One of our globes most precarious and neglected predicament lies in the impoverished continent of Africa. Through century to century it seems as if very little has been achieved, yes we have seen empires rise and fall, as well as some advanced kingdoms form, but compared to the advances in East Asia, the middle east, and in Europe its advancements seem minuscule.
To understand this we need to understand how advancements formed in Asia, the Middle-East, and Europe. As all of these civilisation at one point or another led lives and tribes equal or similar to those found in Africa. So what didnt happen in Africa that happened here and in many other parts of the world?
There are many aspects to this, and to cite the best example and most relatable situation let us dive into the creation of the West as we now know it.
Europeans like Africans at the time were no more than tribal and or nomadic people, raiding our neighboring communities, digging with rocks, and leading uncivilised and or barbaric lives. What changed in Europe and not Africa was Rome. The biggest factor in the modernisation of Europe was the Roman Empires colonisation of it. Europe likes to think it was modernised but the reality was it was Romanised, and this is well documented.
In Julius Caesars expeditions in Gaul (France) and later campaigns by other emperors, Europe was transformed from its barbaric ways and formed into a civilised and productive engine. The Romans created cities, roads, formed legal and education institutions. This wasn’t done out of charity, rather out of economy. Economically speaking growth requires some basic necessities, the primary being stability. This was the largest factor in the modernisation and growth of what we now know as Europe. Investors, entrepreneurs, farmers, and traders all felt safe investing and working in the newly formed Northern Roman territories, because they knew Rome would defend their interests. Those whom invested are looking pretty good now looking back especially to any one who settled in Vienna, London, Paris, Budapest, Salzburg, Geneva, Cologne, Cambridge, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and countless others.
Economically advances come from investment, and investments are only made if returns are guaranteed. Such is the nature of all business ventures. Such was the reason and the need for Empire, it provided a stable environment to foster growth, this along with the creation of city centers and the connection of those centers to the world at large, provided a foundation for growth for a millennia to come.
Certainly there are other aspects to this that must be examined, we humans are more than just molded clay, we are people that belong to communities and whom have traditions and values, many of which at the time of Roman conquest were backwards and inferior to development and cultural and civil advancements. Culturally Europe had to shift massively to be able to cope with the newly created society Rome enforce, but had Europe not adapted to such, had they stuck their heads in the sand and refused to change, they would have all fell victim to Darwin’s survival of the fittest.
So now what of Africa? They were colonised? Just like Europe was no? There is where we need to examine the differences in how it was colonised, for how long and to what effect. The colonisation of Africa had many horrors (don’t think for a minute the colonisation of Europe didn’t either, it most certainly did) but we need to understand that these horrors were in no way needed and or necessary to the colonisation and or the development of Africa. Secondly we need to look at who the coloniser of the specific nation was, as the statistics between coloniser can vary the growth rate and development rate by many degree’s. However lets dive into the facts, per capita GDP of African colonises rose under colonisation and in most cases went negative after. Between 1961- and 1973 African nations had a growth rate of 2% and in 1982-1990 we saw a -.2% growth rate. The growth rate however for British and French colonies we can expect to be higher than those figures, opposed to that of Italian and Belgian colonies whom seem to has fared lesser growth rates.
The truth and something we need to accept is that under colonisation the coloniser in most cases wanted their colonises to grow, for the same reason the Romans wanted their colonies to grow, because it was profitable! Business men from around the globe looked for places they saw potential for growth, and for many years that was in Africa, evidence can be seen by the millions of settlers whom traveled thousands of miles to seek new hope and or profit in their homelands new colonies.
It is however important we distinguish that no empire is the same, and I nor anyone else can lay blanket claims of prosperity for any country that is colonised, there are many statistics that prove economic disaster for some colonised nations, such was the case for many colonies under Belgian rule whom were by no terms designed for long term growth or even governorship. However I would distinguish those from colonies and rather refer to them as plundered nations.
So let us be clear, not all empires are set up for growth, but proper colonies were.
However under decolonisation the colonisers were promoted economically to set up its colonies in ways that it would be dependent on foreign companies and or governments to manage its affairs and or grow its economy.
The drop in GDP came when business’s and investors lost future economic retention due to lack of financial institutions and stable governance, this prompted what I call corporate looting. This occurs when companies see no long term economic prosperity and differ to quick profit opportunities (loot) rather than investing in the future. Its not just business perspective that keeps out investment, often times its government policy, with business simply adjusting and or disapearing due to the economic realities.
The fact is that no nation and or company will want Africa to prosper unless it can profit from its prosperity. Its a sad but truthful situation. Hope lies only in good governance and national independence from foreign institutions as well as foreign grants, loans, and charity. When an African nation can stand on its own, co-operate with its neighbors, and prove to have a sustainable, stable, and growing economy, along with dependable social and financial institutions, this is when we will see the ability for long term investment and economic growth.
Africa has incredible potential, I pray some day soon a leader will stand to make it reality, and I pray he be given the strength to see his plans through.
This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog: https://www.thealexandrianpost.com/single-post/2017/12/03/Empires-of-Growth-How-decolonization-led-to-Africas-poverty