Sample History Paper on How Europe Underdeveloped Africa


The subject of African history has been determined largely by interaction with European countries. European connection with the African continent gives a definite  relationship between the two continents, and the factors that led to European development, and Africa’s dependency. Scholars such as Walter Rodney claim that before Africa came into contact with Europe in the fifteenth century, it may have been undeveloped but not underdeveloped. Underdevelopment is a historical process of crude exploitation and subjection of Africa and its people for the benefit of Europe and its people. The issue of African underdevelopment has persisted from the precolonial period through the independence period in 1960s to the contemporary African society. European imperialism, ideology, colonialism, and slavery of the Africans has had crucial consequences on the African continent. Today, there is a stronger call for anti-racism and black power both in Europe and in the African continent to extend a revolutionary change in the economic sectors of African states. Many scholars such as Walter Rodney have extended a lot of research on how Europe underdeveloped Africa with the aim of ridding the African world of imperialistic feelings transferred by the Europeans to Africans. European imperialism led to economic, cultural, and political changes in the African continent that have consequently affected its growth and development.[1]


Colonialism and foreign investments had a direct impact on underdevelopment of the African continent. During the colonial era, European settlers amassed natural resources from Africa that they exported to their respective countries. As such, Africa helped to develop western Europe, and in the same manner western Europe underdeveloped Africa. According to Islam European settlers reinvested the African wealth in Europe in sectors such as shipping, insurance, formation of companies, plantation agriculture, technology, and industrial development, in exchange of cheap foreign imports. As a result, colonialism created a control mechanism and a prolonged stagnation of African economy. African underdevelopment was a deliberate effort by the Europeans to disintegrate African industries, hence poverty and suffering persisted among the Africans.

Colonization and imperialism brought decay in African institutions such as in the government. The cultural institutions that existed prior to the colonial conquest collapsed after the colonial invasion and subsequent partitioning of the African continent broke kinship ties and traditional kingdoms. The new political and economic institutions were used by the Europeans to manipulate Africans, and African could hardly internalize them (Magubane).[2] African partition brought social alienation, and separated people from one another. Magubane also notes that he partition also isolated people from their land and environment by constraining them to reservations. The relationship between the white settlers and the natives was a relation based on the victimization and oppression of the black people. Colonialists ransacked Africa’s wealth and manpower because the Africans wholly worked in the settler farms. It is a contradiction that most African countries are rich in natural resources such as gold and silver, yet people live in deplorable conditions. European countries have continued to underdevelop the African continent through its capitalistic tendencies of setting the prices of goods and services in the world today.


[3][4]Capitalism has played an important role in the underdevelopment of the African continent. According to Rodney, capitalism theory asserts that Africa’s dependence on Europe originates from its natural tendency towards stagnation. Rodney observes that the over seventy two years of European imperialism in Africa has caused vast changes in the capitalist world, that is, Europe and America, and in the Socialist world, that is, Russia and China. Consequently, European imperialism has resulted in colossal modifications in the African continent.3 For instance, capitalism backed up imperialism that finally motivated African colonialism and domination. Rodney expresses that colonialism later formed a obstruction to political, economic and social progress within the African continent. Today, the issue of a capitalist market has continued to affect Africa’s freedom from European power. Therefore, Africa has continued to lag behind following Europe’s economic and political superiority. African development is possible when Africans apply a revolutionary break with the global capitalist system, and institute a new system to regulate the world market.


In 1960s, most African countries had gained independence from the European colonialists, and they cherished a moment of self-independence. However, the independent African governments would soon turn to their former colonial masters in a bid to get financial aid and to get political insights. According to Rodney, the newly formed African governments did not reshape or replace the colonial governments. As a result, the issue of neo-colonialism has continued to contribute significantly in Africa’s economic retardation.4 During the colonial and post-colonial eras, the white settlers have amassed raw materials such a s gold, copper, bronze and other cash crops from the African continent, making it impossible for the continent to develop rapidly. Today, the European countries are at the forefront of every development project in Africa, such as oil exploration, whereby they manipulate the African governments into giving them the mining contracts, and they end up taking up a large share of the profit. Neo-colonialism calls for extensive investigation in order to formulate the strategy and tactics of African redemption and development.

African Collaboration with Europeans

Rodney refutes the claim that the underdevelopment of the African continent emanates wholly from external intervention. The development of the African continent lies on the shoulders of all Africans. All Africans have the responsibility to understand the colossal capitalist system and work on how to stop it. However, there are African accomplices inside the imperialistic system. During the colonial period, many Africans collaborated with the whites to gain wealth and recognition. African collaborators accepted European domination and authority. The Jamaican government criticized Rodney’s call for black power, thus declaring him a prohibited immigrant hence leading to his assassination, instead of supporting his revolutionary call against white domination. Today, many African countries do collaborate with the Europeans in selling the African skills such as art and talented persons, and also in propagating dictatorial governance. For example, there are many industries in Africa that promote African heritage, however, many African leaders disregard such industries in favor of the mega European industries that totally promote European art.

African Corruption and Opportunism

West acknowledges Rodney’s dissertation on black power that rejected colonial master imperialism, and emphasized on African conscious in economic, social and political development.[5] West writes about Rodney who visited various African countries such as Tanzania, Japan, and Nigeria. It is while in Nigeria that Rodney observed the endemic issues in Africa that contribute to its underdevelopment. Rodney observed that African politics is riddled with corruption and selfishness. Post-colonial African is dominated by corrupt tendencies by the leaders, each trying to benefit from the regime through ethnicity, racism, and nepotism. Rodney asks the Africans to resist all temptations to live their entire lives as permanent victims, angry accusers, or imitators of Europeans.6 Despite the fact that Africa is a third World Country, most African leaders have the highest salaries in the world with huge allowances hence leading to over taxation of the public and subsequent underdevelopment.  Africans are to invent and make a difference by working out suitable concepts for a working government ideology and philosophies in their respective countries.

Eurocentric Scholars

Ignorance and Eurocentrism have contributed in the underdevelopment of the African continent. African prehistoric and historic periods have been written from a mistaken point of view. For instance, Hugh Trevor roper declared that there is no African history to write. Walter Rodney’s objective in his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was to try to call out all Africans who desire to explore further the cause of their exploitation, instead of satisfying the regulations set by their oppressors in the economic, social, political, and academic worlds. For example, in the academic sector, Eurocentric scholars have written extensively on white supremacy, for instance, discrediting Africa as the origin of man and evolution. Since there are fewer Afrocentric scholars, there is no enough research to uphold Africa’s [6]revolutionary contributions in the world. Therefore, many Africans lack insight on their rightful contribution in the world as well as their abilities. In addition, knowledgeable Africans often cast a blind eye on criticisms written by European scholars without rightfully critiquing them. Constructive criticism of Eurocentric works is necessary in reconstructing the rightful place of Africa in the world. We should take these writings seriously as they are meant for Africa and many other people who have suffered in the hands of European-initiated underdevelopment, and for all Europeans who claim unity with the Third World effort in their liberation and development.

Gender Inequality

Gender inequality is a significant cause of Africa’s underdevelopment. Africa experiences inherent female discrimination due to paternalism, matriarchal African cultural practices, and faulty family structures. During the colonial period, the white settlers consolidated Africans into settler camps mainly on gender basis. According to Rodney, the explanation of labor by colonialists determined men’s work as “modern” and women’s work as “ tradtional/backward”. As a result, women’s role in the society continued to decline with the resultant loss of their rights. Women form more than 51% of the total population in African, and when their contribution in political and economic endeavor is ignored, it results in slower growth and development.

Slavery and Slave Trade

Slavery and slave trade has had immense contribution in the underdevelopment of the African continent due to historical materialism of the Europeans. Prior the colonial period, European explorers and traders engaged in the infamous triangular slave trade across the Atlantic ocean. In this trade, the Europeans in collaboration [7]with the Americans shipped the able-bodied Africans to the Americas and other European countries to work in the sugar and cotton plantations. The farm products were shipped to European industries and the manufactured goods were sent back to Africa for trade. According to Islam, the manufactured goods were of higher qualities that the textile and other goods from African industries, thus African kings and chiefs exchanged African goods with the slaves for personal enrichment.7 As such, Africa lost the creme of the society-people who were able to work in the farms and in the domestic industries. Consequently textile and blacksmith industries collapsed hence making the African continent to depend on Europe. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade resulted in total elimination of men in some areas, hence lack of pro-creation. As a result, some cultural practices died completely as women could hardly take up men’s roles.

High Tariffs

European colonialists deliberately increased tariffs to hinder export of goods into their countries, for the benefit of the people of Europe. European industrial growth depended on the deceleration of the economies of their colonies, and whenever they felt threatened they elevated the tariffs to defend their trade. Besides, the Europeans in Africa produced only those raw materials they needed. They only engaged in building harbours, railways, mining industries, processing enterprises, and growing cash crops, to be shipped to European industries. All the economic means of production belonged to external monopolies hence Africans had no way of developing their traditional industries. No African could build or grow anything without the white settler’s permission, hence Africans’ skills were curtailed.

Furthermore, Africans were treated harshly with fire and sword by the white settlers if they did not comply to partition. Colonial boarders resulted to civil wars and ethnic clashes that are prevalent to present-day Africa. Magubane notes that Africans were denied economic power as they land was taken away.[8]  When Africans gained political power in the 1960s, they did not regain their economic influence. Political power without economic independence is an illustration of African dependency to European imperialism. African nations continue to export products to the European industries for manufacturing, while the Europeans export re-branded products back to Africa at a considerable price.


Africa has to seek new means of economic defense, new forms of political struggle, new pathways around social revolution, and new academic visions in order to overcome its underdevelopment. There is concern about the modern-day economic situation in Africa following the enrichment of colonialists in Africa and the economic deprivation of the Africans who were subject to European domination. Africans should dig into their past and unravel the secret of their current economic impoverishment. The real history of the African underdevelopment process is one of subjugation, robbery, conquest, and coercion. European colonialists undermined the economy, technology, and cultural endeavors of the African continent. The only way to overcome underdevelopment is to call upon the Africans into taking a collective action towards African redemption from economic dependence. Africa must put herself together and start to fix the damage to her economic, social and political fabrics.






Islam, Shada. “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” (1979): 177-179.

Magubane, Bernard. “On Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies 3, no. 3 (1973).

Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Verso Trade, 2018.

West, Michael O. “How Europe Underdeveloped African at 40.” Groundings 2, no. 1 (2015): 10.



[1] Walter Rodney. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. (Verso Trade, 2018).271



[2] Bernard Magubane “On Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies 3, no. 3 (1973).


3 Ibid., 27-28.

4 Walter Rodney. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. (Verso Trade, 2018).271


[5] Michael O.West “How Europe Underdeveloped African at 40.” Groundings 2, no. 1 (2015): 10.

6 Ibid., 275

[6] Ibid., 279.

[7] Shada Islam. “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” (1979): 177-179.


[8] Ibid., 32