Colonialism dealt a very huge blow to Africa. The detrimental impact of the scramble and partition of Africa brewed long-term socio-economic catastrophe on Africa and its peoples. The evils that were perpetrated by colonialism still speak to the socio-political woes that Africa finds herself in to this very day.
One would be charged for being economic with the truth if they dismiss that African resource helped modern day Europe. The development that most countries enjoy in the global North is sheer testimony of the results of plunder, pillage and looting. Reversing the clock backwards to the Berlin Conference of 1884, at the center of the discussion was how best to reap Africa of its natural endowments. The period 1884-1914 presents what can be construed as an all-out deliberate ploy at weakening Africa for imperial and egocentric gains. To what the imperialist leaders viewed as the Dark Continent that needed a glimmer of light, bore a concealed mission.
What formerly presented itself as an adventure to spread the three Cs (Christianity, civilization and commerce) was never, but a well-choreographed machination that led to the ultimate underdevelopment of Africa. Colonialism came in different facets and led to a plethora of human rights abuses. Its implementation was inhumane at best and diabolic at worst. Looking into how colonialism was used to exploit Africa can help us get proper perspective into the nefarious antics of imperialism.
Colonialism as economic conquest tact in Africa
Colonialism is simply defined as the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. The end result of colonialism is the advancement of the conquering country at the expense of the victim country. Colonialism in Africa bordered on resource extractivism , exploitation of native labour and plunder of the continent’s vast raw materials. Colonialism was used as a modus operandi for the advancement of the industrial revolution in Britain. Afro-centric historians have been on record stating that, the development that most developed countries boast of came from the birth pangs of the exploitation of Africa. Colonialism was also aimed at hampering the development prospects of Africa since, in some gruesome instances, the African people were subjected to cold blood murder in the name of punishment. It has been recorded that, in the former colonial Democratic Republic of Congo, women and children that were perceived to be lazy after failing to complete certain tasks were ruthlessly punished. The punishment included the chopping off of hands and sometimes murder. This greatly impacted on the development of the African human resource as birth rates significantly shrank.
Creation of artificial boundaries and disruption of trade
In order to freely exploit Africa, the advent of artificial boundaries was in it a menace that resulted from colonialism. The boundaries were arbitrary and the concern of the locals was not taken into account in all these actions. Boundaries weakened the diplomatic relations of African communities. It also curtailed the barter trade system that prevailed in most communities to the effect that, they had to solely depend on the European goods which came at a very huge cost. Trade malpractices that were characterised by colonialism also led to unjust enrichment on the part of thriving African communities. In most colonial states of Southern Africa such as the Great Zimbabwe State in the lower plateau of Zimbabwe , valuable goods such as ivory were traded with low value goods such as bowels, ceramics and clothes .
At the Casablanca trade port in Morocco, the French settlers were infamous for their unfair trade practices. There was no balance of trade and much of the activities were biased towards colonial beneficiation by the settlers. As the Tennessee scholar Joshua Settles correctly puts it, the economic goal of colonialism was to provide maximum benefit to the colonizing power at the lowest possible prices. What the colonial powers sold as a quest to promote trade was in actual fact, a commercial disguise to dupe Africans out of their perceived ignorance. These conquests methods by the colonial powers were characterised by the divide and rule concept, Future prospects of African unity to repel colonial forces were impeded or at least slowed down. Thus, with colonialism, the settlers enjoyed a free roam exploitation arena in Africa. The individual needs of the colonial subjects were always set at the periphery of the colonial agenda.
Colonialism changed the style of living in Africa
Due to colonialism, the African style of living was negatively impacted. The traditional concepts such as division of labour according to sex were eradicated so that, African women had to toil in harsh working conditions that were normally understood to be masculine working environments. With colonialism, workload became a one size fits all and thus, development in the African sense and pace was greatly stalled. The exploitation of women during the colonial rule was shielded by most Eurocentric anthropologists who spearheaded anti-African narratives that giving birth was a form of abuse. The propaganda and falsehoods that came with colonialism often led to loss of African history and instilled inferiority complexities amongst the natives. This created a thriving ground for the exploitation of Africa since, historical footing often inspires development.
The African resource developed Europe
It can be argued that colonialism stimulated a rapid growth of most European economies. While the colonial period seems short statistically given the history of human development, its positives in Europe were of far greater gain. Colonialism led to loss of power and autonomy of the African States. Walter Rodney in, How Europe underdeveloped Africa highlights that, the loss of power by Africa at the instance of colonization had far reaching consequences. On one hand, without power, development is difficult to implement and without development, when the powerful deliberate, Africa usually legs behind . The use of steam trains and dependency on coal led to hyper extraction of the African resources including its vast forestry. Colonial masters allocated symmetries of land to the locals while they exercised commercial agriculture, exporting cash crops and raw materials to their home countries.
Colonialism introduced capitalism to Africa
Colonialism became the vehicle with which capitalism was entrenched within the African continent. It created room for long-term exploitation of Africa that is still felt to date and couched as neocolonialism and neoliberalism. Colonialism destructed the political smooth flow that prevailed in most African States. Its implementation included the installation of puppet rulers who partnered with the Whiteman in the primitive accumulation of wealth. Post-Independence, these imposed rulers later on made concessions to companies from former colonial masters to continue doing business to date. These companies apply neoliberal approaches to employment and thus, perpetuating the exploitation of the African human capital.
Colonialism and commercial empires
Colonialism led to the exploitation of the African mineral resource. It marked the broadening the commercial scope for companies owned by the colonial masters. In South Africa,prominent imperialists such as Cecil Rhodes and Charles Rudd exercised ruthless extractivism in the Rand. The exploitation mission was so swift that, enormous volumes of gold and diamonds were extracted at the shortest possible time. The need to find the Second rand in the neighbouring countries of South Africa became a push factor for the colonisation of the then Southern Rhodesia, now modern day Zimbabwe. In the Matabeleland area in Zimbabwe, colonialism led to massive exodus of local cattle being shipped to Britain for the commercial beef industry. Thus, colonialism led to the exploitation of Africa in all the four corners of development, be it social, economic or political.