The subject of African history has been determined largely by interaction with European
countries. European connection with the African continent gives a definite relationship between
the two continents, and the factors that led to European development, and Africa’s dependency.
Scholars such as Walter Rodney claim that before Africa came into contact with Europe in the
fifteenth century, it may have been undeveloped but not underdeveloped. Underdevelopment is a
historical process of crude exploitation and subjection of Africa and its people for the benefit of
Europe and its people. The issue of African underdevelopment has persisted from the
precolonial period through the independence period in 1960s to the contemporary African
society. European imperialism, ideology, colonialism, and slavery of the Africans has had
crucial consequences on the African continent. Today, there is a stronger call for anti-racism and
black power both in Europe and in the African continent to extend a revolutionary change in the
economic sectors of African states. Many scholars such as Walter Rodney have extended a lot of
research on how Europe underdeveloped Africa with the aim of ridding the African world of
imperialistic feelings transferred by the Europeans to Africans. European imperialism led to
economic, cultural, and political changes in the African continent that have consequently
affected its growth and development. 1
Colonialism and foreign investments had a direct impact on underdevelopment of the
African continent. During the colonial era, European settlers amassed natural resources from
Africa that they exported to their respective countries. As such, Africa helped to develop
1 Walter Rodney. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. (Verso Trade, 2018).271
western Europe, and in the same manner western Europe underdeveloped Africa. According to
Islam European settlers reinvested the African wealth in Europe in sectors such as shipping,
insurance, formation of companies, plantation agriculture, technology, and industrial
development, in exchange of cheap foreign imports. As a result, colonialism created a control
mechanism and a prolonged stagnation of African economy. African underdevelopment was a
deliberate effort by the Europeans to disintegrate African industries, hence poverty and suffering
persisted among the Africans.
Colonization and imperialism brought decay in African institutions such as in the
government. The cultural institutions that existed prior to the colonial conquest collapsed after
the colonial invasion and subsequent partitioning of the African continent broke kinship ties and
traditional kingdoms. The new political and economic institutions were used by the Europeans
to manipulate Africans, and African could hardly internalize them (Magubane). 2 African
partition brought social alienation, and separated people from one another. Magubane also notes
that he partition also isolated people from their land and environment by constraining them to
reservations. The relationship between the white settlers and the natives was a relation based on
the victimization and oppression of the black people. Colonialists ransacked Africa’s wealth and
manpower because the Africans wholly worked in the settler farms. It is a contradiction that
most African countries are rich in natural resources such as gold and silver, yet people live in
deplorable conditions. European countries have continued to underdevelop the African continent
through its capitalistic tendencies of setting the prices of goods and services in the world today.
2 Bernard Magubane "On Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped Africa." Ufahamu: A Journal of
African Studies 3, no. 3 (1973).
34 Capitalism has played an important role in the underdevelopment of the African continent.
According to Rodney, capitalism theory asserts that Africa’s dependence on Europe originates
from its natural tendency towards stagnation. Rodney observes that the over seventy two years
of European imperialism in Africa has caused vast changes in the capitalist world, that is,
Europe and America, and in the Socialist world, that is, Russia and China. Consequently,
European imperialism has resulted in colossal modifications in the African continent. 3 For
instance, capitalism backed up imperialism that finally motivated African colonialism and
domination. Rodney expresses that colonialism later formed a obstruction to political, economic
and social progress within the African continent. Today, the issue of a capitalist market has
continued to affect Africa’s freedom from European power. Therefore, Africa has continued to
lag behind following Europe’s economic and political superiority. African development is
possible when Africans apply a revolutionary break with the global capitalist system, and
institute a new system to regulate the world market.
In 1960s, most African countries had gained independence from the European colonialists,
and they cherished a moment of self-independence. However, the independent African
governments would soon turn to their former colonial masters in a bid to get financial aid and to
get political insights. According to Rodney, the newly formed African governments did not
reshape or replace the colonial governments. As a result, the issue of neo-colonialism has
continued to contribute significantly in Africa’s economic retardation. 4 During the colonial and
3 Ibid., 27-28.
4 Walter Rodney. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. (Verso Trade, 2018).271
post-colonial eras, the white settlers have amassed raw materials such a s gold, copper, bronze
and other cash crops from the African continent, making it impossible for the continent to
develop rapidly. Today, the European countries are at the forefront of every development project
in Africa, such as oil exploration, whereby they manipulate the African governments into giving
them the mining contracts, and they end up taking up a large share of the profit. Neo-colonialism
calls for extensive investigation in order to formulate the strategy and tactics of African
redemption and development.
African Collaboration with Europeans
Rodney refutes the claim that the underdevelopment of the African continent emanates
wholly from external intervention. The development of the African continent lies on the
shoulders of all Africans. All Africans have the responsibility to understand the colossal
capitalist system and work on how to stop it. However, there are African accomplices inside the
imperialistic system. During the colonial period, many Africans collaborated with the whites to
gain wealth and recognition. African collaborators accepted European domination and authority.
The Jamaican government criticized Rodney’s call for black power, thus declaring him a
prohibited immigrant hence leading to his assassination, instead of supporting his revolutionary
call against white domination. Today, many African countries do collaborate with the Europeans
in selling the African skills such as art and talented persons, and also in propagating dictatorial
governance. For example, there are many industries in Africa that promote African heritage,
however, many African leaders disregard such industries in favor of the mega European
industries that totally promote European art.
African Corruption and Opportunism
West acknowledges Rodney’s dissertation on black power that rejected colonial master
imperialism, and emphasized on African conscious in economic, social and political
development. 5 West writes about Rodney who visited various African countries such as
Tanzania, Japan, and Nigeria. It is while in Nigeria that Rodney observed the endemic issues in
Africa that contribute to its underdevelopment. Rodney observed that African politics is riddled
with corruption and selfishness. Post-colonial African is dominated by corrupt tendencies by the
leaders, each trying to benefit from the regime through ethnicity, racism, and nepotism. Rodney
asks the Africans to resist all temptations to live their entire lives as permanent victims, angry
accusers, or imitators of Europeans. 6 Despite the fact that Africa is a third World Country, most
African leaders have the highest salaries in the world with huge allowances hence leading to
over taxation of the public and subsequent underdevelopment. Africans are to invent and make
a difference by working out suitable concepts for a working government ideology and
philosophies in their respective countries.
Ignorance and Eurocentrism have contributed in the underdevelopment of the African
continent. African prehistoric and historic periods have been written from a mistaken point of
view. For instance, Hugh Trevor roper declared that there is no African history to write. Walter
Rodney’s objective in his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was to try to call out all
Africans who desire to explore further the cause of their exploitation, instead of satisfying the
regulations set by their oppressors in the economic, social, political, and academic worlds. For
example, in the academic sector, Eurocentric scholars have written extensively on white
5 Michael O.West "How Europe Underdeveloped African at 40." Groundings 2, no. 1 (2015): 10.
6 Ibid., 275
supremacy, for instance, discrediting Africa as the origin of man and evolution. Since there are
fewer Afrocentric scholars, there is no enough research to uphold Africa’s 6 revolutionary
contributions in the world. Therefore, many Africans lack insight on their rightful contribution
in the world as well as their abilities. In addition, knowledgeable Africans often cast a blind eye
on criticisms written by European scholars without rightfully critiquing them. Constructive
criticism of Eurocentric works is necessary in reconstructing the rightful place of Africa in the
world. We should take these writings seriously as they are meant for Africa and many other
people who have suffered in the hands of European-initiated underdevelopment, and for all
Europeans who claim unity with the Third World effort in their liberation and development.
Gender inequality is a significant cause of Africa’s underdevelopment. Africa experiences
inherent female discrimination due to paternalism, matriarchal African cultural practices, and
faulty family structures. During the colonial period, the white settlers consolidated Africans into
settler camps mainly on gender basis. According to Rodney, the explanation of labor by
colonialists determined men’s work as “modern” and women’s work as “ tradtional/backward”.
As a result, women’s role in the society continued to decline with the resultant loss of their
rights. Women form more than 51% of the total population in African, and when their
contribution in political and economic endeavor is ignored, it results in slower growth and
Slavery and Slave Trade
Slavery and slave trade has had immense contribution in the underdevelopment of the
African continent due to historical materialism of the Europeans. Prior the colonial period,
6 Ibid., 279.
European explorers and traders engaged in the infamous triangular slave trade across the
Atlantic ocean. In this trade, the Europeans in collaboration 7 with the Americans shipped the
able-bodied Africans to the Americas and other European countries to work in the sugar and
cotton plantations. The farm products were shipped to European industries and the manufactured
goods were sent back to Africa for trade. According to Islam, the manufactured goods were of
higher qualities that the textile and other goods from African industries, thus African kings and
chiefs exchanged African goods with the slaves for personal enrichment. 7 As such, Africa lost
the creme of the society-people who were able to work in the farms and in the domestic
industries. Consequently textile and blacksmith industries collapsed hence making the African
continent to depend on Europe. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade resulted in total elimination of
men in some areas, hence lack of pro-creation. As a result, some cultural practices died
completely as women could hardly take up men’s roles.
European colonialists deliberately increased tariffs to hinder export of goods into their
countries, for the benefit of the people of Europe. European industrial growth depended on the
deceleration of the economies of their colonies, and whenever they felt threatened they elevated
the tariffs to defend their trade. Besides, the Europeans in Africa produced only those raw
materials they needed. They only engaged in building harbours, railways, mining industries,
processing enterprises, and growing cash crops, to be shipped to European industries. All the
economic means of production belonged to external monopolies hence Africans had no way of
7 Shada Islam. "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa." (1979): 177-179.
developing their traditional industries. No African could build or grow anything without the
white settler’s permission, hence Africans’ skills were curtailed.
Furthermore, Africans were treated harshly with fire and sword by the white settlers if they
did not comply to partition. Colonial boarders resulted to civil wars and ethnic clashes that are
prevalent to present-day Africa. Magubane notes that Africans were denied economic power as
they land was taken away. 8 When Africans gained political power in the 1960s, they did not
regain their economic influence. Political power without economic independence is an
illustration of African dependency to European imperialism. African nations continue to export
products to the European industries for manufacturing, while the Europeans export re-branded
products back to Africa at a considerable price.
Africa has to seek new means of economic defense, new forms of political struggle, new
pathways around social revolution, and new academic visions in order to overcome its
underdevelopment. There is concern about the modern-day economic situation in Africa
following the enrichment of colonialists in Africa and the economic deprivation of the Africans
who were subject to European domination. Africans should dig into their past and unravel the
secret of their current economic impoverishment. The real history of the African
underdevelopment process is one of subjugation, robbery, conquest, and coercion. European
colonialists undermined the economy, technology, and cultural endeavors of the African
continent. The only way to overcome underdevelopment is to call upon the Africans into taking
a collective action towards African redemption from economic dependence. Africa must put
herself together and start to fix the damage to her economic, social and political fabrics.
8 Ibid., 32
Islam, Shada. "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa." (1979): 177-179.
Magubane, Bernard. "On Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped Africa." Ufahamu: A
Journal of African Studies 3, no. 3 (1973).
Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Verso Trade, 2018.
West, Michael O. "How Europe Underdeveloped African