The consequences of European Colonization on African people

The Byproduct of European Colonization on African people

“That Africa has been an “altruistic repository” were all western media search and tap their awful stories and news to tell the world is a fact we have to live with. Most times, they paint Africa more than “black” that it is. This Article takes another dimension to point out that Africa before the colonialist attack is not that bad. It stresses that the major problems of Africa now may have been caused by the marauders and imperialist from the western world.

 Have you ever travelled outside of Africa before? Or have you ever been confronted with questions that are based on a stereotype? Maybe you have (not). To be direct, examples of stereotypical questions goes this way -:  Where are you from? If you happen to say Africa or any country in Africa, The next question maybe. Is there any building in your country? Or do you guys still live on trees? Or is there a war going on in your country now?  Or you may expect another common rehearse verse of BBC which is; what is the population of HIV patients? Or what is your government like …… and so on?

Comrades, each moment, we are confronted with such interrogations. It triggers a sensitive chord in my inner consciousness. Personally, when these questions are directed to me, what goes through my mind is picturing Africa before and Africa after western colonization. I severally asked myself how Mr Africa is before the European invasion. Was Africa that bad before they came to strip her off of her values and wealth? Then also I ask myself another question, Was Africa better or worse off after European colonization? Maybe you know the answer.

However, all available evidence from the history of Africa to the eve of the European colonization shows that African society was neither classless nor devoid of a social hierarchy. African societies functioned through an elaborate system based on the family, lineage, the clan, the tribe, and ultimately a confederation of groups with ethnic, cultural, and linguistic characteristics in common.

These were the units of social, economic, and political organizations and inter-communal relations, and these frameworks were working well. Yet these values were given up when marauding exploiters from east and west trampled on the African innate virtues with impunity, stripping the people of the dignity of building their nations on their own indigenous values, institutions, and heritage. It would be better put that the modern-day African state is the product of Europe, not Africa. This is a big problem that has eaten deep into Africa and continues to cause havoc to the people of African origin.

The Byproduct of European Colonization on African people

In this article, we did a full assessment of how possible it is for Africa to rediscover her identity and what she can do to redeem her pride. It is very difficult if not impossible to attempt at this late date to return to ancestral identities and resources as bases for building the modern African nation because it would risk the collapse of many African countries. At the same time, to disregard ethnic realities would be to build on loose sand, also a high-risk exercise. Therefore, is it possible to consolidate the framework of the modern African state while giving recognition and maximum utility to the component elements of ethnicities, cultures, and aspirations for self-determination?

A review of some glaring cases will serve to drive this point home. In the process of colonial state-formation; groups were divided or brought together with little or no regard to their common distinctive attributes. They were placed in new administrative frameworks, governed by new values, new institutions, and new operational principles and techniques. The autonomous local outlook of the old order was replaced by the control mechanisms of the state, in which the ultimate authority was an outsider, a foreigner. This mechanism functioned through the centralization of power, which ultimately rested on police and military force. National resources were otherwise extracted and exported as raw materials to feed the metropolitan industries of the colonial masters. Development was conceived as a means of receiving basic services from the State, rather than as a process of growth and collective accumulation of wealth that could, in turn, be invested in further growth.

To be sure, Africa’s peculiar state of comparative retrogression to the rest of the world cannot be attributed only to colonialist oppression. In the words of one report, their era has not always been so desperate. The immediate post-independence period which was characterized by political euphoria and great economic expectations had registered some solid achievements to its credit. Economic performance was largely respectable, as demonstrated by growth in per capita income, saving, investment and export earnings.

European Contribution: There were also significant achievements in the social field, especially in health and education. One thing we should understand is that the factors that account for the African predicament are many and inter-locking, and some are of internal origin while others are externally generated. They include misguided policies, rapid population growth, environmental degradation, civil strife, and an unfavourable international economic environment, on top of the underlying basic structural problems inherent in the state of underdevelopment.

Suggestions and Actions to Alleviate African Problem

Nevertheless, having laid to rest the pains and the shames of the past and have forgiven but not forgotten; we should not continue to point an accusing finger to anyone but look into our problem objectively and resolve on how to better our continent.

Policies of Adjustment

There has been a collective attempt to grapple with the African crisis, but it would be fair to state that what has been generally attempted have been policies of adjustment, some initiated by the government themselves, but more often with the firm insistence of the international financial institution. However, the adjustment programme has seldom delivered on their promises. Even worse, the available evidence suggests that they may have accentuated the deterioration in the human condition. In Nigeria, the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA), which put the accent on strategies of self-reliance, food self-sufficiency, industrialization and regional integration, was implemented. But the LPA was short on achievement.

This was followed in 1985 by the launching of Africa’s Priority Programme for Economic Recovery 1986-90 (APPER) followed by the United Nations Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development 1986-1990 (UN-PAAERD), which was subsequently adopted by the UN General Assembly. This document was lauded at the time of its launching as “a unique compact between Africa and the international community”. But, as the final review of the Programme revealed, the results were unsatisfactory and the Programme’s targets, obligations and orientation remained dead letters.

In view of this, the General Assembly of the United Nations further adopted the New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s (UN-NADAF) to “serve as a catalyst, giving political impulse and strength to the other activities going on within and outside of Africa”. The priority objectives of the New Agenda are “accelerated transformation, integration, diversification and growth of the African economies, in order to strengthen them within the world economy, reduce their vulnerability to external shocks and increase their dynamism, internalize the process of development and enhance self-reliance”.

More relevant to the concern of this paper is that the Agenda “also accords special attention to human development and increased progress towards the achievement of human-oriented goals by the year 2020 in the areas of life expectancy, integration of women in development, child and maternal mortality, nutrition, health, water and sanitation, basic education and shelter”.

The significance of the Agenda lies in its recognition of the extreme gravity of the African situation and in its affirmation that the concerted efforts of the international community would be indispensable in dealing with the crisis. Yet, as the experience with UN-PAAERD clearly demonstrated, lofty expressions are one thing, while implementation is an altogether different matter. Moreover, as important as international assistance is, the fundamental fact remains that the ultimate responsibility for reversing Africa’s economic and social decline resides with the African peoples and their leaders. This is why the commitment to change must begin at home.

It is in this spirit that the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) launched an alternative framework for African development in 1989 in the form of the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programmes for Socio-economic Recovery and Transformation (AAF-SAP). Starting from a critique of standard Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) as being excessively concerned with adjustment to the neglect of long-term development issues, AAF-SAP argues for adjustment with transformation. This is based on the view that it cannot be assumed that the classical instruments of control of money supply, credit squeeze, exchange rate and interest rate adjustments, trade liberalization, etc., which may be valid in well-structured economies, could bring about positive results in African economies characterized by weak and disarticulate structures. While recognizing the need to curb inflation and to address fiscal and external imbalances and other shocks through the selective use of these instruments, AAF-SAF recommended that adjustment programmes should simultaneously address both short- to medium-term as well as the structural transformation problems of the African economies

Sound Economic management and Stable Political environment

As we follow up this pragmatic progress, it is being increasingly recognized that development requires more than sound economic management. A stable and secure political environment is no less important. The causes of political conflict and instability in many countries are often complex and intractable. Be that as it may, the current wave of democratic reforms in the region augurs well for the future although democratic structures of governance remain fragile. Nonetheless, the consolidation of democratic processes and increased harmony within and between African states remains a precondition for progress.

Over and beyond issues of governance and economic management, it has also become clear that the world economy is driven more and more by innovations in science, technology and information management. As the phenomenon of globalization intensifies, it integrates advances in information dissemination with innovations in international finance, production and distribution. While Africa remains enthralled by the demands of sheer survival, its diverse economic agents must increase their efficiency, effectiveness and productivity so as to become competitive within the global system as soon as practicably possible. “It is a call to master new production techniques to convert Africa’s resource endowments and other potential strengths into new comparative advantages, to adopt new approaches in organizing and managing human, financial and material resources and to seek and expand new markets with new aggressiveness”.

Moreover, the challenge of sustainable development demands of Africans that they make careful, well-informed trade-offs that maximize the rate of economic growth, with the most impact on poverty alleviation and minimize negative impacts on the environment. This requires not only increased awareness but also sound analytical capacities in African public, private and voluntary sectors to make these trade-offs.

In addition, the pandemic of HIV/AIDS casts a dark shadow over human capital accumulation, workforce stability and productivity in the region. This, to be sure, is a world-wide tribulation, but the spread of the disease in Africa has been accelerated by inauspicious economic conditions including the under-funding of health programmes and the spread of prostitution associated with chronic unemployment. Africa’s human resources remain its main agents of future growth and prosperity. A new resolve to reduce the devastating impact of the disease must be a leading priority.

Synergy

More importantly, it has become clear that the answer to socio-economic revitalization does not lie with governments alone, nor with private entrepreneurs and voluntary organizations alone. Past strategies that emphasized only one set of actors must be replaced with one that emphasizes the role that everybody has and potentially can play and the interdependence of these roles. New strategies, approaches, institutions and processes of development management will, therefore, be needed to achieve this kind of co-operation and co-ordination across sectors. Indeed, management and institutional capacity at all levels and in all sectors have become a vital requirement for sustained and sustainable development in the region.

What makes this challenge particularly daunting is that Africa’s current population of 622 million is growing at a fast rate of 3.1 per cent. Without a reduction of this rate of increase and the implementation of comprehensive human-centred development strategies and policies, the sheer explosion in numbers will translate itself into unmanageable pressure on social services and a further deepening of the economic, human and environmental crises.

Post-colonial Africa stands between rediscovering its roots-its indigenous values, institutions, and experiences-and pursuing the logic of the colonial state in the context of universalizing modernity, primarily based on western experience. The resulting tensions cannot be easily resolved. But an eclectic process that fashions a system in which ethnic groups can play a constructive role in the modern Africa state could significantly reduce the tension, foster cooperation, and facilitate the process of nation-building.

Conclusion

Finally, as the modern African is the creation of European conquest, restructuring the continent, linking it to the international system, and re-conceptualizing and reconstituting the state will require the cooperation of Africa’s global partner. Outside actors can offer an objective and impartial perspective that can be pivotal to balancing the concerns of the internal actors.

 

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
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