A History of Colonialism in Africa


Africa’s brutal history of colonial exploitation by European powers diminished the potential of African countries to accumulate capital [1]. Although colonial powers attempted to introduce the free market to African nations, it only created new colonial arrangements that undermined economic growth but nourished corruption and elitism.


From the period of 1870 to 1960, the more developed urban cultures of the Western Sudan and of East Africa were familiar with complicated credit arrangements. The use of trade currencies such as cowrie shells and iron bars were widespread.


Even so, the majority of African societies depended more on intricate networks of kinship support, of gift exchanges and of tributary relationships than on the ties of the market.


The legacy of western colonialism in Africa has diminished Africa's economic potential, As a result, Africa has become a place of economic conquest by western powers. Apologists for the slave trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries argued that slavery was intrinsic in "backward societies" such as those of Africa [2]. They also claimed that slavery in the "Christian" Americans was probably better for Africans than their situation had been in their "pagan" homelands.


The various slave-trading patterns had economic, political, and social impacts on both African and other Atlantic societies. The profits for European merchants in the Atlantic slave trade from the mid-seventeenth century on to the early nineteenth century were immense.


These profits diminished considerably for Europeans as African traders established a dominant position in the trade. The profits from the Atlantic slave trade may have helped lay the foundation for the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of capitalism in Europe and North America.


This proves the central thesis of Nikole Hannah Jones 1619 project, which argues that in August of 1619, where a ship appeared on a horizon, near point comfort, a coastal port in Virginia [3].


The ship carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of American society was untouched by these evils. You cannot understand the brutality of American capitalism without starting on the plantation.


There was a variety of responses to Western Colonialism that followed the barbarism of the Atlantic slave trade and African colonial subjugation generally. From the Manchester Conference of 1945 through Du Bois’s The World and Africa of 1946 and Aimé Césaire Discourse sur le colonialisme of 1950, the indictment of colonialism was strong and clear [4].


Ideas for liberation were many — especially French West Africa between 1945 and 1960. As late as 1960, most leaders in French West Africa were still seeking alternatives to both the colonialism of the past and what they feared would be the powerlessness of small, impoverished nation-states.


They thought that inequality — in wealth and power — was a reality that had to be faced, even as they insisted that all people had equal dignity that needed to be recognized. Their arguments have become obscured by the retrospective view that national independence was the only way of the future.


Some leaders of French Africa have been dismissed as having imbibed a “French colonial myth,” delaying for some years the inevitable triumph of the nation-state.

The story of western colonial exploitation was not all bleak. In the era of liberation, a distinctly African political and philosophical ideal emerged, a hybrid philosophy of nationhood that drew on three distinct sources, which included: western ideals of democracy and the rule of law, a socialist vision of mutual aid and responsibility, and the vitality of African communitarian traditions.


It was also a deeply religious vision, in ways seldom acknowledged even by its adherents. After review of recent developments in African nations such as Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, it is often proposed that a distinctively African political and economic order may still be able to assume for and be a guiding template for African nations.

The transformation of sub-Saharan Africa’s colonies into independent nations was moving forward at a rapid pace [5]. With Ghana and Guinea first out of the gate, the first in 1957 and the second a year later, no fewer than seventeen African nations broke their ties to Great Britain or France and liberated themselves from colonial rule in the year 1960, thus joining the ranks of the world's independent nations. Luckily, fourteen other nations followed at the end of the decade.


Their circumstances, levels of economic development, and degree of preparation for the transition to independence varied widely, but all embraced the vision of a postcolonial order in which the people of Africa would at last take their place on the global stage as captains of their own destiny.


As they did so, it was widely hoped, they would create new modes of nationhood that could take root in African soil and provide an example for all the other nations, rejecting the ideologies of both East and West.


From these hopes, a new pan African philosophy emerged that nurtured the intellectual scene throughout the continent. In this era of liberation, a distinctly African political and philosophical ideal emerged, a hybrid philosophy of nationhood that drew on three distinct sources: Western ideals of democracy and the rule of law, a socialist vision of mutual aid and responsibility, and the vitality of African communitarian traditions. It also a deeply religious vision. in ways seldom acknowledged even by its adherents.


To conclude, a unique pan African vision for the continent will create fruitful political results. This pan African vision can be achieved by mixing western ideals of democracy and the rule of law, a socialist vision of mutual aid and responsibility, and African communitarian traditions.

This political logic has the potential to override previous colonials barbarism and corrupt dictatorships in the African continent, which has more potential than any other.


Sources [1] Gann, Lewis H., Peter Duignan, and Victor Witter Turner, eds. Colonialism in Africa 1870-1960: Volume 4. Vol. 4. CUP Archive, 1969.


[2] Peter Schraeder Understanding Contemporary Africa


[3] The 1619 Project. (2019, August 14). From: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html


[4] Cooper, Frederick, and Allen F. Isaacman. Confronting historical paradigms: peasants, labor, and the capitalist world system in Africa and Latin America. Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1993. [5] Hoekema, David A. "African Politics and Moral Vision." Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 96, no. 2 (2013): 121-144.