By: Moses Uneh Yahmia
I am a Pan Africanist, especially from the perspective of Nkrumaism. This has prepared me to abhor the history of colonialism in Africa. This is because the disadvantages colonialism brought to Africa are far more than its advantages. One of those disadvantages that still bring pain and agony to many Africans today is how the colonial masters exploited the resources of Africa and sent them to the European Industrialized markets, thus making Africans practically dependent on the Europeans for economic survival. For the purpose of “divide and rule”, Europe’s imperial occupation of Africa also created artificial boundaries that separated people of similar tradition and culture in Africa. Slavery was not enough, our people were made to suffer again from another act of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man; and this time, it was done through colonialism.
All countries in Africa, except Liberia and Ethiopia that are considered least colonized nations on the continent, were colonized either by Great Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, etc. Despite my abhorrence for colonialism in Africa, I would have preferred my Country Liberia to have been formally colonized by either of those colonizing European countries, rather than gaining quick independence on July 26, 1847. This is because if you make a comparative analysis between colonized and least-colonized countries in Africa with respect to development, better appreciation will be given to those colonized countries that fought against colonialism under the insignia of political and economic emancipation, and gained independence in the 20th Century.
Colonialism, despite its crude and hybrid bestiality, left well-defined system and control that was emulated by governments of post-colonial nations and yield better and tangible results. This is evidenced by the increase individuals’ skills and capacities, supported creativity, self-discipline, responsibility, and enhanced citizens’ material wellbeing countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Algeria, etc. have today. Although it existed at the detriment of majority Africans, it is obvious that colonialism set the basis for colonized countries of Africa to be on the right trajectory today. Ghana, was a British colony during Europe’s imperial occupation of Africa, and gained its independence from British rule in 1957. The British modeled Ghana’s educational system after theirs. This system, which has gone through several reforms in post-colonial epoch, has prepared the resilient people of the former Gold Coast to lead their nation to becoming a fully middle income country by the year 2020.
The economic power houses that Africa can boost of today are countries that were once colonized by imperial European nations, and to argue that colonization did not play a role in setting the pace for the economic success of those countries is being very dishonest while making an intellectual analysis of Africa’s history. Nigeria has the biggest economy currently in Africa. It gained independence from Great Britain in 1960. Botswana is another economic hub in Africa. It also gained its independence from British colonial rule in 1966. In pre-colonial time, oil and diamond were unknown and inaccessible in Nigeria and Botswana respectively. Native Africans did not have the expertise and technology to have explored the wealth beneath the soil before the coming of the Europeans. The Europeans in their quest to get hold of raw materials for their industrialized economies exposed to Africans the significance of the continent’s natural resources. Nigeria and Botswana are two beneficiaries of this colonial eye opener. Colonization’s legacy in post-colonial countries’ economies can also be seen vividly in its introduction of single currency as legal tender in each African colony. Today, economically, African post-colonial nations are benefiting from the reduced net transaction cost as the result of adherence to single currency.
Intensive cultivation in the economic genre of agriculture was lacking in pre- colonial Africa. What was seen mostly practiced by Africans with respect to agricultural engagement was subsistence farming. But the coming of the Europeans through colonization and their involvement with rigorous land cultivation, for the purpose of getting primary agricultural produce like cocoa, cotton, palm nuts, etc. provided the framework to post-colonial governments to establish agrarian economies. “If intensive agriculture provided sufficient capital to Europeans during colonialism, it will do better for Africans now that we have our freedom”, a post-colonial leader asserted in the 60s. No doubt, although colonialism predominantly existed at the detriment of Africans, it also set the stage that aided post-colonial leaders like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, etc. in moving their respective countries forward, and with the backward and moribund state of Liberia-the oldest independent nation on the continent, I would have preferred had it been formerly colonized by either of the European imperialists. Those who declared Liberia’s early independence had no capacity to move a sovereign nation forward. Early independence and the people at the zenith of the independence movement brought no significant impact to the masses of Liberians.
Liberia as stated earlier is one of the two countries that was least colonized in Africa. In 1822, with the sponsorship of the American Colonization Society- an NGO founded in 1816 to help repatriate freed African American slaves, the space call Liberia was established to accommodate repatriated African American slaves. In his article: “The Facts that Led to the Declaration of Independence”, brother Siahyonkron Nyanseor postulated that “instead of democracy, equity, and emancipation, it was commerce, trade, and custom duties that dictated the early founding of the Republic of Liberia on July 26, 1847”.
Unlike the Europeans who brought value-added knowledge to various colonial territories, the settler slaves/Americo-Liberians that founded and dominated the political and economic landscape of Liberia were bunch of semi-educated ex- slaves; they did not have any knowledge of agricultural practices. They did not understand the essence of nation building. These characteristics were never taught by their masters. What we are aware of is their operations of plantation, because majority of them worked in the houses of plantations owners during slavery. It was the same plantation mentality they brought and imposed on the indigenous masses of the people. They brutality fought to maintain their hegemonic role, and this brutal fight for power has been imbedded in the fabric of our society.
As a result, the coming of the settlers and their declaration of early independence has not history of building a nation that would bring about inclusive growth and progress. They refused to have adopted means that would have provided the framework for serious economic growth and development, and their inability has contributed immensely to where we are today as we celebrate 169years of independence. The marginalization and suppression of the indigenous masses was not enough. The founding fathers also left nothing tangible that would have engendered future progress. Today, after 169 years of existence as a sovereign and independent state, where we are is similar to where the European colonial masters left their various colonies after independence.
We remain the suppliers of raw materials to giant economies and consumers of finished products imported from China, America, Europe and even post-colonial nations. Frustratingly our national economic agenda shows no commitment to industrialization. The deplorable state of our health sector was again exposed by the Ebola Virus Epidemic in 2014. Poor performance of students, appalling infrastructure, unavailability of logistics, and up-to-date curriculum, low salaries and incentives for teachers, etc. place our educational sector in a messy state. In this age of globally improved technology, it is still being reported that majority of Liberians depends on subsistence farming as if we are in pre-colonial era. Industrial agriculture is not well and alive. With abundant fertile soil, we are importers of our stable food. Traveling to other counties will expose to you atrocious nature of a space without infrastructure in this age of modernity.
Regrettably, as we celebrate 169years as a sovereign nation, I wish we had been formerly colonized by one of those European imperial nations. Despite the cruelty and barbarity of European colonization in Africa, at least we would have benefited more than what a settler-slave’s domination and control provided on the platform of early independence. I wish I could turn back the hands of time.
Author's Statement: Moses Uneh Yahmia is a student of the University of Liberia. He studies Political Science and Economics. He can be reachedvia firstname.lastname@example.org.