The Impacts of European Colonialism in Africa
The importance of studying history lies in the fact that by analyzing past events, one can gain insight on how something came to be. The fact that many countries in Africa today are underdeveloped for example, can be explained by European colonization and exploration in the past. Some historians would disagree with this view and assert that European colonialism actually served a moral purpose and was mutually beneficial to both parties. They argue that European influence in the area led to political centralization and an overall improvement in infrastructure. Also, defenders of this view tend to underestimate the impacts of the Atlantic slave trade by mentioning that slavery was already a part of Africa prior to European arrival. This essay will analyze the impacts of European colonialism on African economy and society in order to assert whether or not European involvement has helped or has hurt development in the area. Furthermore, this paper will attempt to propose ideas to improve negative effects left behind due to European exploration in Africa.
Before colonization, African countries consisted of several small tribes, with different customs and languages. It is estimated that during pre-colonial ages, Africa was composed of 10,000 different polities and that after European intervention; these polities were combined into 40 colonies (Meredith, 2006). Some historians have concluded that European colonization has helped these dispersed African tribes unify. As colonies, these nations were obliged to the laws commanded by the mother country, which demanded products. In order to supply the mother country with goods, African citizens were forced to move into cities and work. Once the colonies became independent, the process of urbanization had already occurred. Those who are pro-colonization believe that the urbanization caused by colonialism led to a development of local industry. What defenders of colonialism do not consider is that the urbanization process would occur naturally. Other nations have evolved into industrial cities, states and countries without the force of colonialism. As agriculture evolved in the area, a food surplus would occur and consequently, an increase in population. This process would eventually occur in Africa regardless of European intervention. Furthermore, the fact that African citizens (from different tribes) were forced into cities by the Europeans, led to miscegenation. Many defend that this fusion of different people helped create a larger sense of identity in these countries. Those who favor the colonization of Africa affirm that the process allowed for different people, with different heritages, languages and ethnicities to come together and create a more diversified, cosmopolitan culture. However, this miscegenation ended up causing even more suffering in many African countries. In South Africa for example, the miscegenation process that started during colonial times evolved into the apartheid regime. This regime lasted for more than 40 years and forced many South African citizens out of their homes and into racial segregated neighborhoods. The apartheid generated racism, hate and violence. The mixing of Africans from different tribes also brought violence in other parts of the continent. In the German colony of Ruanda for example, the Europeans believed that the Tutsis were intellectually superior to the Hutus in the area. The Germans at the time thought that because the Tutsis had lighter skin, they were more intelligent and therefore fit for occupying administrative positions (Hymowitz & Parker, p. 3) After World War I, Ruanda’s control was passed over to Belgium by the League of Nations mandate (1919). The Belgians however, basically continued this German form of government and once again, Tutsis were placed in higher positions while the Hutus were forced into manual labor and low ranking jobs. The favoring of Tutsis during colonial...
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