DEPENDENCY IN AFRICA: STAGES OF AFRICAN POLITICAL ECONOMY
by Amechi Okolo
NOTES ON THE CENTRALITY OF THE AFRICAN STATE
by Róbinson Rojas (1997)
Two contradictory features have marked the development of the African
state after decolonization: extreme political fragility and extreme
consistency in serving the interests of international capital. In both
cases, a common structure: a gap, a lack of connection, between African
civil society and African state. The African state mainly as a dynamic
part of the structure of dependency, and governments as the foreman to
keep civil society producing a surplus to be accumulated by foreign
and native social elites which enjoy almost absolutist power.
How external forces extract surplus from dependent economies in Asia,
Africa and Latin America, is well documented. How internal forces
extract surplus in dependent economies is less documented. Sometimes,
impressionistic snapshots are useful. J. Bayart, in "The Sate in
Africa", Longman, 1993, writes:
"In Africa as elsewhere, the State is a major manufacturer of
inequality. The 'development' which it boastfully claims to promote,
and in whose name it attempts to ban political competition and social
protest, plays its part in this process. Better than any international
expert, a pupil at an agricultural school showed his awareness of this
fact in the following replies he gave to a questionnaire:
Question: In what areas has the village made progress?
Answer: These villages have made most progress in work on the fields
of 'Baba'. By this I mean: work in the fields of the chief of
Rey Bouba only. The village people don't even have the right to
work in their own fields. At the start of the rainy season, the
'dourgourous' (guards, militia) of the chief fetch them from the
villages to go and work first of all in the chief's fields
before they come back late to work on their own fields. This is
why I say that they have made progress in the fields of the
chief of Rey Bouba.
Question: Have all peasants contributed to this progress? Or only
Answer: I tell you that all peasants have contributed to this progress
because the region or 'lamidat' of Rey Bouba includes the tribes
of [there follows a list of names of tribes]. They are all
slaves of the chief of Rey Bouba. None of the tribes whose names
I have just given you have individual rights.
Question: Does this progress cause any problem? Please specify
Answer: This progress causes a lot of problems if the village of such
and such a tribe does not present itself straightaway in the
fields. When this happens the chief of the village is locked up
in the house of the chief of Rey Bouba for two or three months.
He leaves with a fine for himself and for the rest of the
village, who also get soundly whipped. Whilst their chief is in
prison the peasants have to finish their allotted cultivation.
Question: What do you wish for in order to develop the villages
where you work?
Answer: For the villages where I work to be better developed in all
things, I wish that the 'arrondissement' of Rey Bouba had a
southern 'sous-prefecture' and a police brigade, so that the
episode which I have just told you about would no longer be
possible and the peasants really could have their independence,
and be better developed in agriculture and we teachers could
help them with new techniques of ploughing and drilling with
ox-drawn drills with two spouts in parallel line, treating the
fields with weedkillers, mechanical weeding, mechanical and
(Student's essay collected in Baikwa (North Cameroon) in an agricultural
college. December 1984).
P. Chabal, "Power in Africa", St. Martins Press, 1992), and D. Rothchild
and N. Chazan, eds., "The Precarious Balance:. State and Society in
Africa", Westview Press, 1988, argued that the African state is weak,
ineffective and most of the time lacks legitimacy. Moreover, G. M. Carew,
in "Development theory and the promise of democracy: the future of
postcolonial African states", AFRICA TODAY, Vol. 40, 01-01-1993,
traces back the above features to Africa's colonial past:
"The colonial powers, as if to fulfill their civilizing
mission, appeared committed to transplanting democratic
regimes in their former colonies..." [In fact]..."creating
the state before establishing a nation unduly complicated the
democratic process and generated in a good many cases a wholly
undemocratic outcome. For example, voter choices turned out to be
along rather than across ethnic lines, with the result that the
state became polarized along ethnic lines. Nationalist leaders
responded to this awkward situation by setting in motion their
own nation-state-in-the-making. Nationalist myths about great
precolonial empires created a sense of oneness which had been
absent in colonial states. However, notwithstanding the reinvention
of precolonial empires like Mali, Ghana, and Zimbabwe, nationalist
parties came to be dominated by particularist concerns. This trend
produced disaffection with the nationalist cause and led to the
eventual ethnic polarization of the state. With the failure to create
a nation-state, African postcolonial democratic governments came
increasingly under attack from their own people. Most of these
governments responded with force to the threat from society."
Carew describes the crisis in postcolonial African state/society as
a historical, political, economic, and administrative problem.
The historical problem was that "though nationalist agitation ultimately
contributed to the decolonization process, the colonizers dictated both
the pace and outcome of the postcolonial political order in the majority
of cases. On the basis of this evidence, one is inclined to question the
view held by most nationalists that the advent of independence was a
rupture with the colonial past and the dawn of a new political era
with former colonial political communities now firmly mastering their
own fate. What might have appeared so, on the face of things, was in
reality quite different. Postcolonial communities were indeed furnished
with democratic constitutions and representative institutions.
Nationalist leaders quickly replaced the colonial administrators as
rulers in the new political dispensation. Apart from such changes,
little else had changed. The postcolonial state was in many respects
not very different from its predecessor, the colonial state."
At the political level "the relationship between the state and
civil society was one of pragmatic appreciation of their respective
situations. The colonized knew their place and did not actually expect
the colonial administration to be committed to promoting their interests.
As long as colonial rule was not overbearing and life-threatening, an
uneasy calm prevailed. The colonial administrators sought and received
the collaboration of the political leadership in the various communities
in exchange for local autonomy."...
..."With the rise of nationalism the entire political community was
united in contesting the hegemonic interests of the colonizers, and the
nationalist leaders who championed the cause of independence enjoyed
the support of most factions of the political community. In this
instance of the revolt of civil society against the state there was
only one clear aim in view: the destruction of the colonial order."
But, then, after decolonisation, the colonial structure was transferred
almost intact to the so-called "new" nation-states.
Consequently, "the failure of the postcolonial constitution to
establish a political accountability principle prompted the nationalists
to invent their own political accountability principle. The nationalists,
increasingly and clearly lacking legitimacy, now created a scenario
which was in every way reminiscent of the state/civil society
relationship of the colonial period. In other words, the nationalist
one-party state became in every respect like the colonial state:
coercive, authoritarian and statist."
And then, the economic reality took over: when the rupture in the
precolonial political community took place, the colonial overlords
took a keen interest in the economic viability of their colonies.
Their colonies were to serve as sources of raw material for their
industries at home. To that end they created a dual economy: one
export led, the other for the domestic economy. In this way, colonial
African states were integrated in the capitalist world order. This was
to have a telling effect on postcolonial African states, which, though
politically independent, continued to have dependent economies. (Carew,
Therefore, the state now determined access to wealth and resources.
Only those who could gain access to the state were economically
successful. Thus, the struggle for access to the
state intensified and all those who failed to gain access became
disaffected. Civil society and state entered in an antagonistic
contradiction, like in colonial times.
"The postcolonial bureaucracy was mainly determined by the colonial
administrative structure. In fact, the new postcolonial regimes simply
inherited the bureaucracy of the colonial governments. That this might
not have been such a good idea is suggested by two points: first, the
colonial bureaucracy was statist and overcentralized. In the colonial
state, administration was almost indistinguishable from the
government; it was in fact the government." (Carew, ibid.)
AND SOCIAL CLASSES ALSO
In accordance with N. Kasfir, "Relating Class to State in Africa",
in N. Kasfir (ed.), "State and Class in Africa", Frank Cass, 1984,
"the paradox in relating political direction of the state to class
formation in Africa is that those holding or benefiting from political
power have not yet taken control of the means of production". And then,
Kasfir elaborates that "this contradiction is deepened by the
overwhelming technological superiority of the metropolitan government,
which permitted the establishment of a colonial state responsive to
class forces in the centre and not significantly beholden to any
peripheral social forces".
About the above features, H. Alavi, "The State in post-colonial
societies: Pakistan and Bangladesh", NEW LEFT REVIEW, 74,
July-August 1972, generalizes for Africa and Asia, suggesting that
"what had been handed over at independence was actually an
'overdeveloped state', a superstructure capable of dominating all
indigeneous social forces." Alavi draws from here the idea that the
"post-independent regime is relatively more autonomous than would be
an indigenously created state". Of course, Alavi's autonomy refers to
state and internal socio-economic-political forces, and not to the state
and external economic and political forces (former colonial masters and
new central powers like United States).
The history of the last fifty years relating African states to former
colonial masters and new imperial centers is a history of dependency
and domination. Transnational corporations, the World Bank, the
International Monetary Fund, and the governments in Washington, London,
and Paris have had more influence on policies adopted by African
governments than any sector of the African population in any African
T. M. Callaghy, "External Actors and the Relative Autonomy of the
Political Aristocracy in Zaire", in N. Kasfir, "State and Class in
Africa", Frank Cass, 1984, rightly stated:
"Zaire was born in the international arena, and it has remained there.
International assistance has been a continuous and pervasive factor
supporting the emergence, consolidation, and survival of the Mobutu
regime in Zaire. Such support was crucial to Mobutu's control of the
armed forces from the earliest days, crucial to his first 'coup' in
September 1960, crucial to his seizure of full power in 1965 as an
African 'caudillo', crucial to the emergence and consolidation of an
absolutist state with its political aristocracy, and crucial to its
ability to survive a severe debt crisis and two external invasions in
1977 and 1978. A word of caution is necessary, however, for although
external assistance has been essential it has not been all determining.
The Mobutu regime 'would not' exist today without external support, past
and present, but its ruler and his political aristocracy have
successfully fought off important challenges to their relative
Also, as Kasfir, op. cit., suggests, "class and ethnicity, as well as
regionalism or religion, are organising principles of social action that
may act alone, may reinforce, or may work against each other, depending
on the social situation", giving a sense of volatility, fragility, to
the state which appears as 'disconnected' of such fragmented civil
Kasfir elaborates: " Situational analysis permits us to discover that
"class and class consciousness have a partial manifestation that may
be activated in certain conditions an in certain measure" (see R. Cohen,
"Class in Africa: Analytical Problems and Perspectives", in R. Milliband
and J. Savile (eds.), THE SOCIAL REGISTER, 1972). Moreover, "the same
occurs in the activation of ethnicity, permitting the involvement of
BOTH in the same social action. For example, the use of Kikuyu
oath-taking in the Mau mau movement in Kenya helped to build solidarity
in the unsuccessful efforts of peasants to reclaim their land (see
F. Furedi, "The social composition of the Mau Mau movement in the white
highlands", JOURNAL OF PEASANT STUDIES, 1, July 1974; and C. Leys,
"Politics in Kenya: The Development of Peasant Society", BRITISH JOURNAL
OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, 1, July 1971, where he reports that oathing was
apparently used a decade later by Kikuyu land purchasers in settlement
schemes to support "a collective refusal to repay" their loans).
Kasfir goes further pointing at "the extraordinary significance for Ugandan
class formation during the regime of Idi Amin provided by the ethnic
category 'Nubian' (or 'Nubi'). On the one hand, the category was created
as a consequence of the introduction of British imperialism in Uganda
-a convenient and enduring label 'invested' to identify the military
recruits from various southern Sudanese ethnic groups who later settled
in Uganda. On the other, it was probably the most important attribute
to possess in order to obtain a business when Amin, in the most far-
reaching single act reshaping Ugandan class structure, expelled the
Indians and re-allocated their shops and factories. Thus a group
expediently created in the process of establishing peripheral capitalism
in Uganda became, although only temporarily, the prime beneficiary of
the forced removal of one of the most powerful supports for the
continuation of dependent relations".
R. Rojas: Africa: transformation without change
R.Rojas: The European Union and Africa
TABLE 1.- STRUCTURE OF GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT AND LABOUR FORCE
NIGERIA GDP(%) Labour INDEX*
% total force(%)
Agriculture 38.7 43.1 0.89
Mining(oil) 27.0 0.1 270.00
Manufacturing 6.4 4.1 1.56
Construction 1.1 1.8 0.61
Public utilities 0.2 0.4 0.50
Transp./Communic. 3.2 3.6 0.89
Trade 16.4 24.1 0.68
Finance 4.2 0.4 10.50 Labour force with above
Pub/Adm./Def. 2.5\_ average productivity:
Services 0.4/ 15.9 0.18 4.6% of total
Other 0.0 6.5 0.00 Year 1994
TOTAL 100.0 100.0 1.0 Income per capita: US$ 280
Agriculture 47.3 59.4 0.79
Mining 2.0 0.5 4.00
Manufacturing 9.0 10.5 0.85
Construction 3.3 1.2 2.75
Public utilities 1.9 0.3 6.33
Transp./Communic. 4.4 2.2 2.00
Trade 19.2 14.2 1.35
Finance 3.8 0.5 7.60 Labour force with above
Pub/Adm./Def. \__ 1.7 average productivity:
Services / 8.7 6.7 1.03 27.6 % of total
Other 0.4 2.8 0.14 Year 1994
TOTAL 100.0 100.0 100.00 Income per capita: US$ 430
Agriculture 8.3 15.0 0.55
Mining (copper) 8.0 1.6 5.00
Manufacturing 17.1 15.6 1.09
Construction 5.5 7.5 0.73
Public utilities 2.8 0.6 4.66
Transp./Communic. 7.8 7.0 1.11
Trade 17.0 17.8 0.95
Finance 16.6 5.6 2.96 Labour force with above
Pub/Adm./Def. 2.7\__ average productivity:
Services 6.8/ 23.6 0.40 36% of total
Other 7.4 5.6 1.32 Year 1994
TOTAL 100.0 100.0 100.00 Income per capita: US$ 3,170
Agriculture 1.7 2.6 0.65
Mining 1.4 0.5 2.80
Manufacturing 17.6 15.5 1.13
Construction 3.7 5.8 0.63
Public utilities 2.9\__
Transp./Communic. 6.0/ 6.6 1.34
Trade 15.8 19.7 0.80
Finance 18.6 6.0 3.10 Labour force with above
Pub/Adm./Def. 12.3\__ average productivity:
Services 19.9/ 37.7 0.85 28.6% of total
Other 0.0 5.6 0.00 Year 1995
TOTAL 100.0 100.0 100.00 Income per capita: US$ 27,515
* INDEX.- This index measures deviations from average productivity
for the whole economy, which is 1.00 (obtained from the
ratio Share of GDP/Share of Labour Force = 100.00/100.00)
______________________________________________END TABLE 1_______________
TABLE 2.- DEMOGRAPHIC INFORMATION
NIGERIA (year 1995)
Urban population: 39.3% Rural population: 60.7%
Population by ethnic composition:
Hausa : 21.3%
Yoruba : 21.3%
Ibo : 18.0%
Fulani : 11.2%
Ibibio : 5.6%
Kanuri : 4.2%
Edo : 3.4%
Tiv : 2.2%
Ijaw : 1.8%
Bura : 1.7%
Nupe : 1.2%
Other : 8.1%
Muslim : 50.0%
Christian : 40.0%
Protestant : 21.4%
Roman Cath.: 9.9%
African indigenous: 8.7%
Other : 10.0%
GHANA (year 1993)
Urban population: 35.4% Rural Population: 64.6%
Population by ethnic composition:
Akan : 52.4%
Mossi : 15.8%
Ewe : 11.9%
Gurma : 3.3%
Yoruba : 1.3%
Other : 7.5%
Christian : 62.6%
Roman Cath.: 18.7%
African indigenous: 16.0%
Traditional beliefs: 21.4%
CHILE (year 1995)
Urban population: 85.8% Rural population: 14.2%
Population by ethnic composition (official classification):
European and mestizo: 89.7%
Rapa Nui Polynesian: 0.2%
Roman Catholic: 76.7%
UNITED STATES (year 1996)
Urban population: 76.2% Rural population: 23.8%
Population by race (official classification):
Non-Hispanic white: 73.7%
non-Hispanic black: 12.0%
Hispanic : 10.3%
Asian/Pacific : 3.3%
American Indian : 0.7%
Christian : 85.3%
Roman Catholic 21.0%
_________________________________________________________END TABLE 2____
DEPENDENCY IN AFRICA: STAGES OF AFRICAN POLITICAL ECONOMY
by Amechi Okolo
(This work, first presented at a conference on "The Future of
Africa" organized by the University of Ife, in Nigeria, and then
published in ALTERNATIVES, Vol. IX, No. 2, 1983, provides the
researcher with a well reasoned reading of the political economy of
African development/lack of development, which should be considered
by the so-called 'experts in development studies' serving the interests
of the international capital. I reproduce and annotate here some excerpts
of this major work on the African political economy. Robinson Rojas)
The history of Africa is a history of domination by the Western
political economy, which created and now dominates and operates the
modern world system.(1)
The process of Western incursion and domination of Africa can be
divided into the following five phases:
1. Barbarian domination
2. Imperialist domination
3. Colonial domination
4. Neo-colonial domination
5. Dependency domination
Each phase was manifested both in the Western nations and in Africa;
every capitalist transformation in the West was reflected in the
political economy of Africa.
1. BARBARIAN DOMINATION
This was the earliest phase of capitalist domination of Africa. It
occurred alongside the epoch in capitalist development called 'primitive
accumulation', (2) when the West was breaking free from feudalism but
had not yet entered the era of capitalism... According to Hopkins,
In three centuries before the industrial revolution the focus of
the trade moved from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, from
Venice and Genoa to Liverpool and Nantes. This momentous shift of
economic power was the product of fundamental changes in the
economic and technological basis of European society at the close
of the Middle Ages.(3)
The boost in trade increased the wealth of merchants aand enhanced their
power. Barbarian domination of Africa corresponds to this era or
mercantilism in Europe -a period which set the stage for the eventual
collapse of feudalism.
The West used unbridled crudity in penetration, domination and
exploitation of the African society. The purpose was not to rule or
govern; the purpose was unrestrained loot and plunder without parallel
in Africa's history. The most horrendous form of it lasted from the
fifteenth century to early eighteenth century. (4) According to Marx,
the history of this period is written in the annals of mankind in
'letters of wood an fire'.(5) It was characterized by "the turning of
Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black skins".(6)
(For a comparative study with Latin America, also in the period of
see R. Rojas, "Latin America: blockages to development" in this
academic site. R.R.)
The effects of this period in Africa can be briefly summarized as
(a) massive depletion of the African population, especially among the
most relevant and productive groups;
(b) massive destruction of the entire fabric of African society
-disruptions in socio-cultural relationships and, above all, the
diversion of interest from productive activities to plunder and
loot as a way of life; and
(c) the pillage of the resources of Africa under the guise of
international trade. (7)
...According to Hopkins, "The chief effect of the overseas slave trade
in the New World was to populate and develop the abundant land resources
of the Americas and the West Indies". He further observes:
"It remains true that the slave and sugar trades brought great wealth
to the principal entrepots, such as Liverpool and Nantes, and to many
other leading cities. It is impossible to account for the economic
vitality of these parts in the eighteenth century, their physical and
demographic expansion, and the remarkable overflow of money into
cultural activities, without stressing the causative, though not
exclusive, role of the Atlantic commerce."(10)
The devastating effect of the period was also felt in Latin America but
mainly in the form of massive excavations from their mines -the booty
then hauled to the West. ( see R. Rojas, op. cit. and Castro's statement
of welcome to Pope John Paul II. R.R.)
This second phase of Western domination of Africa again corresponds to
a definite historical epoch. Marx observes that, driven by its internal
dynamics, capitalism must 'nestle everywhere'.
Having fought their national rivals, and having thus established their
predominant position in the national economy, capitalists now shifted
the theatre of war for profit and power to the international level known
as imperialism. Lenin characterized imperialism as the last, monopoly,
stage of capitalism, and identified five characteristic features of this
phase of capitalism: (11)
(i) the concentration of production and capital developing to such a
high stage as to create monopolies with a decisive role in the
(ii) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, forming
finance capital and a financial oligarchy;
(iii) the export of capital becoming more important than the export
(iv) the formation of international capitalist monopolies, which shared
the world among themselves; and
(v) the completion of the territorial division of the world between
Lenin, however, saw imperialism as a rather open-ended phenomenon with
a discernible beginning but not necessarily an end.
For me, on the other hand, imperialism was the phenomenon of a definite
historical epoch. It was time-locked -with the end as discernible as the
Historically, it correspond roughly with the abolition of slave trade by
Britain, in 1807, till the end of the century, when colonial governments
were being established.
In the hectic search for cheap materials for its production and captive
markets for its products, European capitalist countries began occupying
lands and setting up governments.
It can thus be seen that while imperialism was the monopoly stage of
capitalism in Europe, for Africa it represented the beginning of an
epoch when capitalism's first serious attempt was made to create
conditions favorable for a more permanent stay.
(For a comparative look at Latin America during the same period see
R.Rojas: Latin America: a failed industrial revolution
R.Rojas: Latin America: the making of a fractured society. R.R.)
The principal actors were Britain, France and Germany, essentially
acting through their chartered companies. In the scramble for a place in
the 'colonial sun', large chunks of African hinterland were seized and
claimed and counter-claimed by contending European firms. They could
well have driven Europe to war for the sake of their ill-begotten
A conference at Berlin was held to avert it. Called at the initiative of
the German government under Bismarck, it was attended by all the major
European powers, including the United States which for the first time
was participating in a major international conference with European
powers. The European 'governments' had met to discuss ways and means of
controlling the activities of their merchants before the latter plunged
all of them into a bloody shooting war.(12)
The Berlin conference resolved the conflicting territorial claims of
these firms by making it obligatory for them to respect the territorial
ownership if a trade or protectorate treaty had been signed with the
African chiefs. More importantly, it worked out a general alliance
between the imperialist powers for the balkanization and control of
Africa. However, like all such alliances, the Berlin Conference
agreement later turned out to be nothing more than a temporary 'truce'
which was destined to crack.(14)
Relations between these powers continued to deteriorate and, according
to Allan Burns, the continued French incursion into the British
'territory' heightened the tension between them to the point where 'even
war between France and Britain was not far from the minds of the
Imperialism thus was not, as Lenin as posited, the completion of the
division of the world between the monopolies, but the continuation of
the territorial struggle for control of raw materials and markets, even
though the struggle was being conducted with the open and overt
political support of their home governments.
3. COLONIAL DOMINATION
This third phase of capitalist domination in Africa, in the form of
colonialism, corresponds to the period between the beginning and middle
of the nineteenth century, when colonialism was institutionalized in
most seized lands.
Colonialism was a unique form of capitalist domination and control which
had not existed earlier. The uniqueness consisted in its totality. It
was the most complete and the most direct form of Western domination. It
was the naked manifestation of foreign dictatorship, arbitrariness and
control of other peoples. It was the most comprehensive strategy of
capitalist penetration, domination and control because it left no facet
of the society untouched. (15)
(The case of Latin America had the same features, with the difference
that penetration was not capitalist but agonizing feudalism. It was also
"the most direct form of Western domination" and "the naked
manifestation of foreign dictatorship", and it did lasted from late
fifteenth century to early nineteenth century!. The most striking
characteristic though, is that in modern times, post colonial times,
the same type of dependency can be found in Africa and Latin America.
See R. Rojas, op. cit..R.R.)
Above all, it involved direct political and military administration of
people to effect sustained maximum economic exploitation, through an
organized, disciplined and, above all, ADMINISTERED capitalism in
Africa. Colonialism became the politico-military weapon for effective
and institutionalized administration of the territories their companies
had earlier 'acquired'.
Colonialism aimed at creating both international and internal order and
discipline from an otherwise anarchic imperialist system by means of
direct imposition of superior military-political power.
The imperialist system had collapsed for of a number of reasons:
(a) an increasing inter-European counter-penetration of the areas;
(b) an increasing African recalcitrance, resistance and hostility
to further European penetration and control; and
(c) the rising cost and complexities of administering Africans far
beyond what the companies could 'profitably' continue to undertake.
Colonialism attempted to remedy this by:
(a) lending some sort of international credence and/or legitimacy to
the ownership of the areas concerned;
(b) gaining better internal control of the African through their
acquiescence or passivity; and
(c) providing political clout to facilitate the creation of a more
efficient system of exploitation to foot the cost of policing the
It is therefore colonialism, rather than imperialism, which truly was
the monopoly stage of capitalism in Africa. The institutionalization of
the metropolitan power over the territories gave it the rationale of
keeping other rival powers from its territory and preventing the
intrusion of other competing monopoly firms.
In the process, the LAISSEZ FAIRE and free trade of the political
economy of Adam Smith, (16) which had ruled Europe from the early phases
of industrial capitalism, were thrown overboard. The Berlin Conference
had reiterated the principle of free trade and put the signatory powers
under obligation to adhere to the principles
of free trade by allowing other nationals
free access to the area and to protect foreign
merchants and all trading nationalities as if
they were her own subjects. (17)
The repudiation of the principle signified the death of free trade in
the international market and legitimized monopolies at both ends -in
Europe as well as in Africa. This distinction between colonialism and
the earlier phase of imperialism should not be overlooked.
During imperialism, the monopolies' right to territorial exclusivity was
recognized neither by their home governments nor by the international
community, making it very difficult for companies of one nation to
exclude those of others, since they could not count on the official
support of their home governments.(18)
The decline of colonialism was fast -indeed, faster than anything the
West had imagined; never before had such a complete reversal occurred
with such rapidity.(19) Colonialism was a very unstable system, marked
by uncertainty and fear and maintained by violence and brute force. It
was a situation in which both the settlers and the natives had lived,
according to Fanon,
[In keeping with the] rules of pure Aristotelian logic,
they both follow the principles of reciprocal exclusivity.
The settlers' town is a strongly built town, all made of
stone and steel. It is a brightly lit town, the streets
are covered with asphalt and the garbage cans swallow all
the leavings. The settlers' feet are never visible except
perhaps in the sea, but there you are never close enough
to see them. The settlers' town is a well-fed town...its
belly is always full of good things. The settlers' town
is a town of white people, of foreigners.(20)
On the other hand, the town belonging to the natives is
a place of ill fame, peopled by men of ill repute.
They are born there, it matters little where or how;
they die there, it matters little where or how. It is
a world without spaciousness. The native town is a
hungry town starved of bread, meat, of shoes, of light.
It is a town of niggers and dirty Arabs.(21)
4. NEO-COLONIAL DOMINATION
[The] fourth phase of capitalist domination was that of neo-colonialism.
It appeared on the African scene in the decade following World War II.
Its predecessor, colonialism, was destroyed by two convergent pressures
-one internal and the other external.
Internally, the nationalist sentiments, whipped up in the course of the
West's mobilization of African manpower and resources to fight Nazism,
turned against the foreign, white, masters. African were determined to
wrest power from them.(22)
Externally, there was, besides world opinion being against colonial
domination, the West's fear of communism becoming an attractive
alternative to the colonized.
The colonial powers accepted the inevitability of retreat, but cleverly
turned it into a TACTICAL retreat, giving up the form of domination but
retaining its substance. Foreign faces were withdrawn from positions of
power, but only after their places had been taken by hand-picked native
faces ('interlocuteurs valuables' -negotiators worth taking to(23)).
Exploitation continued unabated, the grip remained as tight, the control
of the 'new independent nation' was TOTAL, but the system was so
sophisticated that it functioned by 'remote control' without the
physical presence of the colonialist.
The defining features of neo-colonialism, which lasted for about a
decade after the attainment of formal independence, were
(i) that the former colonial master still served as the exclusive
reference group for the new nation; and
(ii) that the former ruler still exercised domination over every aspect
of life: political, economic, and cultural. We shall consider them
a) political domination
The new nations emerged out of colonialism usually with constitutions
that were drafted at the metropolitan headquarters. The essential
government and its political institutions -e.g. the executive, the
legislature, the judiciary, and political parties, etc. -were modelled
on those obtaining in the former ruling nations.
In the international arena, it was the former colonial power which
chaperoned the representatives of the new nation through the diplomatic
corridors and put them through the paces in diplomatic etiquette -the
first principle of which, not unsurprisingly, was that they must endorse
the foreign policy of the metropolitan power.
The army and other security forces of the new nation were still trained
and manned by the former masters who guaranteed the protege's national
and international security.
b) economic domination
The pattern or monopoly domination of the colonial era still operated
exactly as in pre-independence days. The foreign exchange reserves of
the new nation were still kept in the metropolitan headquarters. A large
part of the foreign trade of the new nation was still with the
c) cultural domination
To ensure its exclusive domination in the cultural life of the colonized
people, the colonial government hammered into them its own values,
social norms and social organization. It assiduously inculcated in them
the feeling that its own culture and education were superior to those of
other Western nations. The indigenous culture the colonialist destroyed
was supplanted, not by European culture as such, but by its own
particular brand of European culture. Strong bonds of affection and
shared values between the 'two' nations were emphasized. The function
of media was to disseminate news about the former colonial ruler.
The form and content of education (in fact, the entire educational
system) were the same as in the erstwhile ruling nation. Students who
got a chance to go overseas for further studies normally went to the
metropolitan country: the Senegalese, Ivorians, etc., to France; the
Ghanaians, the Sierra Leonians, the Nigerians, etc., to England; the
Angolans, the Mozambicans, etc., to Portugal. Until recently in Nigeria,
for instance, if one studied outside Britain, one would be hard put to
it to find a job back home.
The neo-colonialism era was supposed to be a period of apprenticeship
for the fledgling nation under the tutelage of the former ruler for
graduation to full nationhood.
5. DEPENDENCY DOMINATION
This is the fifth and the latest phase of capitalist domination in
Africa. While in the neo-colonialism period the former colonial master
still held and exercised the dominating and unchallenged influence in
the affairs of the new nation, dependency betokens a shift in the focus
of attention till domination becomes truly "international", the
uni-national monopoly control having been broken. It makes possible the
expansion of the cultural area of the former colonies.(24)
Most African nations entered the phase of dependency domination in the
1970s -that is, a decade after their political independence. In this
phase, the new nations are subjected to a diffused and complex system
of control and exploitation in a situation created by the cumulative
effects of the various phases of domination.
The end product of this process is a retarded African political economy.
Retarded in the sense that the political economy (not the economy) does
not and cannot sustain an independent existence. The negative forces
have acquired a dynamic of their own and serve to ensure the continued
development of underdevelopment in Africa.
Dependency domination is the capitalist strategy of control and
exploitation in the modern system where international financial
organizations and multinational companies have become vital actors;
together they have perfected an intricate and complex control network on
which the African nations, as all Third World nations, are hooked.
The control mechanisms have been institutionalized, and they have
acquired legitimacy within the international system. It is therefore
much more difficult to try to break away from the syndrome because it
is bound to invite the wrath of the entire capitalist international
...in the dependency era,...the former colony has been subjected to a
barrage of competing forces,...the economies of the former colonies have
been fully integrated with the international capitalist market economy,
making it almost impossible for the new nations to break loose from it
even though the odds in the market are all against them. They have been
incorporated into the world economic order as mere appendages. Two
factors have made this possible:
(i) proletarianization of African societies, and
(ii) the peonage system imposed on them.
It is a state in which all that Africans can offer is cheap labour.
Having been made dependent on external sources for the satisfaction of
even basic needs, the new nations have lost the capacity of feeding
themselves, which they were well able to do with their indigenous
farming methods. Take for example Nigeria which for ages was a food-
surplus country (25) As of now, Nigeria, like other African nations, has
to import grains and other agricultural products. The metropolitan
countries supply to African nations not only manufactured goods but also
The peonage system
It is a debt system that ensures continuing servitude of the former
slaves after their proclaimed emancipation. In the system, the peons are
paid below-subsistence wages; they can meet their very basic needs only
by loans given them by their master. Indebtedness keeps them tied to the
master; no other employer would hire him without clearance from the
former master. So the debts go on mounting and the servitude of the
peons is perpetuated.(26) According to Payer:
the worker cannot run away, for other employers and
the state recognize the legality of his debt: nor has
he any hope of earning his freedom with his low wages,
which do not keep pace with what he consumes, let alone
the true value of what he produces for his master.(27)
It is the extension of this system of debt slavery to the emergent
African states from the period of their political independence to the
present day that has continued to ensure, and to worsen, their
(For an in-depth study of peonage in Latin America see
R. Rojas, "Latin America: blockages to development". R.R.)
The complexity of the creditor-debtor relationship...is a cardinal
feature of the dependency era.
DEPENDENCY AND OIL
Having lost their agricultural resources, most African states are now
fully 'proletarianized', making their manipulation easy. This is equally
true of those few African states which have been classified as "oil
exporting states" for no reason other than the accident of oil having
been discovered in their territories.
It is hoped that these countries have been, or will be, able to trascend
dependency and constitute themselves into perhaps regional
subcentres.(28) Nigeria is mentioned as an example. This is misleading.
Nigeria's oil income forms 80% of the total government revenue (...84%
in 1980...); the oil sector is controlled by the foreign oil companies
(...99.6% of total oil production in 1979...and 99.5% of total oil
exports)...Nigeria's very existence now depends on the production,
transport and marketing of crude oil in the international market, over
which Nigeria has no control whatever...
...Nigeria's fate depends on the vicissitudes of international oil
market, the health of the Western capitalist economy and the foreign
policies of Western governments as well as the operations of the
multinational corporations. She is free to frame neither her economic
policy nor her foreign policy. Recent convulsions in the Nigerian
economy bear eloquent testimony to the vulnerability of the Nigerian
state to the international political economy. Nigeria was forced by
international oil majors, with the backing of Western governments, to
reduce her oil price to an unacceptable level.(29) The objective was
internal destabilization of the state and reformulation of its foreign
...Thus African oil has only helped to tighten the dependency noose
around the African neck. This is the essence of the dependency sindrome:
the boon that nature grants to a people is turned into a curse for them
in the market-place of the existing world economic order. The strands of
control are too inextricably woven for the new states of Africa to cope
POLICY DIRECTIONS TO END DEPENDENCY
The important question for Africans is how Africa, in order to end its
dependency, can extricate itself from the modern highly technologized
and highly militarized international system, with its sophisticated and
complex control network.
There is no simple answer to this. History provides no parallel to the
modern dependency-dominance syndrome. True, one colony in the eighteenth
century was able to free itself from colonialism and develop into a
mature, viable and industrial state to be able to beat the colonizing
country in the affluence race: the United States. Even the twentieth
century has witnessed the transition from disintegrating political
economies to viable, self-reliant political economies; notables examples
are Russia (1917) and China (1949).
But the historical conditions in which the two kinds of liberation
occurred were different. For one thing, the international system was
different - less integrated and less complex. The American colony had
to contend with only one power, Britain, which itself was "developing"
at the time. The other members of the "international system" were either
colluding with America or even actively supporting its war of
independence; for they were interested in seeing the destruction of the
British empire. The other two "miracles" occurred in the wake of world
wars (1914-1918 and 1939-1945).
Today, the international system is much more integrated than even
before, and, moreover, there is a commonality of interest among the
major powers in the continued subjugation and exploitation of African
societies, whatever the degree of rivalry between them for scarce and
If, therefore, African political economy desires to disengage itself
from the international political economy, it faces a stupendous task.
A beginning, however, can be made with the agricultural sector.
Without arresting the decay of this sector, no further steps towards
liberation can be taken; outlining such steps will be nothing more than
an academic exercise. Production of food -indeed, production generally-
for CONSUMPTION must be not only re-emphasized but incorporated into
concrete policies and vigorously implemented.
It is necessary to emphasize PRODUCTION FOR CONSUMPTION; for there is a
tendency at present to encourage Africans to produce for export. If they
are aware of this, they can avoid falling into the trap of "modern"
agricultural technology with its chemical fertilizers, chemical
pesticides, and what have you, the combined effect of which is a
destabilized ecosystem, eroded soil, damaged human health and a
hierarchized, and consequently brutalized, society.
Rejection of modern agricultural technology as a means of liberation
from the world market mechanism can provide a key to Africa's autonomy.
But it will involve a great deal more. It will involve internal
restructuring of African states that will respect indigeneous identities
and build on them rather than supress them under the impact of a
homogeneous model of modern nationalism, a wholly imported model.
It will call for a rejection of elite consumption styles and corrupt
politics, brought about by the aggressive salesmanship of Western
advertisement media the politics of aid-givers.
This, in turn, will necessitate economic (alongside political)
restructuring of African societies, more true to the African tradition
than to the cultural trappings of colonialism. It will, above all, call
for indigenization of science and technology, learning from the natives
and their long rich traditions than from the masters, who, in a very
short span, have brainwashed the African mind.
The more Africa seeks to become autonomous of colonial vestiges, the
more it will need to become itself and discover its true self. Once it
realizes this, a whole world can open up before it -a world much larger
and deeper than anything that the modern West has offered to Africa.
1.- See I. Wallerstein, "The Modern World System", Modern Reader, 1976
2.- See K. Marx, "Capital", New York International Publishers, 1967.
3.- A. G. Hopkins, "Economic History of West Africa", Columbia
University Press, 1973, p. 87.
4.- For details, see E. Williams, "Capital and Slavery", Capricorn
Books, 1966; A. G. Hopkins (note 3), pp. 78-117.
5.- K. Marx (note 2), "Capital", vol. 1, p. 714.
6.- ibid., p. 751. (emphasis added).
7.- See A. Okolo, "The role of International trade in the African
political economy", in Shaw/Ojo (ed.), "Africa and the
International Political System", University Press of America,
1982, pp. 68-103.
8.- See W. Rodney, "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa", Tanzania
Publishers House, 1973, pp. 103-162.
9.- Hopkins (note 3), p. 117.
10.- ibid., pp. 117-118.
11.- V. I. Lenin, "Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism",
New York International Publishers, 1966.
12.- A. G. Hopkins, "Economic Imperialism in West Africa 1880-1892", in
ECONOMIC HISTORY REVIEW 21, December 1968.
13.- R. L. Pfaltzgraff (ed.), "Politics and the International System",
JBL, 1972, pp. 206-207.
14.- Sir A. Burns, "The History of Nigeria", Barnes and Nobles,
1969, pp. 157-171.
15.- I. M. Okonjo, "British Administration in Nigeria 1900-1950",
NOK Publishers, 1974.
16.- A. Smith, "An Inquiry into the Nature and Cause of the Wealth of
the Nations", Modern Library Edition, 1937.
17.- J. E. Flint, "Sir George Goldie and the Making of Modern Nigeria",
Oxford University Press, 1960, pp. 69-73.
18.- A. N. Cook, "British Enterprise in Nigeria", Frank Cass,
1964, pp. 79-110.
19.- G. Barraclough, "An introduction to Contemporary History",
Frank Cass, 1964.
20.- F. Fanon, "The Wretched of the Earth", Grove Press, 1968, p. 39.
22.- G. O. Olusanya, "The second world war and the Nigerian politics
1939-1953", University of Lagos Press, 1973, pp. 70-93.
23.- D. A. Offiong, "Imperialism and Dependency", Fourth Dimension
Publishers, 1980, p. 65.
24.- H. M. Hodges, "An Introduction to Sociology", Harper and Row
Publishers, 1971, pp. 99-125.
25.- See A. Okolo, "The Political Economy of the Nigerian Oil Sector
and the Civil War", QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF
ADMINISTRATION, XV, 1-2, 1981, p. 108.
26.- S. Elkins, "Slavery", University of Chicago Press, 1971, and
A. Meier and E. M. Rudwick, "From Plantation to Ghetto",
Hill and Wang, 1969.
27.- C. Payer, "The Debt Trap, the IMF and the Third World", Monthly
Review Press, 1974, p. 49.
28.- I. Wallerstein, "The capitalist world economy", Cambridge
University Press, 1979, pp. 66-99 and passim.
29.- President Shagari's speech on the State of the Economy reported
in the Nigerian newspapers of April 20 and 21, 1982.
30.- "Saudi Arabia Warns Oil Companies Not to Cut Oil Buys from
Nigeria", SUNDAY SKETCH, 28 March, 1982, p. 1; SUNDAY CONCORD,
4 April, 1982, p. 1.
31.- (note 29).
32.- NATIONAL CONCORD, "Thinking corner", 3 June, 1982, p. 1.
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