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Politics of Post - Colonial Africa

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   LESSON 1- 15.10.2013

  • When we think about Africa, some thoughts of classmates: colonies, ethnicities, genocide, corruption, dictatorship, natural wealth, under developed, illiteracy, customs, wild life, hunger, violence, war, deprivation, death, disease, poverty. 

  • The problem of stereotypes. There exist huge stereotypes about Africa, and generally people do not have the actual knowledge. One reason stereotypes exist is due to European colonization.  

  • Colonialism lasted until around the 60’s. It was not the first encounter between Europeans and Africans. Before that there was about 300 years of slave trade emanating from Europeans. They helped form the stereotypes of what Africa and Africans were. Whites were masters, blacks were slaves. Skin colour = social trade. Slave trade dwindles, and is replaced with legitimate trade (rubber, palm oil, etc).  
  • Palm oil important for lighting streets and houses, running through machinery and as skin products.  
  • End of 19th century (last quarter), Americans no longer satisfied with economic situation- they attack and divide up Africa.  
  • Africa completely conquered and ‘occupied’. 
  • Colonialism created the political map in Africa. It is a direct result. The same colonies became the independent African countries.  
  • What is colonialism? It is Europeans taking the country, using it for natural resources.  
  • Institutionalized relationship of inequality and dependency between a foreign minority over a local majority. There is a strong sense of superiority on the one hand and inferiority on the other. Racism at the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century racism peaks, still exists today.  
  • Colonialism was not unique to Africa. America, Asia, Australia, Middle East experienced it too.  The difference is that Africa was colonized in 30 years, as opposed to hundreds of years.  Technological improvements made colonization easier, the industrial revolution. 
  • Africa bled its most abled people for 300 years (to slavery) and as a result ended up underdeveloped (check the truth and validity of this). 
  • 19th century colonialism made all Africans underdeveloped. Many Europeans presented colonialism as a good thing for Africans.  
  • The colonial project was very costly and unpopular in the beginning. With the dressing, it convinced your fellow countrymen at home. 
  • Colonies knew very little about what natural resources lay in Africa. They needed to plant crops. In order to make exportation (exploitation) quick and efficient they needed to build infrastructure, and for this they used African labor.  
  • Colonial situation was similar regardless of the colonizing country behind it. But each power chose a slightly different way to reach those goals.   

        LESSON 2 – 22.10.2013

  • There are generalizations that we all think of Africa. These thought are fix ideas. However there are some truths in stereotypes, such as the example of the Jews working together with Mali.
  • Can we talk about an Africa, if there are these stereotypes? With these stereotypes they try to define the European society. These stereotypes are defined as being culture. Besides similarities with the culture of those colonial powers, there are also differences. For example; music. Example; Nigeria.
  • Last week we talked about European colonialism in Africa, and today we are interested in colonial effects in order to understand the structure, behaviors, etc.  
  • African countries gained independence mostly in 1960s.  The colonial leaders thought that they were doing something in favor of Africa. But not so. We start with political aspect;
  • Post-colonial borders are exactly same with the post colonial borders; Arica today. One thing is missing in the map; South Sudan. Otherwise, it is the same exact map from 1913. Colonial powers: we brought Africa’s map even to the 21st century, we brought them into the international community, we created states for them which they didn’t have before. However the problem with this is that, they created arbitrary borders and it is not sure that those borders will be taken to the account or not. Nobody asked the Africans whether they accept these borders or not. Africa has tribes and their own nations.
  • African states are younger than European states. The colonial powers created states nothing in common. These states don’t have national identity. Fr example; Nigeria for many Nigerians is nothing, or it means something very negative because this was a tool in our exploration. No national anthem.
  • There is alienation in Africa. If you don’t feel you belong to a state, why to participate?  
  • Colonial powers; we wrote constitutions, modern system of political existence, governments, political parties, army, etc. so this is how civilized people should behave. However what is wrong with this achievement? Building up a parliament is basically good for PR outside.
  • Logic of the judiciary system works completely different. Even the language, even the parliament today it will take time. So, today the parliament works with colonial languages. How many people do you think are accessible to this language? Very few.
  • De-colonialization was the Africanization. Now they became the African elite.  But it did not change colonial relations or colonial logic.
  • What is wrong with the military? Loyalty. Because they don’t feel themselves belonging to a national identity. So the army could be very very dangerous. Against the enemies, the army either can want to defend the nation, or want otherwise to take over the power. In Mali, for example, part of the North rebelled, and they were helped by the soldiers.  
  • Colonial rulers say we brought African Economy to the 21st century, we built roads, we integrated Africa economically into international economy. There is integration in an infere role in global economics. They supplied Africa cash crops and row materials. Coffee and tea Africa. They import finished goods. Everyone should be specialized with their own special goods. But what is the problem with that for Africa?  If you’re good at making coffee, go for it. But what is the limitation with it? Every economy in the world is dependent on each other, however extension of this dependency changes. If Africa gives so much coffee for example to Brazil, and one day Brazil decides to make money with coffee, it kills African economy. They become rivals. If you are very good you become also fragile. You are completely dependent on external markets and external actors.
  • Mono-cultures, meaning relying on very limited branches items to trade I very negative because prices can be good but they can fall. In fact in 1966 there was a 25% fall within a week in coco industry.
  • Neo-colonialism; neo is new. It means old colonialism was dominated physically, but new (neo) colonialism is dominated economically by other powers. Africans may liberate themselves politically but not in the actual sense, and also not so economically.

Social and cultural impact

 Modern education:

  • We brought them education. Tought them civilized languages like French and English, we built schools for them. What is bad about that? Controlling the mind with education. Main purpose of colonialism was for exploration and for benefits. So with this in mind, more people came from the Europe for economic machinery the ore expensive the system became.
  • Those educated people got used to the idea of being under colonial powers. The other thing that is negative about education is that by teaching them a different language you create a class society which separates people from others. It was only 20% in Africa the amount of people who knew how to read and write after 80 years of colonialism. Most of the people didn’t have the modern education so it created 2 classes of people. It even led people not being able to find jobs. Modern education determined your place in society in terms of options.
  • There was a very tiny elite that achieved t university education and they were encouraged to learn philosophy, theology, literature. There were very few people that were able to run a state. Education as well as any other modern resource such as job work distributed and evenly not only ethnically but even the people from different areas local identification is very important. Education was discriminated against certain areas and groups. Not always but often. It created very deep differences.  The gaps get wider and deeper, for example in Nigeria.
  • Education introduced an implemented cultural colonialism. Not always, but colonial powers did change Africans attitudes towards their (European) culture. African culture vs. European culture.  

Historical significance

It lasted about 70 to 80 years in average. Comparing Thousands of years of African political independence this time is a bit short, but it is a revolutionary chapter and it completely changed the African history.

LESSON 3 – 30.10.2013

  • Last week we discussed the impact of colonialism on Africa. Colonialism can be seen as an episode in the long history of African history.
  • Some of the main African historians said that Africans actively were to limit the impact of colonialism and maintained many social values and institutions. So besides change there are also continuities; we are not only creation of foreign powers. Also some of researches share this view. One of the economic researches in Africa stated that West Africa was not backwards economically before colonialism, and it is not well developed after colonialism, so colonialism was not a revolutionary turning point.
  • Today, about the question about the colonial impact, as we established there are many similarities between different African countries, as well as significant changes. Ethiopia and South Africa both mark the end of colonialism.


  • It is a very unique country in terms of colonialism. They successfully resisted twice against the attempts to be conquered. The first attempt was British. Not only they resisted and remained independent, it either joined other colonial powers and enlarged their borders. It conquered all those areas in the South and the East, becoming colonial power in itself. But adding to it, lots of areas and people were included in Ethiopia such as different religions, new Ethiopians that they conquered and brought to country.  
  • But Ethiopia did eventually fall in the hands of colonial power; Italy. It was very very late though. By 1900, the whole Africa was completely conquered, but Ethiopia was conquered by Italy only in 1938, however it didn’t last long. Once the 2nd WW started in 1939, the animosity was growing in Africa between European power. And in 1943 Italy left Africa.
  • Ethiopia became just as much victim as the other colonialized countries; especially economically. Ethiopia became one of the poorest countries in the world.
  • Ethiopia was the lightest case of colonialism, whereas the colonialism in SA was the heaviest.


  • In SA, there was settler colonialism; though it was not only in Africa. In Algeria, there were 1 million settlers, as well as Namibia (German colony, then SA took it over), Kenya, Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe) etc.  
  • In 1994, SA became for the first time a state of all of its inhabitants. Colonialism in SA started in the late 1800. So it was the longest case of colonialism.
  • The significance of being settler colonialism is that racism was so much. It is much more central and oppressive goes into all spheres of life. SA became the symbol of settler colonialism.
  • In the movie in the class, we saw the symbol of high exploitation which was confiscation of lands. The lands were confiscated only in settlement areas.
  • What was unique about de-colonialization of the settlements in South Africa? In SA, comparing to Kenya for example, they felt that they created a new nation.
  • Next week we will talk about post-colonialism, and a very discussion about African states.

LESSON 4 – 06.11.2013

  • Today we will talk about normal African states, which are a state, have national anthem, etc.
  • Without understanding what a state is we can’t understand what we are talking about. What is a state? A state is monopoly over a legitimate use of force.
  • When and how the African states were created?
  • They are not European invention. There were for thousands of years Africans. The states of the political map were created by colonialism, about 50 years ago in an average. Because the states were imposed, they don’t have a common denominator. Most people don’t feel that they belong to their state. They even feel relieved. For them this kind of a state is an artificial creation. The basic point to start with an African state is the very very low legitimacy. So, how could this affect politics in these days?
  • -State institutions will be weak, there will be many many conflict. People will ask, whose state is this? There is constant competition over whose state is it? How will it be governed?
  • Democracy for these states is a hard regime to apply, because there will be political violence. Democratic regimes need legitimacy, that means that the people acknowledges the state, respects the state, therefore they participate in what is theirs. But if they don’t feel this is their state, then they don’t participate, therefore a democratic regime collapses.
  • Many Africanist scholars ask what kind of a state is a state in Arica?

  • Markovitz is an American political scientist who insisted that “African states are ordinary states, and nothing unique about them, which fit well to the European states. The only different between African and European states is the age. African states are young, European states have a past of hundreds of years. What we see in Africa, the stability, political violence, etc, is the same what happened in the past of European states. So, it is normal in a creation of the state, such as civil wars, etc. What we see now in Africa wont stay this way forever. What we see in Africa has an encouraging message for us”.

What can we gain from this kind of analysis?

Even though Africa is going through these things now, we can figure out what are the next stage of this developments in the process of being a state. And the development in Africa is going according to a plan, a European plan. However, although his explanation makes sense, we cannot now what will happen in this process for sure.  In addition, African sates are still externally dominated, which as known as neo-colonialism.



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