Category Archives: Political Economy

Political and Economic Effects of Colonialism in Africa

Colonization had a profound effect on all aspects of life in Africa. The changes made by colonizers not only affected politics, culture, and lifestyle, but also had a deep effect on the economy both at the time of colonization and today. This has led to a large issue with food insecurity, as the crops that colonizers forced in Africa are not sustainable or nutritious enough for the African people to thrive.

Prior to colonization, African countries had economic relations with many other regions, both transcontinental and within Africa. This led to the eruption of a few very wealthy areas as well as individuals. One individual greatly led to the development of strong economic systems in Africa, the ruler of the Mali Empire in the 1300s, Mansa Musa. The trade of gold and salt, both natural and abundant resources in West Africa, allowed for a large amount of exports across Africa, growing the empire’s economy exponentially. Upon his expedition to Mecca, Mansa Musa’s ideas and expertise were spread to many other regions in West and North Africa, allowing them to grow their economies as well. More specific information about Mansa Musa can be found here “This 14th-Century African Emperor Remains the Richest Person in History”.

Colonization from Western states began as a direct result of the increased economies in certain regions of Africa. Europe colonized areas that they never had any relations with because they suddenly realized that the areas contained resources that they wanted to utilize, such as the gold and salt that Mansa Musa exported. This began the rapid expansion of colonialism throughout all of Africa by a few European states, primarily England and France, commonly known as the Scramble for Africa. Many regions of Africa were colonized simply so that another state could not move in. This is entirely an economic and political strategy and shows the complete disregard for the African states other than for the resources they provide. Because of the international trading routes that many regions already had in place, it was easy for the European states to colonize and take full advantage of the African states.

Picture9Colonizing regions saw the sophisticated trading networks and exploited the African nations rather than simply taking a part in the trade. These colonizers took advantage of not only the structured economic systems put in place, but also the people: their culture, political systems, and used them as a resource. According to the article, “The Impact of Colonialism on African Economic Development”, the colonizers began to set up a “commodity-based trading system, a cash crop agriculture system, and [built] a trade network linking the total economic output of a region to the demands of the colonizing state.” Often these commodities and cash crops were not items that the Africans could use, but rather just items that the Europeans wanted to export and sell.

This commodity trading system involving cash crops was a huge cause of food insecurity in Africa. The colonizers forced the Africans to grow crops that could be exported and sold for the maximum profit. As a result, items that would be nutritious and provide overall sustenance while being sustainable were not being grown any longer or were much less abundant.

Picture10Perhaps the largest effect of colonization on the economic systems in Africa are a result of the slave trade. While the slave trade occurred prior to colonization, many of the South African people are descendants of former slaves. Because of the socioeconomic disparity as a direct result of the slave trade, it allowed for the colonizers to exploit them. The slave trade was not only a constant source of income for several hundred years, but also introduced the concept of credit and debt, which led to the idea of interest. This was all done in order to benefit the economies of the European states, while severely weakening the African economies. Europe was able to do this by forcing Africans to import items from Europe that they could have easily made locally, subjecting them to paying a large cost.

While today, the African countries are free of colonization and the slave trade has ended, their legacies created a long-term impact on the political economy and therefore food security. Still today, many of the crops in Africa that are being widely and prominently grown, and therefore are available to those with lower incomes, are not providing balanced nutrition, leading to malnutrition.

There has been research into different ways to enhance the agricultural system in Africa and therefore help grow more nutritional and diverse foods. The article, “Local fertilizers to achieve food self-sufficiency in Africa”, examines the fertilizers currently used in Africa on crops both sold and consumed. This is important because the increase in correct fertilizer use could aid in the number of crops produced, as well as the types. As a result, it will lead to a decrease in food insecurity by increasing sustainability. An issue is the accessibility and cost of the fertilizers, but research has been done and there are options for locally sourced and reasonably priced fertilizers. These must be available and widely used in order to help achieve food security by 2030.

The effect that colonization had on Africa spans many different areas, but perhaps one of the largest and most detrimental effects is the economy: both at the time of colonization and today. This has led to a large issue with food insecurity as the colonizers put all of the agricultural focus on profitable crops, not ones sustainable or nutritious enough for the African people to be considered nourished.


Foreign Aid’s Effect on Africa

Foreign aid in Africa has had significant impacts on the continent, impacts that are sometimes contradictory. Foreign aid comes from a host of different countries, but the three biggest donors are Russia, the United States, Europe, and China. When an African state receives foreign aid, the state or group that provides the aid gains a little bit of influence on that African state.

Russia, both now and when it was part of the Soviet Union, has had a big influence in Africa. Russia has given plenty of foreign aid to Africa in many different forms. During the Cold War, the USSR provided several African countries with military aid, including the training of over 200,000 soldiers by the Soviets, while an additional 53,000 people studied at a military or political university in the Soviet Union. As a consequence, the Soviet Union made Africa more militarized, which allowed the violence in Africa to only become deadlier. Furthermore, through aid to authoritarian governments in Africa, the Soviets helped create many one-party states, which helped increase and strengthen the neo-patrimonial system in some African states. This creation of the one-party state was very appealing to many leaders of African states because it would help the leader personally benefit. The one-party system might not be as strong in Africa as it once was, but it has shaped the structures of many African governments today.

China’s policy about foreign aid differs from that of Russia and the Soviet Union. China has focused more on building up infrastructure in Africa states, in the hope that the aid that China provides will come back to help the Chinese economy in the long term. Unlike the United States, China is less interested in political influence over African states; the Chinese attitude is that less state intervention is better for trade and will help boost the state sovereignty of both parties. China’s work to modernize Africa’s infrastructure has been cited by many as contributing to the recent economic growth in Africa.

The United States also provides many African countries with foreign aid, both directly and indirectly, through multilateral organizations. The United States used its influence at the World Bank to help the U.S. status in obtaining certain Africa commodities like oil, gold, diamonds, tea, and coffee. U.S. aid towards Africa has resulted mostly in benefitting the United States, similarly to China, but in the political sphere, by contrast, the United States has tried to influence many African states through aid attached to anti-communist rhetoric during the Cold War. After the end of the Cold War, U.S. foreign aid arrived alongside the rhetoric of “development,” as a way to encourage African states to position themselves under the American sphere of influence. Increasingly, in the 2000s and the U.S. “War on Terror” and beyond, there was a huge change in how U.S. foreign aid was given in Africa. The United States now primarily offers African states is military aid, which can be defined as better training for state military personnel, equipment supply, and the cooperation of many African states together, all as part of anti-terrorism efforts.

Some might argue that the aid that is given to Africa doesn’t help the problems but only makes them worse. Dambisa Moyo, an economist at Cambridge University, writes, “The aid has gone mainly to governments. This has produced corruption and made the control of the state the main path to wealth and prosperity. This, in turn, has led to an insurrection, political instability, and civil war. Political instability makes private investment in Africa out of the question, furthering the government’s addiction to foreign aid.” This quote highlights the idea that the aid given to a government only increases the dependence on the foreign aid for the state.

Since independence, between the Soviet Union, China, the United States, and many other countries in the Global North, the contribution of foreign aid has created many long-term effects that can still be seen today, effects that are not always predictable but are always complex.


“Weaning Africa off Foreign Aid.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 63 (2009): 85.

Goldsmith, Arthur A. “Foreign Aid and Statehood in Africa.” International Organization 55, no. 1 (2001): 123-48.

Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO: Rienner, 2013.

Can we make Africa great ‘again’? US and European monetary invention on the continent

The issue of aid particularly from nations in the west is a controversial one, which has become even more debated in recent years. There are Two parts to this issue: direct investment by governments and the involvement of Western NGOs. It is the former that is the most controversial in that it involves direct intervention by one government on Picture16another, which is perhaps why we have seen a shift away from direct monetary support towards financial assistance through the neoliberal market: it is the increase in trade and inclusion of the continent in the export-import trade that now characterizes the main aspects of the western aid relationship.

There has always been some level of dependency on the West in Africa, whether it was during decolonization, cold war assistance or in the form of structural adjustment programs; remnants of colonial support has clearly stretched throughout the continents history. It is this history which evidently provides the reasoning behind why we see a continuation of such policies, ones that now appears to have taken the form of aid with a twist; ie aid not in the traditional sense.

Foreign aid can be defined as any action by a government or citizens of one country which helps to promote economic development in another country. It is using this definition which outlines the processes we see today particularly with regards to the forms of aid that comes from the west.

The marshall plan is considered to be a major force behind the evolution of foreign aid towards its present form. Since then processes of assessing aid have been introduced by the world bank in 1998. These practices mainly consist of providing food, cash or reducing the levels of debt in countries involved in this exchange. Despite these initiatives being successfully applied to countries such as Uganda there is still a high dependency on aid, suggesting that these policies have not been successful in achieving their original purpose. When focusing specifically on Uganda what becomes evident is that the western form of aid has not always worked. Thus, while it cannot be denied that in many cases the aid that countries on the continent received to help economic development were successful, it has to be noted that such aid has created high levels of resentment within the continent particularly amongst those who feel that aid is simply a new form of colonialism. It is the notion of aid and therefore dependency that has sparked such feelings owing to the ideas of control and subordination attached to foreign aid. This is particularly made evident by Deaton an expert on global poverty who argues against aid owing to his statement that  aid “typically serves commercial interests at home or buys political allies abroad”. It is his opposition against monetary aid which draws my attention to the negative effects of aid

As a region Africa accounts for around 20% of US aid; with Egypt, Kenya and South Sudan being the biggest beneficiaries. Thus, Trumps reduction in foreign aid which already only accounted for 1% in the spending budget will severely affect development projects owing to heavy reliance on such funding within the state. However what recent studies have shown that although on the surface reduction in aid creates negative issues, evidence suggests growth will increase as the percentage of aid decreases. This because state are able to become more independent.

But is the disinterest which provided the root cause for this shift good or bad?

Picture17When looking at Trump’s policy he continues to pursue a policies that he believed would have the greatest benefits for the American people. Wherein he can be seen to remove the US as a major within the international aid system. But I argue that this has had positive impacts on the African People owing to greater independence. Because of this It is therefore in the interests of African states to move away from aid and towards trade in order to provide a more responsive economic environment domestically that will both attract further foreign investment and encourage the growth of competition. It is these movements that create the positive levels of growth in Uganda that we see today because there is an emphasis on competitive development to meet the demands of the global market,

Following the increasing investment from China, US aid switched to  prioritize health and education, rather than the economic forms that are discussed above. It is this form of aid that will help the continent more particularly when focusing of food and economics. Evidently, Western aid has not only been centered around money but also food; the benefits of food aid to Uganda and other states on the continent Africa is connected to providing resources free of charge which therefore offers the potential for achieving stabilization in food supply and price as supply and demand are not increasing. Such forms of aid are essential to provide food stability.

What has also has to be shown is that it is not only western governments that have taken up this mantel. Since the 1970s there has been increasing emphasis on NGOs involvement within the continent particularly following natural disasters or in conflict situations. It is this notion of humanitarianism that has set the bar for aid that has come from governments owing to the increasing understanding that aid should be human in nature. It is the human aspect, which has perhaps been the cause of the shift away from direct financial funding towards trade in order to allow for the realization of self-determination. Arguably it is the emphasis on humanitarianism which has meant that we see more aid in the form of food and resources over monetary assistance particularly in places where we see high levels of neopatrimonialism.

Perhaps this shift has come about through the rivalry that has grown between the US and China on the continent. Thus, if this rivalry is set to continue what we are likely to see in this continuation is a diversification of aid between the two countries, both of which will work towards increasing the states access to food. This is because both states seek to provide different forms of aid in the continent in order to win the hearts of the state, but it is yet to be determined whether it will be food aid or trade that will aid the continent more. To take a educated guess in the backdrop of globalization, it is the supported movement into the global market that will produce the most promising results. In sum, through removing levels of monetary aid in the form we can make Africa great.

How Chinese Influence in Africa Affects Agriculture

Since the end of the Cold War, China has started to gain influence in African politics. China’s increase in influence stems from China’s support of African governments through financial aid and other forms of support. The aid that China supplies towards Africa has dramatically changed the landscape of the continent.

To have a good understanding of China’s effect on African politics, one must look at the history between China and Africa. When China was ruled by Mao Zedong, he had a strong interest in using Africa to help support China.[1] Mao supported Africa with funding and building the TanZam railroad, which ran between Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and central Zambia. This railroad became an integral part of Zambia’s growth because it helped the landlocked country break away from the white-rule states of Rhodesia and South Africa.[2]

After Mao died, however, the Chinese government ceased investment in Africa. China’s interest in Africa did not re-emerge until after the Tiananmen Square crisis. The aftermath of this crisis resulted in China’s reassessed of its global engagement.[3] This led to China’s commitment to the idea that African states were better partners for China because African states rely more on and are less critical towards China than that of the West.[4]

China’s resurgent relationship with Africa has contributed to the growth of the continent. China’s interests are related to oil and other mineral-based resources there, which are needed to help supply the factories in China and further support China’s development. The Chinese government provides many African states with development assistance, particularly for infrastructure projects.

Both Chinese and African governments find that working together is mutually beneficial because it helps both gain better state sovereignty because there is no conflict between them over issues such as democratic reform, good governance, or human rights.[6] This allows the interests of both African states and the Chinese government to both prosper together without having to have political issues like when dealing with North American or European states or with Western-dominated international organizations.

The ease of ruling a state and not having to give up state sovereignty can be very appealing for African leaders, which can be seen in the trade data between Africa and China. Sino-African trade grew by 431% between the years of 1989 and 1997.[7] This type of growth helped both African states as well as China to develop at an accelerated rate.

What does Sino-African trade have to do with food security in Africa? Well, other than the trade of natural resources for production, China uses its aid to African states to help with China’s agriculture. Out of the 900 Chinese “turn-key” projects, about a fifth of them relate to agriculture. China built 90 farms in Africa between 1960 and 2006.[8] China’s involvement in the development of aid has contributed to the growth of the agriculture of Africa because many of the large farms within Africa were in part funded by the Chinese government.

The Chinese government was essential in the building of the Koba state farm in Guinea and the Chinese-state-owned sugar and tea plantations in Mali, Benin, Togo, Madagascar, Zanzibar, and Sierra Leone.[9] The amount of support that China has provided to Africa can be seen through how many farms that have been set up. Having farms across the continent helps the Chinese government create for support for itself through the well-funded farms, which in return helps benefit the people that live near the farm.

For example, in Sierra Leone in the 1970s, the Chinese government sent experts from Wuhan Municipal Foreign Co-operation Corporation in Hubei Province to help rebuild and assist some Sierra Leonean irrigated rice stations. When the civil war broke out in Sierra Leone in 1991, however, the experts left.[10] Following the end of the war, the same experts returned to Sierra Leone to once again work at irrigated rice stations, but this time, the Chinese experts assisted the rice stations that were in politically contentious areas where the fighting had been the worst.[11] This shows how China sees political value in the areas that were most affected by the civil war in order to build up its political might in Sierra Leone

China’s support of the development of African states has helped the progression of many different states. China gives aid through many different financial programs, which a state can use to fund whatever it wants, or China directly funds what China needs in these states. One of the forms of aid that China distributes is agricultural. China uses Africa’s agricultural development as its own personal gain by creating the supplies for what an African state needs to grow.

[1] Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[2] Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[3] Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[4] Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[5] Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[6]Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[7]  Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[8] Bräutigam, Deborah A., and Tang Xiaoyang. “China’s Engagement in African Agriculture: “Down to the Countryside”.” The China Quarterly, no. 199 (2009): 686-706.

[9] Bräutigam, Deborah A., and Tang Xiaoyang. “China’s Engagement in African Agriculture: “Down to the Countryside”.” The China Quarterly, no. 199 (2009): 686-706.

[10] Bräutigam, Deborah A., and Tang Xiaoyang. “China’s Engagement in African Agriculture: “Down to the Countryside”.” The China Quarterly, no. 199 (2009): 686-706.

[11] Bräutigam, Deborah A., and Tang Xiaoyang. “China’s Engagement in African Agriculture: “Down to the Countryside”.” The China Quarterly, no. 199 (2009): 686-706.