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Forum LockedThe problems with decolonization in Africa

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Decebal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The problems with decolonization in Africa
    Posted: 27-Apr-2007 at 13:26


Most of Africa has been exploited almost solely for raw resources by the Europeans during the last 500 years, and this exploitation is still going on now. Initially, the xploitation was limited to a somewhat mutually beneficial trade, mostly in gold, slaves and ivory. Of course, the slave trade also had the side effect of devastating many regions, though it must be admitted that it was the African slave trading kingdom who did most of that; still without the huge demand for slaves, this would not have happened.

After the Scramble for Africa (1885-1914), (and in some cases such as South Africa) the Europeans started to exploit the resources more directly. They typically used African workers to work in mines and plantions growing cash crops. They developed the infrastructure of the colonies in a peculiar fashion: typically there was only one railroad going from the main resource-exploitation centre to a port on the ocean. All railroads, banks, shipping companies, etc. were owned by Europeans. The main reason why the Europeans acquiesced to granting independence to the Africans was that the defense of these colonies against other European countries was somewhat too expensive compared to the revenues generated. Thus, they allowed African countries to gain their independence, in order for them to pay for their own army, but they still kept control over the economy.

A quick example: until recently, to make a phone call from Brazzaville in Congo across the river to Kinshasa in Zaire (a distance of a few kilometers), the call would go through trans-Atlantic cables to France, then routed to Belgium, then back through the cables to Zaire. This is due to the setup of the phone networks of the two colonies which belonged to France and Belgium respectively. Of course, such a call was very expensive and the European phone companies would charge the lion's share from that phone call.
 
They allowed very short periods of time for the African countries to create a government infrastructure. In the worst case, Zaire, they gave the Africans 6 months to create a government, a bureaucracy, a taxation system and an army. Previously all of these had Europeans in all key positions. In the best case, Ghana, they were given 10 years: quite a bit better, but still not much.

Once the African countries were independent, they had a dillema: they needed money to modernize and build an infrastructure. They could not trade with themselves, because the Europeans had not built the required infrastructure. For example, Togo and Ghana are neighbors, yet there were very few roads and no railroads crossing the border. They also produced only raw materials, in many cases the same ones, so there was little demand for African products in Africa itself. Any products had therefore to be sold to Europe or America, using the same railroads and ports that the Europeans built, transported on European-controlled shipping lines, and sold to European companies. Thus most of the profits still ended up in the European's hands. Still, it was the only alternative and cash crops pay more than food. So African farmers increasingly started to grow more and more cash crops for export, to the detriment of food in the 1960's. Which worked fine until there were problems with the dwindling supply of food, due to drought or insects. So you have famines in the 1970s.

Then we have another problem: African governments still needed money to build roads, schools, dams and factories. The only real alternative was loans from Western governments. But the loans came with strings attached: no tarrifs, quotas or other traditional government protective measures were allowed. As a result, African industry was doomed from the start and these loans could not be paid, instead accumulating interest until they were many times the GDP of the African countries.

Governments hence went bankrupt, and were less able to maintain order. Corruption became rampant, in countries where governments could not pay their bureaucrats adequately. The only alternative was military dictatorship: you have lots of coups in the 1970s and 1980s. This initially went quite well, limiting corruption and reforming the countries. But the economic root causes were not eliminated, so then the military became corrupt.

Enter the next phase: most African borders were arbitrary remains from colonial days, with no regards to ethinc groups. What's more, Europeans tended to favor one or another ethnic group in ruling their colonies. So you had a lot of ethinc tension. With a corrupt government and corrupt military, many of these ethnic groups decided they wanted a fresh start and so started up guerilla independence wars. These wars were initally fueled by one or the other side in the Cold war, supporting them with weapons, for ideological reasons. After the Cold War, it was Western corporations who moved in, selling weapons and buying raw resources from the territories that either the government or the rebels controlled. Ethnic conflicts thus drag on and on.

So, it's not that the African governments are doing such a bad job governing. In truth, given the conditions of the equation, no one could have done much better.



Edited by Decebal - 27-Apr-2007 at 13:34
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Apr-2007 at 14:20
1) Borders argument is misplaced. Borders are always more or less arbitrary. I can't think of a more "unnatural" country than Switzerland, what with groups with such friendly relations such as French and Germans!
 
2) The arguments about various ethnic groups been favoured has more weight definatly. And come independence there is resentment against that particular group. And often the "collabarators" are more educated and control the state appratus. As a result you have a situation where the  latter tries to repress the former.
 
3) The reason the Europeans left Africa is that W Europe( the main colonizers) was now itself a colony so to speak of the US. A country whose foreign policy since at least 1932 and throughout WWII was based on the dismantaling of empires. The resources argument dose not hold water I feel, since the Europeans devastated by WWII needed African resources more than ever. And you can see the attempts that were made to keep the empires, by Portugal (a country not decimated by war) by France and even by Britain and the attempts to sway the Americans by linking them with communism.
 
3) The example you gave about the Kinchasa-Brazziville is a valid one, but it overlooks that fact that a lot more direct a nations character and relations than mere physical distance. Those two countries were ruled by different powers. As a result they would have differnt outlooks, and that would be reflected in their infrastrcture. This happens world over. Israel is has more in common with Europe and the US than with its neighbours. pakistan and Iran share 3,00 years of common history, for many centuries if not millenia Persian was our tounge. But today I can say that Pakistan shares more with the UK than with Iran. Again this is reflected in infrastructure, I can go to the UK on several flights a week, but only onece a week to Tehran. And I don't see it as a problem of decolonisation, rather a normal condition of revolving around different poles.
 
4)I'll agree that the paucity of time given for Independence did not help. But india also had six weeks, from 3rd June to 14th August, to be precise. And since when has that prevented nations from building institutions before anyways?
 
The Germans also take vacations in Paris; especially during the periods they call "blitzkrieg".
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Decebal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Apr-2007 at 16:16

In answer to your points:

1. Borders are often arbitrary, but in Africa even more so. Switzerland is not a very good example, because the Swiss have a common identity which is independent of language and has a lot to do with geography and a common history. By contrast, in Africa, almost every country has several dozen languages spoken, and most of them do not share a common history, nor are they bound together by geography. Also, it should be noted that European countries are often quite stable due to their homogeneity. But this homogeneity has been attained after almost a century of wars, ethnic cleansing and forced migrations, and after centuries of assimilation. Just look at an ethnic map of Europe from 1914 and compare it with a recent map and you'll see what I mean. Africa is still undergoing this type of period.

3. I said that the main reason for decolonization was the realization by Europeans that they could still control most of their old colonies economically without incurring the expense of protecting them. I don't know where you got "resource argument" out of that. Certainly there are other factors, both cultural, economic and political but I didn't want to go into too much depth to start with.

4. The Indians knew that independence was coming since before the war. Also, the British colonial system in India was more inclusive of Indians than in Africa, especially when we look at non-British colonies. This would be a good time to talk about another major problem: education. India had a much larger educated class than virtually all African colonies, and thus had a lot more people ready to handle government duties.

"And since when has that prevented nations from building institutions before anyways?" - Who was in that position before, I might ask?
 

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Post Options Post Options   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Apr-2007 at 16:35
Hi Decebal,
 
Africa, Asia and Latin America suffered colonization with terrible effects. If you see the way that happened in Latin America or Asia, for instance, I would guess it was a lot more destructive and disrupting than in Africa.
 
In the 1960s, large parts of Asia and Latin America were at the same level of economic development that most of Africa, and in some cases even worst. Today, Africa is single out as the poorest place on the planet, a lot poorer than the average of both Asia and Latin America.
 
I don't believe we can blame that into colonization at all. Something went wrong in Africa but the responsability is of themselves. Free people has theirs destinity in theirs own hand and they are the ones to blame for failure or congratulate for achievements.
 
Africa, I am afraid, so far has failed. And it is its own fault.
 
Pinguin


Edited by pinguin - 27-Apr-2007 at 16:36
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Spartakus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2007 at 09:12

Very interesting.Direct exploitation of resources without any exhange can be seen even in 2007 ,with the most characteristic  example Niger .Niger is being exploited by international oil companies, but the country has not even a decent road system ,not to mention general infrastucture, relying on the Niger river for their transpotation, while politicians in the country can have houses with almost 300 rooms!

Another characteristic example is  Sierra Leone's conflict over it's diamond sources.In this case ,European companies (De Beers) and goverments (British goverment) acted in the old Colonial way, putting mercenaries to ensure the safety of those diamonds from the hands of the rebels.The ironic thing is that their capital is called Free Town.......
 
One can also notice the French influence in the continent in Sarkozy's trip to several African countries.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Maharbbal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2007 at 10:53
I'm not trying to excuse the West which is indeed strictly seeking its profit here (but after all why not?). The real problem is that the rent produced by a country's riches are not efficiently ventilated, actually the allocation of these riches is strictly monopolized by some elite (those who have places with 300 rooms).

Big oil are not necessarily 100% bad. See in Norway or the Emirate the rent is more or less shared equally and business goes very well. There are other places in the world where big oil companies' assets are even stolen by the governments. The real problem is the lack of popular accountability of the African governments.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2007 at 11:11

Half of Chilean cooper mines belong to foreign companies. However, the chilean state rent the ground, so the tax comes. Chile had so much money comming in from that concept alone that has to invest lot of that abroad to not collapse the internal economy and affect other exporters.

What I mean is that countries have to learn to control foreign investors with a good regulatory framework. In that way it works.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2007 at 20:46
While no one can deny that the colonial past of Africa has resulted in huge problems, one must also place the blame on African leaders themselves for not having learned from European colonisation.

Let's compare Zimbabe and its neighbour Botswana. Both former British colonies, yet Botswana is far better managed than Zimbabwe. Botswana enjoys relative stability and it is able to feed its people. Zimbabwe is starving, economically regressive, politically tyrranised by its leader who simple absolves himself of responsibility by scapegoating the country's most economically productive minorities and then persecuting them.

Today Botswana has a fence erected along the border with Zimbabwe, ostensibly to keep cattle in but unofficially to keep impoverished refugees out. After a quarter of a century in power Mugabe has driven his nation into the ground. And why not? He has elevated himself to cult status like many 1930s European dictators, has no accountability, rules through the military and has absolutely no incentive beyond ultruism to make any improvement to the lives of his people. Having wrecked their economy, he then bulldozes the shanty towns into which the impoverished populace have retreated to find shelter.

One can understand the necessity of strict authoritarian rule in African nations, but at a given point power does corrupt and authoritarian rule goes from being a necessary evil to just being a simple evil. Without developing a workable framework for the future once they are in power, these dictators simply turn the nation's budget into their own personal bank account. And often the argument that there is no capital or resources for economic reinvestment and development is not true. Equitorial Guinea is one example where a single family has commandeered hundreds of millions in oil revenue for themself while most people in the nation live on less than a dollar a day.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-May-2007 at 19:20

Of course there are tons of problems. Euorpeans came in, took millions of population for slave trade, ruined Africa' source of education and took away the places that could generate profits (Like in South Africa and Suez Canal. But most importantly, they came in as rulers. They set the laws, and were enforced by the European military. And then, they just... left. Who now enforce the law and order? That's what happened to India' independence. British enforced the laws that allowed Hindu and Muslim could live in fragile peace. They just left, without knowing that India' not ready for independece. And see what happened! Muslims practically had to run all the way to Pakistan with their lives while the Hindu extremists simply and literally slaughtered the ones that tried to flee.

 
Power comes with responsibility. You don't make a mess, and leave without cleaning them up. And they are suppose to be "civilized nations"... seriously...
     
   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-May-2007 at 23:32
The question is, would Africa be better if never colonized by the European powers?
 
Would it?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-May-2007 at 00:29
Good question, Pinguin. I am not sure if Africa would have been better off without European colonization... but I do know that if there were no mass slavery trade, then Africa may have been better place.
 
It would have been nice if the Europeans allowed the African government to be able to self - govern before they could just pull off... I know that would have made Africa a lot better place... but that would have been more money loss to the Europeans. 
     
   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Laine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-May-2007 at 03:36

I don't buy that Africa "failed" due to it's own mismanagment. Centuries of explotation and continued explotation by industrialized nations in Africa is horrendous. However I would say one of the greates negative aspects to Africa is it's lack of fertile soil in comparison to other nations in South America and in Asia.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-May-2007 at 23:53
You pointed to a real cause there. Africa has more people already that the one it can sustain.
 
In the case of South America, the land is unbelievable rich and even with circa 360 million people, most people lives in cities, and we are plenty of room. We could host ten times our population easily. That's not the case of Africa at all.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Laine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-May-2007 at 20:22
Exactly a country and a people in order to be succesful must have the means to support their own food supply. There are many issues at play but Africa simply does not have the fertile soil to support such numbers.
 
It is interesting that you mention South America's soil fertility. Have you ever heard much of Terra Cotta?(SP?) It was supposedly used by the people in Amazonia to make their soils fertile.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-May-2007 at 21:05
I don't know Laine. I heard that Sudan, arguably the poorest nation in the world, is capable of feeding all people of Sudan. It's just that most of the grains are either given to the elites or are exported for profit.
     
   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Laine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-May-2007 at 21:17
I would have you see this study and see what you think. Across the board Africa as a continent has not developed the limited agriculture that it could sustain. I am sure there are individual nations that can do this but corruption exists every where not just Africa.
 


Edited by Laine - 08-May-2007 at 21:17
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-May-2007 at 14:42
Originally posted by Laine

I would have you see this study and see what you think. Across the board Africa as a continent has not developed the limited agriculture that it could sustain. I am sure there are individual nations that can do this but corruption exists every where not just Africa.
 
 
Of course you are right. All the elites control the wealth so that the majority of the people (Commoners) would be busy trying to make enough money for their survival. That way, the commoners would not be able to pay too much attention on the politics. You should read Orwell's idea about why poverty still exists. We have machines and other efficient stuff that could help raising the standard of living. The elites have to make money and at the same time, make sure that the commoners do not become wealthy. This is one of the reasons why we have pointless wars.
 
I will look at the study that you showed. I need to get to my class soon...
     
   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Kapikulu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-May-2007 at 20:47
Unfortunately Africa is just de facto decolonized...
What happened in colonialism just continues in the same way...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Mughal e Azam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Feb-2008 at 19:34
I dont believe Africa is screwed up only because of colonialism.
 
Africa, primarily, is screwed up because of Africans.
 
Im a man who realizes nothing is done for you, unless you make an effort to do it. Im sorry, but my parents fed me until age 5, and afterwards made me do it. My mom wiped my ass until age 6. Ive been doing it since then. My dad helped me with my homework up to ninth grade; afterwards I learned to be resourceful and use online, or professional after school help. Also use other students knowledge.
 
India was colonized; China was screwed up; North Africa was badly screwed; South East Asia was colonized (Phillipines after all were still tribes until the Spanish arrived) and even Arabia was a tribal land. All these people managed; what makes Africans so inherently useless or powerless that they cant?
 
In the Muslim community, there are 3 groups that are blamed for everything, from terrorist attacks to snowfall to assasinations to high price of wheat:
1. Israel
2. United States
3. Russia
 
This is a defeatist argument. It is natural for one group to try and outdo another. And if you are overpowered by them; well maybe thats just the way its to be. When my University Professor hands me back a grade of 73% on a Final; I dont blame her for making it hard (unless it truly was out of this world difficult, agreed by the whole student body).
 
If people like Mugabe, Mobutu, and such rule Africa, how the hell is it to prevail? These people are such animals they have the audacity to fly to Paris to shop for clothes, and come back on a private jet, while their people toil on communal farms.
 
Reasons Why Africa Is Horrible
1. African Rulers inept
2. lack of cohesion between a kabillion ethnic groups
3. lack of education
4. foreigners influencing from outside
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Feb-2008 at 23:38
Originally posted by Laine

...
It is interesting that you mention South America's soil fertility. Have you ever heard much of Terra Cotta?(SP?) It was supposedly used by the people in Amazonia to make their soils fertile.
 
I have. It is interesting, but I was not talking about Amazonia.
South America, in general, produces a lot more food that can consume. Not only that, we are a land blessed by nature with an amazing diversity of landscapes, that can grow anything, from grapes to tropical fruts and from wheat to rice and quinoa.
 
Besides, we are not overpopulated at all. We are a huge continent, twice the size of U.S.A. with half its people, and most living in large cities while most the countryside has low densities of population.
 
 
 
 
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