Is Colonialism The Primary Reason Why Africa Is So Poor?

Absolutely not. From an economic perspective (as per the question), Africa thrived under colonialism; new pathways were opened up, trade boomed, harbours, ports, railways and roads were built, infrastructure was introduced such as law enforcement, mass construction, improved medical facilities and medical knowledge. Health and hygiene was improved. Facilities such as electricity, lighting, postal service etc. were developed. Before colonialism Africa literally was the dark continent.

Many people claim that Africa is poor because of colonialism. Yet how is it that other ex-colonies have thrived? America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand are the obvious ones. South Africa was Africa’s shining light for a long time (economically of course, this answer does not discuss human rights issues).

Some people say: “well, we have only been independent for 50 years, we are still learning”. Yet countries like Haiti have been independent for over 200 years and remain the poorest in the world.

Singapore is an island less than 300 sq miles in size, with zero natural resources, yet thrives. In my opinion this is based on two things: the infrastructure set up by the British, and the amazing Chinese/SE Asian work ethic. Singapore salutes the old colonial masters and gives them credit for the legacy. Raffles is revered, and his statue stands proudly. Conversely African countries blame their demise on the colonials and tear down statues that are indicative of the old past.

An interesting side discussion is why did the British colonies become richer than the colonies of other European countries? One argument is the Protestant work ethic, but I am not sure myself.

Given its natural resources Africa should be the richest continent in the world. Zimbabwe alone has enormous undeveloped caches of minerals. The companies who would develop these resources will not because of silly legislature passed by that government. Unfortunately Africa will not achieve stable wealth development for a long time, mostly because of immature leaders and government styles. Take Mugabe in Zimbabwe for instance - he has been in power since 1980, is a dictator, and has destroyed the country economically. Zimbabwe used to be the ‘bread basket’ of Africa, growing and harvesting plenty of food for Africa. In the old days one Rhodesian dollar would buy you 2 US dollars.

The economic plight of Africa can be seen in the constant and continuous devaluation of currencies based against the US dollar.


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