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Murphy, Thomas H. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 77, Number 2 (Jan. 1976)

Wiley, David S.
The African connection,   pp. 7-11


Page 7


The Arican Connection
By David S. Wiley Ph.D.
flhacrmnnn T1W African Studies Program
As a nation we sadly neglect it, says this UW authority.
Downtown Nairobi, Kenya--with its Hilton Hotel-is typical of the cosmopolitan
Africa we seldom imagine.
  The African peoples say it with a
proverb, "When one sets a portion for
himself, usually it is not too small."
The American portion in Africa
is not too small. Indeed, even today,
Africa and Africans continue to make
a major contribution to American
technology, economy, and culture.
In barely perceived ways we have an
"African connection," or rather, several.
  The first is through our tech-
nology -and material culture, heavily
founded on the metals, minerals, and
oil which Africa produces. If you
were awakened this morning by a
made-in-Japan clock-radio, it contains
copper extracted by workers in Zam-
bia, Zaire, or Namibia. The electric
toaster, coffee pot, mixer, all had
an African connection if they were
made in Asia or Europe. Your instant
coffee came to you courtesy of the
peoples of Angola, who grow a variety
especially valuable for such blends.
(Or if your preference was tea, it
may have originated from the Brooke
Bond tea plantations of Kenya or
perhaps from Malawi.)
  The natural rubber in the tires
on your automobile probably originated
from the labors of Liberians; the
chrome in its bearings was extracted
by black Rhodesians (Zimbabweans).
And even the exhaust emission con-
trol catalytic converter on newer
models was brought to you by the
extraction of platinum by the black
workers of South Africa. Indeed,
even the lubricants and gasoline
may have originated from Nigeria,
the second largest U.S. foreign
supplier of petroleum, or from
Libya or Angola.
   The list of African materials in
our lives is virtually endless. The
chocolate in a candy bar was grown
by Ghanaians and Nigerians. Cloves
for spicing the hams of American
Easter dinners originate from
Zanzibar. The sisal to tie holiday
packages was grown and processed by
Tanzanians. Some of our more effec-
tive bug sprays keep away mosquitoes
with Kenyan pyrethrum. A diamond
begins as a gem with the drill and
pick axe of the black South African,
Sierra Leonean or Mozambican miner.
And the gold in a ring or necklace
probably came from the rich ores of
South Africa. Even the uranium for the
bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was
extracted by African miners in Zaire
(formerly the Belgian Congo).
Wherever an advanced American
technology has developed, utilizing
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