What Happened In Africa?

Jul 2011
20
USA
I have a general interest in history, however I'm almost completely ignorant on African history, but I have a question or two. I know enough to know of somewhat well off empires like the Mali empires and a few others that escape my mind, and have a feeling that not too long enough Africa was at least decent. Now these days I look at Africa, and forgive me for saying this, but it seems like a hell hole. What happened to Africa?
 
Nov 2010
7,890
Border of GA and AL
The short answer: Europe
Long answer: Arabs, Europeans, Islam, and Christianity. :lol:

Seriously though those are basic answers. I'm sure someone can expand on this.

BTW welcome to Historum. :)
 

spellbanisher

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
4,136
The Celestial Plain
Hi Gall-Gaidheal. Welcome to historum. :)

Two major convergences that did not work out well for Africa.

For one, the colonization of the Americas along with the great dying meant a labor shortage. Europeans really were not suited to work in the New World climate, and the native populations were wiped out mostly by disease. So the demand was met by African slaves. Africa already had a slave trade, but the demand for labor for the Americas dramatically increased the demand for African slave labor. This diverted African economies away from resourcing producing activities towards resource depleting activities, like slave trading. It also meant that capital and power was accumulated by those who had less of an interest in building up Africa, towards only those whose only sought short term gains (by selling slaves) and increasing power.

The second convergence was in the late nineteenth century. Stagnant economic growth, along with supply disruptions such as the Civil War in the United States, drove many European countries to try to diversify their economic portfolios, so to speak, by expanding their colonial possessions. This led to the "scramble for Africa," which was aided by the discovery of quinine (which gave Europeans resistance to Malaria), and the invention of the maxim machine gun, which enabled them to subdue and control Africa fairly easily.

A third major event was the dissolution of European empire after World War II, which effectively ended European colonial control over Africa. But the new countries were drawn without any sense or reason, with boundaries often cutting across ethnic, linguistic, and cultural lines. This in effect meant that civil war and conflict was built into the structure of the borders, which also meant that power lay with those with the greatest destructive, rather than productive, capabilities.

Also, European colonialism of Africa was more concerned with "Westernizing" Africans, i.e., teaching them European languages and converting them to Christianity, than they were with imparting the technical skills and knowledge necessary for Africans to sustain infrastructure built by Europeans. In effect this meant a decline and deindustrialization of Africa after Europeans left, since there was an insufficient number of engineers and scientists (but plenty of philosophers, poets, and writers).

Finally, there is the geographical and environmental circumstances of Africa. Africa is a large continent and historically has had a very sparse population. The lack of population density meant that capital accumulation, nation-state building, urbanization, sustained political and economic development, and the formation of political ideologies beyond tribalism, or even the formation of secular ideologies, were near impossible.

Ironically, their problems might be the opposite today. Modern agriculture and medicine has allowed their population to explode, but without equivalent increases in productive capacity, their economy cannot keep up with the explosive population growth; thus, they get poorer and poorer.
 
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spellbanisher

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
4,136
The Celestial Plain
A more thorough post I wrote in another thread

First off, Africa is not a country, it is a continent. Additionally, most people do not understand just how big Africa is. It is not a homogenous place. Here's a visual that gives an idea of the size of Africa



The causes of its poverty are manifold. Africa had slavery for hundreds of years, but African slavery was really a system of cheap labor. Slavery in Africa did not remove talent and skills, it just relocated them to a different region in Africa. When Europeans arrived, they removed millions of Africans, causing a massive loss of skills and talent. The argument that Africans are lazier than Europeans is also dubious. One of the reasons that Africans were used as slaves in the America's was because they were used to hard, agricultural labor. It must also be noted that when Europeans arrived in Africa they greatly harmed indigenous technological development. The region were most slaves came from were from west Africa, which before Europeans intervened was developing productive textile industries. The importation of European cloth destroyed those nascent industries. The slave trade (as well as elephant tusks) was seen as an investment by Africans. In exchange for bringing slaves they could get guns, which enabled them to get more slaves and elephant tusks. This diverted African economies from industries such as agriculture and manufacturing towards slave trading and elephant hunting.

When Europeans colonized Africa, they were not concerned with developing manufacturing in Africa. Europeans developed extractive industries and infrastructure (essentially, industries designed to remove raw materials from Africa) and not manufacturing industries. Consequently, Africans were never taught any engineering or scientific knowledge, at least not the kind of knowledge that would enable them to manufacture their own raw materials or to maintain the infrastructure that Europeans left behind. At best they could sell raw materials to western countries, but western countries always have an advantage in international markets, because western countries control the means of production, and African countries lack the technical skills to develop mining technologies; thus, they have to outsource the work to western countries.

There have been times over the last century where African countries were on the verge of industrializing, but external events always prevented that. For instance, in the sixties many African countries were building up their textile industries. Western charities realized they could make money by bundling donated clothes and selling them to African merchants. Those merchants would then go back to their countries and sell the clothes. Because most of these clothes were from the United States, they had a cultural capital that clothes made in domestic industries lacked. Unable to compete with cheap clothes from the United States, textile industries went out of business, reversing the economic progress of those African countries. Generally, a country starts out in textiles or agriculture to industrialize. For instance, in the late nineteenth century Japan ushered all its resources behind selling cheap silk, and from the silk industry Japan was able to raise the money to build up its heavier industries. England built up its wealth in the nineteenth century from its textile industry, whose cotton was grown and harvested by slaves in the American South.(That is until the American Civil War. After the Civil War, Europe turned its eyes towards Africa). On a side note, the American Civil War was the first time that machine guns were used in war. Europe then used machine guns in the seventies and the eighties to carve up Africa.

The other alternative for a country to industrialize is to sell agricultural goods on the international markets. African nations cannot do that, because the United States flood international markets with its subsidized goods. African farmers simply cannot compete with farmers that are getting billions of dollars in tax payer subsidies.

Population growth, as mentioned, is another problem. Africa is not nearly as dense as European countries or Asian countries, but it is not developing at a rate fast enough to keep up with population growth. This is a problem in South America, and in the twentieth century it was a problem for China and India. Europe had colonies, which allowed them to shift domestic land towards manufacturing, thus enabling them to create the wealth needed to support growing populations. In the United States, diseases wiped out Native American populations, leaving behind a sparsely populated continent. The sheer amount of resources per capita in the United States greatly aided them in industrialization. Without colonies, China had to shift more and more of their land towards growing food, leaving less land for industry. Ostensibly, Africa could be like the United States, but African geography and topography is different from the United States and may not be as conducive to development. Additionally, as has already been mentioned several times in the thread, most of Africa lacks linguistic unity. Most of the developing Asian countries, including China, have the advantage of relative linguistic unity which enables centralized efforts towards development.

In China, for instance, wealth creation is generated by taxes and government efforts, not specifically by private enterprise. Private enterprises pay taxes to build factories and own land in China, and then the Chinese government uses those taxes to invest in infrastructure, education, and energy. Private enterprise does provide jobs for the poor, but those jobs pay way too little to help China to industrialize. To put it in another way, the factory workers in China lack the buying power to really make a difference in the greater economy. What these factory workers do is create wealth for private industries, who then pay taxes to the Chinese government. The Chinese government then uses those taxes to invest in infrastructure (better roads, water facilities, electricity, etc) that benefits those factory workers.

African countries, however, do not have the centralized clout to force taxes out of western countries. In fact, it is usually the opposite. African countries receive "foreign aid" which they then use to attract the services of western industries. Investors flood the country, speculators create a bubble, the bubble bursts, and the country is left worse off then before the foreign aid. Even worse, the country is still forced to pay back its loans, so all its tax receipts must go to paying foreign loans. This is a massive wealth drain, and it further prevents those countries from funding education or vital infrastructure.


You would be hard pressed to find any modern economy that industrialized through free markets. Great Britain passed many laws, including the Enclosure Acts, that favored landowners at the expense of workers and peasants. England used tariffs to destroy the textile industries in India, and then used their military to colonize India. France did not industrialize until its government started heavily investing in railroad and coal industries in the 1840's. Japan industrialized through national efforts and reforms, and most countries industrializing today, including China, have strong central governments. Mercantilism, not capitalism, is the first step in industrialization. Yet western countries often impose “free markets” on smaller developing countries, who simply cannot compete on the international markets. Those countries are simply drained of resources and raw materials. Repeatedly, when African countries have been on the verge of industrialization their nascent industries have been destroyed by international markets.

Weapons also play an important role in Africa. Those who rule are those with access to tanks and guns. As Ali Mazuri notes, “The slave trade coincided with the gun trade. African slaves arriving in the Americas helped the West to be more productive; Western guns arriving in Arica helped Africans to be more destructive...Political power in Africa often resides among those who control the means of destruction rather than among those who own the means of production.” Thus, the emphasis for most regimes is in acquiring weapons, not in investing in production.
I agree with Sylla1. The assertion that there are real historians who argue that Africa was a utopia or a paradise is a strawman. Only the media and charlatan historians make those kinds of assertions. It is undeniable that there were problems in Africa before Europeans arrived, but that could be said of any place. European nations had millions of impoverished workers, no safety nets, and draconian legal systems (for the poor at least). Africa was not a paradise before the arrival of Europeans, but it is likely that they were better off before the arrival of Europeans, and probably would have been better off had they never interacted with Europeans.

Scholar is correct in noting that many Africans did want modernization. But there was a lot of ambivalence and delusion. Here is an excerpt from "My Story," by Ndansi Kumalo, who lived in nineteenth century Africa.

"Would I like to have the old days back? Well, the white men have brought some good things. For a start, they brought us European implements-ploughs; we can buy European clothes, which are an advance. The government have arranged for education and through that, when our children grow up, they may rise in status. We want them to be educated and civilized and make better citizens. Even in our own time there were troubles, there was much fighting and many innocent people were killed. It is infinitely better to have peace instead of war, and our treatment generally by the officials is better than it was at first.

"But, under the white people, we still have our troubles. Economic conditions are telling on us very severely. We are on land where the rainfall is scanty, and things will not grow well. In our own time we could pick our own country, but now all the best land has been taken by the white people. We get hardly any price for our cattle; we find it hard to meet our money obligations. If we have crops to spare we get very little for them; we find it difficult to make ends meet and wages are very low. When I view the position, I see that our rainfall has diminished, we have suffered drought and have poor crops and we do not see any hope of improvement, but all the same our taxes do not diminish. We see no prosperous days ahead of us. There is one thing we think an injustice. When we have plenty of grain the prices are very low, but the moment we are short of grain and we have to buy from Europeans at once the price is high. If when we have hard times and find it difficult to meet our obligations some of these burdens were taken off us it would gladden out hearts. As it is, if we do raise anything, it is never our own; all, or most of it, goes back in taxation. We can never save any money."

What is sad about that passage is that he thinks colonial education will help Africa in the future, which was not the case. As Ali Mazuri explains, "Cultural Westernization was promoted more vigorously than genuine technological modernisation...Colonial schools generally were transmitters of Western culture rather than transmitters of Western technical skills. Brilliant graduates were at best potential Shakespeares but almost never potential Einsteins or potential Edisons or Graham Bells." I would argue that without the technical knowledge to build productive industries, African "civilization" does not make much of a difference. What ends of happening is that those with the biggest guns end up ruling.
Here is a thread that discusses this issue

http://www.historum.com/middle-eastern-african-history/23064-why-africa-poor-5.html

Unfortunately, the thread is polluted with a lot of bullsh*t posts based on prejudice more than actual studies. So, I would recommend you read these posts to avoid the fluff and prejudice:

46(page 5)
60(page 6)
61(page 7)
72(page 8)
83(page 9)
118 and everything after.
 
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Mar 2011
845
Hi Gall-Gaidheal. Welcome to historum. :)

Two major convergences that did not work out well for Africa.

For one, the colonization of the Americas along with the great dying meant a labor shortage. Europeans really were not suited to work in the New World climate, and the native populations were wiped out mostly by disease. So the demand was met by African slaves. Africa already had a slave trade, but the demand for labor for the Americas dramatically increased the demand for African slave labor. This diverted African economies away from resourcing producing activities towards resource depleting activities, like slave trading. It also meant that capital and power was accumulated by those who had less of an interest in building up Africa, towards only those whose only sought short term gains (by selling slaves) and increasing power.
I'm sorry, but this sounds like badly applied Marxist theory. "Resource-depleting" activities as in the trading of gold, ivory and slaves was the source of the wealth of the west African trading empires from long before arrival of European traders and colonists. This wealth depended on the trading with the economically far more advanced Arabs and indirectly also with the Europeans. These west African trading empires were not industrial hubs with advanced manufacturing capabilities, they sold and thrived on what nature had given them. In order to become a "resource-producing" economy, you need technology. Did west Africa possess any advanced manufacturing technology? Handwoven textiles could hardly have become the starting point of any industrialization. For those textiles to have become relevant on any wider market, they would have had to compete with superior industrial textiles from the markets of Europe, India, etc. Many countries are still struggling today with the transitioning from a "resource-depleting" to a "resource-producing" economy. You don't succeed with this through sheer vision and will-power alone, you need advanced technology and skilled labour.

The second convergence was in the late nineteenth century. Stagnant economic growth, along with supply disruptions such as the Civil War in the United States, drove many European countries to try to diversify their economic portfolios, so to speak, by expanding their colonial possessions. This led to the "scramble for Africa," which was aided by the discovery of quinine (which gave Europeans resistance to Malaria), and the invention of the maxim machine gun, which enabled them to subdue and control Africa fairly easily.
The "scramble for Africa" was historically speaking a very late development in the history of the African continent and this was more the result of an on-going power game between European powers than it was a sound economically based initiative. Not all of the colonies actually brought any net profit to their colonial holders, they were kept simply as bargaining chips in a much wider power game.

A third major event was the dissolution of European empire after World War II, which effectively ended European colonial control over Africa. But the new countries were drawn without any sense or reason, with boundaries often cutting across ethnic, linguistic, and cultural lines. This in effect meant that civil war and conflict was built into the structure of the borders, which also meant that power lay with those with the greatest destructive, rather than productive, capabilities.
How should the borders have been drawn in order for there not to have been any overlapping etnic, linguistic and cultural lines? I think it's pretty clear that whichever way the borders were outlined, conflicts were inevitable. The only alternative would have been to leave the tribal structure untouched and let the natives fight it out on their own, which would have meant decades of bloody wars throughout the continent, probably far worse than what has happened. While I'm sure that the borders were not drawn up devoid of any interests that the colonial powers themselves had, I'm not convinced that leaving it up to the natives would have been a more preferrable solution. Just look at the recent border controversy between North and South Sudan, it's impossible for them to demarkate their new border because there are various non-resident tribal groups that move around certain areas or use them as a grazing ground for animals, so both sides can claim the territory based on the needs of a particular tribal group that's loyal to them. Those things rarely get solved peacefully on their own.

Also, European colonialism of Africa was more concerned with "Westernizing" Africans, i.e., teaching them European languages and converting them to Christianity, than they were with imparting the technical skills and knowledge necessary for Africans to sustain infrastructure built by Europeans. In effect this meant a decline and deindustrialization of Africa after Europeans left, since there was an insufficient number of engineers and scientists (but plenty of philosophers, poets, and writers).
Teaching local Africans English or French would sometimes have meant giving them an opportunity to work and study abroad or at least having the possibility to read the vast body of literature available in those languages compared to the limited or non-existant body of literature available in the native tongue. Also, I think that you're underestimating the value that learning to read and write brought in terms of the preservation of local traditions and folklore for cultures that previously lacked any kind of written heritage of their own.

As for training engineers and scientists, what do you expect of understaffed colonial/missionary schools in locations you could hardly reach by ordinary means of transport? Just teaching basic literacy would have been enough of a challenge. Some did have the opportunity to study at universities in Europe, but you don't simply train engineers and scientists in a region of the world where there is absolutely no market for such skills. It would be a waste of time, money and resources for everyone involved. Btw, missionary schools were active not only in Africa but also in East Asian countries such as Korea, i.e. countries that today are considered moderately or highly developed countries. So, these schools did have some impact, but it would be unrealistic to expect them to achieve miracles everywhere.

The decolonialization process was not exactly planned and quite often it included violent attacks on Europeans or ultimatums that they leave the country on short notice. A softer decolonialization process would probably have been much better but that was not the wish of the various revoutionary freedom fighting groups that took over power from their former colonialists. Either way, it's just another hypothetical scenario and many colonial powers have given aid and assistance to these newly independent countries. However, the question is how this money and international aid money is spent. Obviously, something is not quite right with the management of money (and other resources).

Finally, there is the geographical and environmental circumstances of Africa. Africa is a large continent and historically has had a very sparse population. The lack of population density meant that capital accumulation, nation-state building, urbanization, sustained political and economic development, and the formation of political ideologies beyond tribalism, or even the formation of secular ideologies, were near impossible.

Ironically, their problems might be the opposite today. Modern agriculture and medicine has allowed their population to explode, but without equivalent increases in productive capacity, their economy cannot keep up with the explosive population growth; thus, they get poorer and poorer.
This I would agree with you on... In terms of population, the continent has gone from one extreme to another, i.e. from being sparsely populated into being ever more densely populated. Theoretically, it's not really that densely populated in terms of available land area, but the available resources and infrastructure cannot keep up with the growth. This unrestrained demographic growth is however just another aspect of the lack of planning and control by a strong government. Tribalism is still vey much alive in subsaharan Africa and with the ethnic and religious diversity in places like Nigeria, it's not hard to see why it's hard to enforce any policies for the country as a whole. Bottomline, sub-Saharan Africa is far from imitating the success of China with its long-standing tradition of statehood and strict Confucian discipline.
 
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Satuf

Ad Honorem
Nov 2009
3,471
Nebraska
White man happened. And by white man I include Europeans and Arabs.

But Europeans damaged it more than Arabs did. Europeans grouped rival tribes in same countries... so there ya go.
 

spellbanisher

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
4,136
The Celestial Plain
I'm sorry, but this sounds like badly applied Marxist theory.
Okay, how so? :confused:

abvgd said:
"Resource-depleting" activities as in the trading of gold, ivory and slaves was the source of the wealth of the west African trading empires from long before arrival of European traders and colonists.
I never said they weren't. But it massively shifted their economies even further towards those activities; in fact there were nascent manufacturing industries that were completely unraveled by this shift.

abvgd said:
This wealth depended on the trading with the economically far more advanced Arabs and indirectly also with the Europeans. These west African trading empires were not industrial hubs with advanced manufacturing capabilities, they sold and thrived on what nature had given them.
I never said they were. By by the early modern period, there were clearly shifts in some parts of Western Africa to more advanced methods of production and different kinds of economic organization, a process that was abruptly halted shortly after the discovery of the new world.

abvgd said:
In order to become a "resource-producing" economy, you need technology
What???? So does technology just exist in nature? Yes, you need technology, which you develop as demand and resources dictate. Did Europe start out with more technology? Asia? Was manufacturing technology and transportation technology just lying around when the river valley civilizations arose? Does Europe or Asia intrinsically have more technology? :confused:

.
abvgd said:
Did west Africa possess any advanced manufacturing technology? Handwoven textiles could hardly have become the starting point of any industrialization.
We are not talking about industrialization, considering that full-scale industrialization did not occur until the nineteenth century, or about 250-300 years after what I am talking about here. Your point about handwoven textiles is also irrelevant. Division of labor and the cheapness of labor mattered just as much for productivity and competitiveness as industrial technology in the Early Modern World. Most Africans would have been too poor to even be worth the attention of European, Arabic, and Asian traders. African textile industries would not be selling to European or Asian or Middle Eastern markets; they would be selling where they had a comparative advantage, and that is to home markets, which would have helped indigenous development. I am not saying that Western Africa would have become Great Britain, the Netherlands, China, or Japan.

abvgd said:
For those textiles to have become relevant on any wider market, they would have had to compete with superior industrial textiles from the markets of Europe, India, etc. Many countries are still struggling today with the transitioning from a "resource-depleting" to a "resource-producing" economy. You don't succeed with this through sheer vision and will-power alone, you need advanced technology and skilled labour.
Okay, so how do you explain modern the industrialization of China in recent years, where most labor has been low-skill, especially in relation to Western labor. You don't start off with skilled labor, you develop skilled labor as your economy advances. And the most important things is probably comparative advantage, not absolute advantage.

You don't need to be successful on international markets to have a decent economy. Up until the 1920's over 95% of the US economy was internal. China, despite being the largest supplier of international goods in the early modern world, was still about a 95% internally driven economy. Development can occur just as much from internal dynamism as it can from export production, especially if you are resource rich. But that is not even the point here; we are not talking about why Africa is not as rich as the United States, we are talking about why Africa is so hopelessly impoverished. Admittedly, my analysis applies to limited regions in West Africa, not to the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa, which I should have made explicit.


abvgd said:
The "scramble for Africa" was historically speaking a very late development in the history of the African continent and this was more the result of an on-going power game between European powers than it was a sound economically based initiative. Not all of the colonies actually brought any net profit to their colonial holders, they were kept simply as bargaining chips in a much wider power game.
No doubt imperial competition was a part of the scramble for Africa, but the 1870's was marked by severe economic recession. The whole 1873 to 1896 period is known as the Long Depression in Europe. It was this depression, more so than political struggles, that drove Europe to search out new markets and new sources of revenues. The first "scrambles" actually occurred because of cotton supply disruptions from the American Civil. The American South provided about 80% of the world's supply of cotton, and textile manufacturing was the largest industry in the world, especially in Great Britain, France, and Germany. The supply disruptions drove France into Indochina, and Great Britain to consider other sources of cotton, including from India and Egypt. The fact that not all of the colonies brought net profit to colonial holders is irrelevant, because they didn't know that beforehand, and the myth was that Africa was a place of vast resources. Note that I am not dismissing the importance of the political reasons for the scramble for Africa, but that was just one part of many reasons for colonial expansion.


abvgd said:
How should the borders have been drawn in order for there not to have been any overlapping etnic, linguistic and cultural lines? I think it's pretty clear that whichever way the borders were outlined, conflicts were inevitable.
But widespread civil wars were not inevitable. It is kind of hard to have an advancing society if you don't even have internal stability. Let me ask you this: why would interstate competition in Africa have been more devastating than the hundreds of years of persistent interstate conflict in Europe? The "inevitability" of African civil wars seems to be a subtle way of dismissing the impact of centuries of European colonialism in Africa. It had nothing to do with that! Africans are just essentially the way they are today!


abvgd said:
Teaching local Africans English or French would sometimes have meant giving them an opportunity to work and study abroad or at least having the possibility to read the vast body of literature available in those languages compared to the limited or non-existant body of literature available in the native tongue. Also, I think that you're underestimating the value that learning to read and write brought in terms of the preservation of local traditions and folklore for cultures that previously lacked any kind of written heritage of their own.
I am not underestimating the importance of reading and writing. Those things are very important for administration and governance and a host of other things, and it is not likely that an advanced political-economy is possible without such things. But the question was "Why is Africa so Poor?" Part of the reason is that they lacked the technical knowledge and skills to maintain infrastructure left over from Europeans. Reading and writing is great, but it won't help you maintain roads or manufacturing plants.

avgd said:
As for training engineers and scientists, what do you expect of understaffed colonial/missionary schools in locations you could hardly reach by ordinary means of transport? Just teaching basic literacy would have been enough of a challenge. Some did have the opportunity to study at universities in Europe, but you don't simply train engineers and scientists in a region of the world where there is absolutely no market for such skills. It would be a waste of time, money and resources for everyone involved.
Actually, considering that Europeans were building infrastructure in Africa, there would have been a huge market for engineers and scientists. But the concern of colonialists was never to help Africans become self-reliant; it was to make them docile and amenable through enculturating them.

avgd said:
Btw, missionary schools were active not only in Africa but also in East Asian countries such as Korea, i.e. countries that today are considered moderately or highly developed countries. So, these schools did have some impact, but it would be unrealistic to expect them to achieve miracles everywhere.
Again, I don't know what your point is here. I never said that missionary schools were bad in themselves. I said that one of the problems was that the focus of western education was more cultural assimilation than technical education.

abvgd said:
The decolonialization process was not exactly planned and quite often it included violent attacks on Europeans or ultimatums that they leave the country on short notice. A softer decolonialization process would probably have been much better but that was not the wish of the various revoutionary freedom fighting groups that took over power from their former colonialists. Either way, it's just another hypothetical scenario and many colonial powers have given aid and assistance to these newly independent countries. However, the question is how this money and international aid money is spent. Obviously, something is not quite right with the management of money (and other resources).
I don't disagree here, but again, you vastly oversimplify things. Africa can't compete in either textiles or agriculture, because western countries tend to heavily subsidize their textile and agricultural industries. The fact is that African agriculture can't compete with US agriculture that receives 300 billion dollars a year in subsidies, and in per capita terms, the subsidies in European countries are probably not that different from the US. When Europe advanced, they had unique advantages, such as an almost unlimited supply of silver from the new world that enabled them to compete in world markets despite their lack of labor and technological productivity. For instance, from 1660 to 1720, 94% of VOC exports to Asia was silver. They had many other unique advantages as well, but I won't get into that here. Again, I may start a thread or do a blog post, but lately I am busy.

Textiles is another important industry to look at. In the 1960s and 1970s, African textile industries were emerging in places like Kenya. Then Western charities, like Goodwill (but many others as well), starting selling donated clothes to African merchants. Local textile industries couldn't compete with western clothes for the simple fact that western clothes had "cultural capital," and those textile industries quickly went under. In the 70s and eighties many African countries did receive loans, only be destroyed by those loans when Western Banks jacked up interest rates to combat inflation, in what is often known as "The Volcker Shock."

Loans have often been given to African leaders, who would work with western companies. But these leaders were often more concerned with pleasing their business partners than improved economic conditions for their people. Most of our foreign aid ended up going to Western businesses, or to the military-industrial complex. When doing business with Western firms, terms where always set by western businesses, which essentially meant that all the capital and investments in African countries where outside the control of those countries. Capital floods in, a bubble emerges, the bubble bursts, capital leaves, and the host country is in worse position than it was before. Even worse, they still have to replay their loans, despite the fact that they have been essentially deindustrialized. I know I am being very general right now; I probably start a thread or do a blog post on this, but I believe Gile na Gile has written quite a bit on this subject already.
 
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Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,491
T'Republic of Yorkshire
To add some things about decolonisation:

The post-colonial boundaries welded together disparate - and often rival - tribes, and sometimes divided traditional tribal lands into several different countries.

In the immediate aftermath of decolonisation, the post-colonial leaders had two choices - either to accept those boundaries or to allow the newly formed countries to dissolve into an inevitably bloody all-out civil war. They chose the former, and tried to make their new countries work.

This kept the peace for the time, but stored up ethnic problems, which would erupt in later years. The African tribal system inevitably meant that certain tribal and ethnic groups would be favoured in one country over others. This in turn led to resentment and ethnic tensions. The Rwandan civil war, the split of South Sudan (the first true breakup of a post-colonial African country), the conflicts in Nigeria are all symptoms of this.

The disparity in wealth and the easy availability of wealth in the form of vast mineral resources has led to bloody wars for control of Africa's "blood diamonds" (amongst other things). The emergence of authoritarian African strongmen made negotiation a non-starter as a means to resolve conflict, and the easy answer has always been to pick up a gun.
 

Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
14,079
Navan, Ireland
Hi , and the invention of the maxim machine gun, which enabled them to subdue and control Africa fairly easily.

A third major event was the dissolution of European empire after World .
Don't think the 'maxim' had much importance in Africa, the breechloading rifle was more important this further increased European military dominance, the maxim was just a later add on.

For instance not even Gatling guns were used in the Anglo-Zulu war until the later stages.