Connecting Africa and Asia: Afrasia As a Benign Community

Seifudein Adem

What might Africa and Asia look like by the year 2100? An overly ambitious question? Of course, the answer must be yes, it is. But in Connecting Africa and Asia: Afrasia as a Benign Community, Yoichi Mine, with his considerable expertise in the comparative study of the Global South, proves that he is up to the monumental task of seeking an answer to this challenging question.

The book begins by carefully reviewing the factors that may influence whether the political economies of Africa and Asia will diverge or converge at the end of the 21st century. Then, it subjects these factors to empirical analysis, reflects on them, and makes some projections. One of the two scenarios the author identifies and systematically expounds on is the emergence of “the benign community of Afrasia” as “a single macro-region.”

The book is divided into three parts and nine chapters. Part I discusses the demography of Afrasia. Part II is a comparative and historical analysis of Afrasia in the broader context of what is also known as the ‘East’ and the ‘West.’ The key variables likely to shape how Africa and Asia will evolve are also explored. Part III focuses on the internal political, economic, and cultural dynamics of Afrasia and what they mean for the rest of the world. In the last chapter, the book introduces the very useful concept of cultural triangulation – among other things.

With the help of more than 40 maps, tables, and charts, and drawing on comparative insights derived from fields ranging from demography to migration, political economy, history, and philosophy, the author describes the concept of Afrasia before he examines it, evaluates it, and renders his judgment about it.

The book also reveals something about Yoichi Mine, the author – his intellectual skill of, or even intellectual gift for, not only synthesizing multiple disciplines but also discussing complex issues in a language that is both elegant and easily accessible to academics as well as a wider audience. In other words, the book is devoid of the excessive abstraction all too common in this type of academic writing these days. Like a macro-historian, he is good, too, at perceiving the overall and bigger picture in the long term.

What is more, a reader will be impressed by the author’s penchant for making a paradoxical proposition and demonstrating why it is true. At one point, for instance, he turns dependency theory on its head: “historically, the process by which Western powers monopolized natural and human resources in their colonies and used them to accumulate their own wealth was precisely a form of macroparastism on a global scale. Contrary to what dependency theory teaches, in terms of transfer of resources, it is the West that was dependent on the rest of the world at the zenith of colonialism” (p. 94).

Yoichi Mine is a very dedicated Japanese Africanist; he is arguably East Asia’s foremost authority on the political economy of sub-Saharan Africa today. He has traveled widely in Afrasia and written extensively on the African condition, mainly in his own language, Japanese, but also in English. It is, therefore, only fitting that he should (re-)introduce himself through this outstanding book to the wider community of Africanists in the English-speaking world. I must nevertheless stress that Professor Mine is no stranger to Africanists outside Japan. His closest acquaintances include such distinguished Africans as the late Thandika Mkandiware and Sam Moyo. He also maintains contact with the respected Africanists Scarlet Cornelissen, Timothy M. Shaw, Kweku Ampiah, and many others.

A major contribution of this book lies in the much-needed clarification it provides for the concept of Afrasia. It is a critical examination of its history, usage, and limitations. Indeed, this book goes farther than any other before it in doing so. The book can be read as a profoundly normative statement, too, especially about the organizing principles of domestic and international life today and in the future. It is second to none in comparing Afrasia in this way, in a conceptually rich and empirically grounded manner, and with a lot of substantive history, too. Furthermore, Professor Mine almost succeeds in striking the right balance – not an easy thing to do in a discourse about the future in particular.

Many of the observations in the book – including those which are carefully interspersed with autobiographical anecdotes – and the conclusions based on them are stimulating. The comparative analysis is exceptionally good. But we will have to wait for several decades before we know if its prediction about the emergence of Afrasia as a single macro-region is vindicated.

This open-access book has raised the level of discourse about Africa and Asia – the two largest and most populous continents on Earth. It is a timely, and hopefully enduring, contribution to scholarship.