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Politics of Developing Countries

Examining the Impact of Colonialism


Colonialism has had varied and very influential effects on the progress of the Third World as the one region that was most affected by this injustice. On the one hand it undermined the sovereignty of Third Word states, exploited their resources and widened inequalities; on the other hand, it developed their politics and economies, creating a semblance of progress amidst the stifling of states’ self-determination.

The introduction of states and new systems of governance prevented the potential for the natural maturing of pre-colonial African institutions as argued by Basil Davidson (1992). This partly resulted in the internal conflicts in the region post-independence, as states sought to redefine their political landscape. Colonialism led to exploitation of resources due to minimal reinvestment by colonial states of profits gained from colonies, like the case of India, which recorded “no increase in its per capita income in 190 years of British rule” (Tomlison 1993:217).[1]

However, colonialism did bring benefits to territories that were colonized. In regions like Africa, the bulk of the continent was characterized by non-state societies with agro-based economies at subsistence level. The entrance of colonizers brought innovations in methods of agricultural production and facilitated industrial revolution.

[1] Colonialism and Post-Colonial Development – James Chiriyankandath (2007). Chapter 2. Page 41


Understanding Development

‘Development’ is a troublesome term to interpret as attested to by Sylvia Chant and Cathy Mcllwaine (2009, pp2) who say development is “uneven, contradictory and complex”[1]. They refer to development as being a “complex, contradictory and powerful term that takes on particular meanings in the context of specific intellectual, institutional and political moments”[2].

The concept of development has changed over time having started with a bias towards economic progress determined by measuring a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the 1950s. This measurement eventually progressed to measuring GDP per capita in order to more accurately present a country’s economic progress in relation to its population size.

Thinkers like Goulet in 1971 and institutions like the UNDP in the late 1980s further define development as being more than just a “synonym for economic growth[3]. Their concepts denoted the importance of ascertaining the extent to which countries meet the basic social, economic and political needs of their citizens and helped change the focus of development analysis from nations to individuals.

[1] Geographies of Development in the 21st Century’ (Introduction, Page 2)

[2] Geographies of Development in the 21st Century’ (Chapter 1, Page 13)

[3] Geographies of Development in the 21st Century’ (Chapter 1, Page 14)

Source: Forbes

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