Why can't African nations unite like China?
The answer is simple; Colonialism.
A lot of answers here have focused on the number of languages and ethnic groups, but such a view misses the following:
- Using Nigeria as a case-study, Nigeria has 170m(ish) population, censuses are notoriously difficult to do here.........politics. Nigeria also has 274 tribes, however three tribes comprise 70% of the 170m i.e 119m. Some of the minority tribes are dying out, with some numbering only 3000. All in all, Nigeria has on average 7 relevant tribes. A slight reduction from two seventy-four.
- The matter of language is overhyped really, firstly, the various conquests by the African empires have led to the imposition of the conqueror's language, secondly far from the thousands of languages in Africa, they're only 6 language families. 15 indigenous languages are spoken by 85% of Africans as an additional or first language. And its not outside of realm of possibility to see English being spoken by every African in my lifetime(if not Queen's English, then a pidgin variety).
So let's get to where colonialism rained on our unity parade; the 19th century.
The above is Mohammed Ali doing his thing in Egypt, hmm looks like he's carved out a trans-continental empire based in Africa, what happened?? colonialism.
Next we have
The Neguse Negest Tewodros II, to most a nobody, to Ethiopians, the Emperor who ended the period of strife known as the Zamana Masafint and was on the way to restoring the Ethiopian empire to her historic heights until British imperialism cut him down(caveat, both sides have their arguments for and against the invasion), nevertheless, the result was the same, another strong African monarch trampled underfoot by the tide of colonialism. The Ethiopian empire was this:
Next up we have the Buganda:
An expansionist kingdom on the lakes of the future Lake "Victoria" already taking advantage of the failing Kongo kingdom:
when it fell prey to to a colonial tug of war between Germany and Britain and eventually signed of her sovereignty to a young Captain Lugard.
Also in the 19th century, the Omani sultan would move his capital to Zanzibar, in present day Tanzania and establish a trading empire that dominated the Indian ocean trade and exercised influence over modern day Tanzania and Madagascar.
Next up we have this guy:
one of the great African nation builders who shattered all that rubbish about diverse languages et al. The Zulu story is pretty well known.
If you believe anything other the British were stopping Shaka's Impis from controlling all of modern day South Africa, I've got a few prime spots on Pluto to sell you.
The empires that might have been forged in the wake of the Mfecane is a matter of hypothesis now, what is indisputable however are that centralised kingdoms were forged in its wake. Need I say what toppled this empire..........colonialism.
Next we swing to West Africa where the real nation builders were:
The Sokoto Caliphate: Its Adamawa emirate was on the way to fully absorbing the less centralised Cameroon tribes......but the French wanted a slice of that pie too.
The caliphate was restricted in the South by the Oyo Empire.
and its military towns of Ibadan and Ijaye(Ibadan burnt Ijaye to the ground in 1852, but a story for another day).
Further West, skip Dahomey which was an Oyo vassal and you have the Asante!! comprising virtually all of modern day Ghana and slices of the Cote D'Ivoire.
The Asante also disproved all that rubbish about disparate languages and multiple tribes somewhere being a barrier to nation-building.
Next up your have the truly exceptional Samori Toure
and his empire of many names(I prefer Mandika, easy to remember)
That whole many languages, many tribes thing......he also disproved it..................TWICE!!
So this was this picture of Africa in the 19th century, a continent on the verge of..........not unity but an upgrade over its present state, rather than 18 strong states guaranteeing stability, some white Men who knew better decided to create 52(now 55 and some idiots still think more division is the answer), so basically 200 years ago we were more united trade flourished, fast forward past the colonial period and its cheaper to ship in goods from China to Nigeria than Kano to Lagos!
So is it true that African countries can't unite like China? it is complete rubbish and the future will be the world's teacher on this matter.
Article by Emmanuel-Francis Nwaolisa Ogomegbunam from Quora