One of the most complex relations is, without a doubt that between Africans and Arabs, which has resulted in lots of social, cultural, economic, and religious impacts. This was the propelling factor to the establishment of Africa Institute in Sharjah as a dedicated institute for African and African diaspora studies.
For more than 12 centuries, Africa and the Arab world have had lots of interactions that have resulted in people that have deep-rooted relationships. It is therefore not surprising that there have been lots of complexities that have defined the relations between Africans and Arabs. Nevertheless, one fact has always played a significant role in the unavoidable contacts between these two groups, and that is their geographical proximities.
Ever since scholars took an interest in studying Afro-Arab relations, a defining factor to the studies was how these regions had been considered as separate entities. This has been despite the very studies showing that there have been lots of factors that have long wed black Africa and the Arab Gulf region. As a result, there have been lots of questions and calls for new approaches to the studies on these two groups of people that share so much.
Fortunately, there has been a new age of scholars who have been driven to exploring Afro-Arab relations from a new perspective. It is this urge to shed light on the grey areas on the connections between Africa and the Arab Gulf region that were the building stones of the Africa Institute in Sharjah. The aim of the institute is to fully get engaged in the depths of the numerous aspects that have defined Africa, its people, and interactions with the globe. On the other hand, the institute equally seeks to attain clarity on the link of the Arab Gulf region to Africa in modern times and over the ages. Finally, the institute’s focus is on the African diaspora, a global community that has been formed from the years of voluntary and involuntary movements.
As a different channel is forged by modern scholars, and there is a disruption on what was considered the typical approach, there is the necessity for creating this generation of critical thinkers. The Africa Institute in Sharjah has made this one of its mandates even as it takes on in-depth research on African’s relations with the globe. On the interactions of Africa and the Arab Gulf region, there are critical aspects that can never be ignored and these include;
1. The Arab slave trade
Way before the white European started the slave trade in Africa; the Arabs had for centuries established slave trade routes. Studies have shown that as early as the 8th century, the enslavement of Africa had begun, and its perpetrators were Arabs. Over these periods, over 80 million Africans were taken to different parts of the world and consequently led to the establishment of small groups of the African diaspora. As such, while a lot of focus has been on the African Diasporas from the European and American trades, the first links go back to the Arabs.
2. The Islamisation of Africa
Islam occupies an important position in modern-day Africa as the continent is home to close to a quarter of the global Islam population. This not only includes its major prevalence in North African countries that are dominated by Arab Muslims but in most other countries. The conversion of Africans to Islam is primarily attributed to Arab merchants who begun converting most of the communities that they interacted with. These historical trade lines also resulted in the development of cities such as Timbuktu, where mosques were established. It is important to note that there was no single pattern for the conversions of Africans to Islam, resulting in the millions of modern-day African Muslims.
3. The struggle against colonization
The coming of the white man substantially interfered with the dominance of Arabs in Africa and, to a significant extent, reduced their presence. Nevertheless, there are lots of trade routes run by Arab merchants that remained active, providing connections to Africans. When the time was ripe, Arabs supported African liberation, and this was a common struggle that saw these two groups on the same side. This was a firm foundation for lots of political orientations between lots of African countries and the Arab Gulf region after the attainment of independence.
4. Modern-day economic interactions
The Arab Gulf region has strongly come out as a strong force in the global arena, and there has been increased attention to Africa. At a time when lots of African countries are striving to forge ahead and drop the third-world tag, the Gulf region has come out as a strategic partner.
There are deep linkages between Africa and the Arab Gulf region, a fact that can never be ignored when talking about these two groups. As an area of scholarly importance, the Africa Institute in Sharjah has sought to provide better analysis through research and developing a new-age of African studies scholars.