Colonialism, Conflict, and Other Factors Impacting African Economic Development

Princeton AIhebho
Princeton AIhebho • 1 January 2023
Photo by Tope A. Asokere

Investigate the complexities of Africa, a vast continent with more than 50 nations and rich history. Many African countries have faced economic development challenges ranging from colonialism to conflict, including: 

  • Colonialism
  • Conflict
  • Limited access to education
  • Poor infrastructure
  • Limited finance 
  • Corruption

In this article, we will delve into the complexities of Africa and investigate the issues listed above as challenges confronting African countries today: 


During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many African countries were colonized by European powers, which frequently resulted in the exploitation of natural resources and the suppression of local industries. This legacy has had long-term consequences for many African countries economic development. During the colonial period, for example, African countries were frequently forced to produce raw materials for export to Europe rather than developing their own industries. As a result, many African countries have a fragile economic foundation that is vulnerable to fluctuations in international commodity prices. Furthermore, colonial powers' policies frequently favored foreign investors at the expense of local businesses and communities. 


Civil war, armed conflict, and political instability have plagued many African countries, disrupting economic development and discouraging investment. Conflict can destroy infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and buildings, as well as force people to flee their homes, causing economic disruption. Furthermore, the presence of armed groups can make economic activities, such as farming or trading, dangerous. 

Limited access to education

Access to education is limited in some African countries, particularly for girls and women. This has the potential to reduce the number of skilled workers available to contribute to the economy. Education is important for economic development because it equips people with the skills and knowledge they need to work.
Many people are unable to take advantage of economic opportunities because they lack access to education, and they may be trapped in low-paying, unskilled jobs. 

Poor infrastructure

Many African countries have underdeveloped transportation, communication, and energy systems, making doing business and attracting investment difficult. Infrastructure is important for economic development because it allows goods and people to move and connects businesses with customers and suppliers. It can be difficult for businesses to operate effectively and for people to access the goods and services they require without adequate infrastructure. 

Limited access to finance

Many African businesses and entrepreneurs have limited access to credit and other financial resources, making it difficult to start and grow businesses.
Access to capital is critical because it enables businesses to invest in new equipment, hire new employees, and expand their operations. Many businesses are unable to grow and may struggle to survive without access to finance. 


Corruption can undermine government effectiveness and discourage investment in a country. Corruption is the misuse of power for personal gain, and it can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including bribery, embezzlement, and nepotism. Corruption can create an unequal playing field for businesses, giving those willing to pay bribes an unfair advantage over those who are not. Corruption can also undermine public trust in government and discourage people from participating in the economy.


While the challenges listed above have undoubtedly played a role in African countries' economic development, it is also important to recognize that Africa has seen many successes and achievements. In recent years, many African countries have made significant progress in areas such as education, health, and economic growth.

Many African countries, for example, have made significant strides in improving access to education, particularly for girls and women. As a result, enrollment in schools and universities has increased significantly, contributing to the development of a more skilled and educated workforce. 

Furthermore, many African countries have made progress in terms of poverty reduction and economic growth. According to the World Bank, the proportion of Africans living in extreme poverty (earning less than $1.90 per day) has decreased from 56% in 1990 to 34% in 2015. This is largely due to the strong economic growth experienced by many African countries in recent years, which has been fueled by factors such as the expansion of the middle class, the expansion of the service sector, and increased foreign investment. 

However, it is important to acknowledge that much work remains to be done to address the challenges confronting many African countries and to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are distributed more broadly. This will necessitate continued efforts on the part of governments, civil society, and the private sector to address issues such as corruption, limited access to education, and inadequate infrastructure. African countries can continue to make progress and achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth with the right policies and efforts. 

Photo by Tope A. Asokere

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