battle with its detractors via this Factbook. The detractors should better stand firm because this is no ordinary Factbook – quite unlike The CIA Factbook. Our Factbook has raised the bar! It has set new standards in the world of factbooks.
‘For Africans, liberation has finally arrived. In a world where 44 million Yorubas are a tribe and 42 million Igbos are equally so, but 3 million Welsh are a nation and 5 million Scots are equally so, you need an Africa factbook to remain sober. Here it is!,’ Ankomah adds in his trademark truculent style.
The book will be translated into Swahili, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic. So far, all who have read it, have had only praise for it. ‘A common saying in Roman times was ex Africa semper aliquid novi (Out of Africa always something new),’ says Ambassador Muzawazi. ‘This they said out of marvel for things African. Here is The Africa Factbook – something new from Africa. Once again.’