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Economic Impact Of Colonialism In Africa

2984 words - 12 pages

Throughout the centuries Africa has been a continent of agricultural achievement and plenty. Agrarian practices and technologies developed in Africa were emulated by the world’s great civilizations and radiated to every corner of the world. It’s speculated by many naturalist (most notably Charles R. Darwin) that modern agriculture originated in Africa. Ancient cave paintings discovered by archeologist in Africa are certainly some of the earliest evidences of plant and animal domestication. Arabic and European historical accounts agree that African diets were varied and abundant from the beginning of recorded history up until the middle ages. The African continent is rich with natural and intellectual resources. Northern Africa has rich oil deposits that, once discovered, have made billions of dollars. Sub-Sahara Africa is rich with deposits of precious minerals such as gold and diamonds. Throughout much of history Africa has been thought of as a rich land. But the Africa we know today as being plagued by famine, poverty and war came about at a much later date. These tragic circumstances could have been partly caused by the massive economic dislocation caused by the slave trade and colonization of the 19th and 20th century (Hopkins 13). Colonial powers representing outside interest setup “extractive institutions” across Africa. These “Extractive Institutions” refer to those entities that exist for the sole purpose of pull resources out of a country. Now that many of the colonialist powers have left, these “European-style institutions” still exist well into the turn of the century.
The African people are skilled agriculturalists and quite possibly one of the results of the European incursions into the continent could have been the transmission of their agricultural knowledge and practices to Europe. This export of knowledge could have helped to fuel the 18th century Agricultural revolution in England. Despite having the agricultural and social capacity to support large cities, Africa remained heavily decentralized until the arrival of the German, French, Portuguese, and Belgian colonizers. These empires often enforced a centralized “direct” method of control over the African populations in order to control labor and facilitate raising armies. Elsa V. Artadi and Xavier Sala-i-Martin in The Economic Tragedy of the XXth Century: Growth in Africa reveals “There should be no doubt that the worst economic disaster of the XXth century is the dismal growth performance of the African continent. The newly freed citizens had high hopes when their countries became independent during the second half of the century, but most of them are substantially poorer now than they were when their nations were born” (Artadi 3).
From an economic perspective the issue in Africa is not seen as a decline of the continent but more so a failure of the Africa economies to grow over the last century. This is an important distinction to make when analyzing the historical...

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