Essay on Africa
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Sample Essay on Africa
Q1. All people of Africa saw the great achievement in the liquidation of colonial regimes and the transferring of political power to Africans. Africans associated high expectations with the declaration of Africa independence. There was widespread belief that the radical improvement of life will come almost immediately. Many African leaders were also shared optimistic expectations along with the most people, albeit with a lesser degree of naivety.
By the end of 1970’s, practically all states of Africa were independent. In the 1974-1975, after years of heavy fighting, the Portuguese colonies such as Angola, Guinea, Mozambique and others have become independent. France left Comoros in 1975. In 1976, Spain issued “Spanish” Sahara, which then was divided between Mauritania and Morocco. Here, however, the bitter war was followed for independence. Mauritius ceded its part to Morocco in 1979. Zimbabwe gained legal independence in 1980. Namibia was the last state that gained independence in 1990.
However, young African nations faced a number of challenges. One of the most important challenges was the establishment of a sovereign state. Most African countries have kept the borders made by Europeans in XIX century. Ethnic groups may be divided by national borders but the loyalty to these groups is often stronger than to the state itself. When African states achieved independence, the dominant nationalist movements and their leaders have established themselves as the constant power. They called for national unity and inspired it, so, the multiparty parliamentary system was rejected in favor of a single state. When these governments have refused to comply with such wishes, then the outcome was the frequent military interventions. The new military leaders have posed themselves as efficient and honest public guardians but soon they began to provide the same policy. In the early 1990’s, many African countries renewed interest in multiparty parliamentary democracy.
After independence, most African countries remained among the poorest in the world as they were before. Construction of government system is proved to be a very complicated process. Many of the difficulties were caused by the colonial past, while others were caused by the traditions of the pre-colonial times. Whatever instrument of colonial administration was, it was based on long experience, was serviced by professionals, and has already acted as a mechanism. Since its collapse, the entire system of governance had to be created anew in all its stages, from top to bottom. However, people who came to power had no any experience to do this.
In the most states of Africa there was aroused a bulge, unprofessional and inefficient bureaucracy, completely riddled with corruption, embezzlement, nepotism, tribal vertical solidarity. The army was the only remained organized force in the time of amorphous social structures. The result is endless military coups. Dictators, came to power, usurped untold wealth itself.
Capital of Mobutu, President of Congo, at the time of his fall was $ 7 billion. Economy functioned poorly and this gave scope for “destructive” economy: production and distribution of narcotics, illegal mining of gold and diamonds, even of human trafficking. Africa’s share of world GDP and its unit weight in world exports declined, output per capita declined as well.
The formation of a state system is extremely complicated through the absolute artificiality of state boundaries. Africa inherited them from the colonial past. They were set during the continent division into spheres of influence and have little in common with ethnic boundaries. The Organization of African Unity, which was established in 1963, was aware that any attempt to fix a particular boundary could lead to unpredictable consequences, the “domino effect” or a house of cards, called to consider these borders inviolable, no matter how unjust they may be. However, those boundaries were still turned into a source of ethnic conflicts and displacements of millions of refugees.
Colonialism, using a policy of “divide and conquer” did lessen many acute ethnic feuds rooted in the pre-colonial times. Otherwise, the colonial economy could not work. With the departure of the colonial regimes, these conflicts have exploded as the mines in slow motion. Inter-ethnic strife, both between and within the same state, has become a tragedy of Africa. The civil war in the 1967-1970 years in Nigeria, when the eastern part of the country, populated by people of Igbo, decided to secede and declare themselves as the Republic of Biafra, took 1 to 2 million lives. Idi Amin, Uganda’s bloody dictator, in the 1971-1979 years, took reprisals against the whole people and has led the country into a ruin. Hostility between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi has caused an incalculable damage to these states and their population.
Seeking to escape from poverty, war and genocide, to escape from the overcrowded cities, where it was impossible to find a job due to the lack of industry, Africans were going outside the continent. In 60-ies, when in the Western Europe was the economic boom and cheap labor hands were needed, Africans along with the Indo-Pakistanis and Arabs have emigrated there. Today, millions of Africans are in the UK, France and other European countries.
Q2. In the past decades, Africa has received the reputation of the most conflict and dangerous region of our planet. Therefore, it increasingly began to be called a continent of conflicts, or, more figuratively, boiling continent. Africa is the only region in the world, where the number of conflicts each year, not only does not decrease but even increases. The emergence of such conflicts and dangerous situations in Africa is explained through a whole complex of causes of ethnic, religious, political and geo-political, socio-economic nature. In doing so, the reasons sometimes are divided into external and internal (intra- and inter-state), although it is difficult to draw the clear line between them.
Yet it seems that at the core of the most conflicts are the causes of ethnic nature. This is because the ethnic composition of Africa’s population is more complicated. Ethnographers identify about 300-500 ethnic groups in this continent.
The center of conflict situations is in Black Africa, or Africa, just south of the Sahara. Let’s begin with West Africa – sub-region, which not only includes the largest number of independent states but also has the great ethnic diversity. There live namely people of the Niger-Kordofanian family, including such large as the Yoruba, Fulbe, Mosi, Ashanti, Wolof, Bambara, and Malinke. However, with the section of West Africa by European colonialists, in fact, all of them were divided between the possessions of France and Great Britain. After the collapse of the colonial system, these borders were inherited by freed countries.
In the years of independent development, armed conflicts have occurred and are occurring in many West African countries as Nigeria, Chad, Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc. For example, in Nigeria in the late 60’s there was internal war, which was waged by federal troops against the separatists who proclaimed their own “State of Biafra” in the eastern part of the country; the war has taken more than a million lives.
In recent decades, East Africa, where live people of Afroasiatic, Niger-Kordofanian, and Nilo-Saharan language family, who are the followers of Islam, Christianity, and the local religion, was and remains the scene of many conflicts. Here, countries of the Horn of Africa as Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia, have long been the main centers of military conflicts.
Before the collapse of the colonial system in Africa, the northern part of the current Somali Democratic Republic was a possession of Great Britain and the eastern and southern – Italy. Since independence in 1960 this country more than once, in the name of Great Somalia, started fighting with neighboring states, primarily Ethiopia but also Kenya, bringing to them the territorial claims.
In the book “Clash of Civilizations” Samuel Huntington tells that some believe that in today’s world is becoming that Naipaul V.S. has called “the universal civilization.” Huntington said that the term implies a cultural unification of humanity and the growing acceptance by people around the world shared values, beliefs, conditions, traditions, and institutions.
The author informs that most of the leading scientists studying civilization except Braudel do not recognize the distinct African civilization. North Africa and the eastern coast belong to the Islamic civilization. Huntington assumes that historically, Ethiopia in itself is a civilization. In all other countries, European imperialism and the settlers have brought elements of Western civilization. In South Africa, the settlers from Holland, France, and then England, planted a mosaic European culture. Most importantly, European imperialism brought Christianity to a bigger part of the continent. The author tells that for the whole Africa tribal identity is still strong but among Africans it is rapidly growing sense of African identity. It proves the fact that the cause of many conflicts is the ethical identification.
Samuel P. Huntington has divided coups into three types:
Breakthrough coups – in such coups traditional government is overthrown by the revolutionary army. Then, the new bureaucratic elite are created.
Guardian coups – the aim of this croup is to end corruption as well as to improve public order.
Veto coups occur when mass participation is voted by the army.
I do not think that military governments are better than their civilian equivalents. It can be seen on the example of Ethiopia. In 1974, in Ethiopia, the power was transferred to the military, which dissolved the civilian government and established a temporary military government. Usurping political power, the Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC) imposed censorship and abolished civil rights. There were killed approx. 100 thousand people and several hundreds of thousands were forced to seek refuge in neighboring Kenya, Sudan, and Djibouti. So, we can see that there are no any improvement, efficiency, stability, unity, and development.
In Africa, there are young independent states, which were able to avoid serious inter-ethnic conflicts, for examples, Guinea, Niger. With regard to the most radical solutions to this complex problem, it has been already put forward a proposal to redraw the political map that was inherited from the colonial era in Africa, creating, if possible, mono-ethnic states on the continent. However, practically, it is absolutely impossible.
Q3. The economy of African countries is largely based on primary products and the extraction of natural resources, exported as unprocessed. As a result, economic growth is much slower than might be, because revenues, received from added value in the processing, accrue outside the continent. In this regard, the economy of African states in the large degree dependent on the price of fluctuations and trade regulations. This fact is proved by severe economic crisis which confronted African states in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1970’s, the Tanzanian economy has developed relatively rapidly, which was associated with high world prices for Tanzanian exports. The policy of the forced creation of the “socialist villages” led to the alienation of farmers from the land, and the rate of growth was slowed. In the late 1970’s, Tanzania has entered into an economic crisis. The fall of the world prices for products of Tanzanian exports, world oil crisis and burdensome war with Uganda have led to a breach of the balance of payments.
Internal factors have also played an important role. The state systematically underpaid farmers for exports and accumulated a significant portion of revenues from exports. Therefore, farmers faced a dilemma: either to produce fewer products or to realize a substantial part of it on the black market. Socialist type of economy also required the existence of political restrictions of economic activity. Arusha Declaration of 1967 banned the party functionaries and government officials to be engaged in business and to use hired labor.
Despite Tanzanian leadership efforts to prevent the personal enrichment of the party elite and government officials, the economic crisis of 1980 has generated an extensive shadow economy. Employees of the party apparatus and government officials, faced with the inability to survive on their salaries, have engaged in entrepreneurial activities. Experts note that it is difficult objectively assess the economic state of Tanzania, because it is virtually impossible to determine the extent of the shadow economy.
In the early 1980’s, the Government of Tanzania has made several attempts to adjust economic policies but it did not help the sick socialist economy. In 1986, Tanzania held talks with the IMF to obtain loans for the restructuring of the economy. The reached agreement meant a radical shift of economic course of the country, since the conditions required the rejection of the socialist methods of management. Like most countries, embarked on the path of reforms, Tanzania was implementing the privatization of public sector of agriculture and industry. The IMF also demanded trade liberalization and devalue of the Tanzanian shilling.
Another example is Democratic Republic of Congo, whose subsoil is rich in minerals, has the most powerful economic potential of tropical Africa. In mid-1970’s, the country entered again into an economic crisis, which was continuing into the 1990’s. As export revenues only partially offset the significant costs of imports, the government has made large foreign loans. Growth of exports constrained by low world prices for major export products: copper, cobalt, coffee, and diamonds. It was required a financial assistance from foreign banks and international organizations to service foreign debt. By 1997, it amounted to 13.8 billion dollars. Since agricultural production did not meet the needs of the population, the government was forced to spend foreign reserves to import food. Economic difficulties were aggravated as well by poor infrastructure, especially transportation. Annual budgets were made with a significant deficit, which coupled with other economic problems, led to high inflation.
Since mid-1970’s, production of many products of the manufacturing industry each year has decreased or not increased. Moreover, in the early 1980’s, production capacity of many enterprises operated only at 30%. This situation was due to restrictions on currency transactions, which hindered the procurement of imported spare parts for worn-out equipment, insufficient supplies of industrial commodities and the reluctance of investors to boot industry at full power against the backdrop of an uncertain economic situation.
The crisis also affected Angola. After the proclamation of independence of Angola, almost all the Portuguese settlers left the country and the economy fell into decay. Former Portuguese companies have moved under the management of new public companies, which had no experience of organizing production. Only the oil industry was booming, as from 1968, when Angola has started production of oil, the oil industry was controlled by large international companies. By mid-1980’s, the sale of crude oil brought more than 90% of export earnings and over 50% of government revenue. Most of the other sectors of the economy, with the exception of diamond, indirectly were supported by revenues from oil exports. Agriculture faced a severe crisis. In mid-1980’s, there were more than 20 oil companies in Angola from the USA, France, Italy, Japan, and Brazil.
In the searching out of the deep economic crisis in the early 80’s, most African countries, many of them by following the instructions of the IMF, went on the road to economic restructuring, the main slogans which were weakening the regulatory role of the state, complete freedom of market relations, and accelerated privatization. “Shock therapy” in Africa has led to even greater growth in social tension among the nearly three hundred million people and an increase in financial and economic dependence on the leading Western donor countries.
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