Q: How did colonialism shape development, and what can post-colonial countries do to reshape development processes?’Colonialism’ refers to an ideological policy by which a nation justifies domination over another dependent, indigent one in terms of exerting political influence, economic exploitation and territorial control. This international phenomenon dates back to 15th century from where onwards it compassed around the globe and stretched across time, enveloping and developing coasts of Africa, Middle East, East Asia and terrains of the subcontinent. First wave of European Colonization was identified as ‘Age of Discovery’, a commencement of globalization and exploration of overseas after which the phase of ‘New Imperialism’ surfaced, marked by colonial expansion. Some of the most important, competitive colonial countries were Spain, Portugal, France and Great Britain, each having its own distinct motives but simultaneously, there were some mutual stimuli – from instilling foundations of Christianity into hearts of people to opening new routes for lucrative trade and upholding pride and prestige over conquered lands. Generally, 18th and 19th colonial activities focused on extraction of raw materials and in 20th century, interests transitioned to industrialization.
Modernization theorists argue that advent of British Rule in the subcontinent brought with a chance of socio-economic development as can be seen in formation of extensive networks of roads, railways and establishment of East India Company (EIC) to regulate trade, particularly in spices. Courts were constituted in British colonies for establishment of law and order, calling for recruitment of professional lawyers and succeeded in reducing crime rates. Malaysia, for example, had extremely powerful legal administrative institutions in parts of the Malaya Peninsula.
Whereas the French Administration in Africa began projects of opening mines and allowed intervention of experts into fields of medicines and herbs. (Bado, 1996) Factories and industries were found for the manufacture of goods. Government invested in exploration of new methods of irrigation, introducing effective fertilizers to boost agricultural output.However, we cannot overlook the fact that these developments were inducted, with the aim of exercising colonial power and not to actually uplift the dire state of colonies. Moreover, some colonial countries were more active in spreading their sovereignty, particularly Britain and USA, in contrast to Belgium and so took lead in the progression of Third World countries.
Besides basic infrastructural facilities such as sanitation, public schools like University of Philippines and Philippine Normal College during American colonial rule of Philippines were established with the medium of instruction being English. In 2010, CPH showed that 97.5% of the 71.5 million individuals in Philippines, 10 years or older, were literate.
Under American regime, hospital, clinics and health centers were also instituted for health security, focally for the treatment of lepers. (Regalado, 2012)Critics point out that according to recent literature, territories with relatively high-levels of development before colonialism, declined during and after the period of colonialism. (Acemoglu et al. 2002) According to a research from McGill University, Brown University and Northwestern University – reversal of economic development took place from 1750 to 1850 for the Spanish American colonies, the British settler colonies, and the British colonies in Asia. Whereas from 1850-1950, this overturn occurred for British colonies for West Indies and Africa. The situation in 16th and 17th century was such that merchant guilds or ‘consulados’ monopolized trade in Spanish colonies by underpaying producers, overcharging customers, and stifling market competition. (Brading 1971; Kicza 1983). This assisted certain economic elites of highly-populated colonial centers at the expense of peripheries of empire.
So when Bourbons eased trade in 18th century by curtailing tax and tariffs, these protected elites could not compete in global markets. Moreover, with their precarious shift to capitalism, industrial development was restricted as local industries were stimulated solely for export production to colonial countries. Thus, attempts of Bourbon monarchs to revamp Spanish America was what prompted decline in levels of economic development. Colonial powers tended to demean human rights as can be seen in Mexico and Peru. In Mexico, the notorious ‘Encomienda’ was a legal system by which Spanish aristocrats were entitled to labor services by Indian population, which soon took form of enslavement, oppression and persecution as encomenderos began taking control of Indian lands.
Similarly, in Peru, ‘Repartimiento’ or ‘Mita’ was a system by which Spanish crown allowed recruitment of male indigenous population, by certain colonists, for forced labor in farms and mines. Furthermore, for accumulation of revenue, heavy taxes were also unfairly imposed on the natives. (Stern, 1993.) This was the case for colonial centers but in the peripheries, military campaigns for elimination and extermination of the local people took place. Conclusively, it was ensured that social development was hindered in areas where there was abundant indigenous population. From 1945 to 1960, process of decolonization unraveled and many colonies managed to achieve autonomy but, did they really disentangle themselves from the clutches of supremacy? In post-colonial era, Filipinos were Americanized to the extent that they began undermining their own nationality. Americans left their imprints as Filipinos welcomed a complete reversal of wardrobe, by adopting attire of polo-shirts for men and high-heels for women, and their way of greeting shifted to typical American-styled ‘hellos’.
‘Pagmamano’, an honoring gesture in Filipino culture, as a show of respect for elders, gradually settled to simply kissing on cheeks. Despite attainment of so-called freedom, Philippine culture has been irreversibly blended and bridged with that of Americans.Let’s take an example of post-colonial era in India that emerged after gaining independence from British Empire in 1947, subsequent of many rebellions following the Indian Mutiny in 1857. Unfortunately, Indians remained mentally enslaved and tied to English customs as they were unable to revive the essence of Indian culture. Thomas Babington laid foundations for western education system with English language as a compulsion. No doubt, proficiency in English paved way for boom in call-centers and software industries. But, Indians began to relate it to being ‘posh’ and ‘upper-class’, and English became merely a measure of intelligence. Today Indians fail to acknowledge the power and magic of the scripts and epics of the mother of all languages, Sanskrit, originated in their own land.
Presently, Africa still has scars in the form of borders devised in the Berlin Conference of 1885 which fragmented it into artificial states. On 6th April, 2012 the Tuareg tribe declared independence from Mali, calling their nation-state Awazad. Struggles like these impede developmental process.
These scars penetrate deep as they create natural rifts like cultural-conflicts, language-barriers, communication-gaps and other norms spread throughout the horns of Africa. African Union (AU) can mitigate this issue by designing non-arbitrary boundaries so that the segregated communities get a chance to homogenize. To minimize differences, agencies of government must also devise policies that accommodate all the sects of society independent of class/racial degradation.British colonies of Africa such as Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, present-day The Republic of the South Sudan, underwent a decentralization in education during the colonial period, making it cheaply accessible to the indigents. Furthermore, at primary school, the curriculum was taught in local vernacular with English as a side course and this flexible system booted enrolment as well as literacy rates in the early post-colonial phase. However, soon enough education started to be undervalued as the market didn’t provide sufficient jobs for the competent professionals, and if there was any employment at all, it was at very low wages. Annual Education Census (AEC) revealed that from 2013 to 2016, NER – net enrolment ratio dropped by 10% in South Sudan. In order to alleviate this crisis, governments of African nations must take the initiative by expanding their market adequately to suit their employment-needs as well as revise their educational programs up-to-mark and according to the need of time.
Moreover, South Sudan is rich in oil supplies and has China as its trade partner. The colossal exports to China can be invested in through labor from both the South Sudanese and the Chinese. Furthermore, African states should focus on building up their industries not just for export purposes but for their own indigenous industrial development. This shall improve socio-economic situation in the nation and propel it in the trajectory of development and progress.