Legacy Perhaps the most important legacy of colonialism is the division of
Africa into more than 50 states whose boundaries were set without regard
for where the people lived or how they organized their own political divisions.
The present boundaries often divide single African ethnic communities among
two or more nation-states. For example, although most of the Somali people
live in Somalia, there are significant minorities in Kenya and Ethiopia,
many of whom would like to become citizens of Somalia. This has led to
tension, and on occasion to border warfare, among Kenyan, Ethiopian, and
Somali governments. Similarly, the Bakongo people of central Africa were
colonized by three different European powers Belgium, Portugal, and France
and now live in three different independent African nations Zaire, Angola,
and the Congo.
A second important legacy of colonialism was its effect on the economic
life of the African people. All the colonial systems disrupted existing
economic patterns, although the extent of the disruption varied from area
to area. The change from food-crop to cash-crop production is an example.
Colonialism also linked Africa economically to the European colonial powers.
The benefits of these new patterns usually went to the European countries
rather than to the African colonies. This history of economic exploitation
has played an important role in shaping the way independent African governments
have attempted to develop their own economies. Some countries, such as
Ivory Coast, have built on the export-oriented economic
base created by colonial rule. Others, such as Tanzania, have attempted
to redirect their economies away from the production of exports and toward
producing crops and goods needed by the Tanzanian people. President Julius
Nyerere of Tanzania described this approach as "Self-Reliance."
The third important legacy of colonialism was the introduction of ideas
of European racial and cultural superiority. The colonial powers attempted
to convince Africans that effective participation in the modern world required
them to discard their own identities and cultures and become more like
Europeans. Schools in colonial Africa taught African children about European
history and European literature, while neglecting the history and cultural
heritage of Africa itself.
The experience of colonialism in Africa, as in the 13 American Colonies,
also generated a powerful desire among the colonized to be free. This feeling
was strengthened after thousands of African soldiers fought for France
and Britain in World Wars I and II. They returned home with a renewed spirit
of freedom and desire to build independent countries that would take their
proper place among the global community of nations. While the colonial
authorities first resisted these notions, by the late 1950's they had become
too strong to