Did Colonialism Change or “Transform” Africa “Forever”?
From 1440 until 1833 the Atlantic slave trade was the principle reason for “normal” relationships between Europeans and Africans. This trade, along with other forms of commerce, allowed for a healthy, friendly and somewhat fair relationship between Africans and Europeans. After 1833—and the end of the slave trade—the relationship between Africans and Europeans took such a significant turn that it would change the African continent significantly. Whereas Afro-centric scholars have argued that colonialism changed or “transformed” Africa “forever”, and that the African culture was evolving regardless of the past encounters or relationships with Europeans. Euro-centric scholars argue that Europeans made a positive impact in Africa. That European intervention allowed the African to modernize into the global community. The colonialism of Africa transformed the continent of Africa forever based on economical, religious, and political transformations that changed the continent and the development of African.
The economic relationship with Europeans and Africans changed quickly after the abolishment of the slave trade. Europeans experiencing the Industrial Revolution required more raw materials in order to produce their products. Likewise, Slavery was no longer required and Europeans and Africans both transitioned to meet each other’s needs. The European perspective, given in Roland Oliver’s and Anthony Atmore’s Africa Since 1800, gave the British credit for stopping slavery and bringing progress to Africa. Moreover, they blame the Africans for continuing slavery through illegal shipments overseas which were intercepted by the British Navy. Likewise, the European also looked at commercial trading as mediation between inter-ethnic Africans at wars. Oliver and Anthony put the European perspective of Africa as one of chaos and of a “hobbesian” state of nature before common law was set by the Europeans (Oliver and Anthony, 2003: p124).
On the contrary, according to the Afro-centric scholar, A.A. Boahen, African Perspectives on Colonialism, he claims that economic and social progress was ongoing in Africa before the Europeans colonized. That the slave trade was in decline and the transition to raw Ramirez 2
materials and products had already started. Moreover, the economic change in Africa was an African “revolution”. That the mood of change was disrupted by the European transformation of the continent; therefore changing the continent forever (A.A. Boahen, 1989: p94).
Similarly, both parties do agree that change was happening and was inevitable. Slavery had come to an end for the Europeans and an African change to the economic needs of Europe was needed. On the other hand, Africans had been trading with Europeans for over 400 years before colonization. The European had no reason for their aggressive takeover of the African economy. The Berlin Conference of 1884 did not involve Africans and only settled European claims to Africa. According to Khapoya, the African saw this as the most significant reason for the changes in Africa today (Khapoya, 2010: p107). Moreover, economic change in Africa came to benefit the European’s “superior complex” with no intentions of African interest in mind.
Because of the “superiority” factor, the Europeans saw the African as a child-adult not able to make “complicated” decision in their world. European colonist simply “took the reins” from the Africans. Likewise, where Europeans could, they continued to use the labors of the African for exporting the materials from the continent. However, in other places, like East Africa, the Europeans were met with resistance and failed to colonize. On the contrary, according to Gilbert and Reynolds, self preservation was important to Africans. If the African could benefit from the economic changes imposed by the Europeans, he would accept it (Gilbert and Reynolds, 2008: p.287). Therefore, colonial...
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