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Colonial Legacy: Economic, Political, Social And Cultural Aspects

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On the eve of independence, the African countries ranked among the least developed, least industrialized and least secure place in the world. The nationalist movement didn’t know what lay ahead for them. According to Thandikaa Mkandawire a Malawian economist, Africans were naive about the prospects for a democracy and high level of accountability by their new leadership. He further argued that they were also naive about the status and fairness of the international system to which they were joining. The exploitative and oppressive regime of colonialism had made Africa to stagnate in all aspects. As such, the period of colonialism can safely be referred to as a period of retrogression, oppression and stagnation not a development one. The retrogressive and backward policies by colonial powers continues to affect modern African Countries.


The period of colonialism was marked by under industrialization of Africa. While African countries provided raw materials, all industries were set in metropolitan countries.

Historian Albert Adu Boahen summarized Africa’s predicament during colonial period as below “All African states were , in accordance to the workings of a capitalist economy ,turned into markets for consumption of manufactured goods. Walter Rodney a Guyanese historian was more blunt in assessment of the colonial period. He asserted “If an African entered colonialism with a hoe, he emerged at independence with a hoe. In other words, they did not add any value to industrialization of Africa”. After independence African started from a weak position, almost zero and this is why to date, African countries are the least industrialized. This caused unequal trade transactions between manufacturing powerful nations and third world African nations. As a result of the exploitation of resources, the continent has been forced to rely on the importation of foreign products. This has compelled African states to import very expensive manufactured goods from outside yet the raw material from which these products made fetch them very little. This has led to unequal exchange of market products and trade deficit in favor of stronger and developed economies. Africa was admitted into the world capitalist economy with its less valuable tools and value added products. To make matters worse colonialists heaped unnecessary debts on African countries. For instance, before granting Anglophone countries their independence, France hoodwinked them to convert whatever development they had done into loans. Anglophone countries are still paying France to date. This is despite the fact that any small development that was undertaken by colonialists was for their selfish benefit. This coupled with the fact that African countries found it difficult to de-link themselves from their colonialists due to weak economic ability has confined African countries to mere beggars in the global marketplace

Rich countries have been accused of using foreign aid to dominate third world countries. China has emerged on the global scene wielding the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) as a tool for engaging poor African countries. Critics including United states of America have responded to China’s aggressive infrastructural engagements in Africa with skepticism. They have accused China of seeking to impoverish African countries. While this argument makes a lot of sense given the reports to the extent that some countries have attached their national assets as collateral for these loans, it should not come from the Americans who view China as their archrival in the second scramble for Africa’s resources.

After independence, African countries due to weak policies failed to fully delink themselves from their colonial masters. African states remained subservient to colonialists. When the whites granted independence to blacks they had a plan on how they would continue to influence operations of independent African countries. Only Portuguese was worried of ceding her direct rule because they lacked the economic wherewithal to engage in neocolonialism. These countries are bound by power patterns established during colonialism. For instance, Congo Zambia and Zambia governments are at the mercy of multinational companies who exploit minerals for but very little benefits locals. These multinational corporations have huge power that enables them to extract wealth from Africa for a song.

After independence, African countries were ushered into unfamiliar ground of global trade. African countries found themselves in unfavorable position because of the nature of international economic system and its inequalities between the rich and the poor countries. Even today the current economic system does not favor Africa.

Economic policies of African countries have been affected by growing conflict between the west (capitalist) and the east (communist) world blocks. African have found themselves between economically powerful nations that compete among themselves to have a piece of Africa. African states without the economic muscles to engage in high voltage global trades are shepherded to either the west or the East by factors that don’t favor them

In fact, today colonialism rears its ugly head indirectly through foreign aid bodies like the IMF, World bank, French government and aid agencies of developed countries. Those institutions are the ones who determine Africa’s economic path. Another challenge that critics of foreign aid pose is why wealthy countries are very keen to assist African countries to address short term problems which are as a result of long term problems. This made skeptics to argue that perhaps foreign aid bodies are not interested in helping Africa out of the its problems but provide small token donations that it dependent on them. Foreign aid organization ignored the root causes of Africa’s problems.

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Our land policies have been messed by colonialists. The issue of land grabbing is a FOREIGN concept introduced to us by the whites. in precolonial African rulers never grabbed land. According to Desmond Tutu, the white man came with nothing but the bible but when his time to leave home reached, he went with too much. During the period of colonialism, Tutu thinks the white Man made us close our eyes for a prayer, but when we opened them, they had taken our land and we had their bible

Indeed, they more interested with land more than anything else. In Kenya for instance, white settlers allocated themselves fertile arable lands in areas that came to be known as white highlands. They were so obsessed with Kenyan land to level of wanting to make it a White man’s country. In his book White Man’s Country Lord Delamere alluded to that. After the exist of the colonialist the leaders in nationalist movement allocated themselves and their cronies fertile lands left by the whites. This how our land policy has remained a thorny issue in this country. The Ndung’u report which documented the extent of skewed land ownership is yet to be implemented. During the inquiry, the commission came face to face with glaring and blatant skewed land allocations in the country. However, the political class is unwilling to implement the report because of its radical proposals that might see some of them loose huge tracks of land.


African countries assumed the models of their colonial masters. Even in countries that practiced decentralized political systems, they an adopted a centralized governance structure borrowed from colonialists. Leaders who took over from the white men became just as brutal as the colonialists towards their own fellow Africans. In Kenya, the chiefs act and public officers acts a colonial tenets remained in force until late 90s. The chiefs of post-independence became very brutal. Those who have studied African political organization in pre-colonial period will agree with me that most African kingdoms were largely peaceful and their leaders empathetic. However, after going through colonialism, those who emerged as new leaders reigned terror on the same citizens they pretended to have fought for.

Because a system of governance that foreign to them was imposed on them, African countries have not been stable. as a result, there are very countries in Africa where democracy is thriving. African reluctantly bought the idea of multiparty democracy however political remain personality and not ideologically driven.

Colonialists succeeded in separating once homogeneous ethnic communities and lamping them together with unrelated communities to form new states. Example are the Somali of Somalia, Somali of Djibouti the Somali of Kenya and Somali of Ethiopia who should have ideally form state. This has resulted in wars among nations that host communities that were once together. In 1962, Somali of Kenya voted overwhelmingly to be part of Somalia. Kenya refuse to accept the verdict. This slammed breaks on the plans by Mogadishu to form what had offered as “great Somalia “by annexing all Somali-populated areas in the region. this included Djibouti and Ethiopia. When seceding through a referendum came a cropper, the Somali of Kenya resorted to a separatist uprising between 1963 to 1967. This one of those cases are as a result e of colonial powers annexing and sharing themselves African continent among themselves without considering they existed before.


Immediately after independence, African countries adopted languages of their colonizers as the language of instructions in schools. Countries that were colonized by French started using French those colonized by Britain started settled on English as the national’s language. even the system of education was modeled on the basis of the colonial masters. Many efforts today to reform the education system in Kenya are done with British template in mind. We still use English as our national language.


As we have already discussed elsewhere, colonialism interrupted the life of Africans. Before the white man came, Africans had their own way of life. They had their own religion. In Kenya’s case, the Kikuyu called their God Ngai the Luo called him Nyasaye and Luhya Were Khakaba. Africans had prophets, medicine men and seers who cured who diseases and helped communities unravel mysteries that threatened human life. However, when the White man came he introduced a new way of life Africa. The Colonialist made Africa to view their way of life as primitive and rudimentary. With time, Africans gave up their way of religion and embraced Christianity. Today more African practice Christianity than those who still embrace the old way of religion.

Before the arrival of the colonialist, African had their own value system that was enforced through formation of age sets and by the powers that was wielded by elders. This has since been replaced by foreign values with the help of education.


Some individual have argued for what they feel should have seen independence of some African countries delayed. These critics of current African leadership and which they justified to critics, argue that African nations were handed their independence prematurely. Some have further argued that since the Britons build a railways during colonialism, it is only recently that Kenya made an attempt build a Standard Gauge Railway SGR, which has built on Chinese loans. What they forget is that railway line was to serve the interests of the colonialists. It is therefore safe to brand the period of colonialism the darkest moment in the life of Africans because policies that stifled agriculture, economic activities and muscled our dignity and pride were adopted during that period and continue to define our way of life today. They made sure Africans were ashamed of their heritage and culture. Most African leaders are dictators and overbearing in nature because that is what they learned from the white man. Today, we mirror our former colonial masters almost in all aspects of life. our problems in respect to the period when colonialists disarmed us economically, politically, culturally and socially if we are to unyoke ourselves from neocolonialism and slavery. colonial period was a dark age in life of Africans.

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Colonial Legacy: Economic, Political, Social And Cultural Aspects. (2021, September 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“Colonial Legacy: Economic, Political, Social And Cultural Aspects.” Edubirdie, 17 Sept. 2021,
Colonial Legacy: Economic, Political, Social And Cultural Aspects. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 Mar. 2024].
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