Africa and Asia in the Era of Independence summary




Africa and Asia in the Era of Independence summary


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Africa and Asia in the Era of Independence summary

Chapter 40  Africa and Asia in the Era of Independence

  1. Introduction

The most difficult challenges in the Third World occurred after the colonizers had withdrawn. Divisions among ethnic groups, dependent economies, growing debt, cultural dependence on the West, and widespread social unrest made the progress of newly independent nations laborious and trying. Leaders adopted various strategies from dictatorship to democracy to resolve the problems.

  1. The Challenges of Independence
    1. Introduction

In many new nations, ethnic diversity led to disagreements and, in some cases, to civil war. To win independence, nationalist leaders had promised peasants and urban workers economic improvements and political rights. Following independence, these same leaders found it impossible to follow through on their assurances. There simply were not sufficient resources to provide the promised improvements. Failure to reach unrealistic goals led to rivalries among ethnic groups that threatened to disrupt the political processes completely. As they attempted to maintain their governments, leaders neglected other serious social and economic problems.

    1. The Population Bomb

Most Western-educated leaders anticipated that industrialization would be the path to economic growth and prosperity. The most formidable barrier to rapid economic development was extraordinary population growth. Importation of new food crops from the Americas, infrastructure that cut down on regional famines, and the end of localized war all contributed to population growth in Asia and Africa as death rates declined. Medical improvements that cut into the mortality rates from tropical diseases also stimulated population increases. Population surges continued from independence almost to the present in many parts of Asia and all of Africa.
Lacking industrialization to provide employment and to produce consumer goods, newly independent nations could not cope with increasing numbers of people. They also found it difficult to import food and raw materials from outside to supplement indigenous resources. Gains in productivity were rapidly overwhelmed by population increases. Although birth control programs have been introduced in the Third World, there is resistance rooted in traditional culture to their use. Also, state leaders saw attempts to control population growth as a Western plot to limit expansion.

    1. Parasitic Cities and Endangered Ecosystems

Massive internal migration to urban areas was one of the most common experiences of the postcolonial period in Africa and Asia. Lacking industrialization, the cities offered little in the way of employment resulting in the construction of extensive slums. Masses of urban poor have proved to be politically volatile. In many Asian and African nations, cities are parasitic, dependent on imports of food from the countryside or abroad. Without factories, the cities provide little in return. Overpopulation in rural areas depleted soils, led to deforestation, and destroyed tropical ecosystems. Despite having small industrial sectors, pollution in developing nations tends to be a significant problem.

    1. Women's Subordination and the Nature of Feminist Struggles in the Postcolonial Era

Women's suffrage was often won as part of the postcolonial constitutions. In fact, however, women rarely achieved economic or social equality in the Third World nations. Most political posts, despite some noteworthy exceptions, have been reserved for males. Women who did achieve political leadership often did so because of connections to powerful men. Social expectations in developing nations require that women marry early and have large families. Little opportunity exists for education or a career. Poor medical care and food shortages have lowered life expectancies and resulted in malnutrition for many women. Although constitutions guaranteed civil and legal rights for women, in practice these rights are often ignored.

    1. Neocolonialism, Cold War Rivalries and Stunted Development

In order to begin the process of industrialization, nationalist leaders had few choices other than to accept capital from the West or the Soviet Union. Exports of raw materials and primary food products in exchange for capital continued to result in economic dependency.
With the exception of petroleum-exporting nations, African and Asian countries have fared poorly in global markets. Even oil producers have been unable to cooperate sufficiently to prop up international prices indefinitely. African and Asian leaders blame continued dependency on neocolonialism. Corruption, inequities of wealth, and failure of basic social and economic reforms have also contributed to the slow pace of development. Both the United States and the Soviet Union have extracted concessions in return for economic support of the Third World. Requirements include oversight of expenditure, diplomatic alliances, and reception of military bases. Creditor nations have more recently required the removal of subsidies to indigenous food supplies intended to keep prices low. Subsidy reductions have often resulted in resistance and popular violence.


  1. Paths to Economic Growth and Social Justice
    1. Introduction

Different leaders adopted varying approaches to social reform and economic progress. Programs have rarely been able to raise standards of living for the majority. Some solutions to problems have created new dilemmas.

    1. Charismatic Populists and One-Party Rule

Kwame Nkrumah's career as leader of Ghana is indicative of the lack of success enjoyed by those nationalists who retreated to authoritarian forms of government. After promising reforms, Nkrumah discovered that he was unable to deliver. A leftist, Nkrumah lost support from the West. He also faced dissent from rival ethnic groups. Finally, cocoa, Ghana's primary export product, fell in value on world markets. As his development failed, Nkrumah became increasingly dictatorial. He sought to engender mass support by references to African forms of culture and socialism. Nkrumah attempted to establish a cult of personality and successfully made himself an object of veneration in Ghana. When he left the country for a diplomatic mission in 1966, a military coup ousted him. He died in exile.

    1. Military Responses: Dictatorships and Revolutions

Most newly independent nations passed through a period of military rule. Asian and African armies were often more resistant to ethnic and religious divisions. In periods of social conflict, they were often well placed to restore order. Because many of the military commanders were anticommunist, they also attracted support from the West. Most military regimes were politically repressive. At their worst, military commanders, such as those in Uganda, Burma, and Zaire, sought to enrich themselves rather than introduce reforms. Too often scarce economic resources were devoted to military hardware rather than development. Gamal Abdul Nasser, of Egypt, was an exception. He took power after a military coup in 1952 as part of the Free Officers movement.
By 1954, all political parties were abolished. Nasser used dictatorial powers to force through radical social and economic reforms. He ordered redistribution of land to peasants, provided free education, subsidized food prices, and created employment. Nasser also limited foreign investment and nationalized some foreign properties. In 1956, he was able to force the British to leave the Canal zone. Despite good intentions, Nasser's development schemes often foundered through corruption, lack of adequate capitalization, and poor government planning. The Aswan Dam project, the cornerstone of economic development in Nasser's Egypt, actually had more negative than positive results. Rising population wiped out development gains. An attempted aggressive foreign policy, which had generally poor results, also drained money from development schemes.
Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat, slowly dismantled most of the government schemes. Sadat also sought a more profitable relationship with the West and ended the war with Israel. Sadat's successor, Hosni Mubarak, has generally continued the trend to capitalism and away from state control.

    1. The Indian Alternative: Development for Some of the People

India shared Nasser's emphasis on socialism and state planning, but managed to preserve civilian government. India began the process of development with a stronger industrial base and stronger infrastructure than did Egypt. India also possessed a larger middle class in proportion to its total population than any other Asian or African nation. Despite tremendous ethnic and religious diversity, India has been able to preserve both its unity and a democratic constitution. The Congress party has been able to retain its political dominance without repressing opposition.
Under Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian government pushed state planning in some sectors but continued to welcome foreign investment and capitalism. Both industrial and agricultural productivity has expanded. Despite greater development than elsewhere, India also suffered from massive population growth and limited resources. Many Indians continued to live in abject poverty. Social reforms have been slow, leaving the poor with little perceived benefits from economic development.

    1. Iran: Religious Revivalism and the Rejection of the West

The revolution that ousted the Shah of Iran in 1979 bears certain similarities to the Mahdist religious fervor of the nineteenth century. In seeking a more perfect Islamic community, the followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini rejected the West. Like the Mahdi before him, Khomeini promised to remove heretical and corrupt leaders, immediate sanctification for followers who fell in the religious war, and the restoration of social order on Islamic precepts.
Iran had not been formally colonized, but remained a European sphere of influence prior to 1945. There were neither the infrastructure nor the Western-educated middle class typical of colonies. Under the Pahlavi shahs, a program of Westernization and economic development was undertaken. The Shah's failure to observe religious rituals alienated the Islamic leaders of his nation. The acceptance of Western capitalization also cost the Shah the support of much of the emerging Iranian middle class.
In the crisis of 1978, the Shah discovered that his base of support was not sufficient to maintain power. Faced with the return of Khomeini from exile, the Shah chose to flee to the United States. Khomeini instituted a radical government based on Islamic religious leaders. The Islamic regime eradicated Western cultural and economic influences. Few social or economic reforms could be imposed, because Saddam Hussein, the leader of neighboring Iraq, invaded Iran's borders. The war devastated the Iranian economy, but Khomeini continued the conflict despite being overmatched. Only in 1988 after massive losses did Khomeini accept an armistice. The war incapacitated Iran and left the nation isolated diplomatically.

    1. South Africa: The Apartheid State and Its Demise

By the 1970s, South Africa was the largest area still dominated by a white minority. After the 1940s, white political control was consolidated under the Nationalist party and its institutionalized policy of racism, apartheid. In 1960, the Nationalists won independence from Britain. Apartheid completely separated whites from other groups. Whites monopolized the economy, the educational system, and politics. The government restricted black linguistic groups to "homelands" within South Africa. To maintain apartheid, the government developed into a police state funded from the mineral wealth of the nation.
The government declared black political organizations, such as the African National Congress illegal. The regime imprisoned Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, ANC leaders, and killed others. South Africa promoted ethnic differences among the black community in order to lessen the possibility of joint action against apartheid. As resistance mounted, the government became increasingly repressive. In the 1980s, a global boycott of South Africa began to force a softening of the government's attitudes. Moderate Afrikaner leaders, such as F. W. De Klerk pressed for reforms. Following the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990, the government began to negotiate with black groups to provide political rights for the majority of South African citizens. Elections in 1994 brought an end to apartheid. Despite fears, the transition of power to the ANC was without violence.
Problems remain in South Africa. Ethnic rivalries among blacks periodically result in violence. White supremacists still seek to undermine the concept of majority rule.

  1. Conclusion: The Postcolonial Experience in Historical Perspective

Most of the new nations came into existence with limitations imposed on them as a result of their colonial experience. Given the brief period of their existence, it is difficult to assess their performance in terms of economic development and social reform. Despite difficulties, most of the nations have survived. India's continued ability to govern a multiethnic society demonstrates the resiliency of some new nations. The process of industrialization has always been accompanied by social crises. African and Asian nations have experienced these problems exacerbated by rampant population growth and initially dependent economies. Despite the initial cultural dominance of the West imposed through imperialism, Asian and African artists and authors have made great contributions.


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Africa and Asia in the Era of Independence summary



                           Pages 830 – 857



The Challenges of Independence


In the early decades of independence, the existence of nation-states carved out of the colonial empires was challenged by internal rivalries, and in some cases, civil wars between different ethnic, religious, and social groups. Economic growth was hampered by unprecedented rates of population growth with rapid and often extreme urbanization, changes in the international market, and the continuing underdevelopment of most of the states. While some groups benefited, women continued to be disadvantaged in nearly all aspects of their lives.

Paths to Economic Growth and Social Justice


Leaders of newly independent African and Asian nations had to deliver on their promises of social reform and economic prosperity. Different leaders adopted different approaches, and some tried one approach after another. Basic strategies included one party authoritarian rule with frequent coups and revolutions often by the military. Governments nationalized foreign assets and attempted land reforms in a combination of socialist and nationalist policies. And while the states attempted to develop what resources their states possessed, often it was development for some but not all of the people. Consequently, states fall into categories largely based on their development and stability. The first tier includes nations like India and Thailand, but very few African nations. Nations of this group have adequate resources, are relatively stabile, and have made serious attempts to control population. The second tier of nations such as Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan, and Iran has resources, but has been hampered by revolutions or internal conflicts. The third group of nations is too poor and too beset with troubles to remain viable.

Conclusion: The Post-Colonial Experience in Historical Perspective


Although the years for the nations that emerged from the colonial empires have been filled by economic and political crises and social turmoil, it is important to view recent history in perspective. Most nations have only existed for decades. They came to independence with severe handicaps, many of which were a legacy of their colonial past. There have been boundary disputes and wars. Governments are unstable and often lack widespread popular support. These nations’ ascent to development have been burdened by excessive populations that have overwhelmed limited resources that developing nations often export to earn the capital needed to buy food and nations. The challenge for the coming generations will be to find genuinely viable solutions to the problems that have stunted political and economic development.


What problems confronted the newly independent ex-colonial states?


How has ethnicity threatened many African and Asian states?

What demographics-related problems threatened African and Asian states?


Why is the environment endangered in many African and Asian states?

What achievements and disappointments have women faced in these states?


How have international economic conditions impacted development?

What political patterns have governments and politics followed in these states?


What role has the military played in post-colonial politics? With what results?

What different paths have Egypt, Iran, India, and South Africa taken?




“Artificial Nations”

Demographic transition


Primate cities

Religious revivalism


Primary products




Green Revolution


Iranian Revolution




Separatism, ethnic nationalism

MAP EXERCISES: The Colonial Legacy of Africa (Pages 686 and 835)


Ruling Languages (Page 686)

Colonial powers used their mother languages to rule. Native social elites, colonial officials, and schools within the colonies learned and used the colonial languages. Because most of the newly independent nations were multi-national and multi-cultural, these languages often have become the only widely-spoken tongue.

Based on the map on 835, which modern nations probably use:





How might language use affect other cultural traditions and institutions transferred to the ex-colonies?

Map 34.4: The Middle East (Page 849)

The acronym PATIO meaning Persians, Arabs, Turks, Israelis, and Others best explains the Middle East. What culture and languages would each have?


Drawing Conclusions: Cause and Effect

Iran and Iraq have large or predominant Shi’ite populations. How would this affect diplomatic relations with the rest of the region?


Turkey abandoned the Arabic script and secularized the state in the 1920s. How might this affect Turkey’s relations to the region?

The Persian Gulf states are oil-rich. How might this affect their domestic and international policies?


Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria have large Christian populations, while Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon have sizeable ethnic minorities. How might this affect domestic politics?

Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen are politically radical, Saudi Arabia is conservative, and Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman are moderate. How might this affect international alliances and domestic politics?


Israel is largely Jewish and occupies Jerusalem, the third holiest city in Islam and the home of Christianity. The country is a regional power and allied to the US. How might this affect regional international relations?


PHOTO ESSAY:  Challenges (Pages 830, 836, 838, 839, 841, 847, and 848)

The newly independent nations have faced many problems. According to the photographs, what problems have plagued nations in the post-colonial era?









DOCUMENT ANALYSIS: Cultural Creativity (Page 844)


Document Analysis

Who wrote each? (Attribution includes biographical references)


What were the authors’ points of view?

How reliable are the documents? Why?


What were the intents or purposes behind the documents?

Who were the intended audiences?


What are the documents’ tones?



How is the neo-colonial struggle evident in these literary selections?

Are the problems Western in cause or do they predate Western arrival?


How do the problems mirror situations in American society?


STATISTICAL ANALYSIS: Graph 34.3 – Populations (Page 839)

What does the graph describe?


The graph uses two colors. What do they represent?

What trends characterize the change over time of the populations?


Which region(s) have had the greatest population growth?



One dominant feature of post-colonial Asian and African nations was the

Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.

constant warfare between neighboring states over borders.

class struggles and ethnic tensions that produced political instability.

rise of socialist ideologies, which were blended with nationalist policies.

persistence of European and Western economic controls.

The boundaries of many contemporary states, especially African nations,

are representative of ethnic realities in the region or continent.

generally conform to elements of physical geography such as rivers.

have been rearranged since independence.

are subject to frequent change.

were set by colonial rivalries irrespective of ethnic or cultural realities.


In order to rule their colonies, Europeans frequently

established a parliamentary system and allowed their subjects to vote.

used one group to rule and played groups off against each other.

brought in foreign bureaucrats.

failed to utilize traditional native elites.

encouraged land reform and industrialization.

All of these modern African problems resulted from or were exacerbated by European colonial policies EXCEPT:

intertribal warfare based on linguistic, cultural, and religious differences.

wars of independence and secession by excluded ethnic groups.

lack of loyalties to the nation-state.

widespread reliance on the military and generals to rule nations.

privileged economic and social elites ruling without mass support.


Most problems affecting the modern states in post-colonial Africa and Asia can be traced to



continuing neo-colonialism.

linguistic, cultural, and religious differences.

international warfare.

Inability to limit population growth in Africa and Asia is BEST attributed to

lack of family planning and birth control programs.

international demand for labor.

cultural values and social traditions which block changes.

European and Western successes in eliminating diseases, famine, and war.

lack of educated elites and resources to implement programs.


The most destabilizing aspect of the 20th century demographic transition in Africa and Asia has been the

rapid growth of the older segment of the population especially the elderly.

international migration by productive populations to richer nations.

decrease in poverty.

increase of the productive portion of the population, especially those between 15 and 50.

extreme urbanization with its accompanying urban problems with its drain on most national resources.


Which statement BEST describes women’s situation in post-colonial Africa and Asia?

While women have legal equality, they are rarely afforded equal opportunity for jobs, education, and in politics.

Upper class educated women have established rights and exercise considerable power.

Women’s life spans in the developing world are longer than their male counterparts.

Women are allowed to vote and encouraged to participate in the political process.

As religious and cultural traditions erode, and secularism spreads, women are acquiring rights.

In the contemporary world economic system, ex-colonial Asian and African nations have

developed industrialized, free market economies.

built considerable infrastructures to support industry and commerce.

attracted foreign developmental capital and industries from wealthier nations.

remained largely sources for exportable raw minerals and cash crops.

relied on tourism to develop.


A problem affecting development in ex-colonial states has been the

lack of resources to trade.

antiquated economic structures.

lack of an entrepreneurial middle class.

lack of funds to invest or to develop their nations.

widespread corruption amongst officials and the ruling elites.

The style of government MOST favored in ex-colonial African and Asian states can be BEST described as a(n)

one-party communist dictatorship.

authoritarian military dictatorship.

blend between socialism, democracy, and nationalism.

traditional constitutional monarchies.

largely democracies with elected executives and legislatures.

The army has become an important institution in many nations since 1950 for all of these reasons EXCEPT

army units are usually disciplined and loyal to officers.

it has a monopoly of force and power within society.

soldiers and officers are often more educated and technically trained.

the army is less susceptible to religious and ethnic rivalries.

no other local or native institutions survived the colonial era.


The role of the Egyptian military and its leaders in their country’s development since independence most closely parallels the

military in Latin America during the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s.

Red Army under the communists in the Russian Civil War.

fascist armies of Franco and Mussolini in 1930s Italy and Spain.

Indian National Congress Party of Nehru and Gandhi.

depoliticized, neutral militaries in the US and Western Europe.

India differs from other ex-colonial 20th century nations such as Pakistan, Egypt, Burma and Nigeria in that

its army constantly intervenes in national politics.

it has avoided overpopulation.

it preserved civilian and democratic rule of law and government since independence.

it has failed to develop an important industrial and business sector.

it avoided sectarian religious strife.


During the last decades of the 20th century, the event which has most determined Iranian development has been the

autocratic reign Reza Pahlavi or the shah.

Iranian religious revolution of the ayatollahs.

alliance with the United States.

war with Iraq.

discovery and development of oil.

All of these developments are examples of late 20th century religious revivalism and sectarian nationalism EXCEPT the

rise of fundamentalist movements across the Muslim and Hindu worlds.

victory of extremely xenophobic nationalist parties in many nations.

incidents of ethnic cleansing and genocide in many nations.

founding of anti-colonial independence movements.

rise of the religious radical right in the United States.




The apartheid program in South Africa could BEST be compared to

the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews.

the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians on the West Bank.

segregation, “Jim Crow” and “separate but equal” laws in the United States.

Gandhi’s satyagraha campaign in India.

immigration restrictions on foreign workers in Western Europe.




Compare and contrast gender roles in Africa and Asia with one: Latin America, the Western world, or East Asia.

Compare and contrast post-colonial politics and economics of Africa with the newly independent Latin American states of the 1820s.


Compare and contrast 20th century economic development in Africa with either Latin America or East Asia.

How has Africa changed from 1000 to 2000 C.E.?


Compare and contrast 20th century roles of the military in African and Latin American societies.

Compare and contrast the demographic shift of 20th century Africa and Asia with the Neolithic Revolutions or the Industrial Revolution.


Compare and contrast African and Asian nationalisms with 19th century Western nationalism.

Compare and contrast the Iranian Revolution of the 1980s with any one of these revolutions: Russia, 1917; Mexico, 1910; Cuba, 1958, or China, 1911.


Compare and contrast social reforms and developments in post-colonial Africa and 1920s Soviet Russia.

Compare 20th century developments in any two of these nations: Iran, Egypt, India, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, or Mexico.


Compare and contrast the legacies of colonialism in any two regions: Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

How has the Muslim world changed between 1000 and 2000 C.E.?


How has India changed from 1000 and 2000 C.E.?


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