Africa From Colonialism to Neocolonialism Essay

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The Post-Colonial World Outlook in Africa: From Colonialism to Neocolonialism?


During the colonial era, vast regions of Africa and Asia were taken over and subsequently dominated by the more powerful western nations. In essence, the main agenda of colonialism was exploitative – with economically stronger nations seeking to exert control over weaker and less developed countries so as to exploit both their human and natural resources. Also, colonial powers deemed their colonies as viable markets for their products. The cultural and social aspects of the subjugated countries were affected and adapted in significant ways, with the said countries being forced to embrace the cultural, religious, as well as social ideals of the colonial countries. Most of the dominated countries got their independence back by way of concessions, compromise, or force – giving way to the post-colonial era. During the postcolonial era, former colonies attempted to claim their autonomy back, with some attempting to build systems and structures of governance that were largely indigenous and reflective of their specific situations and needs. Neocolonialism took form during this post-colonial period.

In essence colonialism could be defined as “a structured relationship of domination and subordination… where the relationship is established and maintained to serve the interests of all or part of the dominant group” (Trifonas, 2003, p. 12). In that regard, therefore, colonialism resulted from a foreign ruling state’s total political dominance over the dominated country. Towards this end, the political power of the society was monopolized by the ruling state and legal structures were established to secure this political power. It is important to note that colonial rule effectively made the dominated countries fully dependent on a foreign power for sustenance (Trifonas, 2003). It is for this reason that gaining independence did not set the newly independent states on a path to self-determination and autonomy – especially from a political and economic perspective. With end of the colonial rule, most of the newly independent states still needed the support of the stronger countries.

Neocolonialism, on the other hand, as Lagan (2017) points out, has been defined as “the continuation of external control over African territories by newer and more subtle methods than that exercised under formal Empire” (4). In that regard, therefore, neocolonialism is perceived when the economic as well as political influence over a given society persists beyond formal domination. In this case, the said persistence occurs despite there being no formal political control over the concerned society. The emergence of neocolonialism in most societies could hypothetically be deemed to be a consequence of the end of colonialism in the 20th century. In this case, Lagan (2017) is of the opinion that it could be argued that former colonial masters and emerging economic powerhouses have systematically sought to reestablish control in some jurisdictions without necessarily assuming actual colonial rule. With their economic authority, such nations have largely been successful in extending their influence in Third World nations.

Like is the case in many African nations, Burkina Faso was historically deemed to be an agrarian state. It is, however, important to note that the country has accelerated its production of various minerals in recent years. These include, but they are not limited to, pumice, granite, dolomite, and marble. Further, the country has sizeable gold reserves. Despite the abundance of natural resources, the country is still largely underdeveloped, with the unemployment rate remaining quite high. It is instructive to note that the country’s ties to France remain close. Could Burkina Faso, like many other African states that still maintain close relations with former colonial powers, be a case study of modern-day colonialism, or more specifically, neocolonialism? In reference to Burkina Faso’s situation, Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso’s president from 1983-1987, pointed out that “the greatest difficulty we have faced is the neocolonial way of thinking that exists in this country… we are colonized by a country, France…” (Harsch, 2014, p. 109). Thus although Burkina Faso, like many other African countries, was regarded an independent country, its former colonial power was still the country’s modern-day colonial master.


Essentially, the transitions that have been witnessed from the slave trade period to the colonial period, and now the neocolonialism era have done little to remedy the exploitative relationship between developed countries and the less developed nations. As a matter of fact, the said transitions only relate to the mechanics of the unfair engagements.

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According to Mukhtar, Kura, Abba, and Ahmed (2013), “the external slave trade (especially between Africa on the one hand and Europe and the New World on the other) and colonialism were two important episodes that markedly affected the economic development of the African continent during the last five centuries” (221). In essence, slavery was largely focused on the exploitation of human capital – whereby captured natives were expatriated to provide labor in diverse settings. For instance, European economies during the slave trade era were in need of sufficient labor to exploit vast and fertile lands they had seized in the Americas.

According to Mukhtar, Kura, Abba, and Ahmed (2013), agricultural exploits in the Mediterranean, particularly sugar plantations, were largely powered by the trans-Saharan slave trade. At the same time, scores of other slaves were sent to various other regions to serve owners. The slave trade era ushered in yet another exploitative colonial era. As Mukhtar, Kura, Abba, and Ahmed (2013) observe, the abolishment of slave trade was largely spearheaded by Britain in the 19th century. In the words of the authors, the transition from slave trade to colonialism was in essence informed and fueled by “the realization of Britain that instead of transporting the Africans to the New World to work under service condition in white-owned plantations, it was better to leave the Africans where they were and encourage them to produce what was needed by British industries” (220). During both periods, countries that were once prosperous ended up being impoverished. A perfect example on this front would be India. According to Thompson and Garratt (1999), there are numerous references from early writers that indicate that India was better of prior to the being colonized by the British. One such writer is Tavernier. In his account, Tavernier points out that “even in the smallest villages, rice, flour, butter, milk, beans, and other vegetables, sugar, and other sweeteners, dry and liquid, can be procured in abundance” (Thompson and Garratt, 1999, p. 424).

Contrary to the expectations of social scientists, former colonies found it difficult to implement sound development agendas on attaining independence. Various viewpoints have been advanced in an attempt to explain this phenomenon. According to Dwyer (2018), most of the former colonies had vast and fertile agricultural lands, which effectively made them agricultural powerhouses. Burkina Faso, like many other Africa countries at the time was largely agrarian. This effectively meant that with the exit of the colonial nations, agricultural produce became the key export and an important foreign exchange earner. Due to the lack of resources as well as capital to produce other goods for continued modernization, specifically electronic goods, most of the said countries became net importers of electronic goods. This led to more dependence on the stronger and more developed nations, and hence the emergence of neo-colonialism. According to Dwyer (2018), there are numerous instances of developed nation interventions throughout Africa, as well as the Middle East, that could thwart Africa’s development agenda. This is known as the dependence theory, and it is largely founded on the resulting negative balance of payments resulting from warped transactions of an economic nature. There is also the foreign aid theory. In this case, neocolonialism is deemed to be a consequence of foreign aid, whereby after the exit of colonial powers, former colonies deemed it fit to enlist foreign aid so as to further advance the development agenda. Soon a veritable link was created between the providers of aid and the countries in need of such aid. Those advancing this point of view, like Lagan (2017), are of the opinion that loans constitute a significant portion of foreign aid. In essence, the said loans bear high interest rates. Accordingly, Sankara was of the opinion that “debt is a cleverly managed re-conquest of Africa, aiming at subjugating its growth and development through foreign rules… thus, each one of us becomes the financial slave, which is to say a true slave” (Harsch, 2014, p. 174). Towards this end, therefore, it can be argued that the vicious circle of seeking loans and the subsequent repayment of the same has no net benefit on the development agenda of the entire African continent, and only serves to sustain the dominance stronger nations have over weaker third world countries.

In essence, classic colonialism is no longer active in any part of the world. However, neocolonialism has effectively taken hold. Thus although the military as well as….....

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Dwyer, M. (2018). Soldiers in Revolt: Army Mutinies in Africa. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Harsch, E. (2014). Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

Lagan, M. (2017). Neo-Colonialism and the Poverty of 'Development' in Africa. New York, NY: Springer.

Martin, G. (2012). African Political Thought. New York, NY: Springer.

Mukhtar, H.Y., Kura, S.M., Abba, Y. & Ahmed, M.A. (2013). The Slave Trade, Colonialism and Africa’s Underdevelopment. International Journal of Innovative Research & Development, 2(2), 220-228.

Thompson, E.T. & Garratt, G.T. (1999). History of British Rule in India. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers & Dist.
Trifonas, P.P. (Ed.). (2003). Pedagogies of Difference: Rethinking Education for Social Justice. New York, NY: Routledge.

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