Releasing Africa From its Colonial Ghost

One unquestionable reality in the daily life of the ordinary African is the so-called shrinking African state and the impact of this on the continent’s people. The scale of problems confronted by the African state is inescapable. All over the continent, with the exception of few states, the fact of the continent’s waning can be seen without any veil of misgiving. Lubeck in a commanding voice has listed the plethora of problems confronting the state on the African continent. This list is by no means exhaustible, but it gives an indication that the cruise into statehood has not gone well for the people of Africa.

He notes that economic freefall, environmental dilapidation, political crises, institutional paralyses, human rights abuses and violations amongst others have plagued a continent which is prided as the richest in the world.
Although the extend of the actuality of the above proclamation has been generally agreed by scholars, what is baffling to many academics and intellectuals is that suggestions that have been forwarded to dissect and solve the myriad of problems outlined above almost entirely center on the importance of full heartedly accepting and mainstreaming more western-centered economic and political models like the free market as solutions to Africa’s problems. There have also been calls for more aid, structural reforms and democracy.

To me, these suggestions are like giving the wrong prescriptions to a sick patient. It is indeed true that Africa as we know it today is a sick patient. But to suggest that westernization and more westernization is the solution to the glitches of the continent is at best unrealistic and awkward. The preliminary point to understanding the current dilemma confronting the African state is the nature and foundation of these states. This essay is a deliberate attempt to look at the practicalities of the African state.

Before delving further into the topic, it is important to conceptualize the key terms in the topic as I intend to use them in this essay. The important terms which will be defined are Colonialism; State and Development. A definition of colonialism would depend on the perspective of the individual. However, on a general note, a working definition has been given by Ronald J. Horvath. He writes that “colonialism is a form of domination-the control by individuals or groups over the territory and/or behavior of other individuals or groups.” Characterizations that he ascribed to the term include economic, social and cultural exploitation of one group of people by another.

The African state is perhaps the most difficult to define among all the key terms. Some academic have warned that we must avoid generalizing when talking about the African state and this is understandable. True that the African state is located on the African continent, however, we must be very cautious in describing 54 or so countries on a continent which has almost a billion people with diverse cultural, political and economic backgrounds. Goldsmith has urged caution in describing the African state in that “The average state in the region is a statistical artifice, and one must be cautious about making inferences from it.”

Although no comprehensive definition of the African state can be given, we can ascribe certain characteristics to the African state. These simple criteria are: a defined territory, a permanent population, and effective government, permanent capacity to enter into relations with other states. The idea of the state here is that they must be recognized with the expectation that they are not be extinguished in future. The defined territory and permanent population have no limits. There are no criteria that states must have a certain population or a minimum population.

According to Slim and May development is “essentially about change: not just any change, but a definite improvement – a change for the better. At the same time, development is also about continuity.” From this point of view, development can also be seen as the ability of the state to provide basic care for its people including food, shelter, health, education and security amongst others.

There is a vivid link between the key concepts in this article: Colonialism; the State and Development on the African continent. One of these links is that the current African state is a direct creation of the colonial project. Stone asserts that the first place to understand the link between colonialism and contemporary is the foundation of the African state. The African state as it is known today emerged from the Berlin Conference of 1884-5.

Although European traders were in Africa for at least the previous three centuries, the Berlin Conference was the first meeting convened by the Europeans to divide Africa among themselves in a unanimous manner that would lessen the conflict between them on who owns portions of the continent. Fourteen colonial powers with connections to Africa were present at the meeting including the great powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, the United States of America, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and Norway amongst others.

The Berlin conference was an integral part of the colonial scheme in Africa. It was a public recognition by the colonial powers that in order to secure their claims over the continent, they must be able to politically justify their economic claims over the continent by building the necessary infrastructure to exploit the colonies and develop and maintain the necessary conditions for the continuous subjugation of the exploited people. The Berlin conference in many ways facilitated the European exploitation of Africa. It built the necessary political conditions which facilitated the extensive appropriation of wealth from Africa by the colonialists.

The arbitrariness of the manner in which the boundaries were drawn still hunts the 54 states on the continent. There was no logic on which the borders were based. In addition to the fact that no Africans were represented in the conference, the continent was divided like a piece of cake among the European powers. All that matters to the Europeans was securing their imperial and colonial interests. As a result, the Herbst and Autumn note that “borders were initially drawn without respect for social and linguistic groupings.”

In many instances, the same ethnic group were divided into two or even more countries. For example, the Mandinka have been divided into at least four countries in West Africa. In today’s Westphalian state, Mandinka can be found in Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau amongst others. It is perplexing that in some cases, one village was divided into two countries. These Mandinka form the majority in countries like The Gambia and Mali, but they have to leave side by side with other ethnic groups. This is a recipe for conflict and the question many African states faced has been how to build homogenous society that is home to all the different ethnic groups without risking war.
It is worth noting that the traditional state that the African is used to is the nation state. John Hendrik Clarke explains the un African nature of the African state by arguing that one of the reasons for the failure of the African state is that the nation state is “unAfrican.” He notes that African cannot rule himself/herself in the current state system drawn by Europeans. His suggestion is for the continent’s leaders to resort to territorial state where according to him “Africans live side by side with each other and cross-fertilize each other”

Many policy makers on the continent will not agree with Clarke. The founding fathers have since the ascension into independence shunned any attempts to trample with the colonial borders. In 1963 one of the most clear and vociferous opposition to the dismantling of the colonial borders was made by Nyerere, founding President of Tanzania. Even though he acknowledged the arbitrary nature of the continents borders, he opposed any attempts to change them in a speech he gave in the 1963 Addis Abba Conference.

However, looking back at Clark’s words, one could see some truth in them. The patching up of the continent in the sense that the Europeans did has been said to be a major cause of conflict and prolonged wars. Many countries have been unable to avoid the attendant conflict which might have arisen out of the colonial nature of the African state.

One of the most disastrous genocides of the last century emanated from the arbitrary drawing of the colonial borders without due consideration to cultural and social arrangements. Incidentally, this sad story of the chaos that engulfed much of independent Africa has been replicated in many other countries in Africa such as Sudan, Liberia, Congo, Burundi, Mali, Chad, Nigeria and even the continent’s newest country, South Sudan. A spade of mutinies, assassinations, coups and attempted coups have added to the continents woes and miseries.

Morgenthau has argued that aside from the ethnic and social disregard of the continent, the African state was drawn in a way that was meant to satisfy the economic gluttony of the European powers. Little regard was once again given to whether or not they were viable and able to stand on their own more so during independence. To add salt to injury, during colonialism a small section of the whites were allowed to own wealth. As the colonialist withdrew, they left Africans with weak institutions and poor economic muscles. Their dependence on cash crop economies made them very defenseless against unstable prices for their cash crops at the world market. These weak states by virtue of the colonial legacy do not even determine the fees of their crops at the so-called world market. The colonialist excavated the dependency with their colonies by ensuring that the crops were sent to the metropolis like London and Paris and not manufactured in the colonized countries. This ensured that the African states had very weak industrial capacity to be able to turn their cash crops into finished products. Funnily, the cash crops once turned into finished products, were sent back to African countries at much higher prices.
Rimmer gives a detailed account of the exploitative nature of the relationship between colonizer and the colonized as thus: “It may perhaps be argued that the rate of return on private foreign capital is an inadequate measure of the rate of exploitation of Africa; regard must be had also, or rather, to the ‘unequal exchange’ of African exports for imports, consisting in differences between these goods in remuneration of the labour-time they embody”

Despite the infantile nature of the African states, the colonialist did not adequately prepare them for statesmanship as they handed over the burdens of nationhood to them. As a consequence, the new states moved into a world that they were not prepared for both economically, politically and socially. Emerson argues that “Such introduction to the modern world as they had secured before independence was derived primarily from what was either thrust upon them or opened to them by the colonial regimes, and this was both meager and — given the nature of colonialism — necessarily distorted.”

Goldsmith and Winter note that the new independent countries were to adopt a begging bowl mentality to be able to provide the impetus of development for their people and in so doing, debt became the new form of control against them by the imperial powers. The aid was mostly secured from the Bretton Woods institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. These financial institutions were established after the second world war to provide financial health to weak economies. That being the case, the funds which were secured for the purpose of aid did not facilitate the development of these countries. Dictators like Mobutu who were installed as puppets by the imperial powers after independence siphoned the wealth of their people into private bank accounts in Switzerland amongst other countries. Yet, the debt was still paid by the poor tax payers who it did not benefit.
The Guardian has revealed that aid from Western countries has been used to hide the fact that every year, $60 of the continent’s wealth is stolen and kept in Europe through tax evasion, climate change. Given the fact that $134 bn is received through loans, the 192 billion that altogether leaves the continent into foreign bank accounts especially to Europe is a dilemma that seriously hampers the economic and political viability of Africa. Once again, it is the colonial powers like Britain and their vestiges in multinational companies that are complicit in helping corrupt and inept leaders loot the wealth and resources of their countries.

The myth that aid has been working in Africa was dispelled by the Zambian academic Dambisa Moyo who reasoned in her book “Dead Aid” that since the World War 2, $ 2 trillion has been given to African governments as direct aid. She underscores the fact that even though foreign aid has been used to improve the lives of the poor, it has not fulfilled its purpose for the most part . Even the World Bank openly accepted the fact that foreign aid has been detrimental to African institutions.

While the colonial legacy left Africa with very weak states, its negative impacts are well and beyond the weak structures it bequeathed to Africa and its people. Marxist writers have underscored the fact that colonialism impacted the physique and mentality of the African. One such writer is Mushkat. He quotes the French Jewish writer Albert Memmi as saying that colonialism affected the African physically and mentally. Through colonialism, the African was deprived of his independence, individuality, respect self-pride, personal liberty, and creative power. He notes that colonialism adversely affected the human rights of Africans. From the colonial experience, there was little or no human rights for Africans. Incidentally, he posits that colonialism ignored the traditional African systems of governance and treated them as if they were non-existence. Even if it recognized them, it does so for its own good not for the good of the Africans.

There has been much talk about the destructive tendencies that colonialism has had on the African people. Unfortunately, little or no mention has been made of the fact that before the intrusion of colonialism in Africa, corruption as we know it today was nonexistent. The abrasive siphoning of public wealth into the private accounts of leaders is a direct consequence of the colonial legacy. Mulinge has underscored the fact that colonialism played a big role in introducing and solidifying corruption in Africa. His position comes from the fact that colonialism influenced the emergence of corruption in Africa in three ways. The first is that corruption requires a clear monetary system of interest to thrive. This was non-existence in many parts of the continent. And so, the colonialists introduced a corrupt system to ensure its practice. The second is that the financial systems accrued by chiefs made them willing collaborators of the colonial project. And finally, the methods of financial subjugation including bribery were used to subdue Africans.

That corruption has become one of the most notoriously persistent and progressively worsening social problems afflicting virtually all sub-Saharan African countries today is indisputable. The practice has permeated virtually all institutions both public and private, governmental and non-governmental. Aside from being a big challenge to most African governments, corruption is also a yardstick to measure how much wealth one has been able to steal while serving the public sector. For instance, in countries such as Kenya, how much money an individual has defrauded the state appears to have become the yardstick for gauging “Who’s Who” in society Munyae notes.

Most scholars on African affairs seem to agree that one of the greatest legacies of colonialism in Africa is the western education system it introduced on the continent. But recent observation of the colonial legacy of education has disagreed with the above notion. Kwame Nkrumah, first president of independent Ghana has argued that the colonial education heritage has been instrumental in sustaining what he called the neo-colonial project in Africa. Emudong agrees with Nkrumah and observes that not only are notions that African advocacy was not responsible for pressuring the colonial office in UK to establish universities in Ghana and Nigeria wrong, but that the hidden truth for the establishment of these universities was to prepare a sympathetic body of African elite who would be willing to implement colonial policies well after the demise of colonialism in West Africa.

In addition, he looks at the origin of higher education in West Africa by recourse to several historical issues. The first is the evolution of events in West Africa before the first World War; the second is the discussions among colonial officials on higher education. These debates were often internal and closed to the public. The third is the “conflicting recommendations set forth in the Elliot Commission’s Majority and Minority reports as well as the initial response of the CO to the two reports.” All these reports suggest and confirm Nkrumah’s fears that the colonial type of education was never meant to facilitate African development.

Conclusion
So, given the heavy burdens that colonialism has placed on the African state, what is the way forward? The first means of understanding the current nature of the colonial project is to accept the fact that it was never meant to succeed even after colonialism. The institutions that would facilitate the maintenance of the colonized in the orbit of the colonizers was inherent in the very state structures built by the colonizers. The biggest task for the African people is to ensure that we re-observe the relationship between our institutions and the people they purport to represent. Some may argue that Africa needs strong institutions as President Obama did in speech at the African Union in 2015.

Strong institutions must go hand in glove with strong men. These institutions must be manned by men who understand the continent’s past and have a vision for her future. One mistake being continually made across the continent’s institutions is to think that development can come without a link with the ordinary person. There is a very big disconnect in much of Africa between the rulers and the ruled. The elitist nature of the institutions precludes them from meaningfully engaging with the ordinary man in a way that respects their voices. Although in most of Africa there has been a conscious attempt to change this, the problem persists to this day.

Africa can only make headway into the future if it incorporates its traditional institutions in its governance process. One of many negative effects of colonialism is that it has neglected traditional African institutions in the governance of the continent. As these traditional institutions, have been the administrative masterpiece of the people of Africa for centuries, there is no way they can be excluded in the governance of the people if at all Africa is to make use of its rich resources to create the conditions for her people to use their ingenuity for the development of the continent.

Mustapha Kah is the founder and President of Debate Gambia Association. He is a fellow of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. He is a well-known Gambian journalist and a social and current affairs commentator.

One unquestionable reality in the daily life of the ordinary African is the so-called shrinking African state and the impact of this on the continent’s people. The scale of problems confronted by the African state is inescapable. All over the continent, with the exception of few states, the fact of the continent’s waning can be seen without any veil of misgiving. Lubeck in a commanding voice has listed the plethora of problems confronting the state on the African continent. This list is by no means exhaustible, but it gives an indication that the cruise into statehood has not gone well for the people of Africa. He notes that economic freefall, environmental dilapidation, political crises, institutional paralyses, human rights abuses and violations amongst others have plagued a continent which is prided as the richest in the world.
Although the extend of the actuality of the above proclamation has been generally agreed by scholars, what is baffling to many academics and intellectuals is that suggestions that have been forwarded to dissect and solve the myriad of problems outlined above almost entirely center on the importance of full heartedly accepting and mainstreaming more western-centered economic and political models like the free market as solutions to Africa’s problems. There have also been calls for more aid, structural reforms and democracy.

To me, these suggestions are like giving the wrong prescriptions to a sick patient. It is indeed true that Africa as we know it today is a sick patient. But to suggest that westernization and more westernization is the solution to the glitches of the continent is at best unrealistic and awkward. The preliminary point to understanding the current dilemma confronting the African state is the nature and foundation of these states. This essay is a deliberate attempt to look at the practicalities of the African state.

Before delving further into the topic, it is important to conceptualize the key terms in the topic as I intend to use them in this essay. The important terms which will be defined are Colonialism; State and Development. A definition of colonialism would depend on the perspective of the individual. However, on a general note, a working definition has been given by Ronald J. Horvath. He writes that “colonialism is a form of domination-the control by individuals or groups over the territory and/or behavior of other individuals or groups.” Characterizations that he ascribed to the term include economic, social and cultural exploitation of one group of people by another.

The African state is perhaps the most difficult to define among all the key terms. Some academic have warned that we must avoid generalizing when talking about the African state and this is understandable. True that the African state is located on the African continent, however, we must be very cautious in describing 54 or so countries on a continent which has almost a billion people with diverse cultural, political and economic backgrounds. Goldsmith has urged caution in describing the African state in that “The average state in the region is a statistical artifice, and one must be cautious about making inferences from it.”

Although no comprehensive definition of the African state can be given, we can ascribe certain characteristics to the African state. These simple criteria are: a defined territory, a permanent population, and effective government, permanent capacity to enter into relations with other states. The idea of the state here is that they must be recognized with the expectation that they are not be extinguished in future. The defined territory and permanent population have no limits. There are no criteria that states must have a certain population or a minimum population.

According to Slim and May development is “essentially about change: not just any change, but a definite improvement – a change for the better. At the same time, development is also about continuity.” From this point of view, development can also be seen as the ability of the state to provide basic care for its people including food, shelter, health, education and security amongst others.

There is a vivid link between the key concepts in this article: Colonialism; the State and Development on the African continent. One of these links is that the current African state is a direct creation of the colonial project. Stone asserts that the first place to understand the link between colonialism and contemporary is the foundation of the African state. The African state as it is known today emerged from the Berlin Conference of 1884-5.

Although European traders were in Africa for at least the previous three centuries, the Berlin Conference was the first meeting convened by the Europeans to divide Africa among themselves in a unanimous manner that would lessen the conflict between them on who owns portions of the continent. Fourteen colonial powers with connections to Africa were present at the meeting including the great powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, the United States of America, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and Norway amongst others.

The Berlin conference was an integral part of the colonial scheme in Africa. It was a public recognition by the colonial powers that in order to secure their claims over the continent, they must be able to politically justify their economic claims over the continent by building the necessary infrastructure to exploit the colonies and develop and maintain the necessary conditions for the continuous subjugation of the exploited people. The Berlin conference in many ways facilitated the European exploitation of Africa. It built the necessary political conditions which facilitated the extensive appropriation of wealth from Africa by the colonialists.

The arbitrariness of the manner in which the boundaries were drawn still hunts the 54 states on the continent. There was no logic on which the borders were based. In addition to the fact that no Africans were represented in the conference, the continent was divided like a piece of cake among the European powers. All that matters to the Europeans was securing their imperial and colonial interests. As a result, the Herbst and Autumn note that “borders were initially drawn without respect for social and linguistic groupings.”

In many instances, the same ethnic group were divided into two or even more countries. For example, the Mandinka have been divided into at least four countries in West Africa. In today’s Westphalian state, Mandinka can be found in Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau amongst others. It is perplexing that in some cases, one village was divided into two countries. These Mandinka form the majority in countries like The Gambia and Mali, but they have to leave side by side with other ethnic groups. This is a recipe for conflict and the question many African states faced has been how to build homogenous society that is home to all the different ethnic groups without risking war.
It is worth noting that the traditional state that the African is used to is the nation state. John Hendrik Clarke explains the un African nature of the African state by arguing that one of the reasons for the failure of the African state is that the nation state is “unAfrican.” He notes that African cannot rule himself/herself in the current state system drawn by Europeans. His suggestion is for the continent’s leaders to resort to territorial state where according to him “Africans live side by side with each other and cross-fertilize each other”

Many policy makers on the continent will not agree with Clarke. The founding fathers have since the ascension into independence shunned any attempts to trample with the colonial borders. In 1963 one of the most clear and vociferous opposition to the dismantling of the colonial borders was made by Nyerere, founding President of Tanzania. Even though he acknowledged the arbitrary nature of the continents borders, he opposed any attempts to change them in a speech he gave in the 1963 Addis Abba Conference.

However, looking back at Clark’s words, one could see some truth in them. The patching up of the continent in the sense that the Europeans did has been said to be a major cause of conflict and prolonged wars. Many countries have been unable to avoid the attendant conflict which might have arisen out of the colonial nature of the African state.

One of the most disastrous genocides of the last century emanated from the arbitrary drawing of the colonial borders without due consideration to cultural and social arrangements. Incidentally, this sad story of the chaos that engulfed much of independent Africa has been replicated in many other countries in Africa such as Sudan, Liberia, Congo, Burundi, Mali, Chad, Nigeria and even the continent’s newest country, South Sudan. A spade of mutinies, assassinations, coups and attempted coups have added to the continents woes and miseries.

Morgenthau has argued that aside from the ethnic and social disregard of the continent, the African state was drawn in a way that was meant to satisfy the economic gluttony of the European powers. Little regard was once again given to whether or not they were viable and able to stand on their own more so during independence. To add salt to injury, during colonialism a small section of the whites were allowed to own wealth. As the colonialist withdrew, they left Africans with weak institutions and poor economic muscles. Their dependence on cash crop economies made them very defenseless against unstable prices for their cash crops at the world market. These weak states by virtue of the colonial legacy do not even determine the fees of their crops at the so-called world market. The colonialist excavated the dependency with their colonies by ensuring that the crops were sent to the metropolis like London and Paris and not manufactured in the colonized countries. This ensured that the African states had very weak industrial capacity to be able to turn their cash crops into finished products. Funnily, the cash crops once turned into finished products, were sent back to African countries at much higher prices.

Rimmer gives a detailed account of the exploitative nature of the relationship between colonizer and the colonized as thus: “It may perhaps be argued that the rate of return on private foreign capital is an inadequate measure of the rate of exploitation of Africa; regard must be had also, or rather, to the ‘unequal exchange’ of African exports for imports, consisting in differences between these goods in remuneration of the labour-time they embody”

Despite the infantile nature of the African states, the colonialist did not adequately prepare them for statesmanship as they handed over the burdens of nationhood to them. As a consequence, the new states moved into a world that they were not prepared for both economically, politically and socially. Emerson argues that “Such introduction to the modern world as they had secured before independence was derived primarily from what was either thrust upon them or opened to them by the colonial regimes, and this was both meager and — given the nature of colonialism — necessarily distorted.”

Goldsmith and Winter note that the new independent countries were to adopt a begging bowl mentality to be able to provide the impetus of development for their people and in so doing, debt became the new form of control against them by the imperial powers. The aid was mostly secured from the Bretton Woods institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. These financial institutions were established after the second world war to provide financial health to weak economies. That being the case, the funds which were secured for the purpose of aid did not facilitate the development of these countries. Dictators like Mobutu who were installed as puppets by the imperial powers after independence siphoned the wealth of their people into private bank accounts in Switzerland amongst other countries. Yet, the debt was still paid by the poor tax payers who it did not benefit.

The Guardian has revealed that aid from Western countries has been used to hide the fact that every year, $60 of the continent’s wealth is stolen and kept in Europe through tax evasion, climate change. Given the fact that $134 bn is received through loans, the 192 billion that altogether leaves the continent into foreign bank accounts especially to Europe is a dilemma that seriously hampers the economic and political viability of Africa. Once again, it is the colonial powers like Britain and their vestiges in multinational companies that are complicit in helping corrupt and inept leaders loot the wealth and resources of their countries.

The myth that aid has been working in Africa was dispelled by the Zambian academic Dambisa Moyo who reasoned in her book “Dead Aid” that since the World War 2, $ 2 trillion has been given to African governments as direct aid. She underscores the fact that even though foreign aid has been used to improve the lives of the poor, it has not fulfilled its purpose for the most part . Even the World Bank openly accepted the fact that foreign aid has been detrimental to African institutions.

While the colonial legacy left Africa with very weak states, its negative impacts are well and beyond the weak structures it bequeathed to Africa and its people. Marxist writers have underscored the fact that colonialism impacted the physique and mentality of the African. One such writer is Mushkat. He quotes the French Jewish writer Albert Memmi as saying that colonialism affected the African physically and mentally. Through colonialism, the African was deprived of his independence, individuality, respect self-pride, personal liberty, and creative power. He notes that colonialism adversely affected the human rights of Africans. From the colonial experience, there was little or no human rights for Africans. Incidentally, he posits that colonialism ignored the traditional African systems of governance and treated them as if they were non-existence. Even if it recognized them, it does so for its own good not for the good of the Africans.

There has been much talk about the destructive tendencies that colonialism has had on the African people. Unfortunately, little or no mention has been made of the fact that before the intrusion of colonialism in Africa, corruption as we know it today was nonexistent. The abrasive siphoning of public wealth into the private accounts of leaders is a direct consequence of the colonial legacy. Mulinge has underscored the fact that colonialism played a big role in introducing and solidifying corruption in Africa. His position comes from the fact that colonialism influenced the emergence of corruption in Africa in three ways. The first is that corruption requires a clear monetary system of interest to thrive. This was non-existence in many parts of the continent. And so, the colonialists introduced a corrupt system to ensure its practice. The second is that the financial systems accrued by chiefs made them willing collaborators of the colonial project. And finally, the methods of financial subjugation including bribery were used to subdue Africans.

That corruption has become one of the most notoriously persistent and progressively worsening social problems afflicting virtually all sub-Saharan African countries today is indisputable. The practice has permeated virtually all institutions both public and private, governmental and non-governmental. Aside from being a big challenge to most African governments, corruption is also a yardstick to measure how much wealth one has been able to steal while serving the public sector. For instance, in countries such as Kenya, how much money an individual has defrauded the state appears to have become the yardstick for gauging “Who’s Who” in society Munyae notes.

Most scholars on African affairs seem to agree that one of the greatest legacies of colonialism in Africa is the western education system it introduced on the continent. But recent observation of the colonial legacy of education has disagreed with the above notion. Kwame Nkrumah, first president of independent Ghana has argued that the colonial education heritage has been instrumental in sustaining what he called the neo-colonial project in Africa. Emudong agrees with Nkrumah and observes that not only are notions that African advocacy was not responsible for pressuring the colonial office in UK to establish universities in Ghana and Nigeria wrong, but that the hidden truth for the establishment of these universities was to prepare a sympathetic body of African elite who would be willing to implement colonial policies well after the demise of colonialism in West Africa.

In addition, he looks at the origin of higher education in West Africa by recourse to several historical issues. The first is the evolution of events in West Africa before the first World War; the second is the discussions among colonial officials on higher education. These debates were often internal and closed to the public. The third is the “conflicting recommendations set forth in the Elliot Commission’s Majority and Minority reports as well as the initial response of the CO to the two reports.” All these reports suggest and confirm Nkrumah’s fears that the colonial type of education was never meant to facilitate African development.

Conclusion
So, given the heavy burdens that colonialism has placed on the African state, what is the way forward? The first means of understanding the current nature of the colonial project is to accept the fact that it was never meant to succeed even after colonialism. The institutions that would facilitate the maintenance of the colonized in the orbit of the colonizers was inherent in the very state structures built by the colonizers. The biggest task for the African people is to ensure that we re-observe the relationship between our institutions and the people they purport to represent. Some may argue that Africa needs strong institutions as President Obama did in speech at the African Union in 2015.

Strong institutions must go hand in glove with strong men. These institutions must be manned by men who understand the continent’s past and have a vision for her future. One mistake being continually made across the continent’s institutions is to think that development can come without a link with the ordinary person. There is a very big disconnect in much of Africa between the rulers and the ruled. The elitist nature of the institutions precludes them from meaningfully engaging with the ordinary man in a way that respects their voices. Although in most of Africa there has been a conscious attempt to change this, the problem persists to this day.

Africa can only make headway into the future if it incorporates its traditional institutions in its governance process. One of many negative effects of colonialism is that it has neglected traditional African institutions in the governance of the continent. As these traditional institutions, have been the administrative masterpiece of the people of Africa for centuries, there is no way they can be excluded in the governance of the people if at all Africa is to make use of its rich resources to create the conditions for her people to use their ingenuity for the development of the continent.

Mustapha Kah is the founder and President of Debate Gambia Association. He is a fellow of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. He is a well-known Gambian journalist and a social and current affairs commentator.

By Mustapha Kah

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