Introduction to Africa - Conclusion



African societies, with their strong recognition of cultural traditions, face the deep problems that characterize a modern society, most of which are neither of their making nor even of their wishing. African societies and their cultures have undergone continual change as far back as history and prehistory can illumine, and their experience of several centuries of the overwhelming economic, military, social, and cultural power of colonial overrule has led to both changes and stagnation. Postcolonial "development" strategies, well-intentioned or not, have in many respects continued the effects of colonialism, through economic exploitation and financial indebtedness. In addition, Africa has been used by outside powers, especially during the cold war, as a surrogate battleground between these powers. Most postcolonial "economic development" has failed, owing to its being controlled by "experts" who have assumed that African societies are the same as those of industrialized nations and who are ignorant of the minute details of African cultures, social organization, and problems of local identity and purpose that lie below the level of the nation-state. Sadly, little progress has been made since the end of colonialism toward any real improvement in the lives of the ordinary people: instead, change has been at the level of the elites, who have taken charge of "modernization" and benefited from it. Nevertheless, African cultural traditions remain strong, and they are still capable of absorbing external influences and transforming them into their own.


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