European Colonialism and the Roots of the Systemic Challenges of African States

George P. Hagan | Ghana

European Colonialism and the Roots of the Systemic Challenges of African States


In the effort to realize their full potential as sovereign states and deliver the expected dividends of freedom and self-government to their populations, most post-colonial countries of Africa face several systemic challenges. These challenges are generic and go back to the foundational elements of the system of colonial rule that European powers collectively imposed on the African continent in the late 19th century. European colonial rule locked the African continent into a global economic system that the colonial powers had constructed to serve their interest; and as African countries seek solutions to the challenges created by colonial rule, it is important to consider how the global economic order can change and become more equitable and just. The aim of this paper is to explain and justify this demand.

In the first section of this paper, I postulate that European colonization of the African continent was a collective strategic project to establish a new “model of slavery-based world economy” to replace the transatlantic slave trade; and I argue that, upon the collapse of colonial rule, European countries created yet another form of global economic system that enabled them to continue to exploit the resources of the former colonial dominions and keep them under neocolonialist control. I aver, further, that in the face of the existential threat that climate change and global warming pose to humanity, the world is on the threshold of a new post-fossil-fuel technological era and a new global economic system is emerging, in which, foreign countries with technological and financial power would, for the common good of humanity, seek to develop schemes to exploit the strategic resources of Africa in yet another form of colonialism.

In the second section, I identify and discuss the systemic challenges that post-colonial African countries have to confront, as a legacy of the instruments that European countries deployed to partition Africa, subjugate populations and exploit Africa’s resources to feed their industries and supply their markets abroad. To understand this is to understand the paradox of Africa’s endemic poverty and slow development in the midst of its prodigious natural resources, cultural assets and vast human resources.

In the third section, I argue that, as much as African countries struggle to overcome their challenges and develop their resources to give their citizens a better quality of life, they would need foreign investments, and the neo-colonialist exploitation and control of African countries would persist, unless the global community deliberately incorporates principles of equity and justice into global economic system as a whole, and into international transactions and partnerships for global development across the world. It is for this reason that this conference, focused on ‘colonialism, neocolonialism and the new world order’, is of critical significance for the future prosperity of Africa and the entire world. The remodeling of the global economic system to bring equity and justice into global economic transactions cannot be left in the hands of the powerful countries of the world, and cannot be accomplished without the active participation of African countries and other developing countries of the world.

1.0. Colonialism: A Mutating Global Economic System

1.1.0. The European Colonial Project in Africa: Its beginnings and myth of moral justification

In 1884-85, after a series of meetings in Berlin, the powerful countries of Europe formally adopted a common strategic framework for the colonization of Africa. They divided Africa into exclusive territorial possessions and gave themselves unrestricted power to pacify the indigenous populations within their territories and exploit their resources: European countries needed cheap raw materials for their industries and protected markets for their products. The framework of imperial jurisdictions they established would only be modified after the first world war, with the redistribution of German colonies among the British, French, Belgium and Portuguese, to constitute the territorial entities of the sovereign states of Africa today.

The Berlin conference was a watershed in the history of Europe and the African continent. Historians consider it the beginning of “the scramble for Africa”; and, concurring, Kwame Nkrumah wrote:

“The notorious ‘scramble’ for Africa began in the last quarter of the 19th Century. At that time, Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy embarked on a race for colonies” (1961, 1973: 6).

I wish, however, to suggest that the Berlin conferences were the culmination, and not the beginning, of ‘the scramble for Africa’. The scramble for Africa began almost immediately after the abolition of the centuries old transatlantic slave trade in 1807, if not well before. As Freund, an important writer on the European colonial venture in Africa described the process:

“Within the last quarter of the nineteenth century the slow process of European penetration of the African continent gave way to a scramble for colonies that resulted in the partition of all the lands south of the Sahara apart from the Republic of Liberia and Ethiopia” (1989: 83).

There was first “the slow process of European penetration”, which gave way to “a scramble for colonies”, which “resulted in the partition of all the lands south of the Sahara” in Berlin.

In the Gold Coast, the African axis of the triangular slave trade, these three phases were clear in the early decades of the 19th century. The British sent their first ambassadors, James Bowditch and Thomas Dupuis to Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti empire, in 1819, the first phase of strategic penetration into the forest kingdom. Scrambling for territorial possessions and spheres of influence, the British signed a bond with some of the Chiefs of the Gold Coast in 1844 and acquired the Danish and Dutch possessions on the Gold Coast in 1850 and 1872 respectively. Finally, in clear contravention of the clauses of the Bond of 1844, the British unilaterally declared the Gold Coast a British colony and took formal and effective control of the territory in 1874, a whole decade before the Berlin agreement on the partition of Africa. Other European countries whose economies were equally impacted by the abolition engaged in similar ventures in other parts of the West Africa.

Against this background, the strategic importance of the Berlin conferences becomes obvious. By forging a binding agreement among themselves to divide the continent, the European countries ensured that their frenzied and wild rush for territorial possessions and resources in Africa would not result in armed conflicts and disputes over territorial claims. With the agreed framework of territorial boundaries, they made a collective commitment to respect each other’s territorial acquisitions and enable each country to set about exploiting the resources of their possessions unopposed. In this respect, it is also noteworthy that the Berlin agreement mandated each country to take “effective occupation of its territories by sending administrators to govern them” (Buah 1980: 100).

Taking these actions as evidence of a deliberately constructed collective scheme to achieve a definite strategic objective, I posit that the colonization of Africa might be described as nothing less than a joint European venture to establish a new form of slave-based global economic system to replace the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. And, to underscore this, I offer the following as the business model the colonizers and the comparative advantage that the colonization of Africa had over the Atlantic slave trade.

1.1.1. The Colonization of Africa – A New Business Model

Given their centuries-old dependence on the Atlantic slave trade, European countries had to save their economies by finding new ways of obtaining cheap resources for their industries.[1] Though their strategy was global in scope, they would consider Africa particularly attractive.

First, the continent of Africa was close enough to Europe to be physically an extension of Europe[2] – and the wealth of the interior of Africa were waiting to be discovered. Second, the interior of Africa, “the dark continent”, was accessible from the coastal ports, forts and castles that had served the world trade in slaves. Third, with no vast oceans to traverse, the wealth of Africa could be obtained at far less financial and transportation costs, lower risks of loss of vessels and goods, lower risk to life and limb, and for far greater profit to the European countries, than the triangular slave trade. Fourth, in this business model, Africans would not be captured and sold, shipped abroad and kept alive; rather, whole communities would be brought under subjugation and forced to work on plantations and in mines for their colonial masters for very little compensation – and they would provide growing markets for the products of European industries.

Fifth, it would cost less to maintain peace and order in Africa: European powers had operational bases in Africa – their slave castles and forts – and could supply their fighting forces with relative ease from Europe. And, sixth, the continent of Africa lies between the continents of north and south America, on the west, and the continents of Asia and Australia in the east. and European powers would not have failed to see the strategic significance of the “centrality” of the African continent (see Map of the World Appendix 1), as Ali Mazrui described it, to the extension of global trade, commerce and imperial power. In effect, the European colonial project in Africa gave European countries not only a continent and its peoples and resources to exploit, but also a staging post to initiate the globalization of European trade and commerce and, of course, European military power.

In the Gold Coast, the castles and forts of the defunct Atlantic trade became the official seats of the colonial government, accommodating the civil service administration, the military forces, the courts of law and justice and the prisons and execution dungeons, and remain till this day a constant reminder of the link between colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

1.1.2. The Impact of the Remodeled Slave-based Global Economic System on Africa

If European colonialization of Africa reconfigured the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, it is important to compare the impact that the two business models had on the populations and cultures of the continent.

The slave trade depleted Africa of its population, but left the lands and minerals of the continent in the hands of sovereign African communities and their traditional rulers. Colonial rule, on the other hand, subjugated large communities, kingdoms and empires, divested them of their lands, exploited their natural resources and devastated their economies. In the transatlantic slave trade, it was only the slaves, bought and sold, that suffered total dehumanization and degradation. In colonial Africa, entire African communities lost their freedom, worked under cruel conditions for slave wages, and suffered penury, material privation and human degradation.

The slave trade affected the development of agriculture, local technologies and industries through the loss of skilled people, but left communities to manage their economies. It is however recorded that, to eliminate local competition against European commerce and industries on the African continent, European colonizers deliberately destroyed many indigenous industries, business enterprises and continental networks of commercial activities, and eliminated significant material evidence of ‘the African genius’, the inherent capacity of the African to invent, discover and create new things to sustain and develop their communities and cultures.

In the Atlantic slave trade, Africans sold into slavery were destined to lose their personal dignity, historic memory, family bonds, community support and cultural life and live with an identity crisis. In the European colonial project on the African continent, imperialist countries made European cultural hegemony a strategy of human development, and sought by various means to make entire African communities reject and abandon their customs and traditions, indigenous values and modes of social organisation, and adopt European cultural values, institutions, and way of life and, thus, lose their cultural sovereignty and dignity. Just as the millions of the descendants of Africans carried into slavery continue to struggle against new forms of slavery in the Americas, the population of the entire African continent continues to struggle against the legacy of colonialism in the sovereign states of Africa.

1.1.3. The Myth of Legitimation: The European Colonial project justified as a Strategy for Human Development

Aware of the intense and sustained moral condemnation that led to the abolition of the slave trade, the European colonisers felt bound to offer some moral justification for the new form of slavery they were introducing into the global economic system; and this concern generated a new discourse on world cultures and human progress in social, political, religious and, particularly, intellectual circles in Europe.

As already indicated, the Berlin Conference agreed on the partition of Africa in 1884. It was also in 1884 that the Oxford School of Social Anthropology was established with the appointment of Edward Tylor as a Reader and, soon after, Professor of Social Anthropology (Macfarlane 2007: 3). Tylor and other founding fathers defined social anthropology as the empirical, or evidence-based, study of human societies and cultures of the world. However, driven by the popular appetite of Victorian England for seafarers’ anecdotes about curious customs and practices of ‘exotic’ cultures, (which Sir James Frazer’s Golden Bough handsomely fed), they focused their studies on the what they called “the primitive” societies and cultures of the world. According to E.E. Evans Pritchard (Marett Lecture 1950), “It was McLennan and Tylor in this country, and Morgan in America, who first treated primitive societies as a subject which might itself engage the attention of serious scholars” (1962; 15).

Further, since the study of primitive societies or cultures had to have a purpose and relevance to British national objectives, the founding fathers also constructed a quasi-scientific and moral justification for the European colonial project, and this established the standing and reputation of the Oxford School of Social Anthropology as an important instrument of national policy. The Oxford School of Social Anthropology would develop in lockstep with the British colonial enterprise; and it would take decades for it eventually to expose the quasi-scientific and moral doctrine as unscientific, illogical and nothing more than a myth or, “a mythical charter” for European colonialism. And because the myth had such an impact and continues to resurface in mutant forms in contemporary post-colonial discourse on human development, it is important to look at how it was constructed and learn lessons from it.

1.1.4. The Theory of Cultural Evolution and the European Colonial Project

Using the Darwinian theory of evolution to establish the credentials of their discipline as an empirical science, the pioneers of social anthropology postulated that, like natural species, human cultures had evolved through gradual stages from the lowest and simplest forms to the highest and most complex forms, and could be arranged in an ascending order. They postulated that European cultures were the highest form of human culture and occupied the top of the evolutionary ladder and engaged in a confused discourse on where to place customs and institutions of different cultures on the fictive evolutionary ladder.

In explaining how cultures evolved, or human development occurred, two schools emerged among the founders of the science of society and culture. One school posited that cultures evolved by their own internal processes of change and adaptation in different contexts; and, though they conceded that cultural changes could occur through contacts between communities and cultures, they held that contacts between different cultures were not the sole or necessary means of cultural change. The other school, claimed, without providing any material evidence, that ‘primitive peoples’ (or peoples of simple cultures) inherently “lacked the means or motive for independent self-improvement” (Lienhardt 1964: 11), and, therefore, needed contact with other cultures to change and develop. This school, as Godfrey Lienhardt put it, “wished to justify on scientific-seeming grounds a permanent colonial rule” and, on these premises, postulated that, for the collective good of humanity, European countries, having created the highest forms of human culture, had an implicit moral obligation (‘divine right’, so to speak) to bring to peoples of lower cultures the benefits of their superior cultures.

Though the thesis of the former school had much to recommend it, it was the rather unsafe theory of the latter school that proved persuasive and gained traction. European governments, industrial and commercial organisations, Christian churches and missionary societies and academia identified themselves as stakeholders in the project of universal ‘human development’, ventured into the colonies and contributed in various ways to the execution of the colonial project in Africa.

The Oxford Institute of Social Anthropology, made famous by the theory of human development that justified colonialism, came to serve the British colonial project by undertaking field studies on indigenous peoples and cultures to collect information on cultures to facilitate colonial rule, especially, the implementation of the policy of Indirect Rule in Africa; and by training social anthropologists to work in the British colonies and colonial administrators to work as social anthropologists (Riviere 2007: 54).[3]

So crucial was the link between Oxford and the British colonial project that the historical legacy of Oxford Social Anthropology cannot be left out in any review of colonialism and neo-colonialism and the post-colonial construction of sovereign nation-states in Africa.

Two things can be said about the legacy of Oxford Social Anthropology in Africa. First, though the “moral and scientific justification” of the colonial project proved to be no more than a mythical charter, yet the studies of African cultures that the Oxford School of Cultural Anthropology produced would prove useful not only to the colonial powers in the execution of the colonial project, but also to African populations in their resistance to European colonial rule and cultural hegemony. The many authentic accounts of indigenous cultures and institutions produced for the colonial project would eventually enable Africans to understand and appreciate their own cultures, begin an African cultural renaissance, energise the anticolonial struggle and support the post-colonial nation-building enterprise.

In this connection, as Africans took ownership of the knowledge generated by European social anthropologies and began to study and explain their own African societies and cultures, they saw the need for a paradigm change in the presentation of African cultures and, indeed, in the discipline of social anthropology itself. The accounts of African cultures that European social anthropologists produced revealed undisguised Euro-centric interpretation of customs and traditions of Africans and were intended to produce in Europeans a sense of superiority and power and justify colonial rule. Africans, on the other hand, wanted to portray African cultures from authentic African perspectives, and obtain knowledge and understanding of African cultures that would be pertinent to the affirmation of cultural sovereignty, nation-building and sustainable African development. As colonised peoples explained their cultural beliefs, values, norms and institutions from their own perspectives, social anthropology would become an inter-cultural dialogue and greatly enrich the understanding of world cultures.[4]

The second thing that can be said about the legacy of Oxford social anthropology in Africa, is that, after social anthropology had for years described the ‘minds’ or ‘mentality’ of indigenous peoples of the world as ‘mystical’, ‘magical’, ‘illogical’, and ‘unscientific’ or ‘prescientific’, Oxford-led studies in Africa on witchcraft and religion (Witchcraft and Oracle among Azande by E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Divinity and Experience. A study of Dinka Religion by Godfrey Lienhardt) and others) revealed that paradoxically witchcraft accusations and religious discourses were concerned about explaining practical human experiences and had an underlying logic. They showed that the African had practical knowledge of nature and attributed natural causes to natural events. But the African also had interest in explaining events that seemed to be exceptional, singular, and against the regular courses of human experience; and so led to discourses and discussions of the basic concepts of existence, individual identity and moral responsibilities in society, the values that sustain interpersonal relationships and community, and, above all, the relationship between human community and the order of nature. These indicated that ‘second level discourse’ involved statements of ‘fact’ and logic, very much like primary discourses – and put an end to the idea that Africans used beliefs in witchcraft and magic to explain every event in nature (Horton 1973: 256).

This clarification would lead to studies of African knowledge systems based on empirical observation, inductive and deductive reasoning, studies of African management of nature and biodiversity and, most importantly, the value that Africans attached to the existential relationship between human communities and nature. Post-colonial African nationalist discourse would emphasise the historical and cultural creations of the African Genius and make African creative thinking – and finding African solutions to African problems – the basis of African development.

1.1.5. Lessons from the Moral Justification of Colonialism

I have adverted to and elaborated the tendentious moral justification that the founders of social anthropology offered for European colonialism, because it is remarkable how contemporary discourses on human development and global development goals often resonate with some of the ‘moral tenets’ of classic colonialism. And these are: The development of all peoples is to the ultimate “common good of all”; some countries are so poor that they can only develop with the help of the wealthier more advanced countries of the world; the transfer or delivery of development aid to poor countries must be predicated on the acceptance of the values, institutions and best management practices of the donor by receiving countries.

These statements seem to suggest that to accelerate their development, most post-colonial African countries have to enter into unequal partnerships with European countries and accept the economic, political, administrative and corporate business models developed by these countries. But this can only lead to loss of sovereignty and loss of freedom. There might be justification for partnerships for human development in the global community, but this should not provide grounds for wealthy or more advanced countries to dominate and control the weaker and poorer countries of the world. It is to avoid the use of the common human desire for development to compel poor countries to cede sovereignty to more powerful countries that the global community has to determine how to incorporate the principles of equity and justice into partnerships for international development and into the methods and strategies for attaining international development goals.

In a world where powerful countries define human progress by reference to themselves, and offer their path of development or human progress as the path that all humanity should follow, or where such powerful countries would position themselves as guardians of humanity and the protectors of the common good of humanity and arrogate to themselves the right to limit the sovereignty of others, there are questions to be asked. Is the common good of humanity what is in the interest of the most powerful, or is it what the most powerful see to be the common good of all, not consulting the interests of other peoples? What are the ethnical parameters of the global development agenda? And how can the world proceed to execute a global agenda determined on the basis of the common good of humanity, as is emerging in world conversation on climate change, biodiversity, energy resources and world food security?

1.2.0. African Liberation and the Birth of Neocolonialism[5]

Africans discerned colonial rule for what it was – a new model of human slavery that had to be rejected. In the Gold Coast (as well as many parts of West Africa), the central axis of the slave trade for centuries, the movement for freedom and independence began as soon as the British imposed colonial rule on the people – and would prove inexorable and irresistible. Like a whirlwind, Ghana’s accession to sovereignty and self-government would lead to the total liberation of the entire continent of Africa and raise hopes that the peoples of the continent would be left alone to harness their creative potential and demonstrate that Africans were more than capable of managing their own affairs. However, just as the collapse of the Atlantic slave trade moved those who profited by it to introduce colonialism into the framework of the global economy, so would the collapse of colonial rule across the world lead the countries that created and benefited from colonialism to create a new form of global economic system to enable them to continue to exploit the resources of their former colonies across world.

In I Speak of Freedom, Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of the liberation struggle and the first head of government of Ghana, the first post-colonial African state, wrote:

“History has shown how one colonial empire in liquidation can easily be replaced by another more insidious, because it is a disguised form of colonialism … It would be a tragedy if the initial weakness of the emergent nations should lead to a new foreign domination of Africa brought about by economic forces” (1972: pp. ix, x).

It is difficult to imagine that the European countries that partitioned Africa in 1884 to exploit the continent’s human and material resources, would face the loss of their African colonies without coming up with a grand strategy and a new economic model to give them access to the resources on which their economies and the quality of life they enjoyed depended. Weakened by the Second World War, plunged into a global ideological contest between capitalism and socialism, and facing the loss of their colonies, Western European countries needed to come together to construct a new global economic model, to ensure that they had continuous access to the resources of their former colonies.

1.2.1. The Post-Colonial World Order

In 1957, the very year Ghana gained full independence and sovereignty, the countries of Europe signed a treaty in Rome to form an economic association of European countries. Not only did they seek

  • To promote European economic unity
  • To develop the economies of member states into a large common market
  • Build a political union of states of Western Europe

which alone could change the architecture of the global economic system:

“The EEC also sought to establish a single commercial policy towards non-member countries, to coordinate transportation systems, agricultural policies, general economic policies and remove measures restricting free competition”.

The treaty of Rome would, in effect, enable European countries to remodel, construct and control global trade and commerce, transportation and value chains, agriculture and exploration of mineral resources, and, thus, weaponized capital investments, knowledge and technology transfer, industrial and economic activities for work and wealth generation in countries across the globe.

Within the new framework and dynamic of world economics, African countries would own their natural resources as independent sovereign countries do, but would require foreign investments, technology transfer, access to global markets, transportation networks and value chains to harness the resources to gain the dividends of freedom and sovereignty, and, thus, be compelled to submit to the rules of European trade and commerce and the regulatory institutions of the capitalist world. Though free of direct colonial rule, African countries would have no more control over their assets and economic development than they had when they were under direct European colonial rule. They would be entrapped in new form of colonialism.

It was for this reason that Nkrumah again cautioned:

“We should not be so pre-occupied with the urgent problems of political independence as to overlook a scarcely less vital sphere – the economic sphere. Yet it is here, more than anywhere else, that we must look for the schemings of a politically frustrated colonialism. On the other hand, it is in the economic field also that we find the key to fruitful cooperation with other nations – at the functional level in the first instance – but leading to full political as well as economic unity that could be built up over wide regions, to extend finally throughout the length and breadth of our beloved continent.

A striking instance of the new Imperialism to which I referred earlier, is the inclusion of certain parts of Africa in common market and trade preference areas set up by industrial Europe, for example, the inclusion of Congo and the French Community states in the European Common Market. The main benefit of this is reaped not by the people of these parts of Africa, who cannot afford the expensive products of industrial Europe, but by European industry which is assured of cheap, tariff-free raw material. Furthermore, the arrangement prevents the building up of industry in Africa which, to survive, needs protection in the early years of its growth from the unequal competition of the industrialised nations” (I Speak of Freedom, 1961: pp. 217-18).

In the structure and dynamics of the new global economy, the economic power of the European community would be such, sovereign African countries would be compelled to develop their resources to improve the quality of life of their populations by entering into asymmetrical power relationships with their former colonial masters and linking their development strategies to the economic policies of Europe. And this is a form a colonialism that African states would find it difficult to extricate themselves from.

2.0. The Systemic Challenges Confronting Sovereign African Countries

In this section, I identify a number of systemic challenges that the tools that European countries used to impose colonial rule on the continent have created for African countries, and discuss some approaches to dealing with them.

2.1.0. The Artificial Boundaries and the creation of Multiethnic States

The colonial boundaries that the European colonial powers fashioned at the Berlin conference had immediate legal force in securing and protecting the territorial rights on the continent. They would become the sovereign boundaries of independent African states and have serious existential implications for the populations of African states.

2.1.1. Creation of Multiethnic population aggregates in Colonial territories

First, the arbitrary boundaries of colonial jurisdictions encircled and brought populations of diverse and often warring ethnic groups to live under a unified system of government, civil administration, common law and legal administration. The ethnic communities were expected to be loyal subjects of their foreign rulers, but they were not encouraged to promote solidarity among themselves.

After gaining independence, the plethora of ethnic groups had to begin to make decisions and act as unified corporate group to manage the affairs of their countries; and this became a serious existential challenge. In principle, the ethnic groups and kingdoms could reclaim their precolonial sovereign status and choose either to stay together as multi-ethnic corporate entities and endeavour to create a system of government and administration to manage their concerns, or to secede and live as separate independent ethnic sovereignties, if they could assure their survival and development. The threat of disintegration of populations that lived together under colonial rule was real and not be underestimated.

In virtually all the new sovereign states of Africa, the departing colonial rulers created conditions and adopted various schemes and stratagems to foment interethnic fears and tensions and make ethnic groups fall apart, to prove that colonialism actually served the greater good of humanity by preventing Africans returning to a state of perpetual internecine wars. Keenly aware of the threat of ethnic conflicts and secessionist movements, the first nationalist leaders of Africa determined that it was of strategic importance for emerging African states to forge unity among their ethnically diverse populations. And how to accomplish this was the issue.

2.1.2. Forging the Multiethnic Nation-State

In the immediate post-independence era, most African leaders believed that the one-party state was the most effective instrument for promoting unity, social stability and accelerated national development. However, the one-party state became more of a problem than a solution. Not only did it compromise the idea of personal sovereignty, freedom of belief, of choice and of association, it also made those in control of the party apparatchik as repressive as the officials of the former colonial power were. As one-party regimes fell, military regimes, coming as liberators, ended constitutional rule, the rule of law and freedom of speech. And autocratic, arbitrary and repressive military government were prone to maladministration, corruption and instability. Indeed, in many countries, ethnic sentiments within the military rank and file fomented ethnic rebellions and secessionist movements; and it became obvious that, the multiethnic nation-state could not be forged by coercion or the use of ‘mechanical force’.

Ghana, the first African country to be free of colonial rule, began as a multiparty unitary state, became a one-party state, came under a number of military regimes, and even attempted to set up “a non-party government”, all in the name of national unity, stability and accelerated development – all to no avail. Ghana eventually returned to the multiparty state system and has since 1992 had a Constitution that has assured stability and successful democratic elections by making provisions to forge national integration by means of “instruments of soft power”. This constitution has lessons to teach other African states on the creation of a working cohesive, stable, dynamic and resilient multiethnic nation-state; and I believe a brief overview is appropriate.

2.1.3. The Ghanaian Constitution and its Strategy of National Integration

To facilitate the building of a stable multiethnic nation-state, the 1992 Constitution of Ghana recognizes two domains of sovereignty: the domain of ethnic sovereignties and the domain of state sovereignty – and brings them into dynamic interaction even as systems in conflict.

·      The Affirmation of the Sovereignty of the Indigenous Communities

In recognition of ethnic sovereignties, the Constitution declares

First, that chieftaincy and its associated norms and practices are guaranteed (Art, 270. (1)); and,

Second, that Parliament cannot make any laws to change any customs and traditions associated with indigenous cultures (270. (2) );

and thus separates and protects the domain of ethnic sovereignties and traditional rule from the domain of state sovereignty and democratic rule.

In terms of rights and freedoms, the Constitution gives the citizens of Ghana the protection of the customs and traditions of ethnic sovereignties, as well as the freedoms and rights of persons under the Constitution and the laws of the state. Thus, while recognizing

  • The right of the citizen to participate in any cultural traditions of their choice; and
  • The freedoms and human and cultural rights of all citizens

the Constitution proclaims a body of fundamental rights and freedoms that the state guarantees to all citizens and protect citizens from customs and traditions that might be injurious to the welfare of the individual.

·      Forging the Multiethnic Nation-State

The Constitution then posits national integration as a strategic objective of state policy thus:

  • “The State shall actively promote the integration of the peoples of Ghana and prohibit discrimination and prejudice on the grounds of place of origin, circumstances of birth, ethnic origin, gender or religion, creed or other beliefs” (Clause 35. (5))
  • “The state shall foster the development of Ghanaian languages and pride in Ghanaian culture” (Clause 39. (3))
  • “The state shall take appropriate measures to foster a spirit of loyalty that overrides sectional, ethnic and other loyalties” (clause 35. (6) a.).

To achieve these objectives, the constitution indicates the following:

·      The Normative Framework of National Integration

To bring the different cultural traditions into harmony, as well as also ensure the participation of ethnic sovereignties in national development,

First, the Constitution provides for the creation of a unified authority structure to bring all traditional councils of chiefs together. The structure has Traditional Councils that come together to form Regional Houses of Chiefs, all of which come together in a National House of Chiefs, able to use chieftaincy as a unifying cultural institution and responsible for codifying and harmonizing the traditional laws of Ghana and ensuring that all customs and traditions injurious to the individual are abolished.

Second, the fundamental right of the people, confirmed under colonial rule, that the lands of Ghana belong to the ethnic groups of Ghana, means that the state cannot have access to any parcel of land except with the concurrence of the chiefs and people to whom the land belongs. This establishes a form of social contract between the state and the land-owning ethnic communities, whereby ethnic communities make available to the state any parcels of land that the state needs to acquire and use for the common good and receive the same when the state no longer needs the land for the intended national use. This makes the sovereignty and power of the diverse sovereign ethnic communities not only the base of the state as a commonwealth of peoples, but also as direct stakeholders in the survival and progress of the country.

·       The Policy Tools of National Integration

To promote unity, pride in Ghanaian culture, and loyalty to the nation the Constitution indicates the following:

  • The Creation of a framework of national values, rooted in the traditional African values and reflecting perceptible continuities, commonalities and similarities among diverse ethnic customs and traditions;
  • The cultivation of collective sense of national identity rooted in our identical world view, values, social institutions, the occupation of the same geographical space and natural environment, and the common history of trade and cultural interactions over generations;
  • The protection and projection of the cultural assets of all ethnic groups as a collective and shared national heritage;
  • Strategies and programmes that would enable the state to deliver the things that represent the common good of society as well as the greater good of each individual or segment of society and, draw people together:

§  Free compulsory universal basic education (F-CUBE);

§  The development of the national economy to benefit all segments of the population equally;

§  Equal access of all citizens to all basic services and utilities;

§  Representation of diversity in the civil service and corporate state institutions: the Military, Police and Judicial services

§  Representation of diversity in Cabinet and governing bodies of all state enterprises and institutions.

Representation of diversity in each corporate public and private institution of the land projects the reality of the multiethnic nation-state at work. In the operation of corporate institutions, members of diverse cultural or ethnic groups wear the identity as Ghanaians and come to experience the reality of working together, and also the benefits they gain from thinking about the nation, making decisions and acting together to identify and deal with their common needs and aspirations. A Ghanaian proverb says: “When you are sitting round a pot of food, you cannot be overlooked”. And another says, “One who does not participate in the search for a rope, always thinks that the rope is to be used to hang him or her”. Corporate institutions and associations, churches, schools and markets, are nodal points for a multiethnic population to develop a collective moral consciousness, a culture of mutual understanding and solidarity, norms of common behaviour and a sense of common destiny.

·      The Means to Implement, Assess and Report the Progress of National Integration

To act on the systemic challenges that the constitution identifies and provides tools for, Ghana produced a National Culture Policy Framework (2004) to identify and engage all stakeholders in various programmes of action. The National Commission on Culture (NCC), the state institution responsible for the promotion, protection, development and presentation of Ghanaian culture, held workshops to develop tools to assess the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT ANALYSIS) of Ghana as multicultural corporate state and find ways to monitor, evaluate, and report on national integration. The vital indices of national integration to monitor were internal migration, the growth of multiethnic settlements (not only in urban areas but also in rural areas), the growth of multilingualism, the growth of multiethnic corporate institutions, representation of diversity in public corporate institutions, interethnic marriages, the decline of ethnic discrimination in employment and promotions in institutions of governance and administration, the decline of ethnic conflicts around the country, the free and participatory celebration of ethnic festivals as national events and equity and justice in the delivery of utilities and vital services across the country. But neither NCC, nor any other body has yet come out with a report on national integration using these indices.

If, as I have attempted to demonstrate, almost all post-colonial countries need strategies to forge unity out of diversity, my point here is that the Constitution of Ghana can teach African countries important lessons about how to construct a unified, cohesive and resilient multiethnic nation-state or at least to get a multiethnic population to work together in harmony or, at least, reduce the threat of ethnic conflicts and national disintegration.

2.2.0 Arbitrary Boundary Lines Divided Ethnic Groups: Post-Colonial States and Ethnic Sovereignties In Conflict

The arbitrary boundaries that brought together multiethnic populations under different colonial jurisdiction, also divided several powerful ethnic groups between contiguous colonial jurisdictions. Following the grant of freedom and independence to colonial territories, divided boundary groups seeking to express and, in some cases, reinstitute their historical corporate sovereignty, threaten the unity and stability of the sovereign states in which their segments lived. And the following are some systemic challenges that they continue to pose across Africa.

First, ethnic groups that lie across state boundaries seek to affirm and express their unity by reconstructing their sovereign space and territorial domain and, thus, claim to have freedom of movement, settlement and access to their lands, forests, rivers and lakes to celebrate their historical festivals and their ties to their ancient homes. To such groups then, the colonial boundaries though legal, do not constitute barriers to their cultural domain, and their affirmation of sovereignty challenges the sovereignty of the contiguous states that their segments live in.

Second, divided boundary groups can and often do consider themselves to belong at once to the two or more states, and thus claim citizenship rights and obligations in two or more contiguous states. Accounts suggest that they might vote in elections in all the countries their segments live in, often necessitating the closing of boundaries when elections take place. Boundary groups also seek to benefit from the education and health services of such contiguous states.

Third, divided boundary ethnic groups are also, at times, viewed with suspicion and treated as either ‘stateless’ or as owing no true allegiance or loyalty to any of the multiple states that they live in. Such groups therefore pose systemic challenges to the operation of the modern state – from the collection of census figures, the issuing of national ID cards and passports to the planning of services and utilities and the collection of taxes. The African state is ill-defined in territorial terms and in population.

Fourth, divided boundary groups also account for the ease that armed conflicts spread from one country to another in many sub-regions of Africa. Armed conflicts that impact on a segment of a boundary group spread by domino effect to all contiguous countries.

However, the divided boundary groups that create such systemic challenges to African states, can also be part of the solution to the stability and progress of African states. In Africa Must Unite (1963), Nkrumah used the challenges that boundary groups pose to the integrity of post-colonial African countries as the one major reason for the urgent need to eliminate the colonial boundaries of Africa and create a total union of African states.

Even as we wait for the total integration of Africa and the creation of continental government, it is already evident that African states are finding responses to the systemic challenges that divided boundary groups pose to the sovereignty of African countries. Besides the populations that live across boundaries, the natural resources, rivers and lakes, forests and animal migration routes and the climate that cross state boundaries are crucial to the economies of African countries and demand to be preserved and used for the common good of contiguous states. The need to manage rain forests, lakes, rivers and migration paths of animals across state boundaries for the collective good of all states, should create good working relationships, joint planning and investments and generate solidarity and peace between contiguous states. States can benefit from sharing energy resources, harnessing water resources, protecting forests and pathways for animal migration, promoting exchange of agricultural produce and ensuring food security, and developing regional transportation systems across boundaries. Divided boundary groups can constitute the connecting links for regional and continental integration. And this is already evident in the West African region, where Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Togo are operationalizing the care and use of their common natural heritage (see Appendix 2: A report on Joint Commissions on Conservation of Rivers and Lakes).

2.3.0. Replacing the Machinery of Colonial Administration with a Machinery of Sovereign Rule – A Major Systemic Challenge

2.3.1. Sovereignty and Change of Apparatus of Command and Control

On the attainment of freedom and sovereignty, the political leaders of African states had to take possession and control of the machine of state administration and govern their country in line with their aspirations; and this would pose several serious systemic challenges. Max Weber wrote:

“When those subject to bureaucratic control seek to escape the influence of the existing bureaucratic apparatus, this is normally possible only by creating an organization of their own which is equally subject to the process of bureaucratization. Similarly, the existing bureaucratic apparatus is driven to continue functioning by the most powerful interests which are material and objective, but also ideal in character … Even in case of revolution by force or occupation by an enemy, the bureaucratic machinery will normally continue to function just as it has for the previous legal government” (1964:338).

In the period before and immediately after independence, the new leaders of African countries could not create new administrative machines to replace the colonial machine of administration. And the reasons are worthy of note.

First, constructing an administrative machine designed as an instrument of sovereign self-government did not lie in the competence or experience of the African leaders. They would tinker with the old colonial machine and make some structural changes, but civil service machine and corporate bureaucracy remained European and colonial in values, mentality, attitude to work, procedures and other unwanted cultural baggage.

Second, the colonial civil service was a foreign institution, set a distance away from the African subject population. Bringing the civil service machine to operate in the context of African culture and national community, to mediate between an African government and civil society, would be a systemic challenge to the conduct of government and administration. The machine of civil service administration, steeped in the values and norms and practices of the colonial masters, would encounter a civil society that was steeped in African traditional values, cultural norms and practices.

In particular, the colonial civil service demanded that interactions between civil servants and members of the public should be ‘indirect, impersonal and formal’. But Africans interacting with African civil servants would expect public officers to deal with them as Africans and be “direct, personal and informal”. This change was paradigmatic: in the African cultural context, the officer was perceived to deliver service or something of value to an individual citizen, and therefore by custom and tradition, worthy of a reward or personal appreciation from the person served. In this clash of cultures and between the modes of compensating public officers lies at the roots of the intractable problem of corruption in African public services.

Third the design and rules of operation of national administration machine and corporate bureaucracy had to take into consideration traditional social and political structures and how to conduct the business of the country to meet the expectations of all segments of the national community. And this would bring the reality of ethnic diversity into the construction and use of the administrative machine.

2.3.2. The Sovereign Population and National Administration

Out of necessity, the leaders of the new sovereign states of Africa had to take possession of the colonial machine to be able to run their countries to the benefit of their people – and this was precarious.

  • The instrument of imperial command and control became the instrument of African self-government, and certain colonial ways of doing things would persist in self-government and sovereign administration. They would rule by the rules and procedures of the colonial machine and make the claim to sovereignty rather questionable. Colonialism did not end with the departure of the colonial rulers: Africa relied on foreign consultants about how to reform and use the colonial machine.
  • The new African governments needed to put Africans in charge of the civil service machine bureaucracy and this would create challenges besides the human resource scarcity. As in the early beginnings of the Christian Church (Acts 6, 1), the multiethnic African state needed to that would promote equity and justice in service delivery and be seen to do so. And the first line of action was to employ officials and reflect the ethnic mix of the population in all Ministries, departments and agencies of the new administration.
  • The colonial powers employed very few Africans in the higher echelons of civil service administration to learn to use the levers of the machine of colonial administration; and so, generally, the African officials available to run the country had little or no professional training and experience in civil administration and also came from a small number of ethnic groups that had schools. The perception that a small minority of ethnic groups had taken power by climbing into positions in the higher echelons of the bureaucracy previously held by European officers, would foment ethnic resentments and religious conflicts sooner or later. The principles of equity and justice demanded that the personnel of public corporate institutions be representative of the multiethnic population to demonstrate the participation of all segments of the sovereign population in government jobs and power sharing; and this resulted in public service bureaucracy that was bloated, inefficient and a burden on the national economy.
  • Where the departing colonial power dismantled the entire machinery of administration and ensured that the state government would have no administrative machine or corporate bureaucracy to perform the business of the country, as was the case of Guinea and Congo Kinshasa, the political leadership had no choice but to install the machine of the nationalist movement, run by untrained party officials, as the country’s civil service and corporate bureaucracy.

The need to reinvent the civil service administration and create a professional, contented and efficient African civil service bureaucracy would persist in many African countries and be at the heart of state collapse.[6]

2.3.3. Conversion of Power Structure between the Civil Service, The Public and the Elected Government

The Colonial Civil Service machinery and corporate bureaucracy operated under the direction of the colonial government to enforce imperial power over the subject population and implement government policies and programmes. It was not accountable to the subject population. After independence the civil service would undergo systemic transformation.

  • The asymmetric power relationship between the civil service and the people would be inverted – the service bureaucracy would be subordinate and accountable to the people. Till the civil servant understood this change, the service would continue to be perceived as in adversarial relationship with the citizen and accused of wanton abuse of power.
  • The civil service would also be subordinate to, and operate under the mandate of, an elected African government, a totally new power entity in the administrative. And the relationship between the hierarchy of the civil service bureaucracy and the elected political administrators, would be fraught with conflicts on account not only of the superior education and experience of the civil servants but also of ethnic, religious, gender or traditional cast differences.
  • The government under whose direction the civil service operates serves under the mandate of the people, in a new relationship. The mandate a people give to political leaders in Africa is to bring wealth and prosperity and becomes transactional – votes for jobs or projects in constituencies or regions. Voting patterns come to determine the distribution of government services and utilities around the country – not a grand plan to distribute these to the general good of the population.

2.4. Multi-Ethnic Countries – and the Enigmas of Democracy

Sovereign African countries encounter a number of systemic challenges in the practice multiparty democracy.

First, the critical issue is how to recognize the continuing power and relevance of African kingdoms and hereditary traditional leaders in a democratic state. To suppress them is to destroy the traditional social fabric that has held population together for generations. In Ghana there is belief that traditional leaders have a role to play in projecting the culture of the people, maintaining peace and order in communities offering leadership in community development and capable of playing a role in bringing harmony and unity between ethnic groups. Elected leaders are therefore to seek the advice of traditional leaders on issues of peace and order and national development. However, since ethnic based politics is a threat to national unity and stability, it is an accepted principle of Ghana’s democratic system that chiefs or traditional leaders should not do party politics, and political personalities should not interfere in chieftaincy affairs. And though it is an open secret that powerful chiefs exert influence on the outcome of presidential and parliamentary election, and though the authority of traditional rulers might conflict with the authority of democratically elected rulers, they are in beneficial cohabitation and dynamic interaction through the provisions of Ghana’s constitution.

Secondly, in multiethnic countries in Africa, “democracy”, “the government of the people, by the people, for the people”, creates a major systemic challenge: the principle of ‘one person one vote’ that gives all citizens equality of power, can become a principle for perpetuating the dominance of large groups in over minority ethnic groups. The relative numerical strength of ethnic groups makes the demographic profile of a population into a permanent unjust socio-political structure, as voting along ethnic lines would establish the bigger groups as perpetual ruling class over ethnic minorities. This is not cured by prohibiting the formation of political parties on ethnic or regional lines; for political parties would pander to the fears and aspirations of ethnic groups and establish their strongholds in ethnic domains.

Democracy would become meaningful when over time ethnic barriers fall and the enlarged educated population and large professional and public interest groups and associations form to focus national discourse on the general good of the nation and how to establish genuine administrative justice across the entire country.

Third, in post-colonial countries, democratic governance is enhanced through a system of local government and decentralised administration. However, so important is national unity and cohesion to the survival of the multi-ethnic state in Africa that in the minds of many political leaders, centralization represents unity and strength and decentralization fragmentation, disunity and lack of focus on the greater good of all. In this regard, local government structures might bring the authority of elected leaders into conflict with the authority of unelected traditional rulers. Therefore, at the level where traditional authorities can use their influence to support local development, they have no role in the formal structures of local government. Local government is flawed, if it brings chiefs into local councils of elected persons – as the voice of the people would be muted; and it is flawed, if it excludes from local councils the chiefs who possess the resources and loyalty of their communities.

2.5. Cultural Instruments of Colonial Rule

To establish effective control of their colonial territories and exploit their human resources, each European colonial power imposed on their colonies a language for government and administration. A tool of administration, official communication, trade and commercial activities, the official language set apart the rulers from the subject people, and for Africans aspiring to European jobs the most important content of western education and cultivation. The language of the colonizer also became the tool for introducing a new world view, values, attitudes, modes of thought and behaviour to sections of the subject population, gradually bringing them under European cultural hegemony. It was unthinkable for an African to wear European dress, live in European towns, enjoy European food and drink, have European social life, confess the Christian faith and celebrate marriage with Christian and European rites and not speak the language of the European colonizers.

The European colonial masters are gone, but African countries live with the legacy of colonial mental subjugation, because of the continuing use of European languages in all important aspects of national life. The dominance of the colonial language in national affairs has become an obstruction to the equality of all citizens. It has become an obstruction to meaningful and effective participation of all citizens in government and administration; and it challenges the concept of equality before the law and the equal rights of citizens to elect and be elected to public office. It also challenges equality of access to government services and resources and equality of opportunity.

And the greater paradox is this. Most African countries are offering free, compulsory basic education to all citizens, not only as a fundamental right, but also as a means of ensuring the empowerment of all citizens as sovereigns to participate in the democratic process and enjoy equality of opportunity. But as the population is receiving education in the language of the former colonial masters, they are losing the ability to think and communicate as Africans. Indeed, African countries are abandoning all that makes us African and are indeed freely submitting to a new form of neocolonialism – as through cultural hegemony, we accept foreign values and fashions and become subject to economic manipulation. Africans should see the preservation and development of African languages and cultural traditions as not only a bulwark against continued colonial rule and cultural hegemony, but also the basis of sustainable national development.

2.6. The Colonial Construction of African Economies and their Major Challenges

Colonial rule across Africa connected the economies of colonial territories to the economies of imperial countries; and post-independence African countries continue to be linked to the economies of their former rulers. Most African countries are primary producers, exporting raw materials to feed industries in European countries. African countries also have to depend on foreign trade with European countries and make up for the shortfalls in their annual budgets with foreign aid and loans from European countries. They are therefore constrained to formulate their economic policies and development strategies in line with the policies of their former colonial masters. This is loss of sovereignty and a serious form of neocolonialism.

However, this alone does not account for why self-government and political sovereignty has not brought about economic sovereignty. In east and central Africa, where European settlements developed, Africans did not only lose their right of ownership and access to the land, they also lost the basis of their cultural existence and identity. The economic marginalization and poverty of Africans, and the displacement of populations and destruction of indigenous communities and their cultural life, would prove difficult to reverse or correct after independence. In many central and southern African countries, the ownership of land has remained the central issue of African economic empowerment and quest for genuine freedom and sovereignty.

In West Africa, however, the picture was different. In Ghana, as a case in point, the land issue emerged in the early stages of the British colonial project. The British attempted to vest all lands of Ghana in the Crown, indeed, in the British government and people. But the coastal chiefs and educated elites resisted the move and got the British to accept that, as a matter of custom and tradition, all the lands of Ghana belong to the chiefs and ethnic communities of Ghana. And the people’s ownership of land has been the principal factor in the economic and political development of the country.

In his motion to parliament, on the approach to independence, Kwame Nkrumah made this statement:

“The source of our prosperity, the cocoa industry, was not developed for us by the British or by any expatriate commercial interests. The first cocoa was brought to the Gold Coast by an African, Tetteh Quarshie, and the industry has been in the hands of Africans throughout … The political forces in this country and the demand for Independence are based upon agriculture and industry which have been established by the people of this country without outside help”(I Speak of Freedom: p. 82, 83).

The lesson from the growth of the cocoa industry is that, the cultivation of cocoa was undertaken by indigenous communities, who relied on their communal ownership of land, their indigenous knowledge of the soils, vegetation, climate, the system of traditional agriculture, local tools and methods of planting alone. They relied on traditional systems of capital formation and share cropping, the use of traditional marriage and family members to manage farms and the use of traditional law and the authority of chiefs to settle conflicts and manage disputes.

The only critical element that the cocoa industry lacked was a local consumer market. Dependence on European consumers left the farmers at the mercy of foreign markets and operators who determined the price of the crop as they wished. Even so, with the ownership of land, local knowledge, technology and tools of production, the largely illiterate population of Ghana established a thriving cocoa industry and created jobs and wealth to transform their lives and the economy of the country.

The growth of the cocoa industry in Ghana gives us a clue on how African countries can use local resources to create jobs, wealth and national prosperity – and greatly reduce exposure to neocolonialist control. African countries can use the model of the cocoa industry to propagate other crops, not for Europe but for an African continental markets and cut our dependency on food imports which generate jobs and wealth for other countries.

3.0. The Way Forward

The challenges that African countries face as a result of the tools that European colonial powers established for colonial rule on the African continent persist and are being continually enforced by a global economic system that exposes African countries to exploitation. While Africa holds the key to its own prosperity and the survival and prosperity of the world, it is evident that the world economic system has to change.

3.1. African countries can attain economic sovereignty by taking ownership of their own resources as capital for local production of the necessaries of life. The basis of a self-reliant African continental economy exists:

  • Land ownership and management in indigenous communities
  • Forests – protected, maintained and sustainably exploited using traditional methods and local practices
  • Rivers and lakes to be managed to provide water security
  • Great renewable energy resources to develop to establish regional (e.g. West Africa Energy Pool)
  • Indigenous agriculture and the propagation of indigenous staples for food security
  • Great heritage of traditional/herbal medicine to develop African pharmaceutical industries
  • Indigenous sciences, technologies and industries
  • Traditional cross border/interstate trade routes and markets
  • Etc.

With practical strategies formulated at State, Regional and Continental levels using these resources, African countries can together attain: Food Security; Water Security; Energy Security; Forests and Biodiversity Protection; Climate Protection; Animal Migration Routes and Production, Trade and Commerce in cultural goods.

The question then arises: How can independent African states obtain foreign investments to develop their great wealth of natural resources and remain free of neocolonialist control and exploitation? How do African countries develop partnerships for economic development based on equity and justice and recognition of their sovereignty?

3.2. The Quest for a New World Economy that Promotes Justice and Equity and Guarantees the Sovereignty and Freedom of African Countries

Nkrumah posited that African unity was the ultimate strategic solution to the enigma that faced post-colonial sovereign African countries – the willing acceptance of neocolonialist strategies and partnerships for African development. He was aware, however, that a united Africa would need foreign investments to develop the resources of the continent. He wrote:

“But Africa must be developed industrially, for her own sake and ultimately for the sake of a healthy world economy. This can only happen if the artificial boundaries that divide her are broken down so as to provide for viable economic units, and ultimately a single African unit”.

And he went on to explain:

…International capital could be attracted to such viable economic areas, but it would not be attracted to a divided and balkanised Africa, with each small region engaged in senseless and suicidal economic competition with its neighbours. This international capital would more than offset any loss of capital from those who want to invest in Africa only when they can see quick and immediate profit in it for themselves, and who fear the industrial competition of a developed Africa” (ibid. 218).

If “Africa must be developed industrially, for her own sake and ultimately for the sake of a healthy world economy”, implicitly Nkrumah was calling for a global development agenda that would reflect the principles of equity and justice between the nations of the world. He was thus demanding a remodeling of the global economic system to ensure that the development of the world’s resources, not only in Africa, but anywhere in the world, would bring about shared prosperity and the collective good of all countries and of humanity. This moral dimension, the pursuit of equity and justice in the sharing of benefits of the resources of the world, was missing in the agenda of the Rome agreement that gave birth to the European Economic Community.

Confronted by the threat of climate change, the destruction of the ozone layer, the degradation of rain forests, the loss of eco-diversity and the survival of human life, the world is on the threshold of a new industrial revolution and requires a new global economic system that can work to the common good of all countries. Because of its population, vast lands, mineral resources, rain forests, great rivers and lakes, flora and fauna, climate, renewable energy resources, agricultural potential and food resources, Africa, the cradle of the human race and human culture, could play a vital role in human survival, and in shared world prosperity. But Africa could once again become a victim of exploitation.

As foreign capital flows into Africa, to assure the collective good of all nations, the exploration and use of Africa’s resources should be guided by a moral charter and regulatory framework that all nations can implement. And key among the principles of this charter should be:

  • Human personal and Community Wellbeing – housing, health, education, work and social security
  • Land and Nature Conservation
  • Protection of local water resources – rivers, lakes, underground basins and oceans
  • Food production and food security for populations across the continent
  • Development and use of renewable energy resources
  • Transparent, Just and Equitable distribution of the gains of investment

To which end, every development programme and project should undertake end meet international standards of

  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Carbon footprint assessment
  • Cultural impact assessment
  • Local Content Assessment

The benefit of such a regulatory framework is that, first, it is holistic and covers the basic development needs of developing countries; second, it promotes sustainable use of resources and protects the environment; third, it demands equity between foreign investors and state parties with vital resources to develop; and fourth, it makes binding demands not only on foreign investors, but also on African states themselves, to assure that the resources of a country for benefit the citizens of African countries and as well as the global community.

4.0.       Summary and Conclusion

African countries continue to face challenges due to the impact of the tools of European colonial project: artificial boundaries, multiethnic populations that can fall apart; the machinery of administration not designed for self-government, and economies tied to and controlled by former colonial countries. Solutions for these problems must be found within the context of a new global economic system.

Nkrumah proposed that, to avoid and resist neocolonialist entrapment, Africa must unite and develop its resources sustainably. He was however candid to recognise that a united Africa would still need foreign capital investments to develop its industries and have a place in the global market. In effect, African countries cannot develop their economies except within an African context; and within the global market. It is imperative on the world community to create a global economic system that would make foreign investments available to African countries without loss of sovereignty.

This conference seems to suggest that the time has come for the nations of the world to more deliberately construct world economic system to achieve the survival of humanity – and to do so in a way that does not divide the world and subordinate one group of countries to another.


I wish to thank the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences for inviting me to participate in this very important summit which has looked at the unfortunate impact of colonization and neocolonialism.

I am also grateful to Maria Hagan for the secretarial services.


1. Buah F.K., A History of Ghana, 1998; Government in West Africa, 2005.

2. Evans-Pritchard E.E., Witchcraft Oracles and Magic Among the Azande 1937; Nuer Religion, 1956; Essays in Social Anthropology, 1962.

3. Freund, B., The Making of Contemporary Africa, Mac Millan 1989.

4. Horton Robin and Ruth Finnegan (Eds), Modes of Thought, 1973.

5. Lienhardt, G., Divinity and Experience, the Religion of the Dinka, 1961; Social Anthropology, London, OUP, 1964.

6. Mazrui A.A., The African Condition (The Reith Lectures) Heinemann, London, 1980.

7. Milne June, Kwame Nkrumah: A Biography, PANAF, 2000.

8. Nkrumah Kwame, Autobiography, 1957; I speak of Freedom, 1961; Africa Must Unite, 1963; Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, 1965.

9. Rivier Peter, “The Formative Years: The Committee for Anthropology 1905-38” in Peter Rivier (Ed.), A History of Oxford Anthropology, 2007.

10. Weber Max: The Theory of Social and Economic Organisation…Translated by A.M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons, Edited with Introduction by Talcott Parsons, OUP, New York. 1980.

11. Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992.


  1. The industrial revolution which British began in the 18th century followed by other European countries would have made them aggressively seek for raw materials, especially when they started losing their colonies in the Americas.
  2. In the Algerian Struggle for independence, Nkrumah countered the French slogan “L’Algerie Francaise” with “Africa is not an Extension of Europe”.
  3. The first Department of Social Anthropology was established in the Gold Coast civil service and recruited a long list of social anthropologists to study the cultures of the people. Notably, Kofi Abrefa Busia, the first Ghanaian Professor of Social Anthropology, was employed in this department before he joined the University of Ghana and established the study of social anthropology in the Department of Sociology.
  4. After independence, to promote the study of African cultures and history (which British historians and social anthropologists taught cultures without writing did not have), Nkrumah established the first Institute of African studies in Africa, where, significantly, instead of ‘Social Anthropology’, students could take a course titled “African Social and Political Systems”.
  5. The term ‘Neocolonialism’ was coined by Kwame Nkrumah, who went on to expatiate on it in his book Neo-colonialism: The Last stage of Imperialism (1965).
  6. Kwame Nkrumah established an Institute of Management and Public Administration to train professional civil servants and public administrators to meet the manpower needs of Ghana and other newly independent African countries. But he had to rely on professionals from many countries to stabilize the administration of the country in the early days of the country.