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AfricaThe Colonial Legacy And Uneven Capitalist Development

These debates have not unfolded in a vacuum; they are rooted in the colonial legacy and the response to that legacy by the first generation of African leaders. The Atlantic slave trade and colonialism blocked the conditions for the development of capitalism in Africa. In dwarfing all other commerce, the slave trade interrupted the accumulation process necessary for capitalist development. Its abolition reversed this trend by creating an opening for "legitimate" commerce, which African producers pursued by increasing their production of raw materials (such as gum, hides, and palm oil) for expanding European markets. Most of the production, however, was based on noncapitalist labor regimes such as family and household labor or forced labor of various kinds. Colonialism did not alter this structure appreciably, because the colonial powers tended to block the development of private property and of wage labor—with the exception of migrant labor in the mining and plantation sectors. Although African industries appeared in the major cities, especially after World War II, the absence of land markets and the predominance of migrant labor ensured that capitalism did not develop fully during the colonial period. To make matters worse, the colonial powers discriminated against African capitalists in favor of nonindigenous entrepreneurs, and against women, the main agricultural producers. In sum, capitalism did take root during the colonial era, but its development was uneven, halting, and incomplete.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Calcium Sulfate to Categorical imperativeCapitalism - Africa - The Colonial Legacy And Uneven Capitalist Development, Independence, State-led Development, And Import-substitution Industrialization