During the end of the 19th century, European nations, historically referred to as the scramble and partition of Africa, set up colonies in continental Africa. Some of the major players in the partition included France and Great Britain. Arguably, the British took over most of the territories in the continent due to its naval prowess in the previous years, allowing explorers commissioned by the crown to lay claim across inland Africa. With claims from the East to the West, Britain's influence on the continent is undeniable. On the other hand, the French had not commissioned many troops past the sahel region of the continent and had to settle for colonies in Northern and Western Africa (Young 14).
Over the years, as these colonies developed economically, socially, and politically, it became apparent that the type of administration used by the colonialists affected the response from the African people. For the British, the administration of the colonies was under companies commissioned by the crown. For example, in east Africa, the colony of present-day Kenya was under the administration of the Imperial British East Africa Company. The company obtained a charter from the crown and thus oversaw a portion of the East African area with Mombasa's port as the central operations.
The company oversaw the colony's administration allowing the British subjects to administer justice, levy taxes, and conduct business. Moreover, the company also provided armed security to its operations until handing over power to the British Government in 1893. Upon taking power, the British Government established a centralized administration with the colony under a governor and legislative councils' leadership.
The French, on the other hand, first inhabited what present-day Senegal is. Upon inhabiting the colony in Senegal, the French expanded outwards, annexing areas under the control of West African Kingdoms that had existed long before the arrival of European colonizers and the explorers before them (Young 14). Unlike the British, who set up trading outposts and missions before the arrival of colonial administration, the French invaded West Africa with their guns blazing.
Through the army, the areas conquered were referred to as military territories. Later, the Government began to rein by establishing an administrative system similar to the British in East Africa. Nonetheless, the Government continued with the campaign to expand its territories through warfare under the administration of a Governor based in Senegal. The administrative Government that followed then was draconian, especially to the resisting communities and kingdoms in the areas conquered. In essence, the French were brutal in their administration of colonies in Africa, resorting to violence to govern its colonies and silence rebellions. On the other hand, the British used a more subtle approach, which resulted in minimal conquests or battles (Young 14).
Similarities in the Economic Administration of Africa
The main motivation in the scramble and partition of African was searching for raw materials for the colonial masters. Owing to the industrial revolution that was occurring in Europe, the colonialists sought new sources for the raw materials back home. Using this approach, the early periods of colonial occupation of Africa involved exploring the continent to find raw materials such as metal ores before transporting them back to Europe for manufacturing. Simultaneously, the agrarian revolution had occurred in Europe, and most settlers sought arable land to plant crops to feed the burgeoning population back in Europe (Young 20).
In this context, the legislature's economic policies back in the mother countries were designed for the benefit of the motherland Europe. Most policies, therefore, translated to the supply of these raw materials to the larger public. The resources and the profits gained from these operations ended up in the public coffers to be utilized by the Government in its endeavors worldwide. The colonies were only allocated a basic amount of the revenue to ensure that the settlers could live comfortably and manage the farms appropriately. Simultaneously, the other interest in mining, for example, was assured with revenue enough for efficient operation. While there might be differences in the design of the policies across the colonial powers that ruled Africa, one thing was common during the time. Africa was like the harvesting ground with the benefits being repatriated to the motherland and from there shared as seen fit by the relevant authority.
Significance of Missionaries in Africa during Modern Nationalism
During the mid-20th century, as most African colonies gained their independence, one of the unifying factors to the largest multicultural and ethnic population was the church. Missionary churches, having arrived way before the coming of the colonial powers, had achieved much influence on a significant part of the population (Owusu).
By the time Africans had risen in arms demanding their freedom, a significant number of the people had been converted into Christianity, with some even learning how to read and write. Consequently, the leaders who emerged used such unifying factors to rally the people's support as a block. Therefore, the church was used as a tool to facilitate politics of nationalism, where the people within the borders of colonies rallied behind the appropriate churches forgetting their ethnic differences and uniting to realize the establishment of republics under African leadership.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Colonial Rule in Africa
Despite the dark past associated with the African continent's colonization, one cannot fail to acknowledge some of the colonial rule's advantages. Some of the common benefits that Africa received from its colonization include improving the health and care system. The colonial masters introduced modern medicine to the Africans, who had mostly relied on herbal medicines (Young 23). The new systems of health care promoted the reduction of child mortality rates. Another benefit of colonial rule in Africa was formal education, which enhanced the continent's civilization. Through education, Africa was made aware of the outside world, thus adopting modern lifestyles. Other benefits of colonial rule included improving infrastructure, food security, and women's emancipation within the formerly patriarchal society.
As indicated above, some of the most memorable things about colonial Africa were dark. Consequently, it is imperative to highlight the disadvantages of colonial rule. Colonial rule in Africa leads to constant wars and conflicts that still exist today. Before the colonialists came, Africans had lived together and interacted harmoniously; however, after the demarcation of the continent into political territories, wars and conflicts erupted, especially during the end of the colonial era. Africans also lost their sense of identity and culture when Europeans enforced formal education that encouraged foreign language learning, which gradually replaced the ethnic languages. Other disadvantages included the loss of prime land to settlers, the introduction of new diseases that were deadly to Africans, and the onset of the continent's economic dependency.
Owusu, Mary Akosua Seiwaa. "Nationalism in Question: A Study of Key Categories in Ghanaian History." (2020).
Young, Crawford. "The heritage of colonialism." Africa in World Politics. Routledge, 2018. 9-26.
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