Essay: World Influence on the Modernization of Africa
Tags: Africa, Modernization
Developing Political Systems
The way countries, nations or states act and base their policies on many times reflect what their past was like. This is very true in the case of Africa. The only problem is that Africa is said to have no history. This just means that Africa’s many cultures did not affect the way imperialists and other influences acted towards the huge continent. Everything was based on their interests and consequently this meant that the way of dealing with Africa in every way was based on Western traditionalists. To this we must answer the question how has the Western World affected Africa’s present stage and what must be done to undo what is wrong and hopefully correct this situation.
Africa first played a role in Europe’s and the America’s history when the U.S. and Great Britain needed labor. They needed a lot of it and they needed it cheap. There was nothing cheaper than free labor. It would require an initial investment to African “leaders” but it paid off almost instantaneously. This is what we used to call slave trading. In around the 1860’s this became an illegal act. However, like any other crime, this trading could not be stopped entirely. British Naval ships were set up as blockades but sometimes Slaves were stored in spaces that were no higher than 12 inches so not all slave carrying boats could be stopped. In fact while the Navy stopped approximately 103,000 slaves from entering the slave force about 1.7 million entered it. Since this trade was illegal it was even more profitable than before. The slaves that were stopped from being shipped all the way west were being sent to Freetown, Sierra Leone and Monrovia, Liberia and they were called recaptives. These were towns set up by the British and some liberal Americans to send former slaves and recaptives back to their home continent. It wasn’t their home but it certainly was a lot closer than before. These recaptives were not welcome with open arms because they had renounced their religions and African names and replaced them with Christianity and English names. They did this because they felt they had been betrayed when they were sold in the first place. There was even more hostility to these recaptives because they spoke English and the British, along with the rest of Europe, were the ones starting to take over Africa politically. When Europe came into power they took their English speaking, Christian modernizers and put them in charge of the newly colonized countries.
Africa was colonized by Europe by countries such as Great Britain and France, which one can still see evidence of today. This was done at the Berlin Conference. The only two countries not directly colonized where Ethiopia for somewhat religious and Biblical reasons and Liberia, which had a legitimate government and this way the West would not have to directly imperialists the country but could just tell the leaders what, they wanted. The leaders obliged in return for not being colonized. When first colonized the many cultures languages and religions were not considered. Consequentially many opposing people came to live in the same state and this resulted in bloody hatred and eventually civil wars in many of these countries. Europe did not realize how many different nations there were in Africa when they were dividing it up amongst themselves. They just wanted to colonize and wanted equal shares for each other. Possible tension did not enter the minds of these colonizers and even if did it did not severely alter any decisions. In fact it was better for them if no group had a majority in a region because this would lessen the chance of a revolution. The peripheral countries of these new African boundaries usually did what the European core countries did. They wanted to enhance their status quo. The peripheral countries were heavily exploited. Their raw materials were taken from them relatively cheaply made into sellable products and sold to the world and back to Africa at high prices. At this rate Africa’s economy would never go up and would probably even go down. Since agriculture was its only source of income not much more could be done.
Many people question why Africa did not use its raw materials to make its own processed finished products. The answer is that there was heavy discrimination against this idea by the West. If Africa tried to use their cocoa to make their own chocolate the Swiss, for example, would say the world does not want chocolate from Ghana they want Swiss chocolate. The countries would listen and be forced to sell their raw materials at cheap prices to Europe. Additionally Africa did not have the technology ready to compete with these industrial nations and leaders. They did not have the money or the education at this time to have the same resources as the imperialists.
The Europeans tried to make Africa another version of the west. They tried to set up schools, hospitals and other bureaucracies that were successful back home. Many people would argue that because of this Africa had no history. More specifically this means Europe molded Africa’s history. They did not let the African nations play out their destiny themselves. When Europe set up governments in their colonies they did not want, for the most part, the traditionalists, which consisted of the kings and chiefs, to be involved in running the show. They instead took the recaptives who were modernizers because they saw what went on in the West while they were. The British knew that the modernizers would be more loyal to them than the traditionalists, being grateful for the freedom they were granted for slavery. The modernizers would favor westernization during colonialism and eventually after it too. They were now the bourgeoisies. They believed that now, when the British were finally moving out of Africa, Africa could not go back to traditionalist values. They believed that post-colonial independence would have to bee taken care of by now the sons and grandsons of the recaptives who have since become doctors, lawyers and teachers. The traditionalists disagreed saying the British should give back what they took away from them many years ago. They agreed they had to modernize somewhat but they were still inherinent to the power of their returned independence. In the end the modernizers were the ones to be named the rulers of newly independent African countries. The only problem was that when the countries became independent they continued to run as they were during colonial times. Partitions of the states remained as they were. Instead of like in Europe where nations, cultures and ethnic groups collectively rule themselves under self-determination, African leaders self-determined that the countries where staying as they were namely as sectors that the imperial powers set up. This meant ethnic clashes continued.
Now that these African nations had become independent they wanted to start to upgrade the economy. They had seen what the Asian Tigers had done and were led to believe that nothing could stand in their way to achieve the same if not similar goals. First they relied on the dependency theory just as Latin America had in the past. This broke down in the 1980’s. This happened for a number of reasons the most important one being it was too deterministic. Africa did not have too much input in this theory. They had to industrialize in a way where the international economy could help them out but where Africa did not have to totally rely on it. This is because they don’t want to all of a sudden go into deep depression because the countries they depend on fall into a recession.
Africa cannot jump into a world market economy as quickly as it wants. It has to establish itself, industrialize and be certain it can compete with the rest of the world before it actually does. It has to forget what happened to it before, how it may have been slowed down by Europe before. It has to forget the history that people claim it doesn’t even have. It has to progress and not even look back. It cannot blame its financial state on the fact that destiny was not allowed to play itself out. Many people, including me would argue that maybe it was destiny what happened with Europe colonizing and then handing over power to the modernizers. It could have saved Africa from even worse trouble than it is now. The fact is that there could be millions of scenarios played out of what could have happened. There is no way to prove if any of these scenarios could or could not have happened so there is n point to give a second or even first look at them. Once again we must progress. Africa is a huge continent that now has many educated people whether it was from learning in Europe or not. They have to implement a system where agriculture is not their main source of income. This is because agriculture is everything Africa has relied on since anyone can ever remember and its land is suffering from it. Combined with dry summers agriculture will not always be there. The people of each individual nation have to work with each other. They have the manpower and intellect to become a superpower continent. Maybe not in my lifetime and maybe not in my children’s lifetime but these things take time. The United States did not become rich over night. They too at one point were a colony of the British. They too were exploited for their raw materials and their labor. They were not given their freedom as easily as the African nations were. This is not to say Africa did not suffer in trying to become free or did not deserve it like the U.S. It is just to say that this suffering should not last forever.
The first step should come from the government. They need to take loans. It doesn’t matter if they are high interest. Money needs to be in the economy. A federal deal such as Franklin D. Roosevelt has to be implemented. Money has to be given to the people, not the elite, so that they can spend the money on goods that are being produced. In time enough money spent will lead to more jobs, which lead to more money, which will start to pay for new technology. Africa does not have to be rich to start involving itself in the world economy it just needs an economy that is working, producing and always moving ahead. Once they land in the international trade business everything becomes a bonus.
Africa in all its existence to Europe has relied on others to decide what’s best for them. Africa is now in a Western style mode. This does not mean it should be there but it is now. The government has to start taking advantage of today’s capitalist economy. Money tends to keep people of all nations happier. With money everyone is guaranteed food, a home and a better chance at democracy.