Sub-Saharan Africa Essay

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Sub-Saharan Africa:
The Causes of Postcolonial State Failure

On the vast continent of Africa, there are fifty-three countries; of these only six are not located below the Sahara Desert. This leaves the Sub-Saharan region of Africa to encompass a total of forty-seven countries. Many of these countries south of the Sahara have been in state failure, either partial or complete collapse of state authority. This has led to an inability to provide for economic development and a source of security. These failed states have governments with little political authority or ability to impose the rule of law, and are usually associated with widespread crime, conflict, or devastating humanitarian crises. Africa's problems are myriad and intricate; the rulers in Sub-Saharan Africa have struggled to develop autonomous and cohesive states during the postcolonial era giving rise to the fact that almost half of the world’s failing states are located here. The reasons for this wide spread failure below the Sahara include the following: intervention of Europeans through colonialism and slavery, poverty and low rankings in the Human Development Index, along with political instability and the rushed attempt of the democratization processes.

The challenges in Africa are numerous and complex. Socially and economically Africa has not developed to the extent of the rest of the world; one of the main causes of this has been the enslavement of the African people and the exploitation and colonization of their land by European influences. Slavery, while increasing the population of people in Europe and the Americas had a stagnant effect on the population of Africa, along with the aggregate population losses there was also profound changes to settlement patterns, exposure to epidemics, and reduced reproductive and social development potential. The slave trade is depicted as a critical phase in the long, continuing history of colonialist exploitation of Africans. Although, the slave trade benefited some indigenous middlemen, it was devastating for most of the population, not just the ones sold into slavery but also the local populations who had to endure increases in warfare, more centralized states, and more hierarchical social structures. The enslavement of Africans between the 16th and 20th centuries involved the lives of tens of millions of individuals. During this period, sub-Saharan Africa exported an estimated 12,408,000 captives to the across the Atlantic and a further 5,114,000 to the Muslim world. The trans-Atlantic slave trade Europe imposed unequal terms of trade on African states, making them an exporter of human labor, and an importer of goods that were harmful to future development. This economic relationship climaxed in the colonial era, when European states seized control of African economies from indigenous rulers. During the 19th century the scramble to colonize Africa became an obsession and a race between powerful European nations. The ruling white minority enforced their cultural traditionalism and halted the development of the African population. What was thought to be a process of development was more a “dismantling of tradition and the emergence of an alternative new and abruptly modern culture”. There is no doubt that colonialism has been one of the key foundations in the complications seen in Africa. The ways in which colonialism promotes postcolonial violence are through the construction of national identities, arbitrary boundaries, and discrimination and stratification. The colonial construction of oppositional identities was a policy implemented to weaken the...
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