Did Colonialism benefit or harm Africa?
Emmanuel Francis says ‘Harm’ in the website ‘Quora’
“You may have heard that the coming of the colonialists put an end to the death of twins and human sacrifice, that is true in the handful of civilizations across Africa that practiced it, to others the colonizers’s arrival set back political institutions, female rights and human rights in general.
The colonizers brought with them, their religions of Islam and Christianity, this has all but destroyed African culture as various cultural artifacts were destroyed in their wake. African names, dresses, even hair were considered inferior and barbaric, even worse that colonial mentality of African inferiority still persists in Sub-Saharan Africa today.
Thirdly, I can’t emphasise this enough for my fellow Africans who have the misguided idea that the colonisers brought improved government systems to Africa, it is a myth! African political institutions were equal to any to be found in the world at the time. The Egyptian/Aksum civilizations are more popular, but let us move it to the 19th century which in my opinion is the high-point of African civilization, even now we’re yet to surpass them.
In Northern Africa, you had Muhammad Ali’s Egypt holding sway across the middle-east, from the Sudan to the very gates of Constantinople, he was able to organise a bureaucracy that effectively taxed his populace, was the world’s leading exporter of cotton(due to the American Civil War) and was able to lead an army of 80,000 on wars of conquest in the Sudan, Greece and Syria.
In the East you have Ethiopia, who after Tewodros(Theodore) II’s reforms was able not only to conduct the first massive road construction projects in East Africa but later under Johannes IV muster an army of 200,000 to stop Egyptian and Mahdist invasions, but famously defeat the Italians at Adwa, you also had Sayyid Said’s Zanzibar who controlled both Oman the Eastern African coastline which in turn made Zanzibar the Indian trade’s premier port, in the South you had Shaka’s famous war machine and the various political and social changes of the Mfecane, you also had the Buganda where a young Captain Lugard was to get his ideas of indirect rule from.
In Western Africa( a bit biased here) you had the greatest of all African civilizations, from the ancient kingdom’s of Borno. Mali, Ghana and ofcourse Songhai(of Mansa Musa fame) to the Oyo and the Benin Empires. In the 19th century you had the theocratic states of Sokoto and Masina. You also had my vote for West African of all times, Samori Toure who was able to craft a bureaucracy that could create a second empire while holding off French imperialism, manufacture his own arms for defense and lay out a plan for successful resistance of colonizers.
You had the Asante who not only defeated the British multiple times but were a confederacy who successfully disproved 300 years ago the current idiotic theory some of our present politicians have that myriad nations can not be forged into one! You had the Dahomey who despite being vassals of Oyo and later militarily dominated by Abeokuta still managed to craft a richer. more successful state than their successor states of Benin and Togo have managed so far to do.
In mentioning empires and kingdoms, I don’t give enough credit to the more decentralised states like the Igbo!, the Ibibio who practiced and evolved their forms of direct democracy and successfully created systems of war, diplomacy, art, societal norms, literature and trade with their neighbours at a time when their would be colonizers languished in a period they would call “the dark ages”.
Do all of the above look like people who needed the “civilizing influence of outsiders”? Colonization’s equivalent would have been European states attacking America after 1776 and sending into slavery while extracting all the resources of the Americas not for the benefit of the owners but for that of the colonizers for more than a century. P.S I avoided mentions of the various civilizations such as Kongo and the Zimbabwean kingdoms(not my field).”