Predator nations seeking to rape developing countries of their natural resources imposed their rule on peoples and then stole their riches through force of arms. Then, it was called colonialism and the nations of Africa were directly in their sights.

That age of exploitation is not necessarily a thing of the past. One of its legacies is that the continent was carved into political divisions not to meet the needs of the people of Africa but the interests of the overlords. As a result, there are now 47 countries on the continent, and counting.

The upshot of that legacy alone is one of almost eternal strife, civil wars, conflicts among neighboring states based on tribal rivalries and sheer greed among the handful of tyrants who seize power at gunpoint and enrich themselves while killing their compatriots.

That, of course, is not the picture of all of Africa. There are countries that are led by honorable men and women seeking to guide their people by democratic means. But they are struggling against a past that was designed to govern a future in which the former colonial masters can assume the new role of saviors of the artificial nations they created, and use that access to continue exploiting the continent, without in any way allowing for the transfer of technology that would allow them to maximize their economic potential. The idea is to keep Africa as a source of raw materials to fuel the economic expansion of the rich nations.

The late Guyanese historian Walter Rodney took the scalpel to this insidious policy in his groundbreaking work How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.

More recently, a new form of exploitation has been spreading like a malignant tumor and further complicating Africa’s struggle for economic self-sufficiency. This is the relatively new practice of super rich individuals and institutions, especially but not exclusively,  hedge funds buying up land in parts of Africa – buying them, which means taking ownership of African birthright.

These “investors” then use their holdings to plant crops not to help ameliorate the continent’s food shortages but to ship back to their home countries or to wherever they can find the most profitable markets. One example is buying the land, planting corn and shipping the corn off the continent to be made into ethanol.

The people of Africa deserve better and African Americans are in an ideal position to help them realize their potential. That is why a “summit” held in Pompano Beach on Saturday was an important first step in a process that could marry the natural resources of Africa with the entrepreneurial brainpower and even financial capital of African Americans and others in the Diaspora in a way that is not vulture capitalism but mutually beneficial.

The “Winds of Change Economic Leadership Conference for Indigenous Africans and the Diaspora” put the focus on the potential for joint ventures between the Royal Bafokeng Holdings Company and its mineral-rich land holdings in the northwest province of South Africa and entrepreneurs in American entities such as People Helping Each Other and the African Development Group. But the initiative can be expanded substantially so that it embraces most, if not all, of the continent and finally forge a long-awaited economic link between Africa and African Americans.