Notes on The Making of the Third World (by Róbinson Rojas Sandford)(1989)
Developing countries as defined by industrialized societies
intellectuals are those nation-states which still do not industrialize
like the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia and Western European societies
Therefore, leaving apart former socialist countries, African, Asian and
Latin American and Caribbean societies form the group described as
What are today's main features of those societies?
By and large, the following:
-a large section of their population engaged in rural economic
-a large section of their productive system engaged in producing
cash crops, extracting raw materials and manufacturing products
to meet the demand in industrialized countries
-the productive system is 'fractured': with a modern sector engaged
in high level technology production, generally not for local
consumption, and a traditional sector engaged in labour-intensive
low-technology production. This situation reflects into extremely
polarized distribution of income, creating large pockets of poverty
as the outcome of low wages, unemployment and underemployment.
-modernization processes are sustained only through heavy external
financing which generate a vicious circle economic growth-foreign
-their system of production is dependent upon flows of capital,
technology and demand from former colonial powers.
-regionally, African countries are connected to the Western European
economies, Latin American countries to the U.S. economy and Asian
countries to the Japanese economy.
'Developing countries', with very few exceptions, have a common
historical past: they were colonised by Western European powers,
United States and Japan. For our analytical purposes we will not
analyse Japanese colonization (North of China, Taiwan and Korea,
mainly, during the first half of the twentieth century). Only
Spanish, Portuguese, British, Dutch, French and German colonization
processes will be considered.
Main effects of colonization by Western European powers:
1) The BREAKING of pre-existing patterns of economic and social life,
THROUGH the introduction of new labour regimes ( systems of
recruiting and organizing labour)
2) All colonial labour regimes involved an INTENSIFICATION OF LABOUR
compared with pre-colonial modes of organizing labour in production.
3) Compulsory means were employed to obtain the supply of labour for
plantations, mines and settler estates.
4) Colonial legislation and administration concerning MONEY TAXATION,
PROPERTY TITLES in land and the COMMERCIALIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
linked to the INTERNATIONAL ECONOMY, radically altered the NATURE
OF RURAL SOCIAL RELATIONS, and caused the formation of NEW SOCIAL
CLASSES among the indigenoeus population.
5) The above features survived the end of colonization (direct foreign
rule), and have continued to develop in politically independent
less developed societies.
The combined effect of the above shaped what can be considered the
common characteristics of developing societies at the beginning of
the XXI century:
1) Low levels of standard of living, characterized by low incomes,
inequality, poor health, and inadequate education.
2) Low levels of productivity.
3) High rates of population growth and dependency burdens.
4) High and rising levels of unemployment and underemployment.
5) Substancial dependence on agricultural production and
6) Prevalence of imperfect markets and limited information.
7) Dominance, dependence and vulnerability in ternational relations.
(This list is from M. Todaro, "Economic Development", 7th edition,
BOX 1 deals with African, Box 2 with Latin American and
BOX 3 with Asian colonization by Western European powers.
THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA. MODERN CONSEQUENCES by Solomon Inquai
(LINKS, September 1985 -Quarterly magazine of Third World First)
Africa is constantly in the news these days. The main issue, unlike
that of the seventies, is not military coups and other violent changes
of regimes, but widespread famine and starvation.
Africa, by all reckoning, has the potential to feed itself and still
have substantial surplus for export. It is not over-populated, despite
the popular myth; on the contrary, the person-land proportion in Africa
remains favourable compared to Asia and some parts of the "new world".
Yet today people across Africa, from the Atlantic coast in the west to
the Horn of Africa in the east, and down to the southern tip of the
continent, are suffering from starvation and its attendant consequences
of disease, death and mass migration.
According to Timberlake(1985):
Sudan: some 4.5 million hungry in Darfur, northern Kordofan and Red Sea
province, and hundreds of thousands of refugees still coming in
from Ethiopia and Chad.
Ethiopia: almost 8 million affected, the numbers expected to rise.
Chad: the worst draught in history. At least 1.5 million, almost a third
of the population, depending for survival on food aid. Some 70,000
new arrivals destitute in the capital N'Djamena; 1,000 dying each
month. About 600,000 refugees have fled into the Sudan, 40,000
into the Central African Republic and 8,000 into Cameroon.
Niger: worst and longest drought ever, with 1.2 million people hungry
and 95,000 uprooted. Scorched pastures and decimated herds; dust
storms so severe that the sun was invisible for days on end.
Mozambique: 2.5 million hungry, 1.6 million severely undernourished.
Mauritania: 1.1 million out of a population of 1.8 million in need of
emergency assistance; accelerated deterioration of range-
lands, trees, oasis agriculture and groundwater supplies.
Burkina Faso: 500,000 affected; complete crop failure in the north.
Angola: 500,000 in critical need of assistance; acute malnutrition;
large scale movement to towns, roads and railway lines. To make
it worse, far worse, here as in Mozambique, Chad, Sudan and
Ethiopia, famine was combined with war.
Where does the cause for all this suffering lie?
What has contributed to the current crisis?
Is the underlying cause the encroaching desert, the periodic or cyclic
failure of the rains?
How do we explain the African dilemma, of vast rich land unable to feed
It is important to realise that colonisation is not something of the
past. African countries remain DE FACTO colonies despite the fact that
they have attained legal or DE JURE independence.
The metropolitan countries still rule and dominate Africa without so
much as an army, a police force or even civil servants. Andre G. Frank
(1970) writing on Latin American states:
"Latin America suffers from COLONIAL underdevelopment which makes its
people economically, politically and culturally dependent, not so much
on themselves or on each other as on a foreign metropolitan power". The
same is true of Africa, only more so.
In the following, I shall outline the situation in Africa before the
coming of the colonial powers, then the stages of European contact with
Africa culminating in the Scramble for Africa. Finally I shall try to
analyse the consequences of European hegemony in Africa today.
AFRICA BEFORE THE COLONIAL ERA
Most European historians would have us believe that Africa had no
history, no past, before it was colonised by the west. This belief,
which was to a large extent built up by missionary societies in order
to justify their presence in Africa, was widely held until very
recently. European presence was glorified as a 'civilising mission'.
Africa is a vast continent where divergent peoples and cultures
flourished. The people of Africa have not enjoyed uniform development
and material culture. At the time of European contact some African
peoples were hunter-gatherers, some pastoralists, and others sedentary
Many great civilisations had come and gone. Kingdoms and empires have
been made and destroyed largely by forces African. The great
civilisations of Songai, Ghana, Benin, Axum, Zimbabwe, Moroe and Nubia,
to mention but a few, had flourished long before the advent of the
Europeans. Christianity and Islam had made their way into the continent.
Scholarship and advanced material culture was flourishing.
What is pertinent to the topic in hand is that people in Africa knew how
to exploit nature for a purpose. The hunter-gatherers lived off the land
without causing unnecessary destruction to the ecological balance on
which their livelihood depended. They took off nature exactly what they
needed. The farming communities domesticated some modern cereals,
applying proper land use practices. This demonstrated their
understanding of the fragile nature of the land, and in the absence of
chemical fertilisers they practised manuring, fallowing and shifting of
plots. In other words, the African people were coping with nature
beautifully. They used water and soil-conservation techniques which
enabled them to produce surplus from irrigated fields.
But they were not preoccupied with survival alone. Africans were also
developing their material culture expressed in forms of art, sculpture,
music, architecture, iron and glass works.
Works of art, monuments and ruins left behind are a great testimony to
the many civilisations of Africa. Scholarship was also flourishing and
Africans were developing their own scripts or adopting scripts from
Among the scripts that have survived is the Ethiopian script evolved
and developed by the great Axumites.
Inter-African trade and commerce, and external trade also flourished.
African merchants with their caravans crisscrossed the continent
travelling from west Africa east to Egypt and the Horn, and north to
today's Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Lybia and vice-versa. In brief,
Africa was enjoying a natural evolutionary process of development at
the time it came into contact with Europe.
EUROPEAN CONTACT WITH AFRICA
Long before colonisation, ancient Africa had full knowledge of and
contact with much of the world around the Mediterranean and the Middle
East. Romans and Greeks, the people of the Iberian peninsula, and the
Arabs, traded with much of Africa; which also had growing trade with
The advent of Christianity and later of Islam also meant that Africa
evolved cultural relationships with much of the Middle East. Historians
tell us that the process of colonisation was slow and long drawn out.
This is mainly due to two factors. First, European capacity to travel
far and wide only grew slowly. Secondly, Europe was not conscious of
the true wealth potential of Africa.
For Europe, early contacts were limited to stop-overs on coastal areas
and villages mainly in west Africa. These early contacts were fairly
informal, what Basil Davidson (1973) terms a period of 'mutual
discovery'. Encounters were few and far between. Staging points, where
the crew could pack water and provisions, became regular ports of call,
and the Europeans, led by the Portuguese, started to erect permanent
settlement structures and fortifications. This began early in the 15th
century. Very soon the Portuguese sailed around the Cape on their way
to India and 'discovered' eastern Africa, where eventually they
established staging posts such as Fort Jesus in today's Kenya. The
British reached Benin in the mid-sixteenth century. It was from such
points that the exploration of the interior of Africa began.
This was to lead to one of the major destabilising processes that Europe
was ever to undertake in Africa -the slave trade.
THE SLAVE TRADE
Early trading contacts took a wrong twist, as the European desire to
exploit African wealth began to grow. Towards the end of the sixteenth
century the Portuguese began raiding invasions of the Angolan kingdoms.
This heralded the beginning of the slave trade.
They began by shipping Africans to Brazil; this continued until the
second half of the 19th century.
From 1593 to 1700, 1-3 million Africans were uprooted and transported
to the new world, mainly the northern part of mainland South America.
From 1701 to 1810 the slave trade grew by leaps and bounds and another
six million people were taken.
Between 1811 and 1870 another 1.9 million Africans followed, some of
them now to southern USA and the Caribbean.
The British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Germans and Dutch were all
involved in this process.
The effect of this on African society is not difficult to imagine; it
was disastrous. Many of the young, able bodied men were taken and those
that resisted capture were killed. Africans were employed to hunt
Africans. Slaves were transported to the new world to produce tropical
crops such as sugar for European consumption. Normal production in
Africa suffered enormously. African population in those years was not
large, and to have it depleted by some ten million was disastrous.
In the Congo the population was halved. This inhuman trade brought a
great deal of wealth to Europe, especially Britain and France, fuelling
their industrial revolution, but bringing poverty and destruction to
COLONIAL INVASION AND PARTITION
The abolition of the slave trade, the growth of European imperialism,
and improved capacity for effective conquest led to yet another stage in
the African-European contact.
At the beginning of the 19th Century, the search for markets and raw
materials was paramount in the development of the manufacturing
industry. Companies such as the Royal Niger Company, the British East
Africa Company, the British South Africa Company, and others, mainly
French, Dutch and German, mushroomed.
These, with the assistance of the gunboat, pushed the interest of
European capital into the heart of Africa. The number of settlers and
missionaries grew. The colonial economic structure tended primarily to
serve the interests of a limited number of settlers, officials and the
private foreign-owned exporting and importing firms.
The more the Europeans penetrated into Africa the more they realised the
wealth that Africa had to offer, both in terms of minerals and the
production of tropical crops.
This led to rivalry and conflict among European powers, and a hasty and
haphazard process of closure. The period led up to the Scramble for
The British, French, Germans, Belgian, Italians, Portuguese and Spanish
all wanted a piece of the African cake, and at the Berlin conference of
1884-5 defined the broad limits for expansion for each of the interested
There was no part of Africa in which the Europeans had no interest nor
for which they had no design.
An effective agreement had in fact long preceded this conference. The
French had established their 'priority of interest' in North Africa as
early as 1830 by invading Algeria. Britain did the same in lower Egypt
and the Red Sea as a major passage to India.
But all was not smooth. Africans mounted stiff resistance everywhere.
Europe had the upper hand only because of the superiority of their
weapons. It took France twenty years to subdue west Africa. The British
fought nine major battles against the Africans in today's South Africa
between 1779 and 1877. In 1878 they were in fact defeated by the Zulu
nation at Isandhlwana. Similarly the Portuguese, the Germans, the Dutch
and the Italians fought many wars against the indigenous people they
were attempting to subjugate. It is true to say that there was no total
peace anywhere in the colonies and uprising flared from time to time.
If the years 1880-1900 were broadly those of conquest and the
'establishment of presence', the decades 1900-1920 may be defined as the
period of pacification during which installation of colonial rule was
EFFECTS OF COLONIAL RULE
'For a while' writes Basil Davidson (1973) 'colonial rule built a few
roads and railways and opened a few mines and plantations (though for
its own convenience and enrichment), dropping here and there a few
crumbs of educational and social enlightment. Its central effect was one
of dismantlement. Within its new frontiers, it took apart, it did not
According to official records, the building of a railway between 1921
and 1932 in the Belgian Congo meant the forced recruitment of 127,250
men. By the time the railway was completed, 20,000 men had died. Not
only this, but the ramification on the socio-economic structure of the
society of uprooting a mass of people in this way, and its ability to
produce, could not be assessed.
Colonisation brought in plantation agriculture, which brought with it
the settlers. This meant that not only did Africans lose the right to
their land, but were also forcibly recruited to work for the European
settlers. This was the case all over the continent -Kenya, Mozambique,
South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe.
In areas that were not conducive to western settlement, new cash crops
were introduced, mainly destined for European markets and consumption.
Rubber, cocoa, coffee, tea, sugar, tropical fruits, palm oil and cotton
ate up a growing proportion of arable land.
In Algeria, for instance, the French turned the fertile coastal uplands
to growing vines for the production of wine for export. Before the
coming of the French the people grew cereals, raised mutton for home
consumption and were self-sufficient. When European settlement was at
its zenith fewer than one thousand European landowners possessed about
one-seventh of all arable land in Algeria.
In South Africa, the white settlers, making up less than 15% of the
population, owned 88% of the land.
The African had been pushed to the marginal, non-productive land.
Colonial authorities gave concessions to the metropolitan countries to
open up mines. Once more African labour was exploited to extract African
wealth for the benefit of the metropolitan rich.
In 1900, the whole vast area of French Equatorial Guinea (now Chad,
Gabon, Central Africa and Congo) was divided among forty concession
companies who enjoyed a thirty-year charter. The companies were to enjoy
the benefit of all the product of their concession, whatever it may be.
This is what one writer called the 'economy pillage', which made
companies 'parasites' on African life and labour, to say nothing of its
effect on the ecology.
The colonial authorities extracted 15% tax from the companies. The poll
tax required of the people was paid in rubber and ivory. In the Congo,
King Leopold, who had the entire country as a PRIVATE property, handed
out to European concession companies the sole rights not only to land
and labour within a given region (often very large), but also to the
fruits of the forest and the soil. This opened the area to wilful
despoliation of the land and its people.
The Scramble for Africa meant the balkanisation of the continent, or the
amalgamation of peoples who have little common history.
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) wrote:
'Few other regions in the world show such a multitude of fairly small
states both as far as production and population go. The only similar
region of some importance is Central America.'
Balkanisation has impeded industrial development. Colonisation has led
the African economy to be very closely aligned to that of the
metropolitan countries. It has also created a small elite which in its
attitudes and consumption patterns is similar to that of the
Unable to produce its own goods and services, Africa relies heavily on
imports from the west. This in turn means that it has got to go on
producing more and more raw materials for European industry in order to
earn the foreign exchange it so desperately needs to maintain the kind
of life that it has inherited from the colonial masters.
What Africa produces today from its mines, plantations and cash crops is
far in excess of what is needed to feed Africa. Then why is Africa
The simple answer is that Africa has no control over its resources, the
beneficiaries are not Africans but Americans and Europeans who are
relentlessly milking Africa dry.
The legal complexities, worked out by the same Europeans, mean it is all
clear and above board. Today we have 'legitimate' national governments.
They make the rules under which 'foreign capital' operates within their
respective boundaries. But is this true? Consequences of attempts for
outright nationalisation have been catastrophic. Zambia, for example,
has benn brought down to its knees.
African mineral wealth is staggering. Copper, diamonds, gold, tin,
bauxite, iron, uranium and coal is being mined at breathtaking speed,
perhaps in the fear that soon the tables might turn and Africa will put
a stop to it.
Africa today exports cotton, coffee, tea, fruits, cut flowers, cocoa,
rubber, even fresh vegetables in winter, while it starves.
The price of the primary commodities is fixed by the west and Africa has
to produce more and more to maintain the necessary level of imported
processed goods and machinery from the west. The price of the industrial
product is always up, and does not obey market rules; while agricultural
and mineral products from Africa fetch less and less.
The Sahel was and is suffering from drought and starvation. Yet in
1983-4 five Sahelian countries produced 154 million tons of cotton fibre
compared to 22.7 million in 1961-2. They also set another record. In
1984 they imported 1.77 million tons of cereals compared to 200,000 tons
a year in the early 1960s.
As Timberlake (1985) put it: 'The fact that cotton can be grown but
grain cannot has more to do with government and aid agency policy than
In Kenya a peasant desperate for more land to grow food crops cannot cut
or uproot coffee or tea plants.
The Sudan, a country that is currently facing one of the worst famines
in its recent history, has massive acreage under cotton, and has
recently invested with multinationals in one of the biggest irrigated
sugar cane growing and processing schemes.
All these examples show the legacy of colonisation, which left Africa
neatly tied to the economy of the west and dependent on it.
Africa receives aid from the west. Yet aid has failed to produce any
tangible result. The reason is that most aid money goes to finance aid
personnel, and the rest to buy western goods and services. It rarely
produces anything lasting. Timberlake states that more than half of the
$7-8 billion spent yearly by donors goes to finance the more than 80,000
expatriates and personnel working in public agencies under official aid
programmes. They create employment at home, and employment opportunity
abroad. The loser is Africa.
What then are the modern consequences of the Scramble for Africa?
We have seen that colonisation has had a cancerous effect on Africa,
destroying its natural development, and weakening Africa by tying it
closely to European interest.
Trade has failed to produce equality as earlier prophets of the free
market suggested it would; on the contrary it has helped and is helping
to widen the gap between the rich and the poor.
Africa is working for Europe and not for its own people.
Despite drought and devastation Africa is still producing and exporting
to Europe an ever increasing quantity of agricultural and mineral
products. Yet its gains are shrinking. The exhaustion of mineral wealth
will result in even more famine and devastation, with Africa having
nothing to show for it after decades of exploitation.
As the Bible puts it: 'For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and
he shall have abundance; but from him that has not shall be taken away
even that which he has.'(Matthew XXV, 29) This is the consequence for
Africa, the victim of western avarice and greed.
Davidson, B. (1973), "Africa in Modern History", Penguin
Frank, A. G. (1970), "The Development of Underdevelopment", Monthly
END OF BOX 1_________________________________________BACK_______________
For forms of colonisation in Latin America and the Caribbean see
R. Rojas Latin America: Blockages to Development
END OF BOX 2_________________________________________BACK_______________
THE ECONOMIC STRATEGY OF THE 'NEW ORDER' (in Indonesia)
The effects of Western European colonisation in Asia could be summarized
drawing from J. Taylor, "The Economic Strategy of the 'New Order'", in
"Repression and Exploitation in Indonesia", Spokesman Books, 1974.
Even when Taylor's analysis refers to Indonesia, the main features are
closely related to the rest of Asia colonised by Western European
powers (British, French and Portuguese):
"The Indonesian economy has been dominated and exploited by the West for
almost four hundred years; although the forms of domination have changed,
the exploitation has remained constant.
THE HERITAGE OF DUTCH COLONIALISM
In the seventeenth century, the Dutch East India Company forcibly
established a trading monopoly in Indonesia, and then reinforced this
with slavery and a rapacious land tax which forced the peasantry to hand
over their crops or make cash payments to the Company.
In the nineteenth century, the Dutch Colonial State took over the
Company's role, and, faced with a declining economy in Holland,
reinforced existing patterns of exploitation, supplying Dutch industry
with crucial raw materials through the use of forced labour.
This government-based exploitation then gradually gave way to private
exploitation; the Dutch Agrarian and Sugar Laws (1870) gave private
planters access to the peasantry's rice fields, and this rapidly
produced a total transformation in the pattern of land ownership;
peasants were uprooted from their land and forced to become wage
labourers on the planter's estates, and land previously used for the
cultivation of rice for domestic consumption was now utilised to produce
sugar for export to western markets.
Inevitably, however, the private planters were replaced by large
corporations, who intensified the process of land alienation. This
destruction of the peasant agricultural system was accompanied by the
destruction of peasant industry; the thriving Javanese textile industry
was restricted by government policies and undercut by imported Ducth
goods; other peasant handicrafts industries experienced a similar
process of decline under Dutch rule for much the same reasons.1
This decline, together with the development of plantation agriculture
and the changes in the system of agricultural production, produced high
levels of unemployment and a real decline in the standard of living;
the centuries-old pattern of self-sufficient production was destroyed,
to be replaced by an economic system whose survival increasingly
depended on European markets and European production. The exploitation
of the Indonesian archipelago, which was so crucial for the stability
and growth of the Dutch economy, had as its direct result both the
destruction of the Indonesian economy and the impoverishment of its
By the beginning of the twentieth century, the plantation and cash crop
economy was firmly established in Java and Sumatra, and most existing
handicraft industries had been efficiently eliminated. Furthermore,
despite Dutch Government statements to the contrary, very little capital
was, in fact, invested in Indonesia during the twentieth century, prior
With the exception of creating a few cement, carbide, brewery and food-
processing factories, the Dutch did next to nothing to develop domestic
industry; the only industry that did thrive was the very one that the
Dutch had failed to destroy, the indigeneous smallholder rubber industry,
confined mainly to the Outer Islands.
What capital the Dutch (and other European countries) did invest was
restricted to the export sector, which whilst it provided lucrative
returns for foreign companies (and occasionally for the small domestic
economic groups that were involved in this sector), was of little value
to the Indonesian masses. The Dutch invested, for example, in capital-
intensive processing industries related either to agriculture (the
export of sugar, rubber, tobacco, coffee, etc) or to raw material
extraction (particularly petroleum and tin).
Overall, the major effects of Dutch penetration of the Indonesian
economy can be summarised as follows:
(1) The destruction of the Indonesian agricultural system, and the
creation of an alien plantation system, which, by forcing the
peasantry either to grow cash crops for export on their own land
or to work on estate land, reduced the amount of land available for
subsistence cultivation of rice.
This transformation resulted in an overall decline in living
standards, and turned a previously self-reliant subsistence economy
into an economy totally subservient to the needs and requirements
of W. European capitalist production; the agricultural system became
dependent on the export of cash crops to western markets; the
economy as a whole came to rely increasingly on the foreign-
controlled raw material export sector; and the needs of the domestic
market were no longer met mostly by products manufactured internally,
but increasingly by commodities imported from W. Europe, and, in
particular, from Holland itself.
(2) This increase in imports was accompanied by the decline of rural and
urban handicraft industry, a decline not produced solely by the
dumping of Dutch products on the Indonesian market, but 'assisted'
also by the restrictions placed on handicraft industries by the
(3) The effects of this decline in domestic industry (particularly the
high levels of unemployment generated by this decline and the
development of cash-crop production) were never alleviated by any
attempts to create new industries producing for the home market in
Indonesia. Thus domestic industry (with the exception of the
smallholder rubber export industry) was at best severely curtailed,
or at worst eradicated.
Thus Dutch penetration transformed a self-subsistent, self-reliant
economy into one subordinated to the requirements of W. European
capitalist production. Indonesia finally achieved constitutional
independence, after a prolonged struggle against the Dutch, in 1949.
However, the external economic dominance established during the period
of Dutch colonialism has remained, despite 'independence'.
The basic structure imposed by Dutch penetration has been reproduced
throughout the post-war period; the only significant transformation that
has occurred is that Dutch dominance has ceded second place to US and
(increasingly) Japanese dominance; but this transformation has taken
place in an economic structure that has retained all the major elements
it acquired during the colonial period. The surplus produced within
Indonesia's rich raw material sector has been increasingly appropriated
by foreign companies, and, whilst indigenous industry has largely failed
to develop, agricultural production has generally stagnated."
 see M. Caldwell, "Indonesia", Oxford University Press, 1968, and
J. Furnivall, "The Netherland Indies",
END OF BOX 3____________________________BACK_______________
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