How Europe underdeveloped Africa

By Walter Rodney

I just started reading this book and it is one of those that need to be read with others, in community. It is not enough to read it alone.

Elsewhere on this blog, I have said education is the chief way we will address the challenges facing us in this century, in Africa and the world as a whole. What type of education? A problem posing, as Paulo Freire put it in the pedagogy of the oppressed. This, problem posing education, is, I aver, what has been lacking in our curriculum.

I digress.

This book first published 46 years ago today is still so relevant it makes me want to cry.

For example, Rodney writes

The incomes given to civil servants, professionals, merchants, come from the store of wealth produced by the community. Quite apart from the injustices in the distribution of wealth, one has to dismiss the argument that ‘the taxpayers’ money is what develops a country. In pursuing the goal of development, one must start with the producers and move on from there to see whether the products of their labour are being rationally utilised to bring greater independence and well being to the nation.

Elsewhere he writes, and it is true, painfully so,

It has been noted with irony that the principal ” industry” of many underdeveloped countries is administration. [……]the salaries given to the elected politicians are higher than those given to British MPs

And this, my friends, is just the beginning of the book and I am already annoyed.


About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

39 thoughts on “How Europe underdeveloped Africa

  1. Tish Farrell says:

    Gets to the root straight away then. Colonialism was all about stitching the locals up in administrative systems that were only designed to serve settler and home state interests. And when the colonials left, they left their wretched systems behind, having done all in their power beforehand to undermine or outlaw indigenous methods of law and order.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree it’s so frustrating.


  3. renudepride says:

    The bottom line of all the imperialist systems is greed. The rich want more at the expense of the poor. It was true a thousand years ago and continues to this very day. Naked hugs, my Kenyan brother!


  4. nasimolo says:

    Yes, problem posing education that encourages conversation,rhetoric and reflection is key for liberation. Then do away with some “useless callings” thatvare handsomely remunerated.

    Great to keep our eyes on the ball.


  5. Seems like a book I need to add to my ever-growing list.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. john zande says:

    It’s been interesting to live in two colonial countries, with two very different stories/outcomes.


  7. johnfaupel says:

    Long before Colonialism reared its ugly head no one ‘owned’ anything. “The exchange of goods and services between people, based literally on ‘face value’, was for the benefit of the community, but the personal acquisition of land and chattels that had to be protected against theft, was for the benefit of those who claimed it for themselves. This eventually led to the belief that whomsoever owned more than others had the right to control them, and ultimately to a belief in the ‘divine right of kings’ to control everyone. It necessitated a change of focus: from ‘trust’ to ‘distrust’, from ‘intuition’ to ‘imposition’, and from ‘cooperation’ to ‘competition’.” [The Rise of the Mutant Ego]

    Liked by 1 person

  8. basenjibrian says:

    In the primitivist nirvana you sometimes pine for, Maka, there ain’t much room for “architects”….or bicycles, for that matter.

    Tribal or village justice is often narrow and very, very brutal.


    • makagutu says:

      in this particular case, I am not advocating for a nirvana, just looking at how Europe/America underdeveloped and still does under-develop Africa.
      village justice maybe brutal but at least, those concerned feel there is justice. and in the village, exploitation, poverty and all we associate with ‘civilised society’ were minimal.


      • basenjibrian says:

        I’m not sure I agree. It depends on the definition of village justice, of course. But if one is “different” in any way, a traditional society is probably not all that great. I think of lynchings, or clan violence, or the young girl raped by all the men in her village in Pakistan because her brother had a dalliance with a girl from the wrong caste.

        As far as exploitation, one can argue that the real “mistake” was made with the full scale adoption of agriculture. Villages based on agriculture are not all that known for justice. Feudal societies are based in villages, and there was certainly exploitation there.

        One can argue that the modern world (19th century+) made all these tendencies worse. No argument there.

        Sorry to sidetrack your main thread, which I of course agree with!


        • makagutu says:

          Of course, you are right that we have to define what village justice means. But taking the example of the US, in place of village lynching, you have state sanctioned murder in the form of death penalty or cruelties like solitary confinement. And down in South Africa until so recently, there were miscegenation laws. Perfectly lawful in a progressive society. It’s hard to tell which is better, village or progressive society!

          I agree with you on feudal societies & movement from it to the capitalist system. I am not suggesting we return to a feudal system. Of course not. We can do better. We can pay people decent wage. We can have 4hr work day and 4 days work week. We can have more people employed & working in shifts.

          So we are agreed on the main


          • basenjibrian says:

            By what definition was Apartheid South Africa “progressive”?

            Miscegenation laws are terrible, of course. But I would bet the abolition of such laws occurred more frequently in “progressive” societies than traditional ones. India, despite decades under the façade of a modern state is still a village society, is rife with caste laws. Heck, some villages still burn widows.

            We can always hope to do better. I am not sure any of the alternatives to “capitalism” (itself a vague term) are better mechanisms to accomplish these goals.


            • makagutu says:

              My good friend, you must have heard that when the white missionaries and colonialists came here, they were on a civilising mission to help the primitive African. In this context, we must necessarily assume that their actions assume progressiveness. Good men and women supported these things. In hindsight we can both agree this wasn’t progressive.
              In India, is it the village burning widows or they jump into the funeral pyre


  9. Tish Farrell says:

    I just tweeted this to you, but you really need to see this film. UK’s City of London financiers and their offshore empires have a lot to answer for, and especially the whole-scale, ongoing looting of Africa. The next instrument of pillage that I suspect is coming in your direction is PFI – privately backed development of public infrastructure.


  10. Africa Information Lead says:

    Nice thought here. I like your passion for Africa. Pls feel free to check out my blog


  11. Africa Information Lead says:

    Do check out this article. I trust it will inspire you.


  12. The Mask says:

    It is true; education and good governance are the keys to the rapid development of the African continent. Europeans underinvested in this period through out the colonial period.


  13. afrowhiz says:

    I love the book….hope to follow in his footsteps and write something on Africa


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