We have heard the tale for decades now. Africa is behind, economically, because of European colonisation in the 20th century. The continent gained independence decades ago but some believe the colonisation remains, in the form of neo-colonisation.
It is hard to argue against this neo-colonisation when it is defined as the “further development of capitalism that enables capitalist powers (both nations and corporations) to dominate subject nations through the operations of international capitalism rather than by means of direct rule.”
However, if this neo-colonisation is a problem for the whole continent then should it not affect all countries? Why then are some African countries doing much better despite not having that many natural resources to talk about?
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Also, if we look outside Africa we find some former colonies doing better than others. There must be differences in how these countries are run. Singapore, for example, got its independence from Britain just 17 years before Zimbabwe got its and yet Zimbabwe feels like it is centuries behind.
Why is that? Magatte Wade, a director at Atlas Network, Center for African Prosperity has thoughts. In an interview with Jordan Peterson, she laid out her case for why we can’t keep pointing to colonisation as the major reason for our struggles.
Colonisation was the way of the world
Africa may be the last region to be conquered but that was the way of life for millennia, she says. Recency bias makes it seem like what happened to Africa had never before been seen on this earth. In reality, many territories, including our colonisers’ homelands were all colonised at some point but they all had to build back better.
The Singapore example is especially relevant to talk about. The former British colony is now richer than its former coloniser. That is wild to think about. This means a country is not doomed to stay poor just because it was colonised during the industrialisation period.
Hong Kong is another good example of this. And back on the motherland, Rwanda, with all its flaws seems to be going in a better direction than some of us. As are Mauritius, Kenya and a few others.
How come some are succeeding?
Wade says, “economic freedom is at the centre for prosperity building.” That’s really the crux of the matter. You can easily guess how well an economy is doing by simply enquiring about how easy it is to do business in it.
Singapore became one of the most business-friendly economies in the world and lo and behold, businesses actually thrived in the country, even as foreigners flocked to operate in the little country.
Even the communist country of China is only where it is today because they created special economic zones which were freer than even the United States. China supported these zones and many multi-billionaire companies sprung from there, lifting China in the process.
Those that have succeeded have been the ones that are easy to conduct business in. Even our President Mnangagwa knows this, hence why he campaigned using the ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ motto.
So, if Zimbabwe was supposed to be open for business, how come we are no closer to becoming the Singapore of Africa?
No lip service please
Zimbabwe may have been or may be still is open for business on paper but the reality on the ground is much different.
Taxes are high, and policies and laws change overnight as we saw when banks were barred from lending for a little while. I know of at least two small companies that had to shelve their microfinance plans for good when that happened. They could not trust that their investment would be safe.
Currency challenges complicate business as do the transaction limits imposed to deal with said currency challenges. There are many other reasons why you really can’t say Zimbabwe is business-friendly. Then there is the spit in the face that is the relatively complicated company formation process.
Credit where credit is due. The process has been somewhat simplified in the past decade but it’s still nowhere near as easy as it is in Rwanda for example. Over there you can register a business as a foreigner on arrival for free and be up and running within 24 hours.
Imagine! You can’t open a company that fast in Zimbabwe as a local.
The 2 major necessities
Wade says it is imperative that locals be able to join the party. It has to be easy for locals to set up their businesses if a country is to succeed. I wholeheartedly agree. It is one thing for foreigners to bring in their products and services and it is another for locals to create solutions for specific local challenges that no foreigner could ever fully understand.
That’s not to say you don’t want the foreigners with their different ways of looking at things coming in. You want to support both locals and foreigners, get out of their way and let them create magic.
Then the other major game changer is the regulatory framework. Here again, Zimbabwe looks good on paper. English common law is praised the world over for being a good framework to support business. Here in Zimbabwe we mostly use Roman-Dutch law but many English common law tenets are infused in our laws.
So, it’s not really about what official documents say. It’s about what is on the ground.
What do you think?
You can watch the YouTube video of the Jordan Peterson-Wade interview here.
What do you think about all this? Let us know in the comments below.
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19 thoughts on “Africa, Zim not poor because of colonisation, other former British colonies succeeding”
Africa is poor because our liberation struggles were bankrolled by communist countries during the cold war to spite the West and our most of our founding fathers’ heads were filled with communist ideas before it proved to be a bad idea 90% of the time. We were pawns
70 years ago China was poor before it became a communist country…but today China is leading the world trade but the so called America has a debt of 31 trillion and it’s getting bigger every year. So I’m not sure about capitalism either
Because they eventually instituted capitalism in all but name.
America is not worried about its debt because it’ll never pay it. If it “has” to it’ll simply print the goddamn dent
Start reading the Bible first to really understand the issues, there’s not much anyone can do for Africa
Africa is stuck dont be fooled
Too many africans die young and poor sad stories upon sad stories
Look at other countries that were colonised in east asia, they’re moving forward
Each and every country of these successful countries has its own oligarchs, why do the big countries sanction our oligarchs? There is malicious intent on their part, there are very few truly successful African countries and those ones have oligarchs from the west. Well , give Zim five years and let all be positive about local currency etc, things will change.
Way before we were colonised, we traded gold for beads, we never really used our heads and we do not like to see each other succeed.
True. KaMentality kekuti varungu chete ndovanogona certain things, isu hapana kwatinosvika…we need to support each other sezvinongoita varungu ivavo – Museyamwa & Manjenjenje Enterprises
Africans are poor because we dont want to work, we are so domesticated by our former masters that they give us aid and thise aid are killing Africans. We should stop receiving any aid and let each country face the reality of its future cos with aid some leaders think that they are doing a marvelous job by lotting our resources and giving it to the whites. They will pretend like they want to assist African countries to develop and yet they want to take resources for free. Europe and America will never want Africa to stop depending in them. African countries pay more for loans from world bank and imf unlike african countries, so do you look forward to development in that case. There is no African country tat is indipendent from its former master. We are told to sign treats like we must not use coal for energy because it will harm the environment bla bla bla and look at the energy crisis in Africa South Africa is facing energy crisis because if such treaty.
Let stop thinking that we are free just because we are told that. I think the sanctuons on Zimbabwe are the best thing that ever happened to Zimbabwe cos it will build Zimbabwe on its term not by Britains term.
Yes I think sanctions are God’s gift coz it’s dangerous to be dependent on the devil…next they will tell you to legalize homosexuals and transgender.
Colonialism happened but can we do anything about it. Absolutely not. We need to focus internally.we can’t even travel freely in Africa yet Europeans have free access.i would say the west has sponsored corruption with our inept leaders for mutual gain at the expense of us Africans.
It’s high time our leaders stopped the corruption and started focusing on us instead of wasting time in the past.they quick to send their kids to foreign schools and seek foreign health care yet they are in positions to actually fix problems. We need change esp here in Zim.look across the border at Zambia new gvt with right thinking they higher than the rand. It’s time we voted in rural areas instead of towns where the difference matters
Zimbabwe is poor coz we refused to bend to the hegemony…..look what happened to Libya when Gaddafi tried to spread free thinking and development in Africa….look what happened to Sadam when he tried to end the petro dollar trade
That’s exactly my point we have to look internally. Start with what we can fix. how can we turn a blind eye to incompetance and corruption. We say we poor but bleeding 10billion without batting an eye. What do we need outsiders in the first place when we can loose such large sums
Tikuda ku applya chirungu nechivanhu same time…zvinhu two zvisingapindirane. Kana mati official language is English, let’s do like the English do with our economy, kwete zvana musiyamwa muchirungu
In Zimbabwe government officials are punished for transparency and forthright communication that is needed to cut costs of doing business. No government department shares online status report of availability or nonavailability government systems. Registrar General Companies Registry and Deeds Registry are major culprits.
The websites for most government don’t even bother to try ti facilitates the hassle-free setting up and running of business functions that require government services. Most government websites are barely ever online and running as intended.
The government portal for government services such as Deeds and Company Registries can’t even function beyond attempts to register that is always unsuccessful. The government portal like most government websites does not have a support contact to report abd assist resolve problem. If a contact is present it either is non-functional or one get no reply.
Deeds and Company Registries are mainly paper based archives of valuable documents but the services face problems of accounting and indexing of files such that the network can be down for days to weeks and people have to join the que daily and hope the network will be working as no online status reports of the availability of network are shared with the public. The paper files have poor security and some files for troublesome companies are missing at both Harare and Bulawayo offices possibly stolen
During COVID pandemic when they were all those restrictions on entry into Zimbabwe, there was no online site to get up-to-date information on the requirements to enter Zimbabwe and one had to rely in British government foreign travel advisory or similar or some few travel agents that were informative on some confusing restrictions such as when to start counting the number of days allowance after taking COVID test, vaccination requirements and quarantine protocols and requirements
This article is good for stirring up conversation which is good. Some alternative sources or reading might have been suggested as well
Economic development is a complex subject that is easy to politicise and the waters are often muddied before the debate actually becomes any good.
African colonialism was a brutal and effecient system that was never fully recovered from. It is easy to dismiss it if we have not fully reckoned with it’s implications.
White monopoly capital is a thing and the opposite is true. There is a literal hierarchy and guess who is at the bottom. Being ignorant of this is malicious and delusional.
The Jordan Peterson fella is a right wing conservative whose ideas have been made popular because they fit in to the narrative.
WTO and multilateral orgs exists to keep trade terms favorable for the west. But I digress. The solution to all this lies with us as Africans coming together, sticking it out and building stuff for our kids.
The West and East fully rely on Africa’s disunity. Being united is very difficult already and the next thing to division is corruption. The West already not only wants but needs to keep the leadership corrupt, selfcentered and greedy that way no generational development is carried out. Unity is all we need, every good thing else will follow like dominoes