Oct 22, 2019 in Political

Two Sides of Colonialism

Colonialism is often viewed as a negative force, which only exploited third world countries with its single goal to produce resources. The local population was mostly deprived from human and civil rights by colonists. However, colonial empires did not always merely use the local population and land. On the other hand, the total control over African economy by European empires created serious difficulties for contemporary local governments. Additionally, the constant violation of human and civil rights during the colonial period cause a negative impact on the political situation in Africa. Moreover, this continent cannot control its own industry properly due to the lack of experience in this sphere, which has been preciously regulated by colonial governments. In many cases, due to their metropolises, colonies acquired better industry, education, healthcare, and infrastructure. However, they cannot completely outweigh the negative effects of colonization, which still prevent African countries from getting sufficient economy and political stability as well as arranging an effective struggle against famine and epidemics.

Firstly, it is important to avoid a one-sided attitude about colonialism. The reason is that only a broader way of looking at this issue allows a comprehensive understanding of colonialism in Africa. For instance, the Roman colonization of Europe has laid the foundation of the Western civilization and progress. One could hardly deny positive effects of Roman colonization. The reason is that Romans have greatly contributed to the political, cultural, and industrial sides of Europe. All in all, it has given birth to numerous European empires, such as the British Empire, Spain, France, etc. It is evident that colonization can be beneficial both for a metropolis and a colony. However, it is only possible when the target of it is not the destruction and devastation of land, but development of the colony for its greater profit. Undoubtedly, in case of Africa, one cannot argue without doubts that European colonists did not devastate the continent for the own benefits.

Secondly, one should adequately realize what Africa had been before the European colonization and what it became after it. According to Settles, “African states had engaged in international trade from the time of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, and West Africa specifically had developed extensive international trading systems during the eras of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai”. However, colonialism has completely diminished the self-sufficient African trade, after finding the greatest resource of the Black Continent and starting the intercontinental slave trade. Obviously, there is no necessity to argue about negative effects of slave trade on Africa. Nowadays, after the colonial era, the African economy greatly depends on Europe. It is still full of raw materials and precious resources, but it does not improve the life conditions of simple Africans as it is supposed to do. Mwakikagile claims that “in the 1960s African elites/rulers, instead of focusing on development, took surplus for their own enormous entourages of civil servants without ploughing anything back into the country”. As a result, the average African nowadays is much poorer than during the colonial era. Africa is usually associated with starving children, extreme poverty, an enormous crime rate, and civil wars. Furthermore, this continent is the only continent where poverty has increased in the past 20 years, according to the United Nations report. Africa has the lowest living standards, where the greater part of the population is starving and suffering from various lethal diseases. Additionally, the endless civil wars and battles for power between different criminal groups do not allow the continent to recover, neither economically nor politically.


At the same time, Africa is incredibly rich for precious mineral resources, which have always attracted European colonists. Their great deposits of mineral resources as well as human ones for slavery trade have encouraged European colonists to invade Africa. Gradually, colonists exhausted the continent out, improving the economy of their own states at the same time. Meanwhile in the era of the New Imperialism, they also preferred to develop the industry and resource production for greater profit. However, it was not the overall phenomenon and European metropolises not always needed to strengthen the African economy. European empires were mostly aimed at total control of the economy in Africa. For this reason, “the British opposed the general development of palm oil plantation in Nigeria”, although it was not profitable and did not ensure quality production of oil. This case is not the only one; and, in general, throughout the history, European colonists did not allow Africa do develop enough to compete with a metropolis. Although colonists did not always improve the economy and industry of the continent, it is hard to neglect their positive influence on the development of the continent.

However, one could hardly deny that some African regions were completely uncivilized just before colonization. Nevertheless, on the other hand, it is quite questionable whether Africans needed Western civilization. All in all, one of the most beneficial effects of colonization for this continent was the Christianization, waged by European colonists. It helped to decrease the illiteracy rate among population and shaped the modern African culture. Another positive improvement is a health car because before colonization healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa had been extremely poor. Generally, colonists have greatly contributed to the construction of modern Africa, building hospitals, universities and roads, developing mining industry that is leading in many African countries, and improving healthcare. On the other hand, the intervention of colonists into domestic African affairs does not leave Africans even nowadays after half a century after this process. Additionally, most of those facilities were built personally by Africans that had been supervised by Europeans. Hence, the achievements of colonialism in Africa are also questionable.

Recently, it is a great issue of repatriation of profits and compensation of damages, caused during the colonial period. Mwakikagile considers that Africans should solve their problems themselves without blaming American or British imperialism. In his opinion, “freedom entails and demands responsibility” while “freedom without responsibility leads to anarchy”. In many ways, his point of view reflects the current events that took place in Africa. Most disasters of the modern continent are caused by local political leaders who cannot divide the power and money between each other. As a result, many states are completely devastated and ruined while they were prosperous under the colonial rule. Nevertheless, Mwakikagile does not mention the impact of colonialism on modern African rulers and African economy, which is still dependent from the outer world. All in all, the negative contribution of African rulers is evident and current living of simple Africans is not much different from colonial times.

If earlier people in colonized Africa were exploited by European colonists, now they are exploited by the corrupted government of their own country. In 1960, their struggle finished when almost all African countries got their independence simultaneously. Nevertheless, the so called Year of Africa gave them artificial and formal freedom. Meanwhile actually most of them still can be called slaves. The current situation in Africa makes people leave their homeland for developed Western countries where they are looking for better standards of life and education. Often they do not find what they need, but, at least, they keep away from famine and poor healthcare. Unfortunately, the more Africans choose immigration the more difficult the situation in Africa as well as Europe becomes. Therefore saving this continent should be of paramount importance for the international community.

The best thing that the world society can do for Africa is to compensate damages caused by colonization and take all efforts to maintain democracy. It is significant to prevent violence and corruption in the region. Perhaps, it might include direct or indirect intervention into domestic affairs of Africans. It is paradoxical, but it is now an only way to save simple Africans from their corrupted leaders, such as Mugabe and others who only terrorize their people. On the other hand, all these constant aids, political and economic control may deprive African countries of their own independence and self-sufficiency. It may turn into another period of colonization. Thus, the international community must solve a great dilemma of whether they should fully cover the political, economic and social development of this continent or not. However, it would probably turn independent African countries into colonies again. On the other hand, total non-intervention would make Africa live in a complete chaos without any chance for its improvement.

Undoubtedly, European colonists have greatly improved the industry and infrastructure of this country. Many of these benefits Africa is reaping today. However, the continent is also reaping other negative effects of colonization, which dramatically outweigh the positive ones. It is also a responsibility of the former empires to maintain stability in their former colonies. Nevertheless, without any doubt, many problems of contemporary Africa have been caused by an unprofessional administration. The international community has to teach Africans how to make profit from their vast deposits of valuable resources. At the same time, it is important to avoid an effect of colonization. Hence, a sufficient plan for saving Africa must be composed by the international community. The welfare of this continent would be also beneficial for developed countries, which are now providing considerable amounts of humanitarian aid to Africans.


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