Effects Of Colonialism

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Effects Of Colonialism – British & French Colonial Rule

The effects of British and French colonial rule in West Africa were similar.

The significant negative effects of colonialism include the following:

  • Skewed Development

Development in the colonial territories was generally skewed in favour of British and French interests. Thus, the basic infrastructures such as roads, railways, ports and telecommunication facilities were designed largely to facilitate the economic exploitation of the territories.

For example, it was never considered necessary to link the Eastern and Western parts of Nigeria by railway though it was found expedient to develop rail lines that would carry agricultural products from the north to the ports in the south.

In the same vein, the urban areas were favoured more than the rural areas in the developmental process. The effects of this policy are still glaring even today as this has resulted in the regular migration of rural dwellers to the urban areas.

  • Cultural Dislocation

Colonialism resulted in the cultural bastardization of indigenous cultures. In the British territories like Nigeria and Ghana, the elites were encouraged to embrace Western civilization and detest their own culture. In French-speaking countries, cultural assimilation aimed at making Africans become Frenchmen.

The educated elites, in both cases/acquired new cultural orientation, which made them generally pro-west and unable to appreciate and solve the problems of their own people. The problems remain even today as the elites prefer foreign banks for their money, foreign schools for their children, overseas hospitals for the treatment of their ailments and ill-digested foreign economic prescriptions to solve local problems.

For instance, Nigerian economists continue to talk about economic growth in the country whereas the living standard of the ordinary people continue to deteriorate.

  • Destruction of Chieftaincy Institutions

One significant effect of colonialism was that it virtually destroyed the African traditional political institutions. The various ramifications of this problem were explained above.

  • Colonial Orientation of Law Enforcement Agencies

Some of the para-military organizations established during the colonial era (e.g. the police or gendarmes in French West Africa) were used to enforce obnoxious colonial laws and policies. Their allegiance was not to the colonised but to the government.

The law enforcement institutions still largely remain alienated from the society, even today and are generally feared and despised by the local population. They can only be a veritable instrument of maintaining law and order if they eschew their colonial orientation.

  • Provision of Social Amenities

One good thing about colonialism was that it made qualitative education available to the people. The older generations still talk with nostalgia about the quality of education offered to students in the days of yore. The educational system produced the educated elites who campaigned selflessly for the independence of their countries. The schools were however designed to produce priests, clerks and other white-collar workers rather than people who could work with their hands. Not much has changed in the educational system even today.

In any case, the provision of educational and health facilities in the territories led to improvement in the living standards of the people. The provision of social amenities also facilitated the growth of many towns in Nigeria such as Enugu, Port Harcourt, etc.

  • Economic Development

In the economic sphere, colonialism encouraged the production of several cash crops primarily for export to the metropolitan countries. Many European companies such as the United African Company (UAC), Leventis, CFAO and GB Ollivant moved in to deal with the import and export trade in the colonial territories.

Majority of these companies are still important in the distributive trade in these countries even after independence. Similarly, several banks and financial institutions opened for business. Many mines were opened up and a few industries (some of which are still operating today) were established to boost the economy.

Unfortunately, the multinational companies which dominated the African economy under colonialism are still dominant in post-colonial states thereby stifling the development of the local economies. But more worrisome for these countries is the penchant to import all kinds of goods from developed countries.

This has virtually killed the local industries and diminished their capacity to provide employment and income for the local people.

  • Creation of Artificial Boundaries

One of the greatest effects of colonialism was that it resulted in the creation of artificial boundaries between peoples and between countries. In the words of Allot (1969), the boundaries between African countries were drawn by “European powers with little or no regards to those elements of geography, national entities or ethnic groups, convenience of economic activity or lines of communication which often come to bear in the demarcation of the peoples”.

The borders between Ghana and Togo, for example, virtually split the Ewe people into two while that between Ivory Coast and Ghana cut through the Akan people. The problem of the Bakassi which pitted Nigeria against Cameroon for several years was a colonial creation.

  • Problem of Arrested Development

Perhaps the greatest effect of colonialism was that it stifled or arrested development in West Africa. The development which the African society had achieved before the introduction of colonialism was either stalled or put on hold.

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