Africa brings interesting questions

Africa brings interesting questions

The African Renaissance Monument in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, which was unveiled last month by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to mark the country's 50th anniversary of independence from French rule. Photo: EPA

Independence has brought stability to some nations while others have struggled

By Alex Yeung, University of Hong Kong

The Fifa World Cup is not the only event being celebrated in Africa in 2010. This year marks the 50th anniversary of independence for 17 countries in West and equatorial Africa. Of these, 14 were French colonies.

Hong Kong also experienced colonial rule, but will these anniversaries compete with the festival of football for our attention? Maybe they should.

Countries emerging from colonisation develop experiencing successes and failures. To view these nations as a whole is not an easy task, as the picture of political stability and economic development is different in each.

While Cameroon and Senegal have been modernising in a relatively stable manner, deadly internal conflict has wracked the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past decade.

Some countries may have witnessed a shift from colonial economic exploitation to post-colonial military conflict, and constant natural disasters and epidemics.

Nevertheless, the French did bring their culture, language and Christianity to the colonies. So if you know French well, you will find it easy to speak to Africans from former French colonies. If you follow football closely, you will notice the strong presence of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from the colonies in the French national football team.

These countries maintain close cultural and economic ties with their former colonial masters.

It remains a matter of debate whether these nations experienced "benign colonialism" like Hong Kong, which still benefits from the rule of law, free trade and an education system introduced during British rule.

Isn't it intriguing to wonder where Hong Kong would be today if it had not been a British colony? A city like Shenzhen? Still a fishing village? Or something else?

One thing for sure is that their colonial past has shaped the development of these African countries. The United Nations projects that by 2050, about one in five people will be African. So if you want to work in a multinational company, get to understand Africa, as it would not be surprising if you have African colleagues and deal with African clients on day.

Now I am curious to see whether, in the World Cup knockout stage, Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana and/or Ivory Coast will face-off with France.



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