“Sinkhole” by Mohammed Shehu
I still remember the day Africa sank.
I was giving a lecture on price floors and ceilings to my first-year economics students that day. Poetic, now that I think about it.
The whole planet trembled. The International Space Station live-streamed the entire continent breaking up from its centre and sinking into the oceans. Gravity pulled planes from the skies and sent bewildered passengers to their watery graves. By dusk, the middle of the planet had a large, eerily quiet space where Africa used to be.
1.5bn people perished in an instant. Even now, sitting in this café penning today’s journal entry, my hands tremble at the memory. I think of my family and fight back the tears.
Then the tsunamis hit.
Without a continental buffer between them, the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans collided and roiled for days. Colossal tsunamis then set course for the Americas, buoyed by unabated winds from the east. Like many others, I panicked that we’d be next. Brazil took the first hit physically, financially and medically; then Guatemala next, which shut down its entire economy; and finally Florida. Palm Beach disappeared underwater as the poor drowned to death while the rich quickly evacuated themselves. I remember being sad at the loss of life, sickened at the inequality that allowed a select few to survive, and powerless to do anything.
The world plunged into chaos. Scientists scrambled to explain what happened, given no prior warnings from their sophisticated sensors. The tectonic plates were fine, they said. The continent wasn’t atop any dangerous fault lines. Land doesn’t just sink like that, not at that rate. Historical records indicate a slow sinking of continental landmasses based on the trajectory of—
It was all anyone could talk about for months. The endless commentary depressed me.
Africa’s sinking was unnatural. They say it started in Congo, based on satellite data captured a few minutes before the sinkhole started. Multinational corporations had been drilling deeper into the country’s earth, scooping out coltan and gold and diamonds and copper. Something must have cracked, they thought. The ground erupted at the centre and took the whole country down in minutes—an impossible feat considering the amount of internal pressure such an event would have needed. As Congo sank, Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia followed on the east, with Angola, Gabon and Nigeria following on the west. Like a sinking ship, Africa’s coasts started taking on water as the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans flooded onto the continent.
Then the artefacts.
Overnight, museums all over the world raised the alarm as their exhibits simply disintegrated. Statues, paintings, sculptures, and more all simply turned into dust where they stood. Curators were wide-eyed and slack-jawed in shock, anger and disbelief. It was like an ancient curse had come to claim its totems. Several museums went out of business without the stolen collections of Africa’s lost kingdoms to draw in visitors. Frankly, I was pleased.
As soon as the seas swallowed Africa’s mines, the global economy took a weird turn.
It started slowly at first. Apple, Samsung, Intel, and other hardware manufacturers were still churning out devices by the boatload. They scrambled to find replacements for the coltan that powered their semiconductors, but Africa—Congo specifically—held claim to over 80% of the world’s coltan deposits. With no cheaper alternatives, the price of hardware shot through the roof as motherboards and chipsets became more valuable than gold.
The stock prices of the world’s largest hardware manufacturers tumbled, leading to mass layoffs and a knock-on effect throughout the global economy. China’s booming electronics market shrank to a fraction of its size. Company executives jumped off ledges in droves. There was an immediate glut of second-hand guns, gadgets and garments as manufacturers failed to find a dumping ground for their stock.
France was the first European country to take a hit.
Banking over half a trillion dollars annually from eight West African countries using the Eco, their loss of income was immediately felt. Their stock market computers could find no tangible assets to tie their sovereign wealth to, so their calculations threw fatal errors. The Euro’s value dropped, and inflation rose at an alarming rate.
As the global economy reeled from the loss of Africa’s raw materials, the UN began reporting strange changes to their global indices.
On paper, global happiness had shot up, world hunger and poverty had virtually disappeared, and the prevalence of HIV tumbled to its lowest in 50 years. Charities across the globe folded overnight with no Black, fly-ridden children to leverage for donations. The world became theoretically smarter as average literacy rates shot up—and safer for women as Africa’s rape stats no longer weighted down the global average. Average life expectancy figures crossed 100 for the first time in history, but the world became in immediate danger of eradication within two generations. With Africa gone, the birth replacement rate per woman had dropped below one.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. With Africa’s disappearance leaving a massive cultural, economic, and environmental void, we were all forced to see past our differences and work together for the first time in many years. Travel increased, as people who’d never been to Africa feared never being able to visit another country while they still could. Africans in the diaspora effectively became an endangered species, and police brutality against the Black community tumbled to its lowest in years. We gathered what little culture was left and documented it for posterity, as there was now a greater appreciation for African roots in our cultural cauldron. It gladdened my heart to witness Martin Luther King’s vision of integration. If only he were alive to see it.
We still haven’t found the bodies.
Thirteen years after #AfriGone, we’ve dispatched the best submarines to hunt for survivors or evidence of submerged land. Each time they go underwater for weeks; and each time a vast, blue nothingness greets them. Our satellites show nothing but water where Africa used to be. Our sensors don’t pick up any readings. We live in fear of which continent might be next.
It’s my birthday next week.
Every year since I left home, I would fly to Ghana to see my parents and cousins. But on the past 12 birthdays, all I’ve done is break down uncontrollably at the thought of their deaths. I was not given a chance to say goodbye.
So this year, once again, I’ll sit in my lounge, fire up my laptop and play Afro-pop on repeat.
It’s the only thing that reminds me of home.
Mohammed Shehu is a Nigerian writer and social media director who completed his PhD in Informatics in Namibia. He is currently based in South Africa and tweets @shehuphd.
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