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Africa better during colonial rule

triangle.128k
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10/26/2016 1:31:04 AM
Posted: 9 months ago
An African American economist named Walter E Williams has said the following about Africa under colonial rule:

"With but few exceptions, most African countries are worse off now than they were during colonialism, both in terms of standard of living and in terms of human rights protections. Once a food-exporting country, Zimbabwe recently stood near the brink of starvation. Sierra Leone is rich in minerals " especially diamonds " has highly fertile land and is the best port site in West Africa, but it has declined into a state of utter despair. Africa is the world's most natural-resources-rich continent. It has 50 percent of the world's gold, most of the world's diamonds and chromium, 90 percent of the cobalt, 40 percent of the world's potential hydroelectric power, 65 percent of the manganese, and millions of acres of untilled farmland, as well as other natural resources. Before independence, every African country was self-sufficient in food production; today many depend on imports, and others stand at the brink of famine."

Was he right? Has independence harmed Africa, and would they be better off if they had remained to be under European colonial rule?
Subutai
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10/26/2016 2:36:45 PM
Posted: 9 months ago
At 10/26/2016 1:31:04 AM, triangle.128k wrote:
An African American economist named Walter E Williams has said the following about Africa under colonial rule:

"With but few exceptions, most African countries are worse off now than they were during colonialism, both in terms of standard of living and in terms of human rights protections. Once a food-exporting country, Zimbabwe recently stood near the brink of starvation. Sierra Leone is rich in minerals " especially diamonds " has highly fertile land and is the best port site in West Africa, but it has declined into a state of utter despair. Africa is the world's most natural-resources-rich continent. It has 50 percent of the world's gold, most of the world's diamonds and chromium, 90 percent of the cobalt, 40 percent of the world's potential hydroelectric power, 65 percent of the manganese, and millions of acres of untilled farmland, as well as other natural resources. Before independence, every African country was self-sufficient in food production; today many depend on imports, and others stand at the brink of famine."

Was he right? Has independence harmed Africa, and would they be better off if they had remained to be under European colonial rule?

From an economic perspective, Africa was definitely better during the colonial days. From a social perspective, it's a bit more mixed. Sure, war, poverty, and disease are currently or have been rampant across virtually every country in Africa at some point in time since independence, but the colonial rulers were also oppressive and generally treated the indigenous population poorly. War was obviously much less of a problem, but rampant poverty and squalor were still common.

I lean towards thinking that Africa was better under colonial rule, but only because colonial rule brought more stability than Africa has seen under independence.

But it's important to remember that a lot of the problem Africa currently faces can be traced back to the effects of colonialism. When the European powers took over Africa, they carved it up in spheres of influence with little regard for regional and cultural distances. They split up certain tribes and brought together different tribes, some of which didn't like others, under one ruler. The large percentage of the civil wars that Africa has seen since independence can have their root cause traced back to this fact. War, of course, creates poverty and famine, particularly in less developed countries like those in Africa.

Not only that, when the colonial powers left, they didn't help transition power in effective ways. Democracy is hard to implement in non-Western countries that live under a different set of ingrained cultural beliefs than Western countries have. It was naive of Western powers to assume that simply sloppily setting up the groundwork for democracy would create a functioning, stable, democratic government in African countries. This is the other main reason why African countries have seen a lot of civil wars - various factions within a country vying for control in a country where democracy failed to function.

Couple that with the fact that colonial African countries often had two, sharply defined classes (an upper class comprised of wealthy colonials and a small set of powerful natives who supported the government, and a lower class of all the other natives), the fact that colonial powers extracted resources from the countries with little regard to the consequences, both environmental and social, and that colonial regimes were often extremely cruel to the population, and you're left with a continent that isn't actually doing much worse than one would expect.

But even though the colonial powers are gone, their presence is still left. The U.S. and the former Soviet Union regularly fought proxy wars in various African countries. Countries like England and France have often stepped in in civil wars by supporting, and even arming one side, regardless if that side had popular backing or not. Portugal fought hard to keep its African possessions. One can't truly say that the West has left Africa alone.

With all this in mind, my conclusion is this - yes, Africa was better off under colonial rule, but the fact that that is so is a direct result of colonial rule, and the West still makes its presence felt in Africa, often with harmful consequences.
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dylancatlow
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10/26/2016 10:14:01 PM
Posted: 9 months ago
I seriously doubt that in absolute terms Africa is worse off today that it was 50+ years ago. But maybe he means Africa is worse off today relative to the rest of the world than it was in the past.
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Skepsikyma
Posts: 9,138
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10/26/2016 11:55:24 PM
Posted: 9 months ago
At 10/26/2016 1:31:04 AM, triangle.128k wrote:
An African American economist named Walter E Williams has said the following about Africa under colonial rule:

"With but few exceptions, most African countries are worse off now than they were during colonialism, both in terms of standard of living and in terms of human rights protections. Once a food-exporting country, Zimbabwe recently stood near the brink of starvation. Sierra Leone is rich in minerals " especially diamonds " has highly fertile land and is the best port site in West Africa, but it has declined into a state of utter despair. Africa is the world's most natural-resources-rich continent. It has 50 percent of the world's gold, most of the world's diamonds and chromium, 90 percent of the cobalt, 40 percent of the world's potential hydroelectric power, 65 percent of the manganese, and millions of acres of untilled farmland, as well as other natural resources. Before independence, every African country was self-sufficient in food production; today many depend on imports, and others stand at the brink of famine."

Was he right? Has independence harmed Africa, and would they be better off if they had remained to be under European colonial rule?

Dambisa Moyo picks this phenomenon apart in 'Dead Aid', and she does a pretty good job of explaining why so much Western influence to 'better' Africa has done the exact opposite.
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triangle.128k
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10/31/2016 1:28:20 AM
Posted: 9 months ago
At 10/26/2016 11:55:24 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 10/26/2016 1:31:04 AM, triangle.128k wrote:
An African American economist named Walter E Williams has said the following about Africa under colonial rule:

"With but few exceptions, most African countries are worse off now than they were during colonialism, both in terms of standard of living and in terms of human rights protections. Once a food-exporting country, Zimbabwe recently stood near the brink of starvation. Sierra Leone is rich in minerals " especially diamonds " has highly fertile land and is the best port site in West Africa, but it has declined into a state of utter despair. Africa is the world's most natural-resources-rich continent. It has 50 percent of the world's gold, most of the world's diamonds and chromium, 90 percent of the cobalt, 40 percent of the world's potential hydroelectric power, 65 percent of the manganese, and millions of acres of untilled farmland, as well as other natural resources. Before independence, every African country was self-sufficient in food production; today many depend on imports, and others stand at the brink of famine."

Was he right? Has independence harmed Africa, and would they be better off if they had remained to be under European colonial rule?

Dambisa Moyo picks this phenomenon apart in 'Dead Aid', and she does a pretty good job of explaining why so much Western influence to 'better' Africa has done the exact opposite.



Seems like an interesting video, I'll watch when I have time.

But was she stating that western influence has been partly responsible for the modern situation in Africa? I'm not denying that independent Africa is worse thanks to colonial rule, but my point is that Africa was doing well under colonial rule and would be in much better shape today had the European powers managed to hold on to Africa as colonized.
Skepsikyma
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10/31/2016 5:32:04 AM
Posted: 9 months ago
At 10/31/2016 1:28:20 AM, triangle.128k wrote:
At 10/26/2016 11:55:24 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 10/26/2016 1:31:04 AM, triangle.128k wrote:
An African American economist named Walter E Williams has said the following about Africa under colonial rule:

"With but few exceptions, most African countries are worse off now than they were during colonialism, both in terms of standard of living and in terms of human rights protections. Once a food-exporting country, Zimbabwe recently stood near the brink of starvation. Sierra Leone is rich in minerals " especially diamonds " has highly fertile land and is the best port site in West Africa, but it has declined into a state of utter despair. Africa is the world's most natural-resources-rich continent. It has 50 percent of the world's gold, most of the world's diamonds and chromium, 90 percent of the cobalt, 40 percent of the world's potential hydroelectric power, 65 percent of the manganese, and millions of acres of untilled farmland, as well as other natural resources. Before independence, every African country was self-sufficient in food production; today many depend on imports, and others stand at the brink of famine."

Was he right? Has independence harmed Africa, and would they be better off if they had remained to be under European colonial rule?

Dambisa Moyo picks this phenomenon apart in 'Dead Aid', and she does a pretty good job of explaining why so much Western influence to 'better' Africa has done the exact opposite.



Seems like an interesting video, I'll watch when I have time.

But was she stating that western influence has been partly responsible for the modern situation in Africa? I'm not denying that independent Africa is worse thanks to colonial rule, but my point is that Africa was doing well under colonial rule and would be in much better shape today had the European powers managed to hold on to Africa as colonized.

Her point has to do with aid money. To sum it up in a nutshell, she argues that giving lump sums of money to African governments causes those governments to be beholden to foreign donors instead of their own people, because they are not reliant on a tax base. It destroy the basis of democracy (that the people elect a government in order to secure social goods). It also makes the position of 'government' one which is essentially a king-of-the-hill position; if you have power, the aid money rolls in and you live high on the hog, so a pulling off a successful coup is potentially very lucrative. Finally, the aid model destroys the abilities of countries to be independent. For example, when you send large amounts of food to Africa, that means that local farmers struggle to compete with the aid food and go out of business, destroying that country's capacity to feed its own people and leading to the social ills typically born of massive unemployment.

It's not about 'the West' or 'Africa' at its root, it's about the Aid Model of development and how it does much more harm than good. She does say that the West is more worried about alleviating a sense racial guilt than of 'fixing' Africa, and that they do things out of pity for Africans rather than out of the idea that something of value can be built there.
"See now Oblivion shimmering all around us, its very tranquility deadlier than tempest. How little all our keels have troubled it."
- Lord Dunsany -

"Over her head the stars, the thoughts of God in the heavens,
Shone on the eyes of man, who had ceased to marvel and worship"
- Henry Longfellow -

"We enjoy, we see nothing by direct vision; but only by reflection, and in anatomical dismemberment."
- Thomas Carlyle -
imabench
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11/8/2016 8:56:25 AM
Posted: 9 months ago
At 10/26/2016 1:31:04 AM, triangle.128k wrote:

Was he right? Has independence harmed Africa, and would they be better off if they had remained to be under European colonial rule?

One of the many reasons why so many African countries have completely gone to hell is because they became to reliant on resource exportation for their economy, falling into the 'resource curse' for those who want to look the term up..... The thing is, the reason why many of these nations were first colonized by European countries was so that they could pull out the natural resources from the land..... African countries weren't colonized just to be added onto a resume, European powers wanted the mineral wealth the countries had to offer.

European countries took their wealth, but provided at least stability in the proecess. Nowadays, African countries keep the wealth from exporting their natural resources, but have no stability to really benefit from it.

I wouldnt say they are better or worse off from before, since they seem to have simply replaced one problem with another imo
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Unterseeboot
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1/21/2017 12:23:40 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
I have to admit that when one looks at the atrocities that have taken place in places like Rwanda and the Sudan and Darfur, that a great case could be made for claiming those poor souls need a more advanced and organized First World country to govern them. And in Africa surely isn't the first time this dynamic has occured, that is, when a primitive I digenous peoples scream for independence and then finally obtain it, only to sink into a worse state of affairs that before, with the only rule coming from local thugs and warlords.

One of my favorite writers ever, Rudyard Kipling, may have been onto something with his whole White Man's Burden philosophy. Though he sure drew a lot of heat for that and was branded a racist. But facts are facts. Perhaps some peoples just are inherently incapable of effectively governing themselves. I myself believe this to be true and have come to agree with Kipling. If that makes me a racist then so be it.
j50wells
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1/22/2017 3:49:30 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 10/26/2016 1:31:04 AM, triangle.128k wrote:
An African American economist named Walter E Williams has said the following about Africa under colonial rule:

"With but few exceptions, most African countries are worse off now than they were during colonialism, both in terms of standard of living and in terms of human rights protections. Once a food-exporting country, Zimbabwe recently stood near the brink of starvation. Sierra Leone is rich in minerals " especially diamonds " has highly fertile land and is the best port site in West Africa, but it has declined into a state of utter despair. Africa is the world's most natural-resources-rich continent. It has 50 percent of the world's gold, most of the world's diamonds and chromium, 90 percent of the cobalt, 40 percent of the world's potential hydroelectric power, 65 percent of the manganese, and millions of acres of untilled farmland, as well as other natural resources. Before independence, every African country was self-sufficient in food production; today many depend on imports, and others stand at the brink of famine."

Was he right? Has independence harmed Africa, and would they be better off if they had remained to be under European colonial rule?

It's true as long as Maslow's Heirarchy is part of the colonial idea. Today, colonialism would bring a much better life to Africa, as long as they were given the same rights of Europeans and Americans.
Africans have been under the yoke of terrible, lustful, violent dictators for centuries. Colonials could bring in technology for better food, cleaner water, better education, higher wages, and a just common law system. Given, the colonials will only do this for money, but Africans will also gleam money from the improvement of their economies which will allow them to own land and property.
Sadly the leftists will sub-vert any colonial movement which will only bring worse impoverishment. I don't know that there is any hope for Africa except through conquering it before the leftists do.
keithprosser
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1/23/2017 7:10:44 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 1/22/2017 3:49:30 AM, j50wells wrote:
Sadly the leftists will sub-vert any colonial movement which will only bring worse impoverishment. I don't know that there is any hope for Africa except through conquering it before the leftists do.

I think that a degree of anti-leftism crept in there! I have lived almost half my 60 years in various African countries and from my experience it isn't a matter of left or right. The problem is kleptocracy. In most cases Africans were catapulted in a mere generation or two from the middle ages to the age of multinational companies. Usually independence was granted in haste and power was passed into the hands of small, self-interested elites on the grounds they promised more stability, at least in the short term.

The overwheming majority of ordinary Africans merely exchanged foreign overlords for 'homegrown' ones, who proved to be in many instances even more explotative because they needed to amass ever greater wealth and power to secure their position against opposition from ambitious rivals. In the west we may be used to politicians being in the pockets of big business, but in Africa the politicians and the owners of the big businesses are one and the same.

It's hard to fix because countries are sovereign so direct interference is not allowed, even if there was much will for it, which there isn't. Internal opposition is generally ineffective because 'honest' men with good intentions can't compete with thugs who use a corrupt police force and compliant judiciary to make their life hell, if they don't just kill them outright.

People are people the world over and Africans are no less able to govern themselves than Americans are - but history meant Africa ended up with 'leaders' who are corrupt, venal, incompetent and vicious.

I don't know what would be the state of the world now if colonialism was still in place - and neither does anybody else. All we can do is guess. It's more important to think about what should we do now rather than playing the 'blame game' about how we got here.