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African Resistance to Colonialism and Colonial Economies

African Resistance to Colonialism

The African history is closely associated with European colonization, which was mainly caused by the economic, religious, and political factors. To acquire larger territories of Africa, Europeans employed various means of suppressing the local population and supported it with the so-called mission of making Africa a civilized nation. In fact, they used the mineral resources and cheap labor and put African in dependence from Britain, France, and other countries. Nevertheless, the African continent showed resistance to a colonial rule by paganizing national parties, demanding equity, and struggling for national liberation. This paper focuses on various forms of resistance to clarify how Africans struggled against oppression.

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The early resistance to colonialism in Africa began in the late 19th century with the increasing unrest in East Africa and several organized groups. This primary resistance was not unified and centered, yet it allowed understanding that the colonial rule and the presence of Europeans in Africa were negative (Chamberlain 89). It should be stressed that the initial stage of colonization did not significantly the rural regions of the continent and the lives of people.

With a more extensive introduction of European control, several resistance cases were initiated against the colonizers. For example, the Battle of Adowa occurred in Ethiopia in the 20th century, when this country resisted successfully, and only a part if it was colonized (“Black Man’s Land – White Man’s Country PT. 1”). Being interested in expanding their economic and political influence, Europeans met stiff resistance from Asante in Ghana, which was expressed in the form of a battle.

The evolution of resistance steadily went on its second stage that can be characterized by such concepts as self-identity, human and civil rights, as well as self-government. The secondary resistance was aimed at achieving political and geographical independence along with overcoming colonial imperialism. These forward-looking ideas were supported by new, educated leaders and preceded by the relatively quiet period of the so-called inter-war years (Laumann 20).

In spite of a lack of the direct opposition, Africans demonstrated religious resistance. For example, Maji-Maji (Tanganyika) and Chimurenga (Zimbabwe) can be noted among the leaders who collaborated with the priests to combat the colonial regulations. In particular, based on Christian values of fairness and equality, they proposed that the colonial regimen did not meet these principles. Some new churches were formed as a protest against the colonizers and the requirement for independence.

Economic and political resistance contains the two more forms of resistance, which were poorly organized until the beginning of the World War II. The attempts to organize worker unions West and East Africa can be noted, while these actions cannot be considered important in terms of the whole population of the continent. Several mass protests, including the Aba Women’s War, spoke against colonial policies that discriminated against them.

The participants of mass protests destroyed buildings before they were stopped by the police. Another form of resistance was the demands for inclusion and opportunity, which were practiced predominantly by educated Africans, who focused on human rights (Reynolds 15). Building on the idea of equality, they opposed a lack of opportunities, but their claims were not strong enough, and these organizations had limited membership for the elite.

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When Africans were recruited in British and French armies during the World War II, those who returned home questioned their unfree position. The veterans also noted the experience of other countries who overcame the colonial rule, which led to the emergence of new mass-based political parties. The growth of African nationalism caused more pronounced claims for independence, and the struggle in the majority of countries was non-violent (Nkrumah).

Nevertheless, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, and other states remained colonies since the interests of European colonizers were strong. Initially, these countries tried to change the constitutional rules in a peaceful way based on political demands. In turn, the colonizers responded by banning the ability of the local population to participate in political protests. Violence towards them was expressed in mass imprisonment, and the struggle turned out to be the armed opposition (Nkrumah). The liberation movements were supported by the African countries that have already acquired independence (“Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”). Through suffering and sacrifice, the all the countries of Africa achieved independence by means of different resistance forms.

To conclude, one should stress that African resistance to colonialism took many forms, including economic, political, and religious opposition. At the same time, battles and mass protests were initiated against the colonial rule. The primary stage of resistance was expressed in battles with the European colonizers, which largely affected non-rural regions. In the inter-war years, the demands for independence were declared by the African elite that organized in groups. Religious opposition was presented in the form of creating new churches and following Christian values. The secondary resistance was associated with the growth of American nationalism and armed struggle. Thus, a look into the resistance of Africans clarifies the ways they combated European colonialism and discrimination.

Colonial Economies and Africans

The colonization of Africa was closely connected with the penetration of capitalism into the economy of its countries. This paper explores the main features of the economic system that was created by colonialism due to the penetration of capitalism in the African countries. This is a brief overview of the problems associated with the underdevelopment of the economies of Africa. To understand the key features of the structure of the colonial economy is, it means understanding the reasons for the economic backwardness of African countries today.

A distinctive feature of the colonial economy is the fragmentation or disintegration of its individual parts. First of all, this means that sectors of the economy were not characterized by complementarity. In a whole economy, complementarity and interaction of individual regions and / or sectors are observed. For example, one region specializes in agricultural production, while another one supplies industrial products to it.

Along with the exchange at the general interregional or intersectoral levels, there should also exist a system of direct and reverse production ties. An example of feedback is a situation where the demand from industry for coal means that the exploitation of proven coal reserves is economically feasible. The direct connections can be discussed, for example, in the case when the creation of ferrous metallurgy facilitates the production of motorcycles on the spot (Laumann 10). In this connection, the entire economy is a system of such ties, its regions, and sectors complement each other and interact with each other through exchange. The colonial economy, as a rule, lacked such connections, complementarity, as well as interactions.

In the early period of the colonization of Africa, there was little native capital that could be mobilized for investment and development. For such reasons as the struggle for independence and poor support from the colonizers, the amount of savings in the colonies remained low. A significant part of the funds received by a particular country from colonial trade was spent on imports. Colonial capitalism, in which the accumulation of outwardly has the character of the original, left the local population quite narrow opportunities to accumulate wealth.

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All this led to the dependence of the colonies on foreign capital, while capital resources were sharply limited, the need for them remained critical. In particular, it was necessary to develop infrastructure, especially railways and roads, create energy resources if the country did not want to, so that its development boils down to increased exploitation. A lack of equity, on the one hand, and the need to make investments, on the other, made the African colonial economy highly dependent.

In foreign trade and global economy, the colonial countries of Africa depended primarily on the metropolis. This dependence reflected the exploitative essence of the industrial inclusion of the colonial countries in the capitalist system of metropolises. Such an inclusion was also the result of enforcement measures that the colonial states used to take advantage of the economy of the colonies.

The contradictory nature and diversity of production relations in colonial Africa occurred mainly due to the influence of the imperialist countries of Europe, namely, the penetration of the capitalist mode of production into Africa “(Black Man’s Land – White Man’s Country PT. 1”). However, even if the imperialist countries were not responsible for the penetration of capitalism, and were limited only to the initial accumulation in Africa, difficulties and inconsistencies would still be sufficient.

Colonial Africa was a conglomerate of various modes of production and social patterns. Simple commodity production could coexist here with the patriarchal, as well as with those or other features of the feudal and slaveholding methods of production. When a colonial state tried to adjust its economy and social system to this conglomerate, certain changed appeared (Reynolds 18). Most importantly, when the capitalist mode of production distributed and subjugated all pre-capitalist structures, it meant that African countries are ready to collaborate with global economies.

Are pre-capitalist ways disappearing, mutating or transforming, or is a new complex community formed? The elements of colonial capitalism connected, making colonial capitalism unique o, while being based well-known laws of capitalist development (“Black Man’s Land – White Man’s Country PT. 1”). All these are quite difficult questions that researchers in Africa and the problems of backwardness have long been trying to solve, but only partially successfully.

To conclude, in modern conditions, unlike the era of European imperialism, financial capital is no longer a decisive force in international political and economic relationships. In spite of the economic weaknesses, many newly-free countries support the international labor movement and the national liberation movement, providing the contribution to political independence. The important changes leading to the release from a dependent position have also occurred in countries in which imperialism has largely retained its political and economic control.

The national states that emerged during the liquidation of the colonial system tend to pursue peaceful, anti-imperialist, and anti-colonialist policies, playing an important role in modern international relations and establishing the principles of coexistence.


“Black Man’s Land – White Man’s Country PT. 1.” YouTube, uploaded by Dre Jordan. 2018. Web.

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Chamberlain, Muriel Evelyn. The Scramble for Africa. 3rd ed. Routledge, 2010.

Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.United Nations Human Rights. Web.

Laumann, Dennis. Colonial Africa, 1884-1994. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Nkrumah, Kwame. “I Speak of Freedom.Marxists. Web.

Reynolds, Jonathan T. Sovereignty and Struggle: Africa and Africans in the Era of the Cold War, 1945-1994. Oxford University Press, 2015.

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