Colonialism and Africa Essay

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Modern African states have several problems ranging from corruption, to armed conflict, to stunted structural development. The effects of colonialism have been offered as a starting point for much of the analysis on African states, but the question of why African states are particularly dysfunctional needs to be examined, given the extent to which they have lagged behind other former European colonies in many aspects. In the first section, I will consider the problems with African states from the level of the state. That is, the nature of the states' inceptions and the underlying flaws may explain some of the issues that have been associated with African states today. Next I examine the development of, or lack of, civil society and the institutions which took place across the continent in the colonial era. In particular, I consider the lack of education and judicial authority and how this affected the formation of the structures which exist in the post-colonial era. Lastly, the economic legacy of colonialism is analysed, and whether the failure of African states to prosper can be explained by colonial practices.

State Formation

Ever since the boundaries of Africa were drawn up in 1884/5, very little has changed in terms of the continent's territorial divisions. Much has been made of the fact that the post-colonial states which constitute Africa were the products of colonial demarcations, and whose territories are not congruent to existing political and ethnic organizations. Ethnic conflict within states is an unfortunate feature of several African states, and one which undoubtedly retards development of any kind. There has been debate surrounding the nature of African ethnicities and whether they were synt...

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...provision of education in the colonial period affected the ability to develop from within. The civil institutions were weak, and the judiciary unable to provide a balancing role to the central power of the state. Indigenous Africans were typically not allowed to rise to meaningful levels in the industrial complex, and the infrastructure was built only enough to serve the extraction of wealth. The small number of educated bureaucrats who previously prospered in their positions, found themselves as a new elite class in the absence of the colonialists, and it was perhaps too difficult for them to change their behaviour after inheriting the state. In summary, it could be said that large portions of the inhabitants of the newly independent state had not entered into any sort of stable 'social contract' by the organic process which had been the case for other societies.

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