How did colonialism affect Africa?

By | November 27, 2015

How did colonialism affect Africa?

Impact of Colonization and Economic Development in Africa

Current political instability, social disorder and economic crisis in Africa have their roots in colonization era. During colonization period, political, economic, and social structure of African societies were completely changed. European powers viewed Africans as “primitive people” so they assigned themselves a duty to civilize or teach them, the Africans the “proper civilization” of which they meant colonization, imposition of European civilization and exploitation of Africans (World History, pp.158) . In this regard, European colonials divided Africa continent into colonies among themselves. They used persuasion and bribery of traditional leaders at best and force at worse to acquire these divisions and other programs of interests to them. Governments of colonies were formed either under a direct or indirect rule of countries colonizing the colonies. Under a direct rule, all levels of governments were controlled by the colonial masters, while where an indirect rule was applied, only governors and council advisors were appointed from colonials countries, and traditional leaders loyal to governors were allowed to retain their leadership or appointed in case of some leaders who resisted the colonization. (British was the only country who used indirect rules in its colonies in Africa ).
The aim of governments of colonies were to enforce and oversee the implementation of exploitation of resources and imposition of European civilization in Africa. Local populations were forced out of their fertile lands which they used for food crops cultivations and the lands were then distributed to European settlers, and turned into plantations of new introduced cash crops such as cotton, coca, tea, vanilla and soon for exportation to Europe. Africans were forced to work in plantations and mineral mining such as tea plantations in Kenya and copper mining fields in Democratic Republic of Congo which were administered by colonizing countries, British and Belgian respectively. Taxes were imposed on colonies to be paid in cash which was difficult for traditional farmers to get. Along with exploitation of resources was the intent to assimilate African into European cultures. Traditional believes, norms and practices were despised. African were urged to take on European believes, norms and practices and set aside their believes. Tactics such as telling them that European civilization was the best, that people didn’t work with hands in Europe and that it was because of their bad way of life that led to their colonization were used to speed up this process. In addition, schools and churches were built in colonies to teach colonial languages and cultures and convert traditional followers into Christianity respectively. Some Africans converted to Christians and went to colonial schools. Some of those Africans who converted to Christians and went to schools were taken for further studies in Europe. They graduated with degrees in different subject areas and came back to colonies. Despite having taken on European way of life, they were not allowed to take government positions. Some colonial masters still claimed that African would never learn to govern themselves. While studying in Europe, the African scholars found out that all they were told about Europe and Europeans were lies. For instance, they found out that people worked with hands in factories in Europe. Finding out propagandas which were used to justify colonization to be lies coupled with their new learned skills, and inspirations they found in philosophers like John Locke, they organized and mobilized themselves to resent colonial rules. They formed movements and fought for independence. Some movements took different forms and time frame to gain independence, and in the end the whole continent of Africa got decolonized. However, the impact of colonization carried on to post colonial era.
Early after decolonization of Africa, new African states were eager and hoped to reform and prosper their economies. However, many years later, that hope was still unfulfilled in many countries. The effects of colonisations along with lack of capital and advanced farming machinery, climatic conditions, and rapid population growth contributed to economic crisis in Africa
There seems to be a very important connection between peace and stability and economic development, and this can be seen in Africa where arbitrary division, grouping, and using one ethnic group, or tribe against another by European powers during colonization has left frictions and hostilities among tribes, ethnic groups or even countries. Many African countries since they got independent from their colonial masters (countries which had colonized them), have never been in peace and stability. This conditions sap the Africa’s efforts to develop its economy and create backwardness instead. Political instability, fighting for control of government and resources create disturbances in humans’ everyday way of life in Africa. Masses of population are displaced and properties destroyed as a result of unrest and political struggles bred by colonialism. As a result the population is always on the move and therefore can’t cultivate crops for food. This situation always leads to hunger and famine, and to contain this problem, the resources which could have been used for economic developments are wasted in an attempt to stop this human induced disasters. For example, large sum of money is used for humanitarian assistance and for mediations of talks aimed at settling conflicts peacefully. Countries such as the Sudan, Uganda, Chad, Somalia, just to name a few, provide examples of how political instability affect economic development. On the other hand, if peace and stability prevail in a country, that country prosper economically. Peace and stability give a country or government opportunities to focus its attention on economy; labour, natural resources and capitals are used effectively and efficiently. Political stability also allows foreign investors to invest in a country which boosts that’s country’s economy. Few African countries such as Kenya where political stability prevailed for two decades has become self-sufficient in food productions, became one of the world exporter of tea and coffee, and attained agricultural growth of 3 percent average yearly (One World, pp.82) Another effect of colonization in addition to instability is that African economies of colonization era were geared to fit for exportations. Large pieces of fertile lands were used for cash crops leaving less fertile and small portion of lands for food crops. This makes it difficult to produce enough food for consumption within the exporting countries of cash crops. It also has an impact on economies at the time when cash crop prices drop in the international market due to competition
Lack of funds and advanced farming machinery

Lack of development funds and advanced farming machinery can be seen in lack of progress of development in Africa. Most of African countries don’t have adequate funds to initiate viable economic development projects. In addition, these countries don’t have farm machinery that can produce with efficiency. About 80 percent of African population works in agriculture yet this doesn’t produce enough food because people lack effective farming tools (One World, pp. 80). They use simple farm equipment namely hand tools which are ineffective to produce good amount of food. However, new and better farming method, ox-plough was recently introduced. Still this is just better, not the best, but it is a magic invention to some African societies. In few societies where ox-ploughs and animals are used for labour, produce more than societies that hand tools and are seen to have somehow advanced technologically.

Climatic conditions make it impossible sometimes some years in some countries to cultivate crops in Africa. Climate changes such as drought and flood are example. Because Africa is in tropical region, it experienced drought often. During this period, both humans and non-human animals for instance, cows, camels, goats, ship and soon suffer. This can sometimes lead to starvation of many animals and humans.
Population growth

Population growth in Africa is faster than economic growth. In many countries population is growing rapidly while the economic growth is stagnant or it is growing at a low rate. The growth rates of population and economic in Africa from 1980-86 were 3 and 2.9 percent respectively. This makes it difficult to provide the needs of growing population with few resources.

Political instability, social disorder and economic backwardness in Africa can be traced back to colonization era. During colonization period, colonials used divided and rule tactics, imposition and exploitation of African resources which had long lasting effects on African societies and economies even after colonization was ended. Lack of funds and advance technology along with climate, and population growths hampered economic development.