The Nature Of Colonialism In Africa


Colonialism in Africa affected many different spheres of the African culture and way of life. There have been several theories regarding the actual nature of life for the African people of the time, but these tend to vary from one extreme to the other; usually seeing only the viewpoint of either the colonisers or the colonised.

Generally, the term colonialism refers to the domination of a superior power over a weaker, or inferior, one. This is obviously for the benefit of the colonising country, but almost always carries assurances of benefitting those being colonised. In the case of Africa, the promised and provided benefits included:
1. Improved education and the building of schools and universities
2. The introduction of Christian religions
3. Access to a formalised monetary exchange (as opposed to bartering)
4. Construction of infrastructure (including hospitals)
5. The development of formal industries (such as mining, agriculture, and so on)

Image of Rhodes memorial a South African landmark to  Cecil John Rhodes
Rhodes memorial a South African landmark to
Cecil John Rhodes

However, the negative impacts on the local people were, unfortunately, blatantly evident.

These included:
1. Exploitation of Land and Natural Resources Africa was a land rich in minerals, crops and healthy soil. However, when the colonial Europeans arrived, they took over vast tracts of land. The great natural abundance was limited to cash crops, which led to a decrease in the quality and variety of soils available. This, in turn, meant that the land could no longer yield such abundance in the future, even if those with the power to do so had decided to revert back to the old farming methods and products, because the soil had lost such nutritive wealth.

2. Loss of Land Colonisers took over the land that had belonged to locals, depriving these African people of the farms and property they once owned. The local population was forced to live and work where the colonisers allowed. They had no say over what was farmed and what was charged for the produce.

3. Use and Abuse of Women and Children The colonisers hired women and children to work as labourers for them. The conditions under which the vast majority of them were forced to work were often less than humane. They were frequently abused physically and sexually. An added problem is that women were then less respected by the men in their own society, now seen as worthless labourers. Thus, the abuse began to take place within the home as well.

4. Migration of Men While women became farm labourers and servants to the colonisers, men began to move away from their rural homes in search of their own jobs. This resulted in their being without their families for months on end, which led to sexual promiscuity as well as a lack of the natural family structure that is so important to the stability of a society. These men had sex with women that were not their wives, causing these ones to fall pregnant. This negated the purity of the gene pool as illegitimate children increased in number, unaware of their fathers’ identities and their own heritage. This also led to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

5. Some Loss of the African Identity When the Europeans arrived, they brought with them many of their own traditions, customs and beliefs. The Christian religions were one of the major elements of the colonial movement, and these ones were committed to educating the African people about an Almighty God and creator, and heaven and hell as repercussions for earthly behaviour; as opposed to forefathers and other traditional beliefs. Some of the African people converted to Christianity willingly, but some were forced into it by their masters. While a true sense of religion can only be a personal decision, this movement to Christianity, as well as the adoption of several other European customs, diluted many of the African beliefs and traditions. These were no longer considered to be relevant or acceptable to the white folk, and were thus abandoned by the rural people of the day.

Effects Of Climatic And Environmental Changes On Ancient African Civilisations

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the entire planet earth looked very different to what modern man experiences today. Continents were not yet divided, and the vegetation and animals were different. Significantly, the climate was also vastly different to what it is today. Climate plays an integral role in determining the plants and animal that live in a certain areas, as well as how habitable a place is for human beings.

In fact, even the theory of the evolution of man was dependent largely on the climatic influences on our ancient ancestors. It is hypothesised that the ancient versions of man were forced to walk upright, lose body hair and develop their coordination for survival in a changing environment. New skills also needed to be learned as farming techniques and living habits had to be adapted.

Ancient Africa experienced major vacillations between mega-droughts and Ice Ages, although these fluctuations occurred over thousands and thousands of years. As humans continued to develop and evolve through these phases, they needed to make major adaptations, not only to their ways of life, but also to their personal body structure. Prior to 135 000 years ago, the whole of Africa was lush and fertile, with a tropical climate. Then, the most intense mega-drought ever to occur hit the continent in the period referred to as the early part of the Late Pleistocene epoch. This is believed to have led to the migration of most of our human ancestors into other areas that were more habitable and fertile. Lake Malawi has been used by scientists as a rain gauge to ascertain water levels in ancient times. Research has shown that, during this mega-drought, the lake’s level dropped at least 1968 feet, or 600 metres! Evolutionists claim that this severe lack of water not only pushed ancient man from the area, it also forced aquatic animals (such as fish) to develop the facilities to be able to survive on dry land, thus evolving into land animals.

As people flocked out of the continent, only a very small proportion of this specific generation remained. Humankind as we know it is widely believed to have come from these few remaining on the continent, who evolved significantly and in response to the climatic changes.

These conditions continued until about 70 000 years ago, when the climate was again characterised by wetter conditions. These led to the growth and renewal of fresh vegetation, as well as an increased water supply to the region. More people were in the area during this time of abundance, and the population grew. This increase in numbers eventually led to migrations due to space limitations and the ownership of land.

Then, about 20 000 years ago, an Ice Age overcame the entire earth. This meant that the planet underwent a long-term period of cold temperatures over most of its surface. In places like North America and Eurasia, giant ice sheets covered enormous proportions of the land, making it impossible to farm and, sometimes, even live in these areas. This final Ice Age lasted for about 9 500 years. It forced most of the populations to migrate to the highlands, where they would be relatively protected from the ice sheets. Again, these civilisations had to adapt their farming methods, and change their diet, social habits, clothing and migratory patterns. This forced an evolution to a certain extent. Body hair was necessary to keep people warm, their skin lightened due to a lack of the harsh rays of the sun that they experienced during the mega-droughts, etc…

When this Ice Age came to an end 10 500 years ago, areas like the Sahara were left fertile and healthy. This made it and the other areas like it the ideal spots in which to settle as ancient man began to descend from the highlands. Animals and plants thrived in this environment, which made it very desirable in the eyes of mankind. The abundance of food, water and sunshine again changed the habits and physical structures of our earliest forefathers.

These conditions lasted for some time, but the Sahara in particular continued to experience fluctuations between humid and dry conditions. These eventually left the entire area unable to yield crops or sustain life for any extended period of time. Today, it remains a large stretch of desert. Then, approximately 2500 years ago, the group of people who had made their home in the Sahara began to follow the direction of the Nile River, which held promise of a rich water supply. The arid conditions of the Sahara and its surrounds continue to the present day.

Africa has, since prehistoric times, proven to be a place of fascination, life and evolution. Changes in the climate were often dramatic, and these were, to a great extent, responsible for determining the ancient civilisations that inhabited this vast continent. It is no wonder that many researchers and scientists maintain that Africa is the Cradle of Mankind, and research continues to yield fascinating evidence of this theory.