Impact of Colonialism on Africa’s Politics


African politics remains a unique subject that provides unique and powerful lessons to more students and leaders. The continent is characterized by many countries with unique processes, aspects, ideas, and goals that are different from the ones recorded elsewhere across the globe. The region is characterized by countries with multiparty systems, autocratic governance structures, and others that promote one-party democracy systems. These stimulating realities explain why the continent could guide more people to learn more about the nature of politics. The negative forces of colonialism, absence of acceptable ideologies, promotion of ethnic-based practices, promotion of defined social classes, and the misinterpretation of legitimacy have led to negative political outcomes and experiences in Africa.

Africa’s Politics

Africa is a region that presented new or exotic concepts regarding political matters outside the Western world. Individuals interested in this subject will find it easier to acquire new meanings and consider how they can promote some of the best practices observed in various countries and avoid the existing vices. Over the years, most of the studies focusing on Africa from political perspectives have been biased and inaccurate (Thompson 5).

Some analysts have only been selective in the manner in which they examine specific countries while ignoring others. The practice of analyzing every country differently could present superior insights since each region and nation appears to encounter diverse problems and challenges. The unique sources or triggers of the existing problems remain divergent. The forces of ideology, ethnicity, legitimacy, colonialism, and social class still continue to dictate the nature of politics in the continent.

Colonialism on Africa’s Politics

Throughout the 19th century, many regions across Africa saw an increasing number of Europeans who wanted to scramble and colonize the region. Within a short period, the continent would be partitioned into governable regions, thereby setting the stage for the establishment of different countries as they are known today. The involvement of different countries or European powers in the country set the stage for a new type of contest.

Some of the countries that succeeded in getting and benefiting from specific regions would include Britain, France, Germany, and Italy (Thompson 8). These European powers continued to pursue their goals in accordance with their nationalistic, imperialistic, and militaristic objectives. Consequently, most of these countries created new opportunities for settlers to pursue their goals. The governments would also acquire resources to support their economies back at home.

By the 1960s, many African countries had clear boundaries and were willing to fight for independence. Within the next few years, most of the nations in the continent had become independent. Consequently, “lines of continuity could be traced in the past and the present” (Thompson 11). Most of the emerging rulers in the continent were keen to borrow constitutional ideas and arrangements from their former colonies. Consequently, a concept of inheritance would redefine the future of most of the nation’s politics. For instance, Africa would benefit from modern states that adopted economic and political structures similar to the ones promoted in Europe. However, such models would result in weaker relationships between civil societies and states.

In Europe, citizens would occupy different positions of power and hierarchies. African leaders were keen to support and promote emerging state elites. The manner in which the countries fought for independence or made the relevant arrangements encouraged most of the emerging politicians to ignore the role and effectiveness of political institutions. Consequently, these emerging developments would set the stage for divided countries and communities, promotion of political ideas founded on the nature of local tributes, and the absence of mechanisms for holding leaders accountable.

Thompson goes further to explain how most of the Western countries went further to maintain unique relationships with their former colonies (13). In some of the cases, they would dictate the nature of political practices and economic models that the new states adopted. Such attributes of colonialism would continue to dictate the nature of political practices, misbehaviors, and objectives that would emerge in most of the African countries.

Ideology on Africa’s Politics

After the successful fight and struggle for independence, most of the first presidents were keen to consider some of the best approaches to steer their countries to the next level. During the time, some of the leaders were keen to adopt specific ideologies that resonate with their goals and those of their international partners. In Africa, many leaders today acknowledge that an ideology would always be necessary since it guides the people and encourages them to focus on a specific aim (Thompson 17). A good example of the role of ideology could be that of Ghana’s Convention People’s Party. The leader of this party was keen to indicate that its followers and leaders would be expected to act and engage in practices that are funded on a clear mission and ideology.

In the African continent, most of the nations have taken such an idea seriously in an attempt to achieve their goals. Through ideology, most of the countries have succeeded in promoting a unique pattern of politics that resonates with the demands of the citizens. However, some of the politicians adopted inappropriate ideologies that were not capable of delivering most of the anticipated aims. For instance, socialism would become a popular vogue in the continent from the 1960s (Thompson 24). In other countries, ideologies of fundamentalism and dictatorship would become common, thereby helping reshape the nature and shape of politics.

States that succeeded in adoption and implementing the right ideologies would eventually benefit from defined political structures. Those that failed to have a clear ideology would find it hard to maintain a positive or acceptable political landscape. For instance, the country called Somalia remains unstable and incapable of achieving its political ambitions. Ideology remains a powerful connotation that guides citizens to embrace a unique form of leadership (Thompson 32). However, some leaders were unable to implement the most appropriate ideologies, thereby setting the stage of single party states that eventually led to the collapse of democratic tendencies and political practices.

Ethnicity and Africa’s Politics

In Africa, ethnic groups tend to be common and contribute to the continent’s unique social diversity. Specifically, most of the countries have more than 40 tribes that are expected to coexist and pursue their common political and economic goals. Unfortunately, the promotion of diverse ideas and goals has led to unique political differences. In some states, specific tribes tend to have more numbers than others, thereby being able to reshape the nature of the recorded political practices and arrangements (Thompson 38). Incidentally, most of the minor tribal groups become alienated and incapable of pursuing and achieving their political ambitions. Majority of individuals from minority groups will find it hard to record positive economic outcomes and record positive social mobilities.

Because of such arrangements, tribal politics have become the norm in the continent. The emerging political differences influence ideological developments since tribes with more people will have higher chances of sponsoring politicians who eventually ascend to power.

Such leaders eventually engage in a number of malpractices, including appointing cabinets and government officials from their tribes, sidelining minorities, and ensuring that national resources are misappropriated at the disadvantage of the minorities. The end result is that violent conflicts and political unrests have remained common. Those in power rely on state mechanisms and operatives to steal elections in order to favor their candidates. African political leaders continue to make decisions based on the reactions of various ethnic groups and how their actions could either destroy or make the countries (Thompson 42). Ignorance of these possible influences can affect the overall economic, political, and social outcomes recorded in the continent.

Social Class on Africa’s Politics

Another unique concept that scholars and anthropologists can use to learn more about politics in post-colonial countries in Africa is that of social class. In their works, Engels and Marx indicated that class struggles were constant and noticeable in all communities across the globe. In Africa, a unique old-age battle exists whereby some groups who have benefited from the formulated political systems have become the “haves”. They have benefited from the formulated economic systems and have access to job opportunities. While most of these individuals tend to be from specific ethnic groups, there are those who have been lucky from other major tribes.

Additionally, some people and communities in African societies have been sidelines and remained poor. The governments in most of these countries have failed in implementing mechanisms and support systems that can transform the experiences of the “have nots” (Thompson 84). From this observation, it is agreeable that class will always be a unique determinant in any given society.

In African culture, those who belong to the ruling class have remained exploitative and rely on their positions to influence the nature of politics. Capitalists have continued to benefit from the promoted models at the expense of the less fortunate. These developments have been supported by models whereby the poor remain “the mere units of production, working for the ruling class in their factories and on their land” (Thompson 85).

These formations have led to new political systems whereby the elites are able to control the nature and performance of parties. Likeminded people tend to come together and focus on the best approaches to influence the outcomes of most of the elections. The promotion of these social classes has led to political systems and institutions that are only intended to support the elites. A detailed analysis of the recorded social class systems can help understand the country’s politics and support the formulation of better ideologies.

Legitimacy of Africa’s Politics

The concept of legitimacy remains the primary concept that should dictate the nature and effectiveness of any modern government. The idea is intended to prevent the use of coercion as the best approach for maintaining order and authority. The notion of social contract remaining the primary principle that dictates the manner in which trust prevails with the leaders being expected for provide for the people. This model for respect and trust would be appropriate to minimize chances of coercion, abuse, and fear. The idea of legitimacy is promoted in such a way that all participates believe that the leaders of a given state will be required and encourage to exercise the relevant authority over the intended society (Thompson 108). In such a scenario, citizens in a given country would be encouraged and willing to obey.

Unfortunately, most of the colonial powers only managed to present the notions of rational-legal governments after most of the states gained independence. However, the colonialists failed to promote institutions that were capable of supporting democratic institutions and ensuring that those in leadership were able to promote laws that were capable of promoting the wellbeing and welfare of every society. Within a few years after independence, most of the countries abandoned the notions of liberal democracy. The promoted façade of legitimacy has not been able to support the outcomes of the majority (Thompson 89).

Instead, a different governance system exists in Africa whereby leaders pursue their selfish interests, misappropriate resources, and focus on centralization of political power. Governments have, thereby, become illegitimate in the manner in which they ascend to power and control resources. Consequently, violence and poor political outcomes have become the norm in the most of the countries across the continent.


The above discussion has revealed that a number of factors have contributed and shaped the nature of politics promoted in Africa. For instance, the negative forces of colonialism and absence of acceptable ideologies have led to poor government and disempowerment of the people. Those in power continue to promote ethnic-based practices that are closely linked to the recorded social classes. Without legitimacy, negative political outcomes and experiences will continue to be experienced in Africa.

Work Cited

Thompson, Alex. An Introduction to African Politics. 4th ed., Routledge.

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DemoEssays. (2022, September 1). Impact of Colonialism on Africa’s Politics. Retrieved from


DemoEssays. (2022, September 1). Impact of Colonialism on Africa’s Politics.

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"Impact of Colonialism on Africa’s Politics." DemoEssays, 1 Sept. 2022,


DemoEssays. (2022) 'Impact of Colonialism on Africa’s Politics'. 1 September.


DemoEssays. 2022. "Impact of Colonialism on Africa’s Politics." September 1, 2022.

1. DemoEssays. "Impact of Colonialism on Africa’s Politics." September 1, 2022.


DemoEssays. "Impact of Colonialism on Africa’s Politics." September 1, 2022.