DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?
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Thread: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

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    Default DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    I thought this would be a fun filled discussion for people to get involved in but before we do here are some quick ground rules

    - Be respectful to each others opinions
    - Do not attack a user directly or personally insult them
    - Keep in mind that if you agree or disagree, please explain why. We don't want single word answers basically.



    The Race for Africa was it is known was a period in the mid 19th to early 20th century, where several European countries sought after colonizing Africa like they had in Asia and South America. These countries were France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy and Great Britain.

    Former Belgium Colonies: Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi

    Former French Colonies - Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Madagascar, Comoros and Djibouti

    Former German Colonies - Parts of Nigeria, Cameroon, Parts of Togo

    Former Italian Colonies - Libya, Eritrea and Somaliland

    Former Portuguese Colonies - Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and Sao Tome & Principe.

    Former British Colonies - Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Namibia, The Gambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland.

    A lot of these colonies declared independence around the 1960's onwards as Ghana was said to be a trendsetter. South African and Liberia (US colony till 1847) were earlier. From there several of these countries endured hardships including civil war, economic issues, lack of economic development, corruption, political instability, poverty, HIV AIDS and numerous of coups. However there were several positives but it is dependent on the country that colonized it as for example a British colony would be far different from a Portuguese one.

    So what are your thoughts?

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    Where the Shadows lie Phoenicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Here's a wonderful long-form essay on the subject (whose rhetoric I disavow but whose research is impeccable). A few choice quotations:

    Zimbabwe elections: Why is nobody dancing after Mugabe's latest win? - CNN.com

    The Zanu-PF’s “victory” must be considered in the light of the following: This is a country where 95% of the population is unemployed; an estimated 25% live and work in the diaspora to keep their relatives back home fed and at school; 15% are orphans (largely as a result of the AIDS pandemic). It is therefore pretty easy to buy people — and votes.
    Children in Congo forced into exorcisms - USATODAY.com

    According to a United Nations report issued this year, a growing number of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being accused of witchcraft and subjected to violent exorcisms by religious leaders, in which they are often beaten, burned, starved and even murdered.
    Congo rebels are eating pygmies, UN says | World news | The Guardian

    Cannibalism has re-emerged throughout eastern Congo as the last vestiges of colonial influence have been eroded during the war.
    Here's another good source:

    The Failure of Democracy in Africa - Taki's Magazine

    Most of the Black African nations that gained independence after Ghana followed its path by establishing one-party dictatorships. Observers soon began to describe the practice of democracy in Africa as ‘one-man, one-vote, one-time’. In many of the cases, the winning political party at the independence elections used its majority in the national parliament, to pass legislation outlawing the existence of opposition political parties. This left the ruling party with a monopoly of power. This trend challenged the widely held notion that pure democracy leads to more freedom. If anything, in many countries, Africans enjoyed greater personal freedom and prosperity under colonial rule, than they do today under independent governments. While opposition parties have been permitted to exist in some countries in the last few years, the oppressive habits associated with one-party dictatorial rule have been hard to break.

    ...

    As one can expect, the anti-white hatred that the ANC and PAC stirred up during the era of white rule, did not dissipate with the coming of majority rule. The ANC leadership blames all its failures on whites and the supposed ‘legacy of apartheid’. There has also been an explosion in the rate of violent crime, in which whites have been disproportionately targeted, and which the ANC has shown an unwillingness to deal with. Some 210,000 blacks and 40,000 whites have been murdered since 1994. When he was challenged on his failure to tackle violent crime, the South African Security Minister, Charles Nqakula, told his critics that if they were unhappy with the conditions in South Africa they should leave the country. His statement was widely understood as being targeted at South African whites.
    The thread question is as broad as the continent it concerns. But Wikipedia perhaps offers the concisest summary when it says:

    Today, Africa contains 54 sovereign countries, most of which have borders that were drawn during the era of European colonialism. Since colonialism, African states have frequently been hampered by instability, corruption, violence, and authoritarianism. The vast majority of African states are republics that operate under some form of the presidential system of rule. However, few of them have been able to sustain democratic governments on a permanent basis, and many have instead cycled through a series of coups, producing military dictatorships.
    Post-colonial Africa has seen famine in Ethiopia, and Civil War after Civil War across the continent.

    Perhaps, with modern technology and wealth there are some places in Africa better today than before. But if we leveled technology to look at the political situation, I can think of very few African nations performing better today than they did under colonial rule.
    "The inward skies of man will accompany him across any void upon which he ventures and will be with him to the end of time." -- Loren Eiseley

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Well that's all well and good but personally what do you think?

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    I honestly do not know what to think about this. To say that European colonization had a positive impact would be a fallacy. The real question is, would Africa have done better if the Europeans had not colonized? I highly doubt that. While the rest of the world was industrializing and advancing scientifically Africans still lived very primitive lives. Considering the lack of contact with the outside world, without European colonization I doubt they would have advanced at all. I believe Africa today would be better in the context that there would be less genocides and corruption and dictatorships as the artificially drawn borders would not exist. However they would be worse off on a developmental standpoint. They would still live primitive lives. It can be argued that the Europeans raped the land of natural resources leaving none for the locals but I highly doubt the natives would've done anything with them.

    tl;dr Africa is screwed either way.

    Y > X

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Just from a layman's perspective it was a terrible thing for Africa they had their country strip mined for resources both human and mineral. If history turned out differently you could have some of the richest countries on earth over there. Instead you have constant barbarism and famine which can be blamed on propped up war lords and religious zeal. Either way I can't see western countries colonizing Africa for the reason of making their own empire even more powerful is a good thing.

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lyrebird View Post
    Well that's all well and good but personally what do you think?
    That 'good' is a nebulous term.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jolene View Post
    To say that European colonization had a positive impact would be a fallacy.
    Why?

    It can be argued that the Europeans raped the land of natural resources leaving none for the locals but I highly doubt the natives would've done anything with them.
    This is rather closer to what Beijing is doing than what Europe did.

    But this has three consequences. First, the minerals that China extracts are always worth more than the infrastructure it builds. Put bluntly, Beijing always takes out more than it puts in (that is the whole point of the exercise).
    While opposition leader in 2007, Sata said: “We want the Chinese to leave and the old colonial rulers to return. They exploited our natural resources too, but at least they took good care of us. They built schools, taught us their language and brought us the British civilisation. At least Western capitalism has a human face; the Chinese are only out to exploit us.”
    The same man who built De Beers also backed The Cape to Cairo Railway. (Recall that the Rhodes Colossus, one of the great caricatures of Europe in Africa remembered today, was made after Cecil Rhodes announced plans for a Cape Town-to-Cairo telegraph line.) The Suez Canal was built by the French and the British. Even today Europeans still spend millions on African infrastructure.

    Anyways, the Europeans left enough resources for the Chinese to exploit them in the end.
    "The inward skies of man will accompany him across any void upon which he ventures and will be with him to the end of time." -- Loren Eiseley

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Quote Originally Posted by Phoenicks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jolene View Post
    To say that European colonization had a positive impact would be a fallacy.
    Why?
    Most African nations are corrupt, war torn and poverty stricken. I'd say this is more to blame on rapid decolonization than the colonialism itself, but it is still a major factor. That factor being the mental impact. While the Europeans colonized they hammered into the psyche of the natives that Europeans were superior. This mentality remains to this day. No matter how much money in aid the industrialized nations throw at Africa nothing will change unless Africans shrug off this belief.

    The legacy of colonialism is what the Chinese are currently exploiting. Most Africans believe that their saviors are from elsewhere so they welcomed the Chinese with open arms and now they are regretting it. Hopefully this will encourage them to stand on their own feet and choose their own paths although I'm not optimistic based on the track record of African nations choosing their own destinies. All of this is a result of the previously mentioned notion of cultural and racial inferiority.
    Last edited by Jolene; 21st July 2014 at 02:22 PM.

    Y > X

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jolene View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Phoenicks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jolene View Post
    To say that European colonization had a positive impact would be a fallacy.
    Why?
    Most African nations are corrupt, war torn and poverty stricken. I'd say this is more to blame on rapid decolonization than the colonialism itself, but it is still a major factor. That factor being the mental impact. While the Europeans colonized they hammered into the psyche of the natives that Europeans were superior. This mentality remains to this day. No matter how much money in aid the industrialized nations throw at Africa nothing will change unless Africans shrug off this belief.

    The legacy of colonialism is what the Chinese are currently exploiting. Most Africans believe that their saviors are from elsewhere so they welcomed the Chinese with open arms and now they are regretting it. Hopefully this will encourage them to stand on their own feet and choose their own paths although I'm not optimistic based on the track record of African nations choosing their own destinies. All of this is a result of the previously mentioned notion of cultural and racial inferiority.
    At some point Africans start being responsible for African history. It's patronizing of the worst sort that suggests that Africa is responsible for its successes, but Europe for Africa's failures. (George Bush might have called that the soft bigotry of low expectations.)

    (The sheer number of African Independence Movements that fought Empire on grounds involving black nationalism, socialist struggle, or Imperial exploitation attests to the fact that colonization and decolonization are not the same.)

    If colonization was bad because the cessation of it was bad, you have a contradiction.

    As it was, there were many positive and negative effects of colonization and decolonization. But I don't see why it's a fallacy to say that colonization had a positive impact.
    "The inward skies of man will accompany him across any void upon which he ventures and will be with him to the end of time." -- Loren Eiseley

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Quote Originally Posted by Phoenicks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jolene View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Phoenicks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jolene View Post
    To say that European colonization had a positive impact would be a fallacy.
    Why?
    Most African nations are corrupt, war torn and poverty stricken. I'd say this is more to blame on rapid decolonization than the colonialism itself, but it is still a major factor. That factor being the mental impact. While the Europeans colonized they hammered into the psyche of the natives that Europeans were superior. This mentality remains to this day. No matter how much money in aid the industrialized nations throw at Africa nothing will change unless Africans shrug off this belief.

    The legacy of colonialism is what the Chinese are currently exploiting. Most Africans believe that their saviors are from elsewhere so they welcomed the Chinese with open arms and now they are regretting it. Hopefully this will encourage them to stand on their own feet and choose their own paths although I'm not optimistic based on the track record of African nations choosing their own destinies. All of this is a result of the previously mentioned notion of cultural and racial inferiority.
    At some point Africans start being responsible for African history. It's patronizing of the worst sort that suggests that Africa is responsible for its successes, but Europe for Africa's failures. (George Bush might have called that the soft bigotry of low expectations.)

    (The sheer number of African Independence Movements that fought Empire on grounds involving black nationalism, socialist struggle, or Imperial exploitation attests to the fact that colonization and decolonization are not the same.)

    If colonization was bad because the cessation of it was bad, you have a contradiction.

    As it was, there were many positive and negative effects of colonization and decolonization. But I don't see why it's a fallacy to say that colonization had a positive impact.
    I admit I should have worded it differently. Don't confuse me with one of those "the west is responsible for everything wrong in the world" types. Colonialism did have a negative impact nonetheless. My main point was that Africa might not have been much better off had the Europeans not arrived.

    I grew up in the Caribbean, which has a similar colonial history to that of Africa and I have seen the firsthand the legacy of Europeans essentially saying that all dark skinned people are inferior. To this day many people believe that. Heck, the British convinced my Portuguese ancestors that they weren't white. That has a lasting impact as the locals believe that they cannot do anything on their own and become dependent. How can a country advance, if nobody in the country believes it can?

    Y > X

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Economically it was good for Africa yes, as well as countries such as India.

    Take Zimbabwe as one example, when we (British) left it was a breadbasket, one of the richest countries in Africa, now Mugabe has taken control and they are starving and poor.
    With all the different tribes and factions much of Africa is ungovernable, and sometimes you need a strongman to step in, take control and build the country.

    Libya actually thrived after the end of colonization, but only when Gadaffi took charge, again Gadaffi was a horrible dictator, but he did wonders for Libya's economy, again one of the highest GDI in Africa, now the civil war over through him, and one again, different tribes and factions are fighting each other and the Libyan economy is in the tank and people dodge bullets in the streets.

    So it depends what you want. You need strong leadership to get a strong economy, stronger leadership is required in Africa because of all the factions.
    So cast off that oppressor by all means, democracy is your right, but just bare in mind it will probably do a LOT of damage to your standard of living.

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Quote Originally Posted by Solayoh View Post
    stronger leadership is required in Africa because of all the factions.
    This is a really good point that partially answers Jolene; European economies and polities require European societies, which Africa...

    So cast off that oppressor by all means, democracy is your right, but just bare in mind it will probably do a LOT of damage to your standard of living.
    (I like the way Radishmag puts it: "As in: given the choice between (a) peace, plenty, good health and rule of law, without “freedom,” and (b) civil war, poverty, corrupt government and the collapse of medical care, with “freedom,” " -- and I have to ask, what is freedom or democracy that it compensates for crime, civil war, poverty, etc. etc.?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jolene View Post
    I admit I should have worded it differently. Don't confuse me with one of those "the west is responsible for everything wrong in the world" types. Colonialism did have a negative impact nonetheless. My main point was that Africa might not have been much better off had the Europeans not arrived.

    I grew up in the Caribbean, which has a similar colonial history to that of Africa and I have seen the firsthand the legacy of Europeans essentially saying that all dark skinned people are inferior. To this day many people believe that. Heck, the British convinced my Portuguese ancestors that they weren't white. That has a lasting impact as the locals believe that they cannot do anything on their own and become dependent. How can a country advance, if nobody in the country believes it can?
    The bold seems a contradiction -- if Colonialism isn't worse than what might have been, how do we know it had a negative impact?

    Well, the beliefs of people are important. But there were so many movements of the type "Black is Beautiful" throughout the colonized world that I'd like some sources before believing that being Colonized caused lasting national traumas.
    "The inward skies of man will accompany him across any void upon which he ventures and will be with him to the end of time." -- Loren Eiseley

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    I think there's a big point that's being missed here, and that's why the civil wars are occurring. They don't just spontaneously happen, you know, and really isn't much reason if a country has a stable government. So what causes civil wars? Answer: division of interests, usually along pre-existing cultural lines.

    We saw it in the US civil war when the southern plantation culture fought against the northern industrial culture. We saw it in Russia when the royalists fought the communists (an attempted counter-revolution of sorts). Why are we seeing it in Africa, of all places? They're all African, why are they fighting each other?

    That's sort of like saying that the majority of countries in WW2 were all European, so it made no sense to fight each other.

    Before the scramble for Africa, the country was already divided along tribal lines. This tribe held this territory, that tribe over there, et cetera. Each tribe, for the most part, had their own pantheon, culture, and laws. These tribes had a system of inter-tribal governance that basically amounted to "everyone gang up on the biggest tribe". There were no alliances beyond taking down the biggest tribe, they banded together for the sole reason of cutting the biggest tribe down to size, because the biggest tribe was a threat to the independence of the others. For some reason, this confused the Europeans (probably because there was relatively little long-term conquest), so they said "screw it, this is my land and it follows me and my alliances". That confused the tribesmen, because alliances weren't things of great permanence and weren't necessary unless one tribe was threatening the others.

    Flash forward a few decades, and we see the various European powers begin to settle along the coast, and to claim land in the interior. When the Europeans draw their maps, they divide the land by who has settled where, and not by tribal regions. This is key later.

    A special case, though, is Ethiopia. Ethiopia, upon seeing the Europeans completely annihilate the other tribes, scraped together resources enough to buy modern weapons and to pay for the training of soldiers. When Italy wandered in looking for territory, the Ethiopians were ready and completely trounced the invading force. They kept their independence until just before WW2, when the fascist Italians blitzkrieg'd their way into the country. When Italy was overthrown and forced into a republic, Ethiopia was forgotten about and ignored, causing the modern poverty.

    Anyways. Colonies happened, colonial wars were fought, and the Europeans claimed everything. There was some conference somewhere in Europe, and everything in Africa was divided among those present, which did not include any Africans.

    All right, so forward a couple of years. What happens next?

    Naturally, the countries begin to want independence, with nationalists abound sharing the idea of their tribal people getting back together. They are granted their wishes. But the key right here is that the new countries don't follow tribal lines. It was actually intentional, so that some bureaucrats could keep general power over the country. In the case of English colonies, it was specifically set up so that, in every country, there was a 70% majority group, a 20% minority group that was given political control, and a 10% minority group to threaten the 20% group with. This caused the unrest in South Africa, India, Iraq, you name it. I don't know for certain, but I think this was the root cause of the Sudanese civil war that broke the country in half. But you get the idea, the majority didn't like minority rule, and the 2nd minority was screwed either way. I can bet that the other countries did something similar, but I don't know for sure.

    When the countries were formed, they were formed around European lines and not tribal lines. So now you've got big tribes split up amongst three or four smaller countries that want independence. You've got smaller tribes in the majority, with minorities of other tribes that treated them badly in the past. They are in a position to oppress the tribes that oppressed them, and they take it.

    Every now and then, someone in a country decides to unite the squabbling tribes. However, they usually choose to do this militarily instead of diplomatically, conquering their foes instead of getting them to resolve their conflicts. They do what they need to so that they inspire fear, which lets them get away with conquering more tribes. Whether that's mutilating children or burning/raping villages, it is all intended to inspire fear of the new government, to prevent people from overthrowing them.

    And that's part of why it's a mess, from what I understand it. Usually it doesn't help that the feudal society developed to support the above mentioned warlords is stripping the land because, well, the warlords are running things like idiots. They're feeding their troops above everyone else because they don't seem to get the fact that people are a lot more willing to follow you if you're nice to them as opposed to afraid of you.

    So basically it wasn't the colonial process itself that screwed the nations, it was how the colonies were managed and left. Overall, it would have been better if the nations were left on their own or made into protectorates instead of colonies. Had the tribes been able to westernize like Ethiopia, we would see a sharp decrease in internal turmoil, even if it meant that the tribe-countries would probably fight each other often, to ensure that the biggest tribe-country doesn't get too much power.

    Credit to HikaruIzumi for the awesome avatar!

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Next Question

    What do you think differentiates colonies of different European nations to each other and how are they developed differently to each other. Say the British colonies now being different those the previous French ones in development.

    Remember to stay civil, respect each other and don't attack anyone or use any language that could be considered unbelievably offensive.

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lyrebird View Post
    Next Question

    What do you think differentiates colonies of different European nations to each other and how are they developed differently to each other. Say the British colonies now being different those the previous French ones in development.

    Remember to stay civil, respect each other and don't attack anyone or use any language that could be considered unbelievably offensive.
    I'd say the English colonies had benefited more, as the greatest gift we gave them was the English language, allowing them to do business on the world stage. If you look at some of the most successful African colonies, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, they were all English colonies and widely use the English language to this day which is a big boost for them and their economy.

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    Default Re: DISCUSSION - Was colonization good for Africa?

    Quote Originally Posted by Solayoh View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lyrebird View Post
    Next Question

    What do you think differentiates colonies of different European nations to each other and how are they developed differently to each other. Say the British colonies now being different those the previous French ones in development.

    Remember to stay civil, respect each other and don't attack anyone or use any language that could be considered unbelievably offensive.
    I'd say the English colonies had benefited more, as the greatest gift we gave them was the English language, allowing them to do business on the world stage. If you look at some of the most successful African colonies, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, they were all English colonies and widely use the English language to this day which is a big boost for them and their economy.
    I concur. I will cite the example of my experience in the Caribbean. People from the British colonies have a huge advantage over the places previously owned by the French and Spanish when they emigrate to the US or Canada or Britain because there is no language barrier. Not to mention international business is made much easier.

    Compare how the former French and Portuguese colonies are doing. That speaks for itself. Perhaps it's the anglophile in me talking. This applies to sub saharan Africa. Despite being colonized the European influence in the Arab African countries is varies (most educated people in Algeria know French) compared to Libya where there is almost no evidence the Italians were ever in there.

    Y > X

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