Posted by Emmanuel Mgina on 02:30 with 1 comment
Colonial economy refer to the system of production and consumption which were introduced in the colonies by the colonialist in order to fulfill their economic demands such as raw materials, markets, area for investment and areas for settlement. The colonial state played vital role establishing and controlling colonial economy.
 “Colonial economy means a production system deliberately established in a society which had been physically dominated by imperialist power in all aspect of life, politically economically, culture and socially”[1]
Colonial economy was built in Africa over a span of years after establishment of colonial political control. It was the geographyhical extension of the European imperialist economies to their colonies abroad. During the period African economy were destroyed transformed or subordinate.
After the colonial state had take over the colonies the next step was to establish colonial economy. This was to establish colonial economy. This was basically the primary purpose of the European conquest of Africa in the last quarter of the 19th century. The purpose of establishing colonial economy was to ensure constant supply of raw materials, cheap labor, market ,area for investment and area for settlement. During that period African self-sufficient economies were transformed and made inferior

The forms or system s of colonial  economy were agriculture, mines, industries, commerce and financial institution
Colonial agriculture was introduced by colonialist to produce cash crops which were to be exported to European to feed various industries. There were three categories of colonial agriculture namely.
Plantation agriculture is a large production unit of agriculture producing for sell and employing a large number of unskilled labourer who are closely supervised.

“They were huge agriculture plantations with a single production, they were either owned by the colonial government or absent capitalist in Europe who sent representative to take over plantation”[2]

Settler agriculture: Is a foreign immigrant from the foreign country particular Europe who had a home in the colony and engaged in commercial agriculture by using cheap African labour migrant labour and forced labour. Example  kenya 

“Settler economy involved production by foreigners who had settled permanently in the colonies”[3]
 Peasant agriculture; Is a person who owned or rented a small plot where he worked using his family labour to produce for his own subsistence and also for non-agriculture production

“It was the type of agriculture where small farmers were allowed to grow cah crops in their small plots along side with their subsistence crops using the family labor and crude technology” [4]
Commercial activities in the colonial were managed and controlled by merchants capital middlemen and marketing boards. Market board and cooperative union were introduced y colonialist where the middle men were discouraged.
Trade was nothing new among the Africans. Africans had been trading for along time. The pre-colonial Africa, trade was characterized by two major feature.
Much of it was marketing rather than trading proper. In other word selling one’s non products and buying one’s goods instead of transporting goods from a distance with other intention of making a profit.
Trade expended with  the introduction of the white and gained momentum in the 19th century. The introduction of colonial rule and the flow of settlers in the colonies changed the nature of the pre-colonial trade drastically European introduced new kind of trade which aimed to serve their interests.
The concept of industry refer to primary activities which involve the production of  of raw material for food stuffs and secondary processing which include manufacturing. During colonial rule there was little development of industries. There was found were mainly processing and extractive industries. The main objective these industry were to reduce bulkiness and weight in order to make the exportation of raw material easy and ensure low freight charges
Example of colonial industries were decortications industry on the Tanzania main land spanning mill in Dahomey and Ivory coast and groundnuts processing industry in Senegal
One of the major problem facing colonial state was to get reliable labour supply. Labourers were needed for building the colonial infrastructure,such as roads, railways government offices and prison Labour was also needed on the plantation, mining and other sectors.

Land alienation. Particularly in areas with farms and plantations and in area rich in minerals landless Africans were forced to seek employment in the colonial plantation.
Western education was introduced in order to get laboures who could work in different office of administration

It was export import oriented economy colonial economy specialized in the production of raw material for the metropolitan industries and importation of manufactured goods to Africa

“This mean that colonial economy depended up on and was responsive to the imperialist interest”[5]

Colonial economy was characterized by  establishment of weak and small processing industries. The few factories that were established were for import  substitution. This was because  colonies had to remain in producers of raw materials.

Some of the colonies were mono-culture. They specialized in the production of one major commodity for example, Mauritius specialized in the production of sugar, Ghana produced cocoa and Liberia produced rubber.

Colonial production was based on coercion. The colonial economies were supering imposed and the Africans were forced to produce for export rather than for their own consumption.

The colonial economy involved consumption of physical infrastructure such as road and railways in order to transport raw materials to the coast labourers to the plantation and mining centre.

Colonial economy was dominated by European establishing their trade companies. These  companies could open and shut  any given market at well.

“The most notable companies include imperial British East Africa company under Karl Peters, British, Smith African Company”[6]
Destruction; The colonial state destroyed self-sufficient African economies and forced African into money economy by he follow ways:-

By flooding agriculture market with European goods were of relatively high quality and were in huge quantitive hence were cheaply sold.

“African traders wee also prohibited fromengaged in various trading activities along te coast of Tanganyika which the British did the same in West Africa”[7]

Colonialist destroyed or abolished Africa barter trade system and the Africans long distance trade.

The emergency European traders who replaced African traders by establishing trading companies to deal with export and import trade between Europe and Africa. Thus Africans were forced to buy imported manufactured goods.

Preservation methods:  Colonialist preserved several aspects of colonial economy. The most important aspects were:-

Primitive and crude technology; hand hoe, Panga, axes and the like were preserved. Those continued to be the major instrument of production through out the colonial period.

Pre-colonial relation of production, especially in feudal societies  had to be preserved for example Buganda in Uganda was preserved. However these preserved for relation of production now had to serve the needs of colonialist.
The unity of production. Before the coming of the white family had been the major unit of production. In the area where the colonialist intoroduced peasant economy family remained to be the unit of production.

“Family remain to be unit of production through out the colonial rule”[8]
 Creation method: Creation of colonial economy refers to the introduction of new elements in pre colonial economy with the aim of serving European monopoly capitalism. Through creation method various elements of capitalism were introduced in Africa pre-colonial economies. The elements introduced by the capitalist include.

Money economy, colonialist introduced money as a medium of exchange. This type of economy was meant to make Africans produce for metropolis in that they were forced to use money. The use of money enabled African to buy imported goods and produced raw material like cash crops which were to be sold to the colonialist at low price in order to pay different taxes

Taxation; Taxes had to be  paid in cash imprisonment and hard labor awaited all those who failed to pay the require amount

“Various taxes both direct and indirect were introduced to enable the colonialist to have money for running their colonies”[9]

Land alienation, the colonialist had to force the African out of their fertile land so as to open up plantation and mines for raw materials. This therefore enabled European settler to get cheap fertile land which was worked on by African cheap labour.
 They build up of physical infrastructure. These included railways, roads airports harbor and ports. Other were social infrastructure such as schools, hospital Bomas prison and courts.
 African labour power. This was also social creation. Various strategies were employed to ensure that cheap labour was made constantly available for colonial production.
Cash crops, introduction of cash crops economy was meant to produce cash crops for export so as to feed various industries in metropolitans

“Introduction of other elements such as forced labour, migrant labour, transport infrastructure”[10]
Therefore before the coming of European Africans had been practicing local subsistence economies, which were geared to sustain the members of the society. Colonial economy was new to Africans. Hence African were to establish colonial economy. Europeans had to use different techniques, which have been categorized  into three major categories namely destruction creation and preservation.

Boghen, A. (1964); TOPICS IN WEST AFRICA HISTORY,; Clavendon Press, London.

Fager, J,D (1945); HISTORY OF WEST AFRICA; Cambridge University Press, Longman

Maluka century. S.(2008) ; MAJOR EVENT IN AFRICAN HISTORY; Nyambari Nyangwine Publisher, Dar es salaam

Mwl Kato  (2011); MASTERING ADVANCED LEVEL HISTORY; Mweas Publisher; Mwanza


[1] Zist Kamii (2009) AFRICA FROMNEOLITHIC REVOLUTION TO PRESENT; KOT Publisher, Nairobi pg 92
[2] Mwl Kato  (2011); MASTERING ADVANCED LEVEL HISTORY; Mweas Publisher; Mwanza pg 111
[3] Maluka S.(2008) ; MAJOR EVENT IN AFRICAN HISTORY; Nyambari Nyangwine Publisher, Dar es salaam pg 169
[4]  Maluka century. S.(2008) ; MAJOR EVENT IN AFRICAN HISTORY; Nyambari Nyangwine Publisher, Dar es salaam pg 169
[5] Maluka century. S.(2008) ; MAJOR EVENT IN AFRICAN HISTORY; Nyambari Nyangwine Publisher, Dar es salaam pg 163
[6] Maluka century. S.(2008) ; MAJOR EVENT IN AFRICAN HISTORY; Nyambari Nyangwine Publisher, Dar es salaam
[7] Zist Kamii (2009) AFRICA FROMNEOLITHIC REVOLUTION TO PRESENT; KOT Publisher, Nairobi pg 94
[8] Maluka century. S.(2008) ; MAJOR EVENT IN AFRICAN HISTORY; Nyambari Nyangwine Publisher, Dar es salaam pg 166
[9] Zist Kamii (2009) AFRICA FROMNEOLITHIC REVOLUTION TO PRESENT; KOT Publisher, Nairobi pg 92
[10] Zist Kamii (2009) AFRICA FROMNEOLITHIC REVOLUTION TO PRESENT; KOT Publisher, Nairobi pg 92