The excitement of watching the Duke and Duchess of Sussex travel across Africa via their well-updated Instagram page is undeniable. The interracial couple brought joy to people all over the world as the concept of a black woman stepping into the role of a British royal invigorated many with the excitement of changing narratives. The details of Royal family history can be awe-inspiring as they are romanticised through embroidered costume and feature film however the plethora of realisations attached to the Royals is inescapable as echoes through African soil.
Kicking off their Africa leg in Cape Town, South Africa, prince Harry and princess Meghan engaged with local communities concerning AIDs, self-defence classes for girls, upcoming female entrepreneurs and shared local experiences at historical sites. There is no obvious manner to fault the positive contribution of these activities however as Africans it is worth considering the relations between these individuals and the family that they originate from.
It is well worth considering that many of the challenges facing people of colour in Africa is an extended legacy of the colonial histories of each country. The socio-economic fabric of pre-colonised spaces is only in the beginning stages of being reconstituted with many issues still being overcome. Millions of South Africans being in poverty stricken situations can be attributed to the proletarianisation of many locals as settlers arrived, this legacy continues today. The creation of a low-income class became racialised and the disadvantages of a poor education still hinder many today.
The above example presents the strange relationship that has been established between the British and the pre-colonised spaces that have somehow remained a satellite city of theirs. Focusing on the present moment of rebuilding all that was lost sounds wonderful however it is too easy to put well-intentioned Royal visits against the backdrop of a country’s imperfections when they are ongoing and the result of deliberate alien infiltration.
A process of reconfiguring the injustices of the past with the reparations of the present is both difficult and comforting. The action required to use the resources that the Royals have for this purpose, is acknowledging that it is neccessary and confronting that responsibility. The Royals cannot be held solely responsible for what an extension of their family has done, but excercising that same power to aid African initiatives is a great response to the current situation.
Katie Barker reflects on the current impact of the extractive process carried on during colonialism ranging from the establishment of railroads to the export of valuable minerals out of Africa. Referencing Pan-Africanist academic Walter Rodney’s 1972 text How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Barker makes substantial connections between the physical impacts of colonialism and its historical occurences. The permanence of these structures in many African societal spaces hails an ongoing response.
Perhaps to many the permeating of African spaces by British Royals in 2019 requires more digesting than local government actively undoing the challenges facing its people. However, it cannot be denied that however somewhat misplaced an external Royal presence may be, there are many positive initiatives that can be established for Africa’s benefit. An example being the rehabilitation of landmines in Dirico, Angola – an intitiative supported by Princess Diana as well as Prince Harry.