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Failures of the Post-Colonial African States.

The African continent as a whole has been at the center of several developmental discussions. Understanding the issues that are holding the
continent as a whole from moving forward has been limited to the
failure in good leadership alone. This argument does not give the root
cause of these problems and consequently the appropriate measures will
not be taken. Third World nations such as India, China and Brazil are
gaining footholds in the world economic system, and this has no
correlation with the type of leadership. While some experts argue that
Africa is not developing due to its corrupted leadership or rather the
type of leadership, this paper will argue that factors that are limiting
African nations from moving forward are the colonial inheritance,
Africa’s position in the world economy, and failures of the African
governments to implement functional policies.

The colonial inheritance in this paper is understood as remnants of the colonial
enterprise on the African continent. Some of these inheritances are the
creation of land-locked states, and the location of capital cities.
These three aspects are important to examine as they affect the national
economy of each nation, the security and the implementation of
development policies. In 1885 the Berlin Conference, held by the German
Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, brought the colonial powers all together
for an important meeting. The topic of discussion was how the colonial
enterprise can be carried on without conflicts between the European
powers. Attending this meeting was Britain, France, Belgium and others.
This meeting would later speed up the “Scramble for Africa” and would
later shape the current map of the African continent.

The British were the primary colonizers in Africa. This is because the
Industrial revolution guaranteed them the desired technologies to
navigate the Oceans. In the 1880s Britain had colonized South Africa,
Rhodesia, Egypt, Gold Coast, Nigerian Coast, Sierra Leone, and also had
colonies in East Africa. In 1870 the Gold Coast was bought by Britain
from the Dutch and consequently declared the Fante states of the Gold
Coast as British Colonies. The desire for more colonies led the British
to Uganda in East Africa. During this period in African history, Uganda
enjoyed very fertile soil. This was a commodity that the British wanted
in order to grow cotton; which was needed back in England with the
progression of the Industrial Revolution. In 1894, Captain Frederick
Lugard overthrew the Kabaka of Uganda and declared it a colony.
Similarly in West Africa, Captain Lugard was sent to Nigeria to oversee
the colony in 1990. Captain Lugard, in understanding the previous
structure of the Nigerian society, allied with the Fulanies against the
Hausa; both are from the North. This was the divide and rule principle
that is the foundation of many conflicts within the African continent as
a whole. Without going into too much detail on African history, it is
vital to understand that an underestimation of the colonial impact on
Africa throughout the Second World War is catastrophic to the
development of the Continent as a whole .

The boundaries of Africa cuts through a hundred and ninety one cultural groups; some
groups are divided by more than one border. This can be seen in Nigeria
and Cameroon where no less than thirteen cultural groups exist around
both borders. The potential for the current map of Africa to change was
available during the period known as the drive for independence. This
period was from the 1950s to the 1960s. In 1959 the president of
Senegal, Leopold Senghor, and Mali united to form a Mali Federation.
This was achieved on June 20th 1960. The underlining rationale for this
union was to create a stronger territorial block that can face the
challenges of development together. Precisely two months after
independence, this federation would disintegrate, further underlining
the division inherent in the continent as a collective (Griffiths, 1995)

The disintegration of the Mali federation created the first land-locked states in West Africa. The difference between the two
territorial units was escalated to a point of animosity. Senegal decided
to block Mali’s traditional trading route, which grants access to the
sea. The Dakar to Kowlikoro railway was completed in 1914 and was the
driving force behind the Malian economy. Before 1960, 80% of the
nation’s external trade travelled through this path. Two possibilities
were talked of to replace the Dakar to Kowlikoro railway. The guinea
railhead leading higher up to the Niger River at Kounoussa was one
possibility. The alternative to this route was from Ivory Coast by means
of road leading to Ouagolodougo, which lies on the Abidjan railway. The
later alternative was chosen despite the greater length and the cost
inherent in such a journey. The Guinea railway, although it could have
been more cost effective, was not strong enough to manage the bulk of
Malian traffic. This is an example of the difficulties faced by
land-locked states when seeking alternative trading routes. Not only are
the economic interactions limited, but so is the politics (Griffiths,

Such an environment makes it difficult for governments to implement development policies, and encourage foreign investments that
are needed to generate capitals. To attract foreign investment; there
need to be a workable environment that will not pose a threat to the
companies. Furthermore, the difference in cultural identity that was
assaulted by colonial politics can be seen in the tension between Mali
and Senegal . It is even more visible in Nigeria during the Biafra war,
as the Ibos decided to separate from Nigeria which was heavily
controlled by the Fulanies of the North.

The land-locked states in Africa, of which there are fifteen in total, are imprints of the
colonial inheritance. They are characterized as being very small, though
not only in size but population as well, they are underdeveloped and
dependent, are economically and politically weak and are vulnerable to
their surrounding powers. The formation of Rwanda and Burundi as
independent, as well as land-locked nations was the result of the
division of Ruanda and Urundi. These territories were part of the League
of Nations Trust ( Griffiths, 1995). They had been carved out of the
German colony of Tanganyika and distributed to Belgium after the First
World War. This region of the continent is not particularly rich in
mineral resources, although rich in fertile land. Consequently the
potential for independent and sustainable development seems very in
these two states seem almost impossible. Territorially they are too
small to hold a large economy that warrants international recognition (
Griffiths, 1995 & Mazrui 1980)).

Even more severe is the case of Lesotho and Swaziland. These two states have the misfortune of
being surrounded on all sides by South Africa. Swaziland became a
British protectorate after the Anglo-Boer war in the 1890s. During this
period in time, it was administered by the South African Republic; the
Transvaal. It is worth noting that Swaziland has a better chance of
finding alternative trading routes than Lesotho as it is situated
further west; towards the coast. Lesotho on the other hand is restricted
on all sides by South Africa. This imposes limitations on the Movement
of Lesotho as permission is needed to cross over the neighboring
Attempts have been made at opening up an inland trading route in Swaziland. This was in the 1930s where asbestos deposits were
developed and exported by aerial ropeway across the border to South
African railhead at Barberton. This is because Swaziland is marginally
situated. Fortunately for this land-locked state, at the end of the
Colonial era, the 1960s, the mining of Iron ore did establish a direct
rail link to the port of Lourenço Marques (currently Maputo) to
Mozambique ( Griffiths, 1995). This gives Swaziland more alternative
than Lesotho which depends on South Africa. Consequently Lesotho is
vulnerable to the politics of South Africa. The effect of such
vulnerability can be seen in 1980, when Lesotho was blockaded by South
Africa. The goal here was the overthrow of the Lesotho government by
South Africa. The land-locked states of Africa represent some of the
poorest countries in the continent.
The capital cities of most African states are derived from the Colonial period and must
consequently be examined. The European powers established the trading
post of their colonies closer to the coast. This was not only a cost
effective location for the empires but was also closer to Europe. It
also saved them the health problems encountered at the interior of the
continent. The colonial capital of Nigeria was Lagos. This was later
moved after independence to Abuja. Lagos is a primary example of the
African capital cities. It is overly congested, and is located farther
away from the interior of the nation and closer to the coast. At
independence, twenty three of thirty two capital cities of the continent
were ports. Only nine capital cities were non-sea port. These are
Asmara, Brazzaville, Cairo, Khartoum, Nairobi, Pretoria, Windhoek, and
Yaoundé. Cairo as a capital city predated the colonial empires
(Griffith, 1995).
These cities tend to be multi-functional, fast-growing in population and are usually the only large urban centre
in the country. After independence, the new seat of African government
immediately sets up office. Legislative buildings are set up, as well as
buildings for diplomatic relations. All secondary and tertiary
industries expand in this location and demand labor (Mazrui, 1980). As a
matter of fact, every office in the nation is head-quartered in the
capital city. This is detrimental to the development of the nation as a
whole, as all the development of the nation is concentrated in one
region. The tribe inhabiting the said region can claim all the
development as theirs and not that of the nation as a whole, and
consequently will fuel a civil unrest. Given also that these cities tend
to be the major centre for employment, massive exodus from the rural to
the urban area is seen. The consequence of this movement is the
creation of slums in the capital cities.
Lagos presented such a threat as it was mostly inhabited by the Ibos population. This situation
has the potential for tribal rivalry and in the most severe case, a
civil conflict. General Babangida was the military dictator of Nigeria
whose determinism saw the relocation of the capital city from Lagos to
Abuja. Abuja is a strategically good location as it is in the center of
the nation. It is between Lagos and Kano, Kaduna and Enugu, Benin and
Jos ( Griffiths, 1995). Such a location spreads the wealth of the nation
rather than centralize it. At the same time, it creates a peaceful
environment that unites all the tribal groups in the region. It is worth
noting that not all states have the funding to re-locate. The move from
Lagos to Abuja was made possible by the oil boom of the seventies, from
which Nigeria made a significant profit. However, this is not to say
that changing the capital city from Lagos to Abuja solved the
development problem entirely as there still remain religious conflicts
in the Nigerian Society. These conflicts, mostly religion based, disrupt
the environment and make the implementation of development policies
more difficult.

Aid has also contributed largely to the stagnation of the various African nations. This is because it has
created dependency on the part of African nations on the West in terms
of financial resources. This can be seen in the distribution of aid and
the trade policy of the west towards the continent. For example, the
United States is Africa’s largest aid donor. In 2005, the USA government
pledged US$15 million dollars in to combat AIDS over a period of five
years. This aid was to be distributed through PEPFAR; President’s
Emergency Fund Relief. The condition attached to this aid was that it
would be donated to support only pro-abstinence programs. This is to say
that the aid did not reach the majority of the population and was
therefore not effective in combating AID on a larger scale (Moyo, 2009).
This is to be expected as aid comes with strings attached; usually in
the name of structural adjustment. While this might sound positive, it
is in fact negative to the local population as it means privatization of
public services increases. This makes it more difficult for the general
public to access this services. Structural adjustment also entails less
government control of foreign based corporations. Suffice it to say
that such agreements are detrimental to the average African population;
as is evident in the case of Ghana and water privatization in the 1960s.

Moreover, the relationship between the international corporation and the local community is a precarious one. Take for
example, the relationship between the local mosquito net maker and the
international corporation. Rather than employing the local community,
the donor state gives quotas which guarantee that members from his
country are to be the service providers. This affects the local net
maker as the larger corporation can now make ten nets in a minute while
he makes only one net a day. The local net producer in this case loses
his business. Noting also that these corporations are not established
permanently within the African continent, a dependence on them for these
materials is short sighted. More recently, the provision of aid has
been attached with an acceptance of the free market model and a
democratic society. Needless to say, the political orientation of a
given society has no impact on its development capability. Take China as
an example. Unfortunately for the African nations, an acceptance of the
free market systems results in the privatization of national services.
This means that a decline in the availability of civil services is
experienced. This can be seen in Gambia with the privatization of the
national airline (Moyo, 2009).

In the last fifty years, since African nations achieved independence, the continent as a whole has
received US$1 trillion with regards to development. Unfortunately no
substantial development has yet to be seen; and still this remains the
preferred policy of the west to African nations. What is more is aid is
expensive in more ways than one. In the political sense, it has been
used by dictators at the detriment of their own people. In the economic
sense aid is a loan that needs to be paid back with interest and should
not be mistaken for a grant. Mobutu Sese Sekou of Zaire is an example of
a leader who left the country crippled because of his insatiable greed.
This is a disease that plaques the African middle class . This
intellectual laziness of the African elites; that is their inability to
think in terms of what benefits the nations the most, are concerned with
their international reputation. The bourgeoisie class after filling in
the shoes of the colonial powers, becomes concerned with filling its own
pockets, while the crumbs are distributed among the people ( Fanon,

In terms of trade, Africa is being treated unfairly in the international market. This is due to the tariffs that limit the
exportation of finished goods and encourage only the exportation of raw
materials. In order to stop the dependency on the West, the continent
has to look for alternative trading partners. Reliance on the trading
relationship with the West has resulted in several crises on the African
economy. Tanganyika witnessed a crisis in groundnut production, while
Ghana witnessed a deficit in cocoa trading. Uganda witnessed a crisis in
cocoa and Senegal in groundnut (Yansané, 1996). All of these were
consequences of the advice given to the respective nations by the IMF.
That is, in order to pay the national debt that was amassed after
independence, an increase in production of a specific product is needed.
The specialization of a specific commodity in any economy, is a very
dangerous as the entire national economy is dependent on the success of
the product. What is needed in such a circumstance is a greater
intra-African trading. That is African nations have to first trade
internally, rather that depending on the western market.

Some scholars such as Walter Rodney have criticized the capitalist market as a
reason for exploitation of African economies. The role of capitalism in
society, according to Rodney, is ultimately to subjugate the poorer
nations and stifle means of economic development through unfair trade
relations. While the validity of the first half of the statement can be
contested, the latter has been proven accurate due mainly to exportation
tariffs. He leans towards the socialist standpoint and counters the
argument that capitalism is the appropriate and only functional system
within which African economies can develop. Therefore for African
economies to develop, they have to disengage from the capitalist model.
Unfortunately it is too late for such an action to be taken. The
industrialized nation has developed to an extent whereby, the survival
of the planet lays in their hands. By withdrawing from the capitalist
model, the African nations will be in avertedly withdrawing from the
international market (Mazrui, 1980). This serves no other purpose rather
than to alienate the African continent from the international
community. Alternative model such as Senghor’s African Socialism or
Nyerere’s Ujamaa although important, have proven limited. While African
Socialism relies on the communal value of the African society , it falls
short in inciting the type of growth that capitalism encourages. It was
not effective in Senegal in the 1960’s; it will never be effective as
the world becomes more individualistic. Basing the economic development
of a nation on the equal material wealth of each individual creates an
economically stagnant society.

While some scholars trace the African development question to the colonial era and others question the
role of aid , Iheduru Obioma, lay the blame on the inability of the
government to implement functional development policies. Regional
groupings such as ECOWAS and SADC amongst others were established to
facilitate regional development. The main issue here is the inability to
structure the economy. That is all aspects of the economy are not
reflected through the national GDP as not every African family has a
bank account. Also the territorial borders come in to play here. Take a
hypothetical village in Cameroon that situated at the border of Cameroon
and Nigeria. An individual leaves his village and just by crossing a
river, is in another state. naturally there exist a reason for crossing
the border to the other state; this can be for cheaper goods. In this
case the wealth is leaving Cameroon to Nigeria and is not reflecting in
GDP. The argument here is that it is the political and economical
policies in Africa ( between African governments) that restrict
development; for example the amount of corruption, the inability to
ensure structural changes also contributes to the stagnation of the
continent’s economy. Unfortunately Iheduru limits his analysis to policy
implementation and considers talk of colonial impact as mere excuses.

The failure in African leadership has contributed to the economic
stagnation of the continent. This has affected African societies. Aside
from bank loans from the IMF and World Bank, they exist alternative
banks such as the Bank of the Euro Market. This alternative choice can
be more dangerous as it as a floating interest rate. During the
Independence period, African leaders borrowed money from the to tackle
developmental problems, such as the creation of the Akosombo Dam in
Ghana. Such prestige projects usually lead the nation on the path of
national debt. This problem increases when the regional grouping can not
mobilize together in the implementation of a policy.

Although still lacking behind in development, the continent as a whole is moving
forward. Understanding that aid is not the solution to the continent’s
problems but rather, a deeper structural change is needed is the first
step towards progressive development. The colonial heritage such as the
border lines, or capital cities is still very vivid on the continent as
must be resolved for the better. This will not only be a positive
direction towards development, but will also help in curbing tribal
conflicts. An increase in regional relations must be seen in order to
decrease economic dependency on the west.

Work Cited Page
Césaire, A. (1955 ). Discourse on Colonialism. London: Presence Africaine. Print.
Colm Hogan, P. (2000). Colonialism and Cultural Identity: Crises of Tradition in the Anglophone
Literatures of India, Africa, and the Caribbean (pp. 45-83, 103-135 and 257-303). State University of New York Press, Albany.
Fanon, F. (1961). The Wretched of the Earth (pp. 1-147). New York: Groove Press Inc.
Griffiths, I.L.L. ( 1995). The African Inheritance . London: Routledge Publication. Print.
Iheduru, M.O. ( 2001). Contending issues in African development: advances, challenges and the future.
Westport: Greenwood Press. Print.
Mazrui, A. A. (1980). The African Condition. New York: University of Cambridge publication.
Moyo, D. (2009). Dead Aid; why Aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa
New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux publication. Print.
Rodney, Walter. ( 1972). How Europe underdeveloped Africa. Abuja: Panaf Press. Print.
institutional issues. Westport: Greenwood Press. Print.
Yansané, Y.A. (1996). Development strategies in Africa: current economic, socio-political and
institutional issues. Westport: Greenwood Press. Print.

Césaire, A. (1955 ). Discourse on Colonialism. London: Presence Africaine. Print.
Colm Hogan, P. (2000). Colonialism and Cultural Identity: Crises of Tradition in the Anglophone
Literatures of India, Africa, and the Caribbean (pp. 45-83, 103-135 and 257-303). State University of New York Press, Albany.
Chapman, G.P & Baker, K.M. (1992). The Changing Geography of Africa and the Middle East. London: Routledge.
Fanon, F. (1961). The Wretched of the Earth (pp. 1-147). New York: Groove Press Inc.
Griffiths, I.L.L. ( 1995). The African Inheritance . London: Routledge Publication. Print.
Iheduru, M.O. ( 2001). Contending issues in African development: advances, challenges and the future.
Westport: Greenwood Press. Print.
Mazrui, A. A. (1980). The African Condition. New York: University of Cambridge publication.
Moyo, D. (2009). Dead Aid; why Aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa
New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux publication. Print.
Nyerere, J. (1968). Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism. New York : Oxford University Press. Print
Rodney, Walter. ( 1972). How Europe underdeveloped Africa. Abuja: Panaf Press. Print.
Said, E. W. (1993). Culture and Imperialism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Yansané, Y.A. (1996). Development strategies in Africa: current economic, socio-political and
institutional issues. Westport: Greenwood Press. Print.


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