ESSAY | The Colonial Systems of Exploitation of Africa and America

ESSAY | The Colonial Systems of Exploitation of Africa and America

By Didier Kombieni
Department of English, University of Parakou, Parakou, Benin

ESSAY | The Colonial Systems of Exploitation of Africa and America

Image Attribute: The Old Plantation (circa 1750) / Source: Wikipedia, Public Domain

Although there is no real similarity between the system of colonization of America and that of Africa, some common elements appear and can favor a more or less informal comparison.

The Political and Administrative Systems 

Of the fifty states that form the USA today, only thirteen had lived under the colonial ruling of Great Britain. They are New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Georgia. As such, to talk about the USA before independence is to refer to those thirteen colonies. As for Africa, there has been no expansion and even if some new states have come, they are simply offshoots of other states, as it has been the case with Eritrea and South Sudan. As a whole, the system of colonization in both America and in Africa allowed colonial powers to take advantage of the colonies. In America, for instance, the thirteen colonies were under the ruling of the Crown, with the British parliament deciding for the colonies’ life. Taxes were imposed; internal and external trades were controlled by the parliament in Britain, where Americans were not represented. That is what later made the colonies qualify such a parliament as an imperial parliament. But Americans were from British and European origin; as such, they were not so much strangers nor different from the British in their mind, and the Crown just considered them as offspring of Europe, if not of Britain. This justifies the fact that internally, Americans were in full emancipation; they could study at a very high level; they could practice the profession of their choice. All that the British authorities expected from the thirteen American colonies was to remain dependent on Britain, then to be exploited. The positive consequence is that there were Generals in the American Local Army; there were lawyers and many other learnt people from different fields of activity, who later on led the colonies to independence and who favored the success of the post-independence life of the states, and mainly the success of their federation, of their republic. Such has not been exactly the case with Africa.Indeed, the system of colonization of Africa, not only favored exploitation of the colonies, but it also put the Africans in general at a scale which made of them less than human beings. Colonization did not accept that all Africans be formally educated; only a few Africans could go to school so as to come at the service of the colonizer. The political and administrative systems prevailing in Africa before colonization were destroyed. In short, it can be said that the difference between the system of colonization of America and that of Africa lies in the fact that, while all the thirteen American colonies were set under a uniform exploitation system from the same European country, African colonies were submitted to diverse exploitation policies; yet, at least, both America and Africa were European colonies, and this is what I aim at pointing out as similarity.

The Socio-Economic Systems of Exploitation in American and African Colonies

After the French-British clash in Canada (1756-1763), Great Britain, although victorious, was faced with problems bond to loss of control over her American colonies, due to great financial difficulties resulting from the war expenses. In order then to refill the country’s coffers, the British parliament decided to impose new taxes and harden the existing ones on the American colonies. “Unless the taxpayer in England was to supply all money for the colonies’ defense, revenues would have to be extracted from the colonies through a stronger central administration, which would come at the expense of colonial self-governments” [1] . Those measures caused Americans, who until now asked nothing but remain subjected to the Crown, to protest, rebel, and thus, the idea of departing from the mother country was born, which led to the war for independence.On the other side, in Africa, the system of colonization was a double edge sword, and its consequences on the colonies were two fold. On the one hand, it allowed colonial extraction of raw materials and despise of the African people, as well as the decisive participation of the continent in the two world wars. On the other hand, it led to the consciousness of the colonies, and forced them to look for their own destiny, claiming their own independence. Here again, the similarity between the two courses of history is that the European exploitation practices have finally urged both Africa and America to express their being fed up with colonization, and to claim independence, which they both obtained, although the means are different. What then has been the sense given to their independence by Africans and Americans?

Independence as a Revolution for Both America and Africa

The USA as a political entity was undoubtedly created by a revolution, which found its expression in the Declaration of Independence of 1776. The experience of revolution therefore is one which Americans could share with other nations, especially those who like Africa, had experienced colonization. In the present article, it is to see the American Revolution in a comparative light, asserting both resemblance and differences between it and Africa. But what is a revolution first? It’s a quantitative and qualitative change within a society, and such has been exactly what Africans, the people in particular, have been claiming for so long, which means that they haven’t got it yet. The American Revolution was not truly aimed at any internal change at all. Rather, it was a reaction to stop external interference of England in American affairs. At such, this even took some analysts to think that there was really no revolution in America at all in the 1770s, in the modern sense of the word, but only a successful war for independence which removed British control but left the country internally much the same. Such view on the American Independence could be accepted since the rebellion against the mother country was motivated by the will to preserve old liberties against novel demands by Great Britain, something comparable to the revolt of the Belgian estates in 1789 against the attempted reforms of Emperor Joseph II. But in the case of the African colonies, if any revolution, the shift to independent entities was really different. There were no such national uprisings in the colonies, as it was the case with Americans. The African people at large was not truly concerned with the claim for independence because many did not know what the few elites were claiming due to illiteracy and ignorance. Even if people sided with those soldiers coming back from the world wars and the few leaders who had the opportunity to be educated in Europe in the claim of independence, there was no such violence as in the case of the Americans. As a matter of fact, the African independence came as a gift rather than a merit. In America, the long opposition to reforms from Britain and the preparation of the war for independence had allowed the colonies to get ready for the aftermath of independence, which they even declared unilaterally years before the war for independence was ended. In effect, how can it be conceived that the Peace treaty that marked the end of the war aiming at independence was signed in 1783, while independence is said to be obtained in 1776? What, if Americans did not finally win the conflict? Such reality is just to show that Americans were really prepared for their independence, contrarily to Africans. Americans had frequently met at Philadelphia, in what they finally called the Independence Hall, to prepare management of the coming independence. Probably, Europeans learnt from the British experience with America about independence, then they anticipated giving independence to their African colonies before the latter could become truly radical about their wanted independence, and get any true experience in the management of their own affairs. Truly, Africans were not prepared for their independence, and this can be seen from the fact that quickly soldiers took the power in most countries, and putsches became frequent on the continent. Contrarily to the American revolution with marked changes externally; the African revolution marked changes neither externally, nor internally; relations with the mother country have remained tough, exploitation, imposition and dependency have continued, and socially and economically the African people has known decreasing conditions. It might then be right to assert that there was no revolution at all in the African independence. Nevertheless, there remains a little parallel between the American independence and the African independence: American revolution was directed against Europe the same way the African “revolution” was directed against Europe, and the paradox would not exist at all if only Americans had been really different from the Europeans, which was difficult to affirm since Americans are after all a species of Europeans, “the colony of all Europe” [2] , as Thomas Paine put it in 1776, or the “daughter of Europe” [3] , as General Charles de Gaulle remarked it in 1965.


[1] Mellon, A (1998) An Outline of American History. US Information Agency, Washington DC.

[2] Thomas, P. (1983) Common Sense. Ed. Aubier Montaigne, Paris.

[3] Dumont, R. (1979) Black Africa Has Had a Bad Start. Edition Seuil, Paris.

Cite this Article:

Didier Kombieni (2015) From America to Africa: A Parallel in the Colonial and Federal Experiences. Open Journal of Social Sciences,03,18-23. doi: 10.4236/jss.2015.310003

Copyright © 2015 by author and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).

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