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INTRODUCTION
It has often been said that the wealth and political disparities that currently exist between
Africa and the West are the product of a long complex history characterised by pre-modern
Atlantic basin trade, slavery and colonialism; And that rich European countries such as
France and Britain acquired their current powerful economic and political statuses not only
through internal factors but largely through external ones, such as the slave trade and New
World resource exploitation otherwise known in this context as the scramble for Africa.
This essay serves to explain the ways in which Africa has been integrated in global processes
from the fifteenth century till present and how it has been politically and economically
marginalised throughout-out history. It will do this by organising the essay into three
segments followed by a possible solution to Africas global economic and political
marginalisation.
The first segment will discuss Africa-European relations from the fifteenth to the nineteenth
century and will put great emphasis on how relations between the two resulted in the political
and economic marginalisation of the other/Africans through the transatlantic slave trade
which fuelled European economic and political development. The second segment will
discuss colonial era relations and trade agreements that Europe had with its African colonies.
The third segment will discuss colonial continuities present in the post-colonial period with
Europe still governing African affairs through multinational organisations such as the IMF,
WTO and World Bank. Lastly it will provide a possible solution to the African dilemma.
TRANSATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE
The transatlantic slave trade has brought much debate in academia as many African scholars
argue that it is because of slavery that Africa is as economically and politically marginalised
as it is and Europe is as rich as it (Cooper 1979, 105). Africa before direct European
contact was associated with prosperity and development due to trade that took place within
Africa and as well as out of it. Evidence of this can be that of African societies such as
Nigeria, Chad that traded gold and copper with Western Europe through the use of Niger
merchants who acted as mediators between both parties (Inikori 2007, 72). For years such
Afro-European trade relations took place peacefully, but towards the mid-fifteenth century a
unique relationship between Africa and Europe occurred; a relationship that involved the
enslavement of Africans to work on European plantations and mines in the Caribbean and

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Americas due to the fact that the indigenous populations of the regions had died off as a result
of diseases brought by Europeans (Gibson 1996, 82).
The slave trade would result in the depopulation of Africa as it would lose millions of its
abled bodied men and women to the Old World which stagnated African development while
the Old World prospered and incurred economic gains through the exploitation of slaves in
overseas plantations and mines (Williams 1984, 22).
According to Inikori during the seventieth century the Caribbean plantation economy
contributed for over fifty percent total commodity production which was directly injected into
the British economy. This European economic progress was fuelled by African slave labour
(Inikori 2002, 7). The downside of this equation was that while the Old World was using
African slave labour to fuel its economy, Africa on the other hand fell behind economically as
it now lacked the human resources to fuel its own development. Furthermore commodities
produced by Africans in the Americas and Caribbean Islands did not benefit Africa in anyway
as they were exported to European countries for their benefit.
One could thus argue that the current South-North wealth disparities currently existing in the
world today are the result of centuries of exploitation, slavery and political oppression that
the West placed on Africa. This long history of oppression created the political and economic
hierarchical structures that the West sits on as the Apex of both political and economic
development while Africa lies at the bottom of the hierarchy.
In addition to working on plantations, African slaves were also used to mine gold and silver
in Latin America, the U.S as well as the Caribbean Islands which boosted Western economies
and resulted in zero economic gains for Africa. Academics such Joseph Inikori and Eric
Williams argue that it is because of the slave trade that the Industrial Revolution of Britain
managed to take place as at the rate that it did; resulting in an industrial boom that saw the
rise of various industries such as the steel industry and ship-building industry which in turn
led to the creation of banks and insurance companies that would help finance and insure the
ships (Inikori 2001; Williams 1944). One could argue that slave labour transformed the
British economy from mercantilist to industrial-capitalism.
This Industrial Revolution would trickle down to other European states as well as the U.S and
give them the economic and political edge that Britain had acquired as a result of the slave
trade. It constituted itself as Enlightenment and brought about shared beliefs and values that

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would lay the foundations of Western society with ideas of capitalism, individualism and
industrialism which overall boosted Western economy. While this was taking place Africas
economic marginalisation deepened as it acted as a means to an ends for Western
development. Its role throughout the slave trade was that of a proletariat that provided the Old
World with free coerced labour which resulted in Africa incurring economic losses as its
human resources were being taken way from it.
Furthermore; the slave trade resulted in the political marginalisation of Africa as the Old
World influenced trade relations within the continent. It reduced Africa into a submissive
state that unwillingly adhered to the demands of the Old world due to its possession of
technologically advanced military weapons (Irwin 1975, 84). This undermined African
authority figures such as chiefs and kings whose political decisions could easily be
manipulated by Western Influence (Settles 1996, 7). They could be enslaved if they did not
align themselves with Western interests; only those who worked within the interests of the
West where spared and enriched for their allegiance while their people suffered (Cooper
1979, 105). These were breeding grounds for corruption which constitutes itself as one of
Africas main characteristics.
Joseph Inikori argues that Africans brought these marginalities on themselves the moment
they sold slaves to the West. For example according to Inikori (2007, 72) not mentioned in
many slave trade texts is that amongst the goods traded between coastal West African
societies and Europe in pre-transatlantic slave-trade times were slaves exported to southern
Europe years before the transatlantic slave trade began. One could argue that it is this first
taste of slavery that opened up doors to the possibilities and economic gains that slavery
could bring to the Old world which motivated Europeans to embark on the transatlantic slave
trade for a number of beneficial reasons. The first one being that as mentioned earlier slave
labourers did not require remuneration which enabled the West to cut down on labour costs
which increased their profits. Secondly unlike European labourers who had rights, African
slave labourers in mines and plantations did not, therefore slave owners could over work their
slaves without being sued or punished for it by the state which resulted in higher production
outputs for European/Western economies (Inikori 2007, 73).

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COLONIAL-ERA
According to Young (2008, 19) the African colonial era began in the nineteenth century and
constituted itself as a scramble for Africa with European states such as Portugal, France,
Germany and Great Britain to mention few; rushed to the continent to claim its wealth as
their own. As if the effects of slavery were not enough; an imperialistic conference took place
in Berlin from 1884-1885 and on the agenda was how Europe was to share the resource rich
continent. Africa was to be further marginalised both economically and politically as it was to
be split into seven European portions namely Portuguese Africa that was to be owned by
Portugal, British Africa that was to be owned by Britain, German Africa that was to be
owned by Germany, Italian Africa that was to be owned by the Italy, Spanish Africa that
was to be owned by Spain, French Africa that was to be owned by France and Belgian
Africa that was to be owned by Belgium (Stengers 1972, 65).
Africans no longer owned Africa. Their land had been annexed and transformed into a
European entity that they had no influence over. The only piece of land that African natives
still owned was Ethiopia which in comparison to the rest of the continent was poor (Mazrui
1994, 9). Furthermore the notoriously poor and currently pirate infested Somalia was to be
split into three European entities owned by France, Britain and Italy which sucked it to the
dead barren land it is today (Nuun 2003, 34). One can only imagine the disastrous economicpolitical consequences that the Berlin Conference was to bring to Africa. Firstly, splitting
Africa into seven European segments meant that Africans were to have no say in what was to
take place on their continent and promoted ethnic divisions that had already been present on
the continent prior to colonialism which promoted continuities in ethnic rivalries and conflict
which deterred ethnic unity and cooperation in Africa.
It is because of this that Africa still has ethnic civil wars taking place on her continent e.g.
conflict between Sub-Saharan Africans and Tuaregs in Mali still persists today due to boarder
divisions created by France which trapped rival ethnic groups in the same geographical
locations (Marine 2014, 46). Such divisions deterred African development and cooperation as
well as any hope of reconciliation between rival groups which limited their economic
potential because by working individually and not cooperatively they made lesser economic
progress than they could have made by working as a team. Secondly the fact that no African
leaders were present at the conference automatically undermined their political authority on
the continent.

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The colonial goals of Europe on Africa were simple: exploit Africas resources and labour for
Western benefit to service and further enrich the rapidly developing European economy
(Settles 1996). Europe was to introduce cash crops into Africa and natives were to abide by
these changes even if meant farming less of their staple foods to accommodate the production
of cash crops such as cotton which were to be exported overseas for Western profit (Rodney
1973, 18). This had negative effects on local African economies as it resulted in less
production of internal consumption goods that were necessary for native population survival.
For example in Tanzania, British colonisers running farm operations in Tanganyika shifted
human labour from food-production to non-consumption cash crop production of cotton in
an attempt to generate surplus labour that would result in higher output production and bring
profits to Britain (Mlambo 2006, 169). As a result the production of staple foods such as
sorghum and millet reduced which ultimately led to a decrease in the native populations
quality of life and gave natives no other option but to turn to subsistence crop farming for
survival.
Moreover by forcing African natives to farm specific crops, colonialists weakened the
economic power structures of Africa and made them highly dependent on European
decisions. For example due to external influences by the West, domestic farmers could not
independently decide on what crops they were going to produce as decisions were pre-made
for them by their colonial masters in predetermined markets e.g. British colonies such as
Tanzania and Zimbabwe produced commodities that were determined by colonial economic
policies that served within the interests of Britain rather than that of the natives (Dye 2008).
In addition to agricultural exploitation, Africas mineral resources such as gold, silver and
diamonds were to be drained by colonialists. An example of this can be that of Western
countries such as America, Britain, France and Belgium that built mines in Sierra Leone,
Congo, South Africa, and Zimbabwe for the sole purpose of enriching themselves rather than
Africa. These Western owned mines were highly capitalistic as they remunerated native
labourers exploitative rates to work long hours underground so as to maximise profits. This is
something that still haunts Africa today as mine workers still complain about excessive
remuneration exploitation by gold and silver mines e.g. Marikana mine in South Africa
(Conway-Smith 2015).
Additionally colonialism deprived Africans of equal citizenship rights which meant that they
were not politically recognized by their various colonial governments and were subjected to

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positions of inferiority. This meant that colonial authorities could exploit them in the most
inhuman way without getting punished for it. For example Belgians in Congo forced native
populations to collect wild rubber on massive private enterprises and had to meet daily
production targets or suffer the risk of getting raped, burnt or murdered with no hope of state
intervention by the colonial government (Nzongola-Ntalaja 2002, 22).
It is clear that just like the slave trade colonialism was one sided as its economic and political
objectives were designed to benefit the West rather than Africa which marginalised the
continent economically and politically due to the uneven economic-political relations that
took place between Africa and the West during the colonial era. What followed after this
where militant uprisings by native African populations that ended in political liberation for
African states and saw the beginning of a post-colonial Africa that was still highly dependent
and influenced by external powers.
POST-COLONIAL AFRICA
The demise of colonisation did not mean the end of Western influence in Africa as there were
still a lot of resources to be extracted. Former European colonisers such as France and Britain
still had high stacks in Africa which lay in the form of plantations and mines that were of
great economic importance for them. In order to maintain interests in Africa the West sort to
create false illusions of partnership with ex-colonies by offering them developmental aid to
rebuild their now independent states and run their political and economic affairs as they
pleased without foreign influence. However as former Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah
observed; elements of colonialism and external control of African governments by the West
still existed in a post-colonial Africa (Nkrumah 1975, 415).
He argued that structural adjustment plans implemented by Western institutions such as the
IMF and the World Bank to develop Africa caused underdevelopment instead. This is true
given that majority of poverty ridden African countries such as Zimbabwe and Tanzania were
beneficiaries of structural adjustment plans (Nkrumah 1975, 415). Aid provided to Africa by
the IMF and World Bank came with terms and conditions such as liberalizing African
markets to accommodate profit driven MNCs/Multinational Cooperations that demanded
minimal state intervention as a prerequisite. Furthermore structural adjustment plans
promoted the privatisation of property and minimized domestic industry protectionist rights
to maximize MNC profits in SAP beneficiary countries (Shah 2015).

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Moreover the terms and conditions highlighted above enabled and still enable MNCs to
exploit African labour and resources freely without suffering any major negative local
government implications, which economically marginalises the continent and creates
continuities in socio-economic issues such as poverty (David et al 1999, 88). It is argued that
Western influence survived in Africa because former colonies did not transform the
political/economic structures left behind by their colonial oppressors. They just adopted the
already established political/economic structures of their colonisers which were and still are
highly dependent on former colonial powers; which is why former European colonies such as
Congo, Burundi and Rwanda still maintain relations with Belgium today (Jones 2013).
One could argue that Western-aid in Africa is basically a bribe allowing the West access to
African resources; markets and labour cheaply further enriching the West as always at the
expense of Africa thus economically marginalising it. In addition to structural adjustment
plans as a means of accessing African resources, Europe introduced EPAs/Economic
Partnership agreements in the early 2000s so as to increase its access in African markets
(Khadiagala 2008, 306). However as witnessed in the past such trade agreements had
disastrous effects on domestic industries and markets of Africa due to the fact that they
overshadowed local products and industries resulting in higher wealth disparities between
Africa and the West. Evidence of this can be that of structural adjustment plans implemented
by the IMF and World Bank in Africa that resulted in wider North-South wage gaps and
increased African poverty (Kraev 2004, 9). African leaders were aware of this which is why
they decided to withhold their signatures till this date.
However Europe insisted and still insists that African countries sign EPAs and has even gone
to the extent of offering five billion euros for infrastructure development assistance to East
and Southern African states who sign EPAs (Khadiagala 2008, 308) and remove eighty
percent of their tariffs of on European Union imports. This is not a generous offer given that
accompanied by EPAs are terms and conditions that still marginalise and exploit Africa more
so than before. Such excessive tariff eliminations have never ended well in the past. For
example in 1986 Cte dIvoire cut down on its chemical, textile tariffs by over forty-percent
as a prerequisite of SAPs implemented within its borders which resulted in the collapse of
domestic industries and ultimately led to an increase in unemployment rates in the country as
well as a decline in GDP.

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One can only imagine what would happen to African countries that sign EPAs; chances are
their domestic agricultural markets would collapse as the EU would flood African markets
with dairy products, meat and fruits which would make it hard for domestic farmers to
compete. This would have negative economic and political effects on the continent as
majority of African countries are dependent on agriculture for economic gain (UNECA
2004). The other outcome that could rise as a result of EPAs is political instability as farmers
would revolt against their governments for letting such economic harms come into their
markets (Khadiagala 2008, 308). An example of this is that of South-Korean farmers who
earlier this year protested against South Korea-US FTA (AP Archive 2015)
Furthermore emerging power China has also come into the light as a major player within the
African continent seeking to access a piece of the African pie in what seems to be the new
scramble for Africa. It has bought massive amounts of land for agricultural activities in Africa
and in 2013 bought 1600 hectors of land in South Africa where it is currently building a
world-class city in Modderfontein (Mahlaka 2014). Such development as good as it might be
may further marginalise Africa.
The question that one has to ask is why China is buying so much land in Africa? The truth is
the Chinese population is growing at a rate that can no longer keep up with its resources thus
the land recently purchased in South Africa and other countries serves to cater for the Chinese
population, Africa will not benefit much from this and will continue to lose land and
resources to foreign powers that may one day yield great influence in African affairs. China
already possesses a significant amount of influence on South African Politics for example in
2011 Dalai Lama got barred from coming into South Africa to please China (The Guardian
2011). This shows the kind of influence that China has on Africa and how incompetent Africa
is in making its own decisions.
Furthermore China has taken advantage of this vulnerability and has managed to penetrate
African markets at the expense of domestic industries such as textile manufacturing
companies that have collapsed as a result of cheap Asian imports (Dhliwayo 2012). The steel
industry has also fallen victim of cheap Chinese imports and has incurred massive losses that
have given it no other choice but to retrench workers just to hit a break-even point (Hogg
2015). China has even gone to the extent of hiring children in the DRC to work in copper
mines at rates of $3/day to cut costs and maximise profits and African governments are not
doing anything about it even Congo itself. This is how bad African economics and politics

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have become (Leblanc 2012). It is due to such external influence that Africa continues to be
marginalised economically and politically and if something is not done soon socio-economic
issues such as inequality, poverty; north-south wage gaps, wealth disparities as well as
corruption will continue to thrive.
SOLUTION
The solution to Africas political-economic marginalities in the global arena can be that of
Thabo Mbekis African Renaissance which argues that if Africa is to rid itself of
inequalities brought about by external influences it needs to consider reintegrating itself into
a unified entity that works as a unitary-whole to achieve political-economic goals (Mbeki
1998). This would help improve African influence in the global arena and it would help
transform Africa into a significant actor in trade organisations such as the WTO which forces
African countries into signing exploitative trade agreements that deter their economic
progress (Global Exchange 2011). As a unitary-entity Africa will have the power to say no to
trade agreements that deter its economic performance and if it so happens that it incurs
sanctions in the process it will still survive through domestic trade.
However such a solution sounds ideal in theory but there would be impracticalities because
putting it into practice would require major sacrifices from African countries as many of them
are dependent on international trade for survival. For example the European Union is South
Africas biggest trade partner cutting off ties with the EU would mean losing millions of
rands in exports so some countries would not be keen on joining such a unitary-entity but
they would have to make the sacrifice if they are to be taken seriously by the international
community and increase their global influence.
CONCLUSION
In conclusion this essay explained how Africa has been politically and economically
marginalised throughout history from the fifteenth century till present. It did this by firstly
explaining how the slave trade deprived Africa of essential human and mineral resources
necessary for African development and how African slave labour fuelled the European
economy at the expense of African development. It further went on to explain that after the
slave trade ended in the nineteenth century colonialism began which further marginalised
Africa economically by extracting its resources for Western benefit and politically
marginalised it by placing Eurocentric political structure that did not cater for native welfare.

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Furthermore it argued that elements of colonialism are still existent in Africa and that if it is
to rid itself of neo-colonialism the implementation of Thabo Mbekis African Renaissance
is the most viable option.