Africa Today: The Legacies of Colonialism, by Henrietta Ezegbe

I960 often referred to as “The year of Africa” symbolized emancipation and a new dawn for the African continent. The Independence movement spread through the continent like wild fire, with seventeen countries on the continent gaining independence from Belgium, France and the British. Having just passed the semi centennial era, the legacies and residual effects of colonialism have persisted in nearly every sector of many of these “liberated” nations. European languages have been adopted as national and or local languages, Western religions have become mainstream reducing indigenous African religious practices to myths, while trade networks, education systems and governance infrastructure still remain deeply rooted in European dominance.

Evidence abounds indicating that most of Africa’s weaknesses nearly sixty years post independence are indeed rooted in the legacies of colonialism – a resultant effect of the general polity and colonial culture inherited by African elite nationalists. Ethnic division for instance is a strong case in point – from arbitrary borders ignorantly drawn up by colonists, to stressing the diversities of ethnic groups thereby igniting tribal rivalries that ensured different ethnic groups did not unite to resist the colonizers in a classic divide and rule approach. Furthermore, this ethnic separatist agenda intersected with governance leading to formation of political parties along ethnic lines that leaves opposition groups feeling marginalized and consequently developing ill feelings that resort in vicious conflicts. The Nigerian Civil war (Biafra war) of 1967-1970 and the Rwandan genocide of 1994 are a few examples. Africa’s commitment to these colonial borders drawn without cultural considerations- (manifested today as tribalism), together with religious extremism remains the driving force for violent wars and its grave costs and consequences on Africa’s development.

In spite of Africa “winning” the struggle for liberation from the alien dictatorship, political, economic, and other forms of exploitation of the continent has stayed on in the form of neo-colonialism. The idea of foreign aid is a foremost example. The belief that donor aid is Africa’s solution to poverty has sadly dominated the theory of economic development even though it is common knowledge that these interventions actually weaken political commitment and cause African states to be far less accountable to, and responsible for their citizens.

In the face of overwhelming evidence of the legacies of colonialism- past and on ongoing, the truth remains that Africa’s problems today are endogenous as much as they are exogenous. Endemic corruption remains a canker worm eating deep at the root of Africa’s development. With a vast sixty percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, abundant natural resources, and a population projection of over three billion by 2050, it is time for African policy makers to stop pointing fingers and aim for total sovereignty. Championing brave and innovative strategies, investing widely in the health and education sectors, encouraging intra-African trade, and generally embracing a true spirit of Pan-Africanism is the way forward.

Dr. Henrietta Ezegbe is a physician and public
health practitioner. A fresh graduate from the Simon Fraser University Master
of Public Health Program in the Global Health concentration, Henrietta is
interested in HIV/AIDS research specifically among underserved population in
high and lower middle-income settings.

6 Comments

  1. Mrs Genevine Iyinbor

    June 28, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Well said Doc, it’s high time we Africans take charge and play full role like one that is independent, from every indications we are yet to get there…… keep it up doc! Nice write up 👏🏽👏🏽

  2. Mrs Genevine Iyinbor

    June 28, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    Well said Doc, it’s high time we Africans take charge and play full role like one that is independent, from every indications we are yet to get there…… keep it up doc! Nice write up 👏🏽👏🏽

  3. Dr. Angela Eze

    June 28, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    This write up is on point. It is high time Africans started strategizing on the improvement of education and health for her citizens, and stopped the blame-game of pointing accusing fingers on past administrations.
    Dr. Henrietta has actually hit the nail on the point. The truth is that Africans have all it takes to improve our land and our citizens, so clarion call is that we do the needful and shun bribery and corruption.

  4. “Africa’s problems today are endogenous as well as they are exogenous ” Henrietta calls out African leaders on accountability and responsibility to their citizens.
    A brilliant post!

  5. Thought provoking piece Hettie. We are never really free until we take charge of our sovereignty with the purpose of empowering our citizens.

  6. “Championing brave and innovative strategies, investing widely in the health and education sectors, encouraging intra-African trade, and generally embracing a true spirit of Pan-Africanism is the way forward.” Great thoughts Dr. Ezegbe. In Sept 2018 a East-African Federation committee was formed to draft regional constitution, this is one step toward pan-afriancism and overall unity. Look forward to more of your great posts.

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