9 Lessons Africa Can Learn From Black Wall Street


9. Local production and buying local goods and services creates prosperity

AFRICANGLOBE – The Oklahoma bombing in 1995 is considered the worst terrorist event in the history of Oklahoma with 168 deaths. However, little or no mention is made in historic accounts of the horrific killing of an estimated 3,000 African-Americans in the Black neighbourhood of Greenwood in the northern part of the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma on the 31st of May and the 1st of June 1921. Officially the incident has been classified as race riots with distorted casualty figures varying between 39 and 300. What is not in dispute is that a huge majority of the dead were African-American.

The African-American neighbourhood of Greenwood was all but levelled out by gangs of white vigilantes led by the Ku Klux Klan. The massacre was a result of jealousy and envy because Greenwood was a prosperous Black community that thrived under segregation laws. African-American businesses flourished and the community developed so much so that white communities on the south side became bitter and envious of wealth and prosperity on the north side. The story of The Black Wall Street is filled with many lessons that will help our own country and communities to prosper in much the same way.

Local production and buying local goods and services creates prosperity

Segregation laws meant that blacks were not allowed to shop in white areas. As a result, black entrepreneurship flourished in Greenwood.

A modern business centre housed banks, fashion stores, hotels, cinemas and other trades. There were 21 Churches, 21 Restaurants, 30 grocery stores and 2 cinemas. The local bus service was owned by a black doctor, bringing him a revenue of $500 ($6,000 in today’s money). There were black attorneys, doctors, architects, and PhD Scholars. All these trades and businesses thrived because local people used them almost exclusively.

As Africans, we must take the lessons from this story and encourage local production and trade. African countries are the most resource rich in the world, and yet most are still net importers of finished products. There is a culture of preferring imported goods to local goods and services. We still largely export raw materials for value to be added abroad before buying the same materials in finished goods at inflated prices. The DRC exports coltan that is used in the manufacture of mobile phones and yet we do not have a single African produced mobile phone brand.

We not only supply the raw materials, we even supply the labour abroad to make the products. A study by the NAACP in the US showed that 43 million African-Americans have a combined spending power of $1.1trillion dollars. In comparison, it is estimated that African consumer spending will reach $1 trillion by 2020. This is because we are not producing goods locally and cheaply. As a result, goods are out of the reach of most consumers.