Post Colonialism in Africa


             African countries have so much but continue to have so little. As a matter of fact, resource-rich African countries are underdeveloped today. “Scramble for Africa” designates the process by which European powers colonized and divided the continent in the 19th century. The main rulers concerned were France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Other countries such as Italy, Portugal, Belgium, and Spain, also participated, still, not as much as the latter. “Scramble for Africa” insists on the competitive character between colonial powers. It is during these few years that formalities have been instituted in many current African territories. This division was symbolized by the Berlin Conference (1884-1885), even though this conference merely set rules and did not proceed to partition. This division has most often resumed patterns previously established, sometimes altering them.

        The second half of the 19th century, beginning in 1877, saw the transition from informal imperialism, characterized by the military influence and economic dominance, towards centralized governance and direct domination. Relations between European powers about Africa at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries can be regarded as emblematic of the events leading up to World War I. To understand how we got there, why there is a need to divide African colonial economies and societies into different categories, we need to understand the legacy left by Western domination. After African countries gained independence, there has been the poor performance of their economies. Many scholars have tried to understand why it is this region of the world that has recorded the worst economic performance since the 1960s.


Literature Review 

          While conducting my research, I have come to the conclusion that there is one main debate with two different approaches: Western-centric vs. Third World. Some scholars argue that there are very few existing pieces of literature from the ‘Third World’ perspective. This leads to the belief that there are no “global voices” in the dialogues of IR (Abrahamsen, R., 2007). As a matter of fact, there is a dominance of the Western-centric character of mainstream IR, while on the other hand, very few anti-colonial writings of the ‘Third World’ (Abrahamsen, R., 2007). Linking current failure to colonial past and pre-colonial failure to prevent colonization suggests that African states are defined by colonialism because they exist as postscripts at the end of colonialism. Transitions were marked by incomplete adoption of the Westphalian nature as it was never completely developed. Now, we have a “weird hybrid of the colony, sovereign state, and pre-colonial ideology” (Elizabeth A., Klesmith, 2014).

       However, writings of the Third World argue that there has been a struggle for independence, and a lot of violence entailed in colonial oppression. All these writers have shown that colonial powers and their civilizing mission have shown contradictions and inconsistencies (Abrahamsen, R., 2007). Since then, African scholars argued that this practice continued even after independence in the continent. A number of challenges face the continent in the 21st century. These include “colonial legacy, foreign aid, foreign direct investment (FDI), the climate change debate, Africa and the challenge of the MDGs, and cultural diplomacy as a new tool” (Farah I., Kiamba S. and Mazongo K., 2011).

          While other scholars justify that the lack of development was caused by three main reasons. First, in the past, only wealthy families had access to education. Second, arbitrary borders have been established by the colonial rulers in the past, which have caused the widespread conflict to say the least.  Finally, actions taken by outside groups are the majority of self-interest (Mann, M., 2012). Adding to this, they believe that colonization has caused many negative aspects African countries are witnessing today. Indeed, they have the lowest access to running water, high famine rates, low literacy, and education levels. These issues stem from their roots as post-colonial nations naturally, through arbitrary borders that cause conflict (Mann, M., 2012). In fact, it is believed that colonization distorted and retarded the “pace and tempo” of cultural growth and the trend of civilization in Africa. The consequences of colonization have resulted in political instability in the colonies, which led to a cultural gap between the beneficiary nations and victims of the practice. The era of colonization pillage led to the relative stagnation and often decline of traditional cultural pursuits in the colonies (Farah I., Kiamba S. and Mazongo K., 2011).



       The colonial period modified deeply pre-colonial African political orders, marginalizing the traditional authorities by denying them any legitimacy. The colonizers attempted to introduce and manage a system of societies, with the explicit objective of benefiting from effective control of the continent’s political and economic systems. The settlement of the conquered lands will be progressively presented as legitimate and historically necessary policy in order to allow the progress of nations and to support the “illumination” of the colonized (Petithomme, M., 2007). Post-colonialism is also certain of its responsibility and duty toward other members of the international community. Post-colonialism, aspires to a different kind of universalism, one based on deliberation and contestation among diverse political entities, with the aim of reaching functional agreement on questions of global concern (Seth, S., 2011). International interest in the promotion of political rights, elimination of dictatorships, and support of democratic governance are growing.

        In International Law, this interest is manifested in international conventions and practices that devote attention to the right of political self-determination (Alshammari, Y.). Many researchers have made contributions to the right of self-determination of colonial peoples both to demand secession from domination by an outside force or for autonomy and even access to the right of political self-determination for all the people to choose the form or method of the ruling authority that runs the country (Alshammari, Y.). However, Article 2/7 of the UN Charter does not allow the organization to intervene in matters that are essentially within the internal sovereignty of a country. The principle of non-intervention faces stiff opposition based on the need to protect human rights and the international community’s responsibility to do so (Alshammari, Y.). The international community has taken many steps that have led to the weakening of traditional manifestations of sovereignty, especially the principle of non-intervention. In addition, many organizations have adopted a number of international resolutions and policies that perpetuate the ongoing transformation of the principle of non-intervention (Alshammari, Y.). Adding to this, terms such as the West or Africa emerged in recognition of the relationship one to another (Abrahamsen, R., 2007). It has established ‘Third World’ countries as objects of intervention and normalized the right of the North to intervene and control, adapt and reshape the structures, practices, and ways of life of the South (Abrahamsen, R., 2007).

         Moreover, the colonial imagery has resulted in establishing failed states as “deficient, abnormal, and lacking, and thereby reinforces the identity of the West as democratic, rational, and morally superior” (Abrahamsen, R., 2007) Therefore, the West has responsibility for conditions installed in colonies leading to failures and chaos (Abrahamsen, R., 2007). The West also has a role in the weakening of the capacities, and integrity of these states, it seems like The West remains the ‘doctor’ able to ‘prevent’ and ‘cure’ (Abrahamsen, R., 2007). The state recognized by the international community has failed in its Weberian duty but has more external legitimacy than internal. The legal philosophy it is asked to protect differs from the ideology of the individuals it has been called upon to protect. The effectiveness of the international system and the international community cannot be achieved without taking into account and its unique perspectives and narratives (Elizabeth A., Klesmith, 2014).

Statement of Significance

        The Western world has a role and shared blame in weakening the African continent. It seems that there is a denial of taking full responsibility and rather a focus on each superpower’s national interest. African countries are very rich in natural resources but they are still the poorest and most undeveloped countries in the entire globe. There is not enough emphasis on possible solutions to recover countries that have been devastated by colonization and where most of them got independence only in the mid 20th century. Therefore, to what extent does the international community have a legal responsibility to protect and intervene in countries affected by postcolonialism? The special African doctrine has tormented the continent. Still, is this doctrine still existing now? There is a common responsibility to protect in terms of institutions and emergent doctrine, not only by the Western world itself but the entire international community.

        The special case of France and its former colonies in Africa is an example to portray issues in a post-colonial era. France covered much of North and West Africa. After the independence of former French colonies, in the 1960s, France kept its troops based in Africa, businesses, political, linguistic, and personal ties with former colonies. It gave France a more important place in the world. Just before France conceded to African demands for independence in the 1960s, it carefully organized its former colonies (CFA countries) in a system of “compulsory solidarity” (Jabbar, S., 2013). Nowadays, many African migrants and refugees are trying to reach Europe and the “developed world” in order to look for better living standards. However, many of them are being denied and rejected, if not dehumanized. Whether they are being migrants or refugees, their living conditions can be horrific. They are running away from war, poverty, terrorism, and persecution. In fact, Europe is facing its most significant refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War.

Research Question

       The research question I intend to answer is: What harm effects of colonization and its continuity, does France have a responsibility to correct with former colonies?

          In order to understand the weakening of African countries, we have to back in history. Colonization is to be considered as having both advantages and disadvantages regarding countries that have been victims of imperialism. The fact that African countries are very rich in natural resources but very unstable is to be questioned. As a matter of fact, France has instituted a continuation colonization pact with former colonies including 11 components since the 1950s (e.g. obligation to rally with France in global crisis or war). France still has power and control regarding late colonies. The problem is to question whether there is a responsibility to correct the negative impacts left by the colonization of France. With the migrant and refugee crisis the world, and especially Europe is facing, most of the influx is coming from African countries towards Europe. African countries are facing situations in which populations are forced to flee in the hope of building a better future, in countries actually responsible for their current situation.

        The answer to the question would be that: French colonization has produced harm effects on former African colonies, therefore, France should correct or at least contribute to improving African countries’ conditions. Colonization is one of the main factors explaining the African countries’ economic situation (poverty and instability). The second part of the answer deals with the fact that France has a responsibility in correcting the harm effects made by colonization. As a matter of fact, France and most of the countries belonging to the Western World, still detain power on African countries. Some agreements are still installed and resources from Africa are being exploited. As for France, by keeping tight relationships with African countries, and being aware of the benefits from this continent, a positive relationship is in order.

         In order to justify that, we need to understand the roots of the issue. That is why going back to history is the first step to do. As a matter of fact, the history of colonization and the post-colonial era are closely linked and helpful to understand what effects France made to African countries. Following this, if these effects are mainly negative and provoked by the hegemonic world, there is no doubt that a common responsibility and blame need are to be shared.



          From the 17th century until the 1960s, France had colonial possessions. From the 19th until the 20th century, its global colonial empire was the second largest after the British Empire. Nowadays, the remnants of this large empire are various islands and archipelagos located all around the world. Indeed, some are located in the North Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific, the North Pacific, and the Antarctic Ocean, as well as one mainland territory in South America (New World Encyclopedia, 2013). In the past, France’s influence was also expanded in North Africa. It was this that launched the “Scramble for Africa”, where the largest slice of the territory was under French rule. French control was established over much of Northern, Western, and Central Africa by the turn of the century (including the modern nations of Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo), as well as the east African coastal enclave of Djibouti (New World Encyclopedia, 2013). Just before France gave independence to African countries in the 1960s, it carefully organized its former colonies (CFA countries) in a system of “compulsory solidarity”.

            This was established under the “Colonial Pact”. It set up the common currency for the Francophone countries (CFA Franc) but not only. It also demanded each of the 14 countries to deposit 65% of their foreign exchange reserves in the French Treasury in Paris. Adding to this, a 20% deposit for financial liabilities. The African nations, therefore, have only access to 15% of their own money for national development in any given year. It is also the “Colonial Pact” requesting that France has the first right to buy or reject any natural resources found in the land of the Francophone countries.


          Overall the “Colonial Pact” gives the French a dominant and privileged position over Africa. Outside parliament, almost all basic utilities such as water, electricity, telephone, transport, ports, and banks, are run by French companies. It goes for commerce, construction, and agriculture. Thus, these African states are French taxpayers, yet the citizens of these countries are not French and do not have access to the public goods and services their money helps pay for (Jabbar, S., 2013).


Below are the 11 main components of the Colonization Continuation Pact since the 1950s:

  1. Colonial Debt for the benefits of France colonization
  2. Automatic confiscation of national reserves
  3. Right of first refusal on any raw or natural resource discovered in the country
  4. Priority to French interests and companies in public procurement and public biding
  5. Exclusive right to supply military equipment and Train the country military officers
  6. Right for France to pre-deploy troops and intervene military in the country to defend its interests
  1. Obligation to make French the official language of the country and the language for education
  2. Obligation to use France colonial money FCFA
  3. Obligation to send France annual balance and reserve report
  4. Renunciation to enter into a military alliance with any other country unless authorized by France
  5. Obligation to ally with France in a situation of war or global crisis


         In March 2008, former French President Jacques Chirac said: “Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of third world power”. Chirac’s predecessor François Mitterrand already prophesied in 1957 that: “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century” (Koutonin, M-R., 2014). As a matter of fact and as mentioned before, France’s colonial Empire covered much of North and West Africa, from Algeria to Ivory Coast. The colonies were gradually granted independence in the 1960s, but to this day, France still has troops based in Africa and close business, political, linguistic, and personal ties to its former colonies, which as a whole gives France more importance in the world. For example, Achille Mbembé, a Cameroonian-born historian, said that France continued to support African dictators, mentioning the leaders of Gabon, Cameroon, Congo, Chad, and Togo. He saw “continuity in the management of Françafrique, this system of reciprocal corruption, which, since the end of colonial occupation, ties France to its African henchmen” (Koutonin, M-R., 2014).

          On the other hand, some individuals discuss the fact that France had positive effects on African countries. At the end of the colonial period, France also focused its efforts on training since 96% of teachers were African at the time of independence. In terms of health, many diseases have been eradicated by the French presence. By 1960, France had built 2000 functioning dispensaries in Africa, 600 maternities, 40 hospitals in Africa, and Madagascar. At decolonization, territories colonized by France in Africa had a number of infrastructures (maternity hospitals, railways, roads, ports, airfields, schools) built under the colonial administration. Some personalities, therefore, note the “positive” character of colonization, which others dispute. For example, France’s parliament has voted to uphold a law referring to the country’s painful colonial past as “a positive enterprise”. The law requires that “school programs recognize in particular the positive character of the French overseas presence, notably in North Africa” mandating, in effect, that French schoolchildren now and in the future celebrate their country’s imperial past. France has never asked forgiveness for the crimes it committed under colonization (Jabr, S., 2006)


          The bipolar world that was established after the Second World War was favorable to the emancipation of colonized peoples. Some countries gained their independence more easily than others who have to wrest from it at the cost of long and deadly wars. But the context of the Cold War is not conducive to a true organization of the new independent.

        In the 1960s, those states that tried to organize themselves in the non-aligned movement saw their political project move towards taking development issues into account. The will to create a new international economic order is not resistant to political and economic tensions (first oil shock). In the 1980s, decolonization was completed, but the dream of an international order in which the demographic weight of the ‘Third World’ would be taken into account, was undermined. The hopes aroused by independence among the colonized peoples have hardly been met. The colonized countries have certainly conquered their political emancipation, but some have remained economically dependent on the former metropolises and, in general, on the industrialized countries. We have even spoken of “neo-colonialism” to describe these new dependencies, and one wonders why the end of the Cold War did not endorse the transition from an East-West global opposition to a North-South opposition.


          The most significant consequence of decolonization in Africa was the change in the political map of the continent. African countries faced many problems related to their socio-economic backwardness, including the lack of qualified personnel (Beihami, H. & Meifa, F., 2014). An issue that plagues these countries is their unnatural borders completely bypass local ethnic structure, plotted arbitrarily by the colonial powers in the 19th century. In the post-colonial era, this resulted in a number of ethnic and religious conflicts (Beihami, H. & Meifa, F., 2014). The former metropolises did not abandon their behavior impacts on the economy and politics of their former colonies, maintaining their relationship in the form of so-called “neo-colonialism”. The weakness of state institutions contributed to the growth of corruption and frequent political upheavals, leading to the authoritarian rule of violent nature (Beihami, H. & Meifa, F., 2014). All these factors have contributed to economic and political instability in independent African countries. Currently, the world’s highest urban population growth is recorded in Africa. Such large cities generate a variety of problems, such as lack of access to clean water, sanitation, health, and education, and so on so forth.


        In a post-colonial era where African countries are extremely undeveloped, many individuals try to migrate to Europe. There are many causes of migration, which are in fact closely related to colonization. Since decolonization, there has been an accentuation of underdevelopment. For example, Sub-Saharan Africa needs to import the majority of the industrial and consumer products it needs. These have high costs, due to the sharp devaluation of most currencies. Also, the external debt is rising dangerously. In addition, the food crops that must feed the people are sacrificed for the benefit of export crops, in the name of the imperative of development. However, the countries of the South have no control over the fluctuation of the prices of these crops, which are set unilaterally by the Western industrial countries. Faced with hunger, the population must look for a place where eating will not be part of the daily preoccupation. A kind of promised land, the land of salvation. And this place is the West.

       The second cause of migration is, of course, social injustice and great precariousness. Since the end of the Cold War, aid has collapsed to unprecedented levels. Africa no longer plays its role as a partner, and it must treat on their terms with the great Western multinationals and the international financial institutions. The struggle for power and access to wealth has opened up increasingly devastating internal and external conflicts. One in five Africans is in a war situation; And violence is becoming the usual mode of social relations between cadets and elders, rich and poor, ethnic groups, and different religions. AIDS continues to wreak havoc (in 2007, 22.5 million sub-Saharans live with HIV); Hunger (200 million Africans are hungry because Africa remains the continent most affected by hunger and malnutrition); Water (despite some of the world’s largest freshwater reserves, 450 million Africans still suffer from lack of running and drinking water); Unemployment (jobs are scarce and wages too low.

         Many voices stoop up to denounce the victory of extreme right-wing parties in many European countries and the strengthening of immigration laws. Xenophobia increases, immigrants are pointed at … But can we honestly accuse immigrants of being the cause of unemployment, insecurity, and insalubrity? Marine Le Pen believes so. She might be the next French president and her program focuses a lot on immigration restrictions. It cannot be denied that irregular immigration is one of the main concerns of governments and citizens of industrialized countries. Everything is done to increase border control. In 2004, the European Union created Frontex (European agency to manage the external borders of the European Union). Of course, the more these controls are reinforced, the more difficult and dangerous it is for illegal immigrants to cross. This translates into more deaths and suffering among those desperately seeking a better future. Even those who manage to pass are not out of business. They are often arrested and sent back to their country when they do not end up in detention centers. “We can not ignore the real political problems posed by emigration, nor can we lose sight of the formidable prospects offered to emigrants, the countries they leave, and those they visit.” (Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations).


         Marine Le Pen believes that decolonization should be celebrated and that it benefited African countries. She follows an extreme right-wing ideology. Her wish is to implement and reinforce laws against immigration; she is as well a euro-skeptic. Her  presidential program consisted of a Frexit (a.k.a. leaving the EU as well as the Euro). Her party is often characterized as racist and discriminative towards minority communities (especially Muslims and Africans).

          The point is that if each year, 43.4% of immigrants are from Africa, it is mainly due to France’s role in colonizing large parts of the continent. The research conducted has shown France’s role in weakening former colonies, its present involvement for its self-interest, and the negative consequences colonization has brought to Africa. France’s duty should rely on accepting and integrating immigrants, migrants, and refugees from former colonies, at least. In fact, it should also repeal the “Post Colonial Pact”, as well as corrupted relationships it maintains with African dictators and politicians.


        Let’s remember the plague of WWII. At that time, refugees and migrants were Europeans. Does this change anything to the current situation we are witnessing? I doubt it. Factors contributing to the large influx of individuals fleeing their homes are numerous and most of all, they can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone. The point is that France has a role in correcting handicaps left by colonization, starting by giving real independence to African countries. The issue is that African leaders see more advantages in keeping corrupted relationships as well as the “Colonial Pact” as it benefits their self-interest above common-interest. If France is a founding member of the UN, a democratic country, promoting world peace, equality, and justice if it has signed all international conventions and treatises, why is it violating all moral principles? France has a hegemonic force and place in international politics due to its significant involvement in international organizations, the EU, the UN, NATO, yet it is transgressing all basic ethical values. What is even more disturbing is the silence of this so-called international community that has no efficiency in resolving the issue. It is simply mere-incompetence.




        Scholars, classically emphasize the inconsistency between France’s affirmation of French principles (“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”) and the authoritarian practice of colonization. The idea that colonization in Africa has built states whose borders do not correspond to the ethnic division, separating certain ethnicities between several states, or gathering several in the same, is an argument often used. Nevertheless, many researchers are calling it. The general political assessment of the French presence in Africa, however, remains the annihilation or disorganization of the pre-existing power structures in the colonial enterprise and their replacement by states modeled on the French model.

        French still detain power and influence in former colonies. Among the consequences of colonization, figures immigration from Africa to France. However, immigrants coming from the African continent are not always welcome in the “free land”. There is a huge issue in integration as well as education towards refugees, migrants, or immigrants. They are unwanted in a country that led them to the dramatic and drastic situation their home countries are witnessing. Individuals looking for a better and brighter future end up being the main scapegoats of a society that is not realizing the harmful effects it produced and imposed on millions of people.

        Last but not least, after the numerous reasons enumerated previously, France does have a role in correcting harm effects produced by colonization, whether they are from an economic, social, or political nature. In fact, France should start applying its national principles as well as international values it is supposed to follow. This chaotic world is ruled by the strongest. Inequality has reached its peak. In this era, the law of the jungle is in order. Still, it should be out of order and only be applied to fiction – or the jungle itself.





Works Cited

Abrahamsen, R. (2007), “Postcolonialism”. Martin Griffiths (ed.), pp. 111-122.

Alshammari, Y. “The Right of Political Self-determination and Shifting in the Principle of Non-interference”. Volume 3, Issue 2.

Beihami, H. & Meifa, F. “The effects of decolonization in Africa”. Ghorveh Branch, Islamic Azad University, Ghorveh, Iran. World Scientific News. 2014.

Down, N. (2010). Postcolonialism and ‘Eurocentric’ International Relations. International Affairs Forum.

Dunne, T., Milja K., and Smith S. (2016). International relations theories: discipline and diversity. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford U Press.

Elizabeth A., Klesmith (2014). “Nigeria and Mali: The Case for Repatriation and Protection of Cultural Heritage in Africa”. Notre Dame Journal of International and Comparative Law.

Erlanger, S. “French Colonial Past Casts Long Shadow Over Policy in Africa”. The New York Times. 2011

Farah I., Kiamba S. and Mazongo K. (2011). “Major challenges facing Africa in the 21st century: A few provocative remarks”. At the International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy in Africa – Strategies to confront the Challenges of the 21st Century: Does Africa have what is required?

Imani G. “Immigration africaine : Pourquoi quittent-ils leur pays ?”. Contrepoints. 2014.

Ipinyomi, F (2016). “The Impact of African Philosophy on the Realisation of International Community and the Observance of International Law”. International Community Law Review 3-33.

Jabbar, S. “How France loots its former colonies”. Opinion. 2013.

Jabr, S. “Colonialism’s Residual Legacy: The French Example”. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. 2006.

Koutonin, M-R. “14 African Countries Forced by France to Pay Colonial Tax For the Benefits of Slavery and Colonization”. Silicon Africa. 2014.

Mann, M. (2012). “Post Colonial Development in Africa”. Foreign Policy Journal.

Mulinge, Munyae M., and Gwen N. Lesetedi (2002). “Corruption in Sub- Saharan Africa: Towards a more holistic approach.” African Journal of Political Science.


Seth, Sanjay (2011). “Postcolonial Theory and the Critique of International Relations”. Millennium 40.1.

Petithomme, M. (2007). “Regard croisés sur le colonialism et le postcolonialisme en Afrique Subsaharienne”. Institut Universitaire Européen de Florence. Eurostudia revue transtlantique de recherche sur l’Europe.

Whyte, J. “Always on top? The responsibility to protect and the persistence of colonialism”. Chapter seventeen.

Africa Post-Colonial Development: Fatoumata Waggeh at TEDxGallatin:

“Effects of colonialism on Africa’s past and present”. Address at AZAPO commemoration of Africa Liberation Day, Pimville Community Hall Soweto. Pambazuka News. 2012.


New World Encyclopedia. “French Empire”. 2013.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s