Can efforts to decolonize Africa do more than good?

Published By UNNGOF |  February 11, 2015

Colonialism in Africa was really rooted in the social, political and economic aspects of African people and it is evident that today people associate themselves with the effect of colonialism like foreign languages, culture, and political system among others.

Colonialism has taken centre in all aspects of African life and it is very hard to start drilling it out of the lives of Africans. My stand therefore is that the efforts to decolonize Africa will do more harm than good.

Economic Aspects
Before colonialism, Africans used to trade amongst themselves (barter trade), the intracastrine trade, the use of cowrie shells as medium of exchange among others. Much as these were African concepts and mechanisms to do things, they were not efficient enough. For example trade did not follow any protocol and there was a lot cheating, unfair bargains, and lack of transparency among others. There were no banks, no financial institutions, credit institutions and the economy was not boosting.

Examining the coming of colonialism and its effect on the economy, it is evident that we are better than the pre-colonial times. The coming into force of financial institutions like banks and credit institutions boosted trade where Africans stared saving for more investment, they were given loans to boost their trade. Is this bad? So why should we fight something that has brought us to light? The coming into force of money as a medium of exchange has eased life in terms of trade, social transformation among others. Are these a form of colonialism, yes, and does it make life easy? So why should we fight it?

Social Aspects
Africans organized themselves in clans, families especially extended families, had strong cultures (however bad they were). The question is whether the coming of colonialism did more harm to our social life rather than the good. I will pick out the aspect of culture, they were cultures that were so repugnant and archaic, for example the rolling of a pregnant girl over a cliff in western Uganda, the female genital mutilation in Sebei, the kusigura( form of marriage where a man just runs away with a woman), all these are repugnant. But the coming into force of the 1902 Order in council, article 17 outlawed all these repugnant practices that were inhuman in nature. This was later adopted into our Constitution under Article 2(2) which outlaws such repugnant practices. So is the out-lawing of the bad practices by the colonial law bad? Isn’t it protecting life? So why then should we put our efforts to do away with the good white man laws?

About language, Africans had different languages spoken in different cultures and there was no unifying language. The effect of colonialism was that English language was adopted as the most convenient and unifying language that Africans spoke. Today article 5 of the constitution provides for the official language as English. Is this bad because it is an effect of colonialism? We are better today because with English, Africa is made of one culture and language hence trade, business and the rest. So we are better than we were.

Political Aspect
The political system in Africa was chiefdoms, kingdoms, clans and each had their leaders who would rule over them. There was the monarchy system of governance where it was one man ruling (the king) and no one would have the chance to rule unless he was the king’s son. There was no opportunity for power shift. The white system of governance came with the idea of democracy where everyone has chance to participate in governance. Since 1962, Uganda has had over 9 presidents all coming from different cultures and background. Whether this is working out or not is another issue but we need to appreciate that we are now better that we have a parliament, judiciary and the executive, all these are following the white man’s regulation( the common law of England-for the courts, the British parliamentary system), the question is, aren’t we better today? We don’t need to do away with the colonial system.

In conclusion, we are better today because of the effect of colonialism and fighting what is existing is no guarantee that the fighters of colonialism will bring us something better. We need to appreciate that we are better because of colonialism and that we need to control our own power in a more organized all-embracing manner.

By Michael Aboneka Jr.
Support officer, Policy and Advocacy and also Associate Partner at Tegulle, Opoka & Co. Advocates