Sad News for the 'Africa-Invented-Everything' Woke Lie

Vikiçizer, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

I previously covered a clip in which a clearly British Person of Color™ in absurd-looking ethnic garb parroted the oft-repeated lie, manifesting in various forms, that Africans “invented almost everything.”


This is an indefensible claim for reasons that I explore in this article.

But perhaps the rebuttal doesn’t need to be quite so elaborate. One lonely inconvenient fact calls into question the whole narrative: Sub-Saharan Africa, before European colonization, did not even have the wheel.

This is despite the fact that the wheel was invented in the 4th millennium BC and was pivotal to the economic development of nearly every civilization in every other part of the world. That includes Europe, India, China, and the Middle East.

In fact, pre-colonial African civilizations were aware of the wheel because it was introduced via contact with outsiders but did not adopt it even after being handed the technology.

Via Africa’s Development in Historical Perspective

The basis of the modern economic growth that emerged in Britain in the late eighteenth century was technological innovation, and the Industrial Revolution had itself built on a long incremental series of innovations in agriculture, transportation, and elsewhere in the economy. Many of these innovations did not take place in Africa. For example, outside of Ethiopia, no African country innovated the plow. Similarly, systems of writing were largely restricted to the same region, though also encompassing the Sudan and Somalia. Also absent was the wheel. The fact that wheeled transportation was not used in sub-Saharan Africa until the early colonial period is paradoxical because it is well established that African societies knew about the wheel from the early modern period onward. They did not have to reinvent the wheel, only adopt it.


Obviously, the narrative can’t be allowed to proliferate that Africans didn’t use the wheel for some reason other than innovative deficiency. In the YouTube video below, for instance, the narrator makes the case that the reason Africans never adopted the wheel is that it was impractical for Sub-Saharan Africa.

But if the wheel is overrated, why is the wheel currently used everywhere in Africa? Why wasn’t it abandoned after decolonization? Why didn’t the Africans throw away the whites’ useless wheel and revert to their pure, indigenous, wheel-free lifestyle?

Could it be that wheels are highly utilitarian? Might the reason Africans continue to use the wheel today be that it’s actually not just beneficial but actually essential economically?

Via Cambridge:

[In Africa] the high cost of transport by pack animals and human porterage has often been presented as one of the principal constraints upon the expansion of trade, and hence of economic growth generally, in pre-colonial times.

Whatever the reason that pre-colonial Africans never adopted the wheel, the fact that they never did utilize one of mankind’s most basic inventions (hence the phrase “reinventing the wheel”) puts to rest permanently the woke lie that “Africans invented everything.”



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