During the colonization of Africa, which was at it's peak in the 18th and 19th century, the European powers of the time indulged in activities that changed and still continues to have multiple effects on the continent By 1875 European possessions in Africa consisted of some forts and trading posts along the coast and a few tiny colonies. Between 1880 and 1910, however, Africa was divided up among the Europeans. For the next 50 years decisions affecting Africa and its people were made not in Africa, but in London, Paris, Lisbon and other European capitals.
France acquired a huge empire in North and West Africa. Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Mali and other areas in West Africa came under French rule. Britain's colonies were scattered throughout the continent. Although the French controlled the most territory, Britain ruled the greatest number of people. Gambia, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, Nigeria, South Africa, Rhodesia, Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, the Sudan and others were taken over Eritrea, a large part of Somaliland and Libya. Southwest Africa, Tanganyika, Togoland and Cameroon were ruled by Germany until Germany's defeat in World War I.
By 1914 there were two independent countries left in Africa-Liberia and Ethiopia. And even Ethiopia was taken over by Italy in 1935. The colonisation of Africa lasted for just over 70 years in most parts of the continent. That is an extremely short period within the context of universal historical development.
Yet, it was precisely in those years that in other parts of the world the rate of change were greater than ever before. The paper seeks to examine the social-economic and political impacts of colonization of Africa.One political consequence was that Africa lost her power. Power is the ultimate determinant in human society, being basic to the relations within any group and between groups. It implies the ability to defend one’s interests and if necessary to impose one’s will by any means available.
In relations between peoples, the question of power determines maneuverability in bargaining, the extent to which one people respect the interests of another, and eventually the extent to which a people survive as a physical and cultural entity. Overnight, African political states lost their power, independence and meaning — irrespective of whether they were big empires or small polities.Certain traditional rulers were kept in office, and the formal structure of some kingdoms was partially retained, but the substance of political life was quite different. Political power had passed into the hands of foreign overlords.
Sometimes, the African rulers who were chosen to serve as agents of foreign colonial rule were quite obviously nothing but puppets. The French and the Portuguese were in the habit of choosing their own African ‘chiefs'; the British went to Iboland and invented ‘warrant chiefs'; and all the colonial powers found it convenient to create ‘superior’ or ‘paramount’ rulers.One can go so far as to say that colonial rule meant the effective eradication of African political power throughout the continent, since Liberia and Ethiopia could no longer function as independent states within the context of continent-wide colonialism. Liberia in particular had to bow before foreign political, economic and military pressures in a way that no genuinely independent state could have accepted; and although Ethiopia held firm until 1936, most European capitalist nations were not inclined to treat Ethiopia as a sovereign state, primarily because it was African, and Africans were supposed to be colonial subjects.Europeans also created conflicts among ethnic groups that had not existed before. For example, the Belgian rulers of Rwanda-Burundi insisted that everyone carry identity cards saying whether they were Hutu, the ethnic majority, or Tutsi, the minority that had ruled the Hutu.
Many people did not know which of these they were. The Belgians decided that anyone who owned more than ten cows was Tutsi. The Tutsi got the best education and jobs. Soon the Hutu were resentful, and a violent conflict began. In 1994, the conflict between the Hutu and the Tutsi escalated into a brutal civil war. The Tutsi were victorious and formed a new government in Rwanda Colonial rule therefore meant the effective eradication of African political power throughout the continent.
In economic terms, Africa was denied the opportunity of developing healthy trade links with parts of the world other than Europe and North America. Some trade persisted across the Indian Ocean, but on the whole it is fair to say that the roads in Africa led to the sea-ports and the sea-lanes led to Western Europe and North America. That kind of lop-sidedness is today part of the pattern of underdevelopment and dependence.Colonization is a system of economic domination, according to both Frantz Fanon. The sole basis of colonization is that of money, of robbing the wealth of the colonies. Colonization robbed Africans of their natural economies, pegging them into a state of stagnation as their society couldn’t advance when all the instruments of advancement lied under the control of the colonists.
European colonization led to destruction of local systems, local economies, and leading to the inability of the Africans to feed for themselves because their tools of life were taken from them.Cesaire speaks of "societies drained of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined, lands confiscated, religions smashed, magnificent artistic creations destroyed, extraordinary possibilities wiped out. " While colonialists claim that they brought technological and economic advancement to their colonies, both Cesaire and Fanon deny this, with the simple statement that no one can know where these colonies would be today if they had been allowed to follow their own course of development. African workers and peasants produced for European capitalism goods and services of a certain value.
A small proportion of the fruits of their efforts were retained by them in the form of wages, cash payments and extremely limited social services, such as were essential to the maintenance of colonialism. The rest went to the various beneficiaries of the colonial system. Another thing that is also having a long term effect on the continent is the plunder of it's wealth by the colonial masters. The colonial era was one in which the big European powers become rich through the immense African minerals and Ivory they carried away to build their nations.And this in one way or the other had led to the scarcity of natural minerals in most parts of the continent, hence depriving these countries of the needed resources that can help them develop and compete with the western world. However, apologists for colonialism point to the roads, railways and bridges built by the colonial powers as proof of their contribution to African development.
The reputed British economist, Lord Alfred Marshall, for example, claims that the colonies received very good value in the services of the British administrators whose salaries they paid.There is also the claim that colonialism brought Africa into the money economy. These claims have, however, been challenged by leftist scholars. Rodney agrees with the above assertions but insists that “the sum total of these services was amazingly small. ” He further contends that the same roads and railways on which the Europeans claim credit were built with African toil and at a frightful cost of African lives.
Rodney points to the plight of African workers under colonial rule, the diseases and deaths in the mines of colonial Africa. In Rodney’s view, colonialism was “a one armed bandit. ”One of the most controversial legacies of colonialism was cultural intolerance. White settlers who conquered nonwhite peoples often held the attitude that ethnic and cultural differences define some people as superior and others as inferior. Some colonizing countries began education programs that maintained white superiority by distancing native students from their own culture and history. Disruption of social structures was another negative consequence of colonialism in Africa.
Some of these activities include the carrying away of able bodied men as slaves to Europe and other places. The shipping of able-bodied Africans away as slaves is one thing that contributed to the lack of agricultural development in most parts of Africa during the colonial era. People who could have stayed and bring forth brilliant children who will later help in the development of the continent were also shipped away. A typical example is Martin Luther King Jr. Just imagine the contribution he'll have made to the continent's development if he was born and bred in Africa.
One final long term effect is what some people call "the African Mentality. " According to these people the colonization of Africa had and still continues to influence the thinking pattern of a number of Africans. These groups of people are of the view that only the best only come from the West. They don't believe that the African can handle his own problems and develop on his own.
As an African, I personally don't share this opinion, but it's somehow through if you critically examine the behavior of most Africans in and out of Africa.Furthermore, the limited social services within Africa during colonial times were distributed in a manner that reflected the pattern of domination and exploitation. First of all, white settlers and expatriates wanted the standards of the bourgeoisie or professional classes of the metropolis. They were all the more determined to have luxuries in Africa, because so many of them came from poverty in Europe and could not expect good services in their own homelands. In colonies like Algeria, Kenya and South Africa, it is well known that whites created an infrastructure to afford themselves leisured and enjoyable lives.It means, therefore, that the total amenities provided in any of those colonies is no guide to what Africans got out of colonialism.
One positive effect we can talk of is the spread of the gospel in Africa. It's worth to know that the colonial masters also brought the message of the Lord Jesus Christ with them. And this is having a massive effect on the continent. Most people are now either Christians or Muslims and are very enthusiastic about their religion. Today, more and more people are being drawn into the Christian fold which is good news.
Nations can't develop if they don't have in place a religious system that to some extent regulates the behavior of the citizenry. As someone once said," Religion is a light in the fog. "The colonial masters also brought with them new ways of doing things that Africa is now using judiciously in her quest to develop and be on par with the western world. The Portuguese stand out because they boasted the most and did the least. Portugal boasted that Angola, Guinea and Mozambique have been their possessions for 500 years, during which time a ‘civilizing mission’ has been going on. At the end of 500 years of shouldering the white man’s burden of civilizing ‘African natives’Were colonies worth the costs to the colonizing country? Apart from its purported benefits, colonialism caused many problems for former colonies.
The economics of old colonial systems linger, especially in former exploitation colonies, where these nations struggle to overcome depressed economies and archaic class systems. Also, one of the most controversial legacies of colonialism is cultural intolerance.White settlers who conquered nonwhite peoples often held the attitude that ethnic and cultural differences define some people as superior and others as inferior. Some colonizing countries began education programs that maintained white superiority by distancing native students from their own culture and history.
Although imperialism in one form or another remains an issue, by the late 20th century colonialism had become obsolete. In 1970 the United Nations General Assembly, which by then was dominated by a huge majority of former colonies, declared colonialism a crime.