The imperialism of the 18th and 19th centuries was conducted differently from the explorations of the 15th and 16th centuries. In the earlier period, imperial powers often did not penetrate far into the conquered areas in Asia and Africa. Nor did they always have a substantial influence on the lives of the people. Each European nation had certain policies and goals for establishing colonies. To establish control of an area, Europeans used different techniques. European rulers also developed methods of day-to-day management of a colony. Two basic methods emerged. Britain and other nations preferred indirect control.



Britain’s rule in Nigeria shows the ways European Imperialist used to gain control over an area and it also shows the ways they used to manage and continue to control economic and political life in that area. The British got control over Nigeria in both the hard way and the good way. In a good way, because some of the local leaders agreed to sign treaties of protection with the British and to accept British residents in Nigeria and in the hard way, because even though the local leaders signed a treaty with the British, others didn’t accept the intervention from the British and rebelled against the intervention, therefore Britain used military force to put the rebels down. Since the Nigeria was such a complex area with three large groups (the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba, and the Igbo), they decided to manage the area indirectly with local leaders from the three groups. This indirect management of the groups worked out well in the Hausa-Fulani, but it wasn’t so efficient in the other two groups.



The European colonial rule over Africans brought both negative and positive effects. beginning with the bad news would be how the Africans lost control of their land and their independence. millions died because of diseases or if not of this, they were killed. they were also affected in a traditional aspect, many of their traditional authority figures were replaced. the most harmful effect was the division of Africa, many rival chiefdoms were sometimes united while others were in constant rivalry. on the other hand, there were also some positive consequences. For example colonialism reduced local warfare, colonies improved sanitation and provided hospitals and schools. Because of these benefits life-spans and literacy rate in Africa increased. To provide a way of economic stability railroads, dams, telegraph lines, and telephones were built in African colonies. This so called positive effects benefited only European business interests not Africans’ lives. The British took control of Nigeria. European shad a thirst to seek for more raw materials and resources that could quickly fuel the growing industrial production. So they turned their eyes to Africa. There were oposing groups,the ones who agreed and wanted their protection and rule, and the others who opposed and rebelled. This conquest was succesful thanks to the Royal Niger Company. This copany gined control of the palm-oil trade along he Niger River after the Berlin Conference gave Britain a protectorate over the Niger River delta. In 1914, Nigeria was claimed as a colony. In order to have everything under control and to their benefit, they had to have the people in Nigeria tamed. This task gave much trouble to the British, beacuse Nigeria was divided in about 250 different ethnic groups. All with different religion, languages, and culture. There weren’t enough troops to handle the situation going on, so they sought to control indirectly. This didn’t work so well either, beacuse local chiefs that were appointed by them, started to resent the limited power. The forms of imperialism used by European powers to gain control of an area. Britain aimed for the control of economic and political life of the area. British gained control of Nigeria through diplomatic and military. Basically Britain used imperialism as if it was a take over. British conquest of northern Nigeria was accomplished by the Royal Niger Company which supports them with the economic conditions since they have control of the palm-oil trade along the Niger River. British claimed the entire area of Nigeria as a colony. British ended having limited power over Nigeria because it was large and many ethnic groups lived there so for Britain to still have power but not all of it the chief made them have it limited.





Social implications

New Imperialism gave rise to new social views of colonialism. Rudyard Kipling, for instance, urged the United States to “Take up the White Man’s burden” of bringing European civilization to the other peoples of the world, regardless of whether these “other peoples” wanted this civilization or not. This part of The White Man’s Burden exemplifies Britain’s attitude towards the colonization of other countries:


Take up the White Man’s burden—
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.

While Social Darwinism became popular throughout Western Europe and the United States, the paternalistic French and Portuguese “civilizing mission” (in French: mission civilisatrice; in Portuguese: Missão civilizadora) appealed to many European statesmen both in and outside of France. Despite apparent benevolence existing in the notion of the “White Man’s Burden”, the unintended consequences of imperialism might have greatly outweighed the potential benefits. Governments became increasingly paternalistic at home and neglected the individual liberties of their citizens. Military spending expanded, usually leading to an “imperial overreach”, and imperialism created clients of ruling elites abroad that were brutal and corrupt, consolidating power through imperial rents and impeding social change and economic development that ran against their ambitions. Furthermore, “nation building” oftentimes created cultural sentiments of racism and xenophobia. Many of Europe’s major elites also found advantages in formal, overseas expansion: large financial and industrial monopolies wanted imperial support to protect their overseas investments against competition and domestic political tensions abroad, bureaucrats sought government offices, military officers desired promotion, and the traditional but waning landed gentries sought increased profits for their investments, formal titles, and high office. Such special interests have perpetuated empire building throughout history. Observing the rise of trade unionism, socialism, and other protest movements during an era of mass society both in Europe and later in North America, elites sought to use imperial jingoism to co-opt the support of part of the industrial working class. The new mass media promoted jingoism in the Spanish–American War (1898), the Second Boer War (1899–1902), and the Boxer Rebellion (1900). The left-wing German historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler has defined


href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_imperialism” title=”Social imperialism”>social imperialism as “the diversions outwards of internal tensions and forces of change in order to preserve the social and political status quo”, and as a “defensive ideology” to counter the “disruptive effects of industrialization on the social and economic structure of Germany”.[12] In Wehler’s opinion, social imperialism was a device that allowed the German government to distract public attention from domestic problems and preserve the existing social and political order. The dominant elites used social imperialism as the glue to hold together a fractured society and to maintain popular support for the social status quo. According to Wehler, German colonial policy in the 1880s was the first example of social imperialism in action, and was followed up by the 1897 Tirpitz Plan for expanding the German Navy. In this point of view, groups such as the Colonial Society and the Navy League are seen as instruments for the government to mobilize public support. The demands for annexing most of Europe and Africa in World War I are seen by Wehler as the pinnacle of social imperialism. The notion of rule over foreign lands commanded widespread acceptance among metropolitan populations, even among those who associated imperial colonization with oppression and exploitation. For example, the 1904 Congress of the Socialist International concluded that the colonial peoples should be taken in hand by future European socialist governments and led by them into eventual independence.

Cultural Imperialism

Cultural imperialism denotes how a dominant group’s cultural practices come to dominate the cultural landscape of a subjugated population. In contemporary life, cultural imperialism can refer to the dominance of American or European popular culture in poor countries. One example is when American music dominates the charts in a developing society. When European art is idealized as fine art while African art is derided as “local craftsmanship,” this suggests cultural imperialism. The term can also refer to the spread of Christianity from the colonial period until today.

Political Imperialism


The process through which a dominant country establishes political control — called a sphere of influence — over a poor country is political imperialism. Colonial expansion is one type, as is the establishment of puppet governments. Both the United States and Soviet Union used puppet governments during the Cold War. The intrastate wars that took place in Latin America during this period are now understood as proxy wars in which both countries tried to install sympathetic leadership via behind the scenes financial support and military training.

Economic Imperialism

Economic imperialism — coined by political theorist Leonard Woolf — refers to the way in which dominant powers establish economic power over developing countries. During colonial expansion, this meant exploiting forced labor and pillaging local resources to enrich the dominant countries. Left-leaning social scientists sometimes refer to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as bodies that exert the West’s economic domination over poor countries. They argue that this happens through structural adjustment programs that impose harsh austerity programs on sovereign states to force loan repayment.



Social capital

While current concern about unsustainability largely has an ecological basis, it is clear that human situations or ways of life can be unsustainable for social and economic reasons as well. In the words of Becker (1996) credited with the fatherhood of the human and social capital concepts, ‘social capital incorporates the influence of past actions by peers and others in an individual’s network and control system’. It also includes relationships between individuals, organizations, and between individuals and organizations, kinship, and charitable behavior. Social capital can be deemed the ‘glue’ that holds society together without which societies are themselves unsustainable (Pearce, 1996). The identification of this type of capital stems from the observation that different societies can have broadly equal endowments of other forms of capital, but that certain societies perform better in terms of economic and social development. This missing link is thought to lie in the fact that the better performing societies have less conflict between social groups, more participatory decision-making procedures, greater trust between economic agents, and so on (World Bank, 1997). Thus Putnam (1993) found that one of the factors explaining Northern Italy’s better economic performance compared to Southern Italy was the presence of many more voluntary organizations. This is not to suggest that this form of capital is easy to measure in a manner consistent with how other forms of wealth are quantified. Nevertheless, the destruction of social capital can easily be identified. The wars in Congo, Sierra Leone, etc. obviously constitute a stumbling block to the right social atmosphere necessary for both sustainable development and pursuit of the benefits of globalisation.


Until the incursion of the western political and cultural colonialism, Africa could be said to be very rich in this form of capital. Originally, African societies were founded on communalism where reciprocity and kinship bonds reigned. Resources were held in common and interdependence was recognized as a fact of life. These attributes, however, are fast disappearing. The social philosophy of the emerging global economic order is that of individualism, survival of the fittest and winner takes it all. As the wind of globalisation continues to blow through Africa, rendering the world more selfish and predatory, and as long as we continue to accept the western culture as superior over other cultures, the societal glue that held African societies in one piece will continue to get weaker.

 Human capital

Human capital refers to the relevant past consumption, experiences, knowledge and skills that affect current and future utilities. Recognition of the importance of this capital stock is critical both for sustainability and globalisation. As rightly noted by Prof. Anya O Anya (1999), with the onset of the post-industrial society, development has gone from the resource-exploitative model as the basis for increased and increasing prosperity to the knowledge-based and technology driven. In the process, the new forces of globalisation, and the attendant liberalization, fostered aggressively by TNCs have ensured that goods and services, capital and finances can move across national boundaries, attracted often by the skill and knowledge base of a given society. Thus, skills and knowledge rather than natural resources are now the basis of comparative and competitive advantage in the developed world. African nations are grossly poor in this aspect of development. They are not only still dependent on natural resources for comparative advantage as noted above, but possess a stock of grossly underdeveloped human capital – that is in terms of the type of knowledge and skills presently required by western capitalism.

It is always assumed that there can be no depreciation on human capital since knowledge and skills are always increasing, rather than declining, and can always be passed on to future generation. But nothing can be farther from the truth. Depreciation on human capital does occur and this is expressed in the loss of indigenous skills and knowledge through displacement of tribes, loss of ancient crafts, culture, language, etc. as is going on all over Africa at the moment. This is particularly crucial for African countries because in the indigenous knowledge lies the cultural history of inter-dependence on which the ‘glue’ value attribute of social capital is hinged. Also health hazards and poor sanitary conditions will lead to a depreciation of human capital in the sense that the incapacitation of a human being to maximize the utilization of his/her embodied knowledge or skills through poor health is akin to the loss of that knowledge or a portion of it. So what is the fate of Africa’s human capital in a globalising world? Firstly, globalisation is already obliterating the indigenous cultures of many African societies. The indigenous knowledge and skill is giving way to western knowledge and skills and many African languages have been predicted to be on the path to extinction. While one can not deny the benefits of the western knowledge, the questions are: Must these new knowledge and skills be acquired at the expense of the indigenous knowledge and skill base? Are there no elements of our indigenous knowledge and skills that are relevant to our present development effort?

Secondly, there is a valid fear that globalisation may put African economies at a greater risk of income inequality. Income inequality has been increasing at an increasing rate in Africa. In Africa as a whole, the richest 20% of the population had, in the early 80s, an income four times that of the poorest (UN ECA, 1983). Since then, the condition of the poor has deteriorated further as governments across the continent are compelled to cut public expenditures and restrict necessary imports to conserve foreign exchange as part of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank economic restructuring programs, thereby curtailing investment in the productive sectors (Cornia, et. Al., 1987; World Bank, 1989). Consider some examples of how the market reforms associated with globalisation can affect inequality in African countries. Recent evidence shows that trade liberalization leads to increasing wage gaps between the educated and uneducated, not only in the OECD countries but in the developing countries (Birdsall, 1999). This risk is potent in no other place as much as it is in Africa where the greater percentage of the populace are uneducated. Apparently the combination of technology change with the globalisation of markets is raising the demand for and wage premium to skilled labor faster than the educational system is supplying skilled and trainable workers.


A second example is privatization. Privatization of utilities (power, water, telecommunications, etc.) is always perceived as good for the society. This is because most if not all publicly managed utilities in Africa are inefficient and bedeviled by poor and corrupt management. But it is increasingly obvious that privatization poses grave risks of concentrating wealth in the hands of a few unless done well and with the full complement of regulation. The risk of privatization arise because developing and transnational economies, almost by definition, are handicapped by relatively weak institutions, less well-established rules of transparency, and often, not only high concentrations of economic and political power but a high correlation between those two areas of power. These conditions combine to make it difficult indeed to manage the privatization process in a manner that is not disequalizing.

The third attribute of globalisation with a lot of implication for human capital is financial liberalization. While the elimination of financial repression and increased competition of a modern and liberalized financial sector will benefit small enterprises, through increased access to credit, it also presents some adverse effects as well. In the short run at least, financial liberalization tends to help those who already have assets, increasing the concentration of wealth, which undergirds, in the medium term, a high concentration of income. For one thing, liberalization increases the potential returns to new and more risky instruments for those who can afford a diversified portfolio and therefore more risk, and who have access to information and the relatively lower transacting costs that education and well-informed colleagues can provide. In Africa, with repeated bouts of inflation and currency devaluation in the last several decades, the ability of those with more financial assets to move them abroad (often while accumulating corporate and bank debt that has been socialized and thus eventually repaid by taxpayers) has been particularly disequalising.

Inequality is destructive, when for example it reflects deep and persistent differences across individuals or groups in access to the assets that generate income – including not only land (which is extremely unequally distributed in Africa) but, most important in today’s global information age, the asset of education. Obviously, this destructive inequality undermines economic growth and efficiency, by reducing the incentive for individuals to work, to save, to innovate and to invest. And it often results in the perception if not the reality of injustice and unfairness – with the political risk in the short term of a backlash against the market reforms and market institutions that in the long term are the critical ingredients of shared and sustainable development.

But of course, as many will argue, not all inequality is bad. Some inequality is a manifestation of the healthy outcome of differences across individuals in ambition, motivation and willingness to work. This constructive inequality provides incentives for mobility and rewards high productivity. Some would say constructive inequality is the hallmark of the equal opportunity society the US symbolizes. Increases in this constructive inequality may simply reflect faster growth in income for the rich than the poor – but with all sharing in some growth. In any case, so far as welfare for all is part of the goal of sustainable development, inequality is a negation of sustainability objectives.

Policy implications

Here I present seven interrelated policies to ensure the sustainability of African nations in a global economy. The policies reflect my position on globalisation, which is that every society should consider any aspect of globalisation side by side with their own economic realities and circumstance: there is no standard foolproof model for every society. While globalisation opens a door of new economic opportunities for developing and transitional economies, it does appear to have some costs as well. The challenge for African policy-makers remain how to balance the benefits against the costs in such a way that they come out better off and without compromising the principles of sustainability. The following policy measures might have a role to play in this regard.


Modify the national income accounting system

The national income accounting system as it is presently structured is a poor reflection of the sustainability of African economies. National income accounts are intended to track growth of aggregate income in national economies. Following Lindhal (1933) and Hicks (1946), an indicator of income should measure the value of goods and services that could be consumed in a nation during a given period without reducing future consumption opportunities. This leads to an interpretation of income as the return to a capital stock, and of economic growth (or aggregate income growth) as increases in that flow. Funds generated through reduction of the capital itself are not actually income or contributions to economic growth. In national accounts, however, there is no attempt to measure depreciation of natural capital. Revenues from activities that reduce the stock of natural capital are treated as income without considering the impact of lost stock on future consumption opportunities.

It is this anomaly in income accounting that sends false signals to African policy makers, blinding them from the need for corresponding savings or re-investment of the rent from natural capital consumption. For instance, Gross Domestic Savings in Africa fell from 24.5% of GDP in 1975-84 to 16.2% in 1990-1997, likewise Gross Domestic Investment plummeted to 19.3% of GDP in 1990-1997 from 25.4% in 1975-84 (IMF, 1997). In the same vein, failure to factor environmental costs into the prices of exported commodities ensures that African economies are continually drained of their natural resources at marginal prices and that they remain unfavorably positioned in the world economy. In a more integrated world in which multinationals call the shots, the rate and volume of resource outflow from natural resource dependent economies is bound to grow, while the income received per volume of natural resource output will continue to decrease. According to ECA (1998), Crude oil prices declined by 10% in 1997 from an average of US$ 22.1 to US$ 20.0 per barrel. To compensate for the shortfall in their foreign exchange earnings, these countries – and more so the non-OPEC producers – increased their output from 368.42 million tons in 1996 to 378.40 million tons in 1997, an increase of 2.7%. In South Africa, mines continue to face significant productivity problems associated with dwindling reserves and slender profit margins. Such is the story of Africa’s economic situation. Modifying the national income accounting framework is thus key to ensuring that the rents on depleted natural capital are captured and adequately re-invested. This will serve two important purposes. One, it will provide information on the level of income that the nation can consume while leaving capital intact. Two, it will indicate the amount (rents on natural capital depletion) to be re-invested into other income generating ventures which is the key to diversification of the economy.



Becker, G.S. (1996) Accounting for tastes. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

Birdsall, N. (1999) Globalisation and the Developing Countries: The Inequality Risk. A paper        delivered at the ODC conference ‘Making Development Work’ in Washington DC.

Cornia, G.A., Jolly, A. and Stewart, P. (1987) Adjustment with a human face: Protecting the         vulnerable and promoting growth. Oxford University Press.

Daly, H.E. (1995) Consumption and welfare: Two views of value added. Review of Social             Economy, LIII(4), 451-473.


Daly, Herman (1997) ‘Reconciling Internal and External Policies for Sustainable Development’ In Dragun, A.K. and Jakobsson, K.M. (eds) Environmental Policy: New Perspectives. Edward    Elgar, Cheltenham, UK. PP. 11-31.ECA (1998) African Economic Report – 1998

Ekins, P. (1997) ‘Sustainability as the basis of environmental policy’. In Dragun, A.K. and            Jakobsson, K.M. (eds.) Environmental Policy: New perspectives. Edward Elgar,        Cheltenham, UK. Pp. 33-61.




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