Bob Geldof: The bitter legacy colonialism left to Africa

From the Bar Human Rights Committee lecture by the musician and campaigner, given at St Paul's Cathedral
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The Independent Online

It was Africa's misfortune not only to have been plundered by Europe, but also to have been colonised at a time when the concept of the nation state was firmly entrenched as a primary determinant of the historical process.

This process was, in the eyes of the Europeans of the day, logically carried overseas to wherever the nation states saw commercial or strategic interests. With the consequence that today the continent is divided into 46 states, more than three times the number of Asia, (whose land mass is 50 per cent larger), and nearly four times the number of South America. More states are entirely landlocked in Africa - 15 - than in the rest of the world put together, and no country in Africa is free from problems of access, security, and economic stability that is directly attributable to the boundaries they inherited from the colonial era.

Given that Africa was wrongly assumed to have had no history of its own before the arrival of the Europeans, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that Europe created the image of Africa that the colonial period bequeathed to the world.

Europe drew boundaries and undertook to establish a civilising government in each with hierarchical administration and military support - according to the prevailing capitalist model of the nation state.

In Africa, existing patterns of farming were wiped away and huge plantations of single non-native crops were developed, always with the need of the European processing industry in mind. There was a global transfer of foreign plants to facilitate this - tea, coffee, cocoa, rubber etc. The result was the erosion of the soil, forerunner of the desertification evident today.