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The White Man's Burden

The White Man’s Burden

Colonialism in Africa, as a subject, has attracted varied studies, mostly with respect to factors that led to scramble for Africa. Ideally, there are two approaches that have been employed in effort to air a consummate factual driven base to describe the idea behind Scramble for Africa. One of this has been on the notion of need to trigger civilization in a continent perceived to be poorly “modernized”. Africa was regarded, and has been regarded as the Dark Continent, in terms of progress in civilization, development and resource exploitation. On this note, some of the “white” argued that there was need to spark civilization; hence scramble for African ensued. On the other hand, there was need to expand territories for superiority from west countries to African Continent, which was deemed as way off under exploited. How true these two approaches were, stands an evaluation well supported by facts. In this paper, main motivation behind this struggle will be evaluated and supportive facts given.

Approaching the argument from the point of civilization, it is indeed true that the western countries introduced news ideas that have gained favor in boosting civilization in Africa[1]. Honestly, the efforts made by the colonialist on the path of civilizations have remained a reference point in ample developmental aspects among several African countries. According to Logan (2010) civilization is arched on four major cores; economic development, political organization, respect of Human Rights, and craving for knowledge and arts[2]. African countries were boosted a far by colonialism, though not all colonies realized this benefit. Despite that fact that the countries would have attained the magnitude of advancement recorded, the rate would not have been the same.

South Africa was among the last countries that received their independence late among African countries, yet the country is the best country in Africa, in terms of development. Indeed, S. Africa is the only country in Africa that wins the favor of being middle class nations in the world. On contrary, Zimbabwe, where leadership evicted the “Whites Settlers”, lives to lament of the fallen economic prospect. Politically, the country has been on turmoil, with the incumbent president being adamant to vacate the position[3]. The country moral traditions, which can be benched on democracy level is on outcry with opposition leaders suffering the wrath of minced democracy. Some of the development that were initiated by the colonialist, especially England, have formed the foundation for further development, or have remained stagnant due  to poor planning and developmental capaciy. For instance, Kenya Railway network has received not a single inch expansion since the ages of colonialism. The existing structure was established by the colonialist and has never been improved or extended.

Politically, African countries have borrowed governing structure from their colonialists. The British colonies left a mark of governance in their colonies, and so did Italy and German. The continent has also been a victim of autocratic leadership, characterized by eminent compromised electoral process that seems to favor the incumbent leader. Before colonialism, African communities were grouped into small colonies basically governed by Clan heads[4]. However, colonialists destabilized these groupings, and introduced a harmonizing constitution for all people in each country, then referred to as colonies. This was an awakening call to institute leadership that focused beyond individual clans. In this respect, the ideal for colonialist to embark on civilizing Africans can be supported strongly.

There were so many untapped resources that could have improved the living standards of Africans if exploited. On this respect, colonialist settled and initiated industries and companies that were bestowed with the mandate of processing these raw materials to finished or semi-finished material. Africans learnt from this input and propagated the spirit of development. However, the pace cannot be ranked at the same level. Despite the fact that colonialists reaped the largest share of this investment, Africans benefited from being enlightened. Therefore, arguing that civilization was a reason for scramble for Africa holds waters.[5]

Interestingly, other than being driven by the need to civilize Africans, colonialism had an aspect of imperialism. Imperialism entails expansion of territorial boundaries over which a nation exercises it governance powers to a less privileged society. The mere fact that these people indulged into foreign nations without seeking consent from inhabitants is a show of imperialism. The African countries were forced to conform to their colonialist’s lifestyle and approach in life. Colonialist imposed heavy penalties on repellants who seemed to create wrangles with the form of leadership. Governance and policies implemented in these colonies were being shipped from the mother country. This indicates the deep rootedness of imperialism as a core factor driving colonialism[6].

It is through imperialism that colonialists managed to impose their culture, and diluted if not decimate natives’ culture. Imposition of the colonialist culture abolishing the native way of life introduced confusion in thee assimilation process[7]. Natives were adamant in accepting the introduced way of life but they had no option. Indeed, colonists had different approach in impeaching the African culture. Introduction of a foreign language, which has been a crucial remnant of colonial culture, can be used to determine what colonist occupied a certain country. Language being a major determinant of culture influences the living condition of the host.

In addition, the colonies have witnessed an influence and pressures from their colonialist in matters regarding politics, economic stimulus strategies, social justice and military help. For instance, those countries that formed French territories, have extensively received support from French government. In Congo and Mali, the French troops were largely involved in restoring peace after a group of insurgent threatened the stability of the country. This is an indication of the expansion their military groups operation. Therefore, the after month of Scramble for Africa was not merely on the need to grab land; there was a lot of interest in the region than just the resources.

Colonists managed to expound their values, knowledge and ideas to a less prepared society who felt short of power, resources and capabilities to resist the insurgents. The superiority of the colonist was also gauge on the manner by which they occupied regions and their proportion of colonies. There were efforts, especially from England, to unite the colonies through a communication and transport network across Africa[8]. This reflects the magnitude that the colonists had on Africa region. The imperativeness of joining territories pinpoints the vitality to safeguard values and necessitate establishment of effective governance.

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It would be difficult splitting the two faces, which are reflecting the interest of European countries, in respect to Scramble for Africa. The issues of imperialism and civilization happen to be intertwined. However, weight falls on the idea that most of the colonists were interested in preaching, and establishing a firm ground of their culture and institutions, in Africa. Availability of ample resources formed a crucial core economically. This was seen as an opportunity for mutual exchange of benefits between developing Africa and helping themselves in return[9].

In conclusion, African resources, political instability, poorly civilized, and the need to expand territories were among the motivating factors that triggered Scramble for Africa. The idea of civilizing Africans was never the core motive that led to scramble for Africa. However, these nations sort to extend their dominion to Africa.

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